Friday, June 23, 2006

What’s in this pill? Never mind. Just try it. You’ll like it. You idiot.

They call it “consumer education.” Suicide education is more like it.

I’m talking about drug company advertising that in effect tells you to run out and demand your doctor give you whatever the marketing department of Big Drug Dealer Inc. wants you to buy – from Fossamax to Flomax to Zocor to Cialis. So what’s wrong with that? Plenty.

Patients come in to doctors offices asking for drugs that may not be the most appropriate or the most cost-effective for what ails them, assuming anything at all ails them except advertising-induced hypochondria.

Doctors who can only afford to give patients 10 or 20 minutes worth of time during an office visit thanks to HMO limits on how much they get paid per patient – another bugaboo of mine – may not have the time to explain why a 99 cent roll of antacid tablets may be just as effective for your heartburn as a megabucks prescription for, say, Nexium, or that the 99 cent antacid roll is a whole lot safer.

For example, the ads that encourage you to demand Nexium don’t tell you this:

“A single oral dose of esomeprazole [Nexium] at 510 mg/kg (about 103 times the human dose on a body surface area basis), was lethal to rats. The major signs of acute toxicity were reduced motor activity, changes in respiratory frequency, tremor, ataxia, and intermittent clonic convulsions.” [Full details here:]

The law requires corporate drug pushers to warn you of “contraindications” and side effects, even if the pushers are allowed to do so in non-scary language. But now some of the pushers are out to change the law.

I mean, what the hell business is it of yours if something they’re encouraging you to take might kill you?

Now, they’re not arguing to take all the warnings off. They just want to limit the warnings to five, even if a drug has six or eight ways to kill you or make you sick that you might want to be aware of before you swallow it.

The beauty part is, those corporate drug pushers are demanding the right to keep you un-informed in the name of “consumer education.”

According to a recent article in Advertising Age: “"Trying to communicate more than five risks appears to negatively impact the consumer's ability to remember and comprehend the information presented," said AstraZeneca's senior director-consumer marketing, Don Apruzzese, who first presented the study in late April at the sixth annual DTC National Conference in Washington.”

In other words, AstraZeneca thinks you’re too stupid to understand a whole lot of warnings. Just shut up and swallow the pill because the ads tell you to. (You’ll find the full story here:

Good luck -- and watch out what you swallow.

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