April 18, 2011

You’ve seen the television commercials: the opening scene is either a smiling woman traipsing in a field of spring flowers or an older couple holding hands and smiling at each other after all those years of marriage. The background music is light and unobtrusive. The announcer begins hawking the “new and effective drug” called [fill in the blank with an unpronounceable series of vowels and consonances that don’t seem to easily fit together in the same word, such as “octaviotasismelophrasiaplasadosipia” ]. Unless the drug is used for erectile dysfunction (thank goodness the commercials do not provide photographs or animation), the commercials usually do not specifically state what conditions they are used for or how they will help you with a medical condition that you never knew existed let along that you may suffer from. But the commercials inevitably do state in a matter-of-fact voice the following:

“Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, constipation, difficulty breathing or swallowing, loss of hair, unpleasant breath, yellowing of the finger nails and toe nails, discoloration of the extremities, brittle bones, fatigue, blurred vision, hearing loss, webbed toes and fingers, breast enlargement in men, knee pain, loss of hair, hair growth on palms and the soles of the feet, loss of skin pigmentation, blotchy skin, loss of smell, tingling in feet and hands, loss of sensation of touch in the fingers, acute respiratory failure, memory loss, stroke, liver function abnormalities, heart failure, kidney dysfunction, problems with concentration, problems sleeping, night sweats, paranoia, loss of consciousness, hypertension, joint pain, toe nail fungus, malignant growths, dry skin, ringing in the ears, oily discharges, flatulence, and, oh yes, we almost forgot, a painful death”

Invariably, the listing of side effects and adverse reactions during the TV commercial takes more time than any (if any) statements regarding any benefits that the drug supposedly provides.

Why, for the love of everything good and precious, would ANYONE ever take the newly released drug for what is usually a minor ailment or physical condition that has only a small, if any, effect on your daily life, if  an equally effective drug that has been around and has been prescribed and used for many years is available, less costly, and the long term side effects and adverse reactions much better known, researched, and documented? And does it make any sense at all to demand that your doctor prescribe for you this newest drug that may marginally treat your toe fungus but may also permanently incapacitate or kill you?

Doesn’t it make so much more sense to rely on your doctor, who knows your medical history and has experience in diagnosing your medical conditions and prescribing the proper medications for you  (if medication is even necessary or desirable), to be provided the technical and other appropriate information regarding new drugs by the pharmaceutical companies that have created them so that your doctor can make the informed and expert decisions regarding your care and treatment? (In the past, prescribing doctors have been known as “learned intermediaries” for new drugs because the pharmaceutical companies educated the doctors directly about their new drugs and did not push their drugs directly on the public by using sophisticated and expensive television advertising.)

What do doctors think about drug advertising on television? Many do not like it one bit because some of their patients demand the newest drug that they saw on a television commercial even though the drug was either inappropriate or unnecessary for them, and the doctors feel the pressure to prescribe the new drug and have to spend more time than otherwise necessary to convince their patients that they are not proper candidates for the new drugs — each new television advertisement for each new drug raises the specter of doctors having to deflate their patients’ exuberance that the new drug will be the miracle that they were hoping for.

Any new source of reliable information is usually a good thing. But the information provided by the drug advertisements on television rarely provide useful information for the viewing public. And what are the costs associated with advertising drugs directly to the public by TV? How expensive are the new drugs compared to older drugs? How many people have been prescribed the advertised new drugs who would otherwise not be taking these drugs? How many people have suffered side effects or adverse reactions to the new drugs that would not have occurred if those people had not seen the drug advertisement on television?

By the way, while this blog entry was being written, the television was on in the background and eight (8) drug commercials appeared, each for a different drug!

If a drug (old or new) has caused injury to you or a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Please visit our website to be put in contact with medical malpractice lawyers in your area for assistance with your claim. Our toll free telephone number is 800-295-3959.