Don’t fall prey to big pharma’s advertising


Pigeon holed & buttonholed
A few years ago, I asked a grand nephew at a family function where his father, an elderly uncle of mine, was seated. He told me “At the N.T.D. table.” “What?” I inquired, only to receive a shrug in response.

Later, I found out it stood for “next to die.” Nice. Note: Your distance from the dais is proportional to your family’s actuarial assessment of your remaining life expectancy. The closer you are, the closer you are.

We become amazed at the time it takes to arrive at our birth years on computer drop-down menus. On that long scroll down, our thoughts have time to wander. I wonder if I have as much time scrolling up on a Twilight Zone-like pop-up menu that displays my remaining years.

Do you see all your favorite actors at the Oscars? No, not on the red carpet, but on its “in memoriam” segment.

Our age always provided one large benefit. We were marginalized by advertisers. “Skewed old,” we aged outliers were ignored in favor of the very young or very rich.

Well, that’s all over. Our ad-deprived demographic is experiencing an unwanted, unneeded renaissance. We are sought after in the only arena that we were best left ignored. The drug, disease and device ads – the scourge of baby boomers.

Both pigeon holed and buttonholed, we should crawl into hidey holes when insurance companies, big pharma and the healthcare industry manufacture and then profit from our fears.

The 100-year-old man
I am reminded of the story about the 100-year-old man who observed, “If I knew I’d live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

For decades this centenarian was spared the ads for diseases that:

  • Don’t exist
  • He wouldn’t get if they did exist
  • Wouldn’t harm him if he had them,
  • Don’t require therapy, but cause complications and side effects when they are tried. All while ignoring the non-medicinal approaches that actually do work.

Imagine if that 100-year-old man took steady doses of the heavily advertised Vioxx, Avandia, Vytorin, Propulcid, or Zelnorm. He might well have missed his centennial while trying “to take better care of himself.” All were withdrawn for the dangers and deaths they caused, rather than cured.

For your viewing pleasure
Here are just a few examples of the products and advertisements you may have been or still could be accosted by:
A brand of coronary artery stent, that many cardiologists felt was dangerous, wanted to bypass not only your artery, but also your thoracic surgeon by making its appeal directly to you.

You are urged to take daily Cialis so you can be ready, just in case. I don’t wear my reading glasses all day just in case I run into reading material. More to the point, single or non-procreating men don’t usually think about wearing a condom all day so they can be ready and safe when that casual touch turns into a moment. Take Cialis when you see Alice. And those bath tubs! What’s alluring about basting in your biofilm?

The guy who flexes his fingers once or twice and takes two Tylenol four times a day. He’s told that if he took just two Advil he’d be pain free all day. If two Advil will make you pain free, you never needed a pain pill to begin with.

How about the old lady? Her face is pale, drawn, hatcheted with crows-feet as deep as gullies. She appears on your TV screen suddenly bleached of its usual vibrant colors. Doubled over in agony, she takes one pill. And the next scene? Revitalized colors are restored to your screen and a revitalized sprightly woman with windswept mane and expertly applied foundation is square dancing with frolicsome abandon. Do you buy that? Will you buy that?

The karate master is prostrate. He’s racked with pain, drenched in fever and breathless with congestion. After just two Alka-Seltzers (and a dose of nostalgia from “Speedy”) he’s able to effortlessly leap parallel to the floor below while breaking cords of wood with a flick of his foot. Really?
Are you sick of Sally Fields? How about Jaime Lee Curtis? I think I’ve said enough.

What’s prostate health?
It’s said television is bad for kids. Maybe. It’s really bad for adults when they directly heed to consumer ads for prescription or OTC drugs and the “diseases” they “cure”. These are lies told by liars.

There is no vitamin for prostate health, or emerging nutrient science for eye health, or even cereal that supports colon health. What is prostate health anyway?

We’ve seen that television reports are a poor way to become health literate. The commercials are far worse. Perhaps that’s the reason those who get their health information on TV don’t live as long as those who don’t. It was recently shown that over two hours a day in front of the TV is associated with higher mortality rates.

I say rebel. Get off big pharma’s communion line. Open your eyes and close your mouths. Don’t be consumers of healthcare. Be healthcare consumers.

Ground zero for these ads is the nation’s nightly news. Here you will see people with bladders, dentures and bowels that are too loose join others with arteries, airways and urinary outlets that are too tight.

Rebel, I say, and go where they can’t find you – to PBS. Go to places for your news when they think you are asleep – The Daily Show.

Are you now viewing a show whose ads are for Victoria’s Secret, underarm deodorant, eyelash enhancers or toolboxes? Nice going. That is where you should be – you’re young again.


9 Responses to “Don’t fall prey to big pharma’s advertising”

  1. joan February 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Right on Dr.Kussin,
    I like to believe I am not gullible but in growing older and I like to think sometimes wiser I have come to learn that if it’s to good to be true it probably is. I think you hit the nail on the head-I know I want my problem to be fixed so if it works for the guy/gal on TV then it has to work for me. Yea right! that’s like the 20 year old advertising wrinkle cream. Your solid advise has carried me through many years and your wealth of knowledge and sharing that knowledge never ceases to amaze me. Everyone needs a SZK in their pocket.

  2. Sue O'Brien February 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Great blog, Dr Steve!! I giggled more than once (Cialis and reading glasses). Very informative as usual.

  3. February 27, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Joan and Sue…thanks. My kids groan each time the news is on …they know I will be yelling at the TV commercials. Can’t we all just have our aches and pains in peace?

  4. Cindy February 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Informational comic relief! As I approach (ok I’m there) middle age, I want to believe that there is a cream, ointment, or yogurt that will solve all of my health and beauty issues. A smile and good attitude might be all I need until I truly need to worry about a diagnosed illness.

  5. Gladhatter February 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    @ Cindy, the right prespective is all one really needs.

    Steven, spot on as usual and very entertaining while informing. Captivates as always.

  6. steven kussin February 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Activia does nothing for your gut. They were chastised by the FDA. So too were health claims by cereal companies. Niacin is getting a big TV presence but has no beneficial clinical endpoints (yet). Sally’s tips on osteoporosis give me chills. See your FRAX risk score. In coming weeks we will be offering some amazing documents that offer the best advise on common and serious ailments available. Stay tuned and thanks.

  7. doris pullman March 1, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    how true! will laughing at ourselves help us live longer also? I guess we all look for the silver lining.

  8. steven kussin March 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Laughing at yourself is THE way to live longer. Take yourself even less seriously than you take commericials makes you happy. Wanting to stay happy means needs becoming health literate. Becoming healh literate increases your lifespan.
    Laugh, Learn, Live.

    • doris pullman March 2, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      thankyou Dr. Kussin!

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