Prescription drug ads lull consumers to high costs


I think I’m supposed to feel left out.

To my knowledge, I don’t have OAB, ED, RA, Low “T,” IBS or any of the initialed disorders that elevate my status in the world, or so TV advertising for prescription medications would have me believe.

So I can’t further elevate my status by taking any of the drugs with the streamlined brand names and exclusive official drug labels that rhyme with “Ahmadinejad.”

Further, I miss the opportunity to experience the side effects that are read rapid-fire as happy couples gaze out at the Grand Canyon, pedal bicycles through manicured parks or engage in joyful horseplay with their grandchildren on the beach.

While grinning grandpa spins joyful Johnny in the waves, that voice is saying “Side effects may include internal bleeding, uncontrolled facial tics, temporary or permanent blindness, heart palpitations, unexplained traveling pains, or sudden death.”

There’s a reason for a 50-inch screen for viewing and a three-inch speaker for sound on your TV, and the drug advertisers take full, unfair advantage of that difference.

Quite often the advertising for prescription drugs is followed immediately by “BAD DRUG” ads aimed at people who were lulled by the images into demanding the drug, then experienced those side effects.

Then they want to sue somebody. It’s the American way. The field day for Big Pharma leads to a bonanza for plaintiff’s attorneys. Such a deal. For them. The rest of us end up paying even more for a sometimes elusive opportunity to feel better, because the liability finds its way to the prices of drugs.

It used to be that the drug companies by mutual agreement did not mass-market their prescription offerings, but then they discovered pull marketing and a still-predominant baby boom generation whose refusal to age is challenged more and more each day by the passage of time.

In pull marketing, you bypass the people who control distribution for your product — in this case physicians — and create demand among consumers who then hound the doctor to prescribe them the drug. Another example of pull marketing was the Intel Inside ads that got consumers to demand computer makers put Intel chips into their home PCs.

In the name of pure free enterprise, I suppose mass marketing of prescription drugs should be allowed, but as a practical matter, I have some doubts.

In many cases, there are generic drugs or generic substitutes for the advertised concoctions that are just as effective and often less than half as expensive.

If you pay health insurance premiums, this should matter to you. If you have to pay for your own prescriptions, it should matter to you more. If you are President Barack Obama or Congress and you’re concerned about stemming the still rapidly rising cost of health care, listen up.

It seems that none of the Big Pharma companies have come up with a way to make adequate profits from selling generics. Why should they when they can make huge profits on new drugs, especially drugs they can shill like candy through the mass media?

Until decisions are made about the marketing of high-price, high-profit prescription drugs, however, I have a challenge for young, motivated adults who are looking for ways to do well by doing good: Develop a business model that allows strong profits from the sale of generic drugs, then advertise the daylights out of it.


Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached


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