Doobster wrote a nice little post this morning, an observation on how many drug commercials he witnessed during a 30 minute TV news program. Check it out.
Direct advertising of pharmaceuticals is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I have held back from ranting to this topic before because I am afraid that I might not be able to control the vitriol but I feel compelled to touch on this subject today.
I am often presented in clinic with requests for various drugs that patients have seen on TV or in print. It is not unusual for a patient to dig out an advertisement ripped from a magazine for the latest drug and show it to me. “What do you think about this one, Doc?”
How do I address this?
First, I ask the patient to discuss cost with their pharmacist, telling them that if the cost is something they can live with, they can call me for a prescription.
I have yet to have anyone call me back.
Because these drugs that are advertised are still under patent. They are marked up to exorbitant levels in order to make the most money possible. Your insurance company doesn’t want to pay that, so they don’t cover it or of they do, they don’t cover it well. The drug company hope is that you will pressure your physician into forgoing a trial of less expensive, very effective medications so they can make money off of you. Truthfully, rather than the litany of fine print they rattle off, there should be a disclaimer giving the average per month cost for patients. That would save me a lot of time.
Well, aren’t these medications safer, you may ask?
Case in point, Vioxx. Avandia. Zelnorm. To name just a few. If you are old enough and have lived in the US, you can maybe remember the onslaught of advertising for these drugs… the best things since sliced bread, right? You can bet those drug reps were clamoring outside my office, lined up with gifts to buy my loyalty.
But they killed people.
I have seen many people hospitalized with pancreatitis from some of the newest diabetes drugs. It seems that drugs now have to be on the market for a few years before we get a true feeling of what the risks and side effects are. I am not saying the drug companies are withholding that info per se, but I advise my patients to let those drug companies experiment on other people first. They are not interested in *helping* humanity.
The UK and Australia and everywhere else that does not allow direct advertising has got it right. We are not stupid people. At least I like to believe that is the case. We need to lobby the government to stop allowing the pharmaceutical industry to manipulate us, essentially robbing our bank accounts and treating us like expendable lab rats.
Ok. That felt good. Carry on.