The Pharmaceutical Industry: A Quick Fix
There’s a pill for everything. In only thirty minutes of watching TV, it would be an anomaly not to see at lease one advertisement pressing you to try “the next best thing” for depression, high blood pressure, and an array of other diseases and disorders that seem to be picked haphazardly from a med school textbook. Many are skeptical about the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of ways – from your average cynic to conspiracy theorists, everyone seems to have their doubts. And they might not be that far off.
Statistics show that upwards of 25 billion dollars are spent on marketing pharmaceuticals each year in the United States alone – and a figure that seems to be on the rise. It suffices to say that pharmaceutical companies spend more annually on marketing drugs than they spend on conducting research. While it may seem like companies are simply trying to notify the public that a new drug or treatment has been approved, one that may potentially improve more than a few lives, some claim that pharmaceutical companies have the sole aim of making a profit using any means necessary. In fact, the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries that currently permit direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC advertising): directing pharmaceutical advertisements at the patient rather than the doctors or other healthcare professionals; all other western countries have banned this type of advertising.
This alone could be enough to make one question the motives of the pharmaceutical industry, and perhaps it should. Like any other advertisement you might see on TV, on the internet, or in magazines, pharmaceutical ads aim to push a product on you by stretching the truth and glorifying the positive effects of the product and exhale its side effects in a single, rushed breath at the last second of the ad (or better yet, slap it on the last frame of the ad in the most miniscule print possible).
As unsettling as this might be for some, these ads seem to be here to stay for now. If you think that a drug being marketed on your TV may benefit you, be sure to do your own research and keep open dialogue with your doctor to examine the possible side effects of the drug, how long it has been on the market, and whether or not another option would be better-suited for your needs, but do not let the “disease mongering” provide a diagnosis for you.