Lying Media Bastards

May 1, 2005

Ask Your Doctor About SnakeOilex*

Coulda sworn I wrote something about this last week, but I guess I just talked about it on my radio show.

New study from the Journal of the American Medical Association about the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals.

First, the article mentions two important statistics (sources unknown):

- the drug industry currently spends $3 billion every year to market medicines directly to the public, individuals who likely have no scientific or medical knowledge.

- 7% of patients walking into doctors’ offices these days ask for a medicine that they saw an ad for.

Then we get down to the study itself. It’s far from perfect, as they performed the “experiment” very few times, but still rather unsettling.

The experiment had actresses visit local doctors and describe a series of depression-related symptoms to the doctor. On 55% of the visits where the actresses mentioned Paxil to the doctor as a potential treatment, they were given prescriptions for antidepressants– not always specifically for Paxil, but usually.

When the actresses made these visits and did not mention Paxil or any other drug, they only received prescriptions 10% of the time.

This is, of course, the whole point of marketing to the public. They may not know what’s wrong with them, and they may not know the best way to treat it, but if they ask their doctor about a certain drug, their request might influence his choice of treatment. Which puts more money in the drug company’s wallets.

The drug companies argue back that this is about informing the public, so that they have the knowledge, not just the doctors. And if a single advertisement for a brand-name medicine had anything to do with informing, I might be able to buy that excuse. But they don’t. They show fields of flowers or cartoons or romantic couples, describe some symptoms, tell you to “ask your doctor”, then read off a litany of side effects as the music swells. I’m wondering how different this is than the old medicine show scam artists of the Old West. Someone tries to persuade you to buy a medicine that may or may not work for an ailment you may or may not have. The difference now is that the medicine is more likely to have some effect (whether it be what you need or not), and you need a doctor’s blessing to get your hands on it. And from the look of things, many doctors are free with the blessing.

*SnakeOilex is not for everyone. It is not for those with liver problems, or extra toes. And it is not for women who are nursing, pregnant, who may get pregnant, or might want to become pregnant at some point in their lives. It is also not for men. It has not been shown to treat any of the health problems we say it will, but you’ve probably stopped reading the warning label by now.

The most common side effects are gas, stomach pain, explosive diarrhea, vision loss, spontaneous combustion, swimmer’s ear, boneus eruptus, geriatric profanity disorder, bucktoothism, death, skin irritation, and zombification.

Posted by Jake on May 1, 2005 10:51 pm


  1. Yet again I have to feel sorry for the poor Doctors. I freely admit that Doctors are not perfect. But the majority try damned hard to do the right thing for each patient.
    The horrible truth is that this study is probably correct, and not even surprising. A study a year or two ago in the UK revealed that often doctors, seeing the same patients describing the same symptoms on different days, often prescribed different treatments. The human body is a hugely complex system, and unfortunately many different treatments will end up with the same results, especially once the placebo effect is taken into consideration.
    But, I digress. I live in the UK, so don’t have to put up with direct medicinal advertising for anything stronger than what can be bought over the counter in a pharmacy. Instead I have to put up with doctors that refuse to book appointments further than 48 hours ahead just to meet government targets. Joy.

    Comment by Tobias — May 2, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  2. zombification, eh? You know that explains a lot, like say the outcome of the presidiential election.

    Comment by Brian/Buddy — May 2, 2005 @ 9:51 am

  3. Don’t joke about zombies; they have those in Cambodia now.

    Comment by Robby — May 2, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

  4. …sigh.

    Disregard my last comment; I’m an idiot.

    Comment by Robby — May 2, 2005 @ 2:07 pm

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