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Peeved TV: Big Pharma a Big Reason to Cut the Cord

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Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, I find myself turning on the TV in order to get the latest weather report. Here in Michigan, the oncoming winter is of huge concern. I’m a sunshine girl, and I need to know when to bring the tropical plants indoors before the first frost.

I’ve little time to devote to serious boob tube watching. I have a business, home, classes, hobbies, and writing to fill any void I might possibly think of creating. If it’s not weather related or the latest crime spree examination on Investigative Discovery or TruTV, I don’t have time.

My recent TV viewing habits have found me peeved at certain commercials. It’s the drug commercials. I’m not talking about over-the-counter medications like Benadryl or Tylenol, for everyone needs to know how to self-medicate an allergy or headaches. No, what sparks my ire are those commercials for prescription drugs funded by the major pharmaceutical companies.

I’m not a holistic adherent, but I try to limit my intake of any outside chemicals to a bare minimum. I know many prescription drugs are helpful to many people with a myriad array of conditions and symptoms. But for some reason, pharmaceutical commercials and their commercial attempts rub me the wrong way.

For one thing, I can’t buy any of the touted wonder cures without a prescription from my doctor. If I personally cannot purchase these medicines, why have the commercials? Ah, so the consumer has the information with which to pester their physician.

Obtaining a prescription involves actually making an appointment and physically going to the doctor. This alone seems to be a money-making ploy. If I know I have bronchitis, why can’t I just call up my doctor and ask for antibiotics to be sent to the local CVS forthwith? Speaking from a personal perspective, sometimes the ‘wonder’ drug doesn’t help the situation at all. In that case, I have spent my hard earned money on God only knows what kind of foreign chemical that has not improved the situation. In most cases, I’d rather suffer through the pain.

My main contention with these commercials is the sometimes stupid premises. A case in point would be commercials for Cialis. Cialis, for those who are living under a rock in a cave in Afghanistan, is a medicine designed to cure erectile dysfunction. (Might I add here, “Eww… TMI.”) The commercials feature attractive older couples in settings like the beaches, vineyards or redwood forests of Northern California. There is some light frolicking and canoodling while the announcer ticks off all the possible side effects, with the commercial ending with both participants watching the sun set in side-by-side matching clawfoot bathtubs.

Please! If the man was so cured and arousal achieved, wouldn’t the couple be in the same bathtub after administration of the drug? Wouldn’t he be unable to contain his enthusiasm and toss his partner down on the beach for a rousing round before the bathtub came into view?

Another drug commercial that catches my annoyance is the Viagra commercials. I am especially annoyed by the warnings of “erections lasting over four hours” and how those men should seek “immediate attention” by a doctor. Again, too much information. Viagra, also for the dysfunctionally erect, features manly men who do not look as though they are in need of such a drug. One is driving his 1960s vintage Mustang in a desert when his car overheats. (What this has to do with his physical problem, I do not know.) The footage is tinted in an unappealing greenish blue, making it look as though we are viewing the scene through night vision goggles. Macho man stops his car at a gas station, buys a bottle of water, takes a swig and puts the rest in his radiator, then good to go. He tools his vehicle through the desert and somehow ends up in a subdivision lined with leafy trees. What happens inside the house, we will never know, since there are no women (or other partner) in the commercial.

Of course, this is one rung above the highly improbable “Viva Viagra” commercials of previous years. These were the gems where the man often played the role of Elvis Presley, with the Viagra jingle a spin off “Viva Las Vegas.” Tacky, very tacky.

The Restasis ads featuring the moon-faced Dr. Alison Tendler also irritate me. Perhaps it’s that her look changed from the 2009 ad to the current one. When I see it, I don’t wonder about dry eye, I wonder if Dr. T had some work done on her face in the last year, because she looks luminous in the new commercials. Do I care if Dr. Tendler uses Restasis? Do I care if any doctor uses what they prescribe me? Hopefully the doctor is in better shape than I am and has enough sense to know from my height, weight, medical history and genetic factors which drug is best for my condition.

There is one Chantix commercial that has me wondering, and that’s the one with Robin. It’s nice that she no longer smokes, thanks to Chantix and cheerleading from her little boy. But while the nameless, faceless announcer (who seems to have hit the lottery doing voice-overs outlining side effects for various prescriptions) rattles off the disclaimer, Robin and her husband are preparing coffee and what looks to be cheese in their kitchen. They work wordlessly, sit down, take a sip from a mug, and eat a piece of cheese. My impression follows the line of “WTF?”

These drug commercials are just the tip of the advertising iceberg. There are commercials for Lipitor (a cholesterol medicine), Ambien (sleep aid spot featuring crowing roosters), Cymbalta (“depression hurts” – and it hurts to watch), Celebrex (an arthritis cure that has a laundry list of nasty side effects including death), and Humira (featuring those suffering from psoriasis disrobing). Nexium (for acid reflux) includes an older couple who jack up their bed for relief – pre-prescription. It is not funny when the cat slides off the bed. In the sleep aids department, Rozerum’s “Your Dreams Miss You” features Abraham Lincoln and a sassy talking woodchuck, but it’s not as bad as Lunesta’s iron man butterfly.

Let’s not forget the Nasonex bee! Voiced by Antonio Banderas (were there no movie roles available?), each time the swarmy bee makes an appearance, I want to hurl a shoe at the screen.

Every time I see one of these commercials I want to pull out my laptop and write a scathing letter to someone. I see the entire prescription commercial advertising budget to be a gross waste of money. Perhaps drug companies would be better served to spend their money elsewhere. A good place to start would be to lower the cost of prescription drugs to a manageable level for the common man. My insurance sucks and I am tired of paying $170+ a month for my daughter’s 60 pills. Is there any logical reason why a pill should cost $3 a piece? Is it lined in gold? In opium?

I could rant about a society where the quest for the easy fix is a way of life. I could go on and on about other just as appalling advertising, but I don’t want to make myself sick. The most annoying thing about these commercials is that they seem to be on the rise. There appears to be three big pharma ads for every one of Geico’s pig going “whee, whee, whee” all the way home. (Now that one is genius!)

Here’s a wise word for all you spin doctors on Madison Avenue, along with the pharmaceutical companies: Most people don’t watch your ads. That’s right, with the invention of the remote control, most people flip to another channel as soon as the commercial break starts, and flip back once the coast is clear.

Here’s another note: I don’t believe commercials even if I do happen to watch them. I mentally blot out anything designed to catch my attention and make a note to avoid that product like the plague. I prefer to gather my knowledge firsthand and not take the word of televised snake oil salesmen. For that matter, I don’t even see Internet advertising, so don’t take your ad dollars there either.

Television is bad enough already, but if ever there were a reason to permanently cut the cord, prescription drug advertising does it for me.

**Note: Not all of the videos were available on YouTube, but I chose similar ads.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Auntie Smedley

    Couldn’t agree more. The gov’t made a big mistake in allowing brand name drug advertising on TV. It should be made to go away.