Most of my friends are pretty savvy when it comes to knowing about and using natural therapies. Believe it or not, there used to be a time when medical doctors had more to offer their patients than a prescription for pharmaceuticals. Now, after a quick 5-9 minute consultation, this seems to be their ONLY remedy. Unfortunately, many people are hastily and needlessly drugged because they think doctors are trusted experts. When this “expert” slips them this small slip of paper, people think, “This MUST be the best answer.”
I was shocked when the pharmaceutical companies were allowed to advertise prescription drugs as if they were just like the other consumables that slick advertising seduces us to buy. Turning patients into consumers was a bold move that cleverly switched medical necessities into consumer choices and ultimately has undermined the authority of the FDA to enact more tempered regulation. The Center for Media and Democracy’s Mary Ebeling has written Beyond Advertising: The pharmaceutical Industry’s Hidden Marketing Tactics, a thoughtful look at this disturbing trend. “What is surprising is that public health advocates haven’t made pharmaceutical rebranding and off-label promotions of drugs and medical major issues”, she writes. It is puzzling to me that the increasing consumer desire for all things natural hasn’t become a rallying call for a direct challenge to this practice by the pharmaceutical industry.
Even the British Medical Journal has admitted that there is evidence that pharmaceutical advertising in medical journals is influencing doctors’ behavior more than they might admit to. A follow-on debate is also published by the Pharmalink team. A study by two York University researchers estimates that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on advertising and promotion than on research and development, contrary to the industry’s claim. These statistics are a no brainer and one can easily connect the dots.
Most of you who read this blog are already making healthy choices to use natural therapies and embrace food and exercise choices to maintain health without a lot of prescription drugs. The BMJ has also covered the rise of consumer groups in Europe who are rallying to prevent the EU from lifting a ban on DTP (Direct to Patient) advertising.
Privatization of hospitals, the percentage of costs that go to insurance companies and malpractice insurance costs are part of the problem for soaring health care costs. Surely the increased expenses for pharmaceutical companies to advertise as heavily as they do is directly correlated with burgeoning health care costs to consumers.
Most bankruptcies in this country are because of catastrophic health care costs. Four million Americans have no healthcare and just as many or more are underinsured. It is time to demand a complete overhaul and implement a plan that promotes preventative therapies (including natural) and guarantees full health care for all Americans. When Taiwan became a rich country, its citizens had been languishing in poor health for decades. They moved quickly to universal health care and now its citizens are fully covered . . . and costs are far less than health care in the U.S. The U. S. continues to put corporate profit above the health of its citizens, causing undo suffering. We can do better.