eat sinfully, health risks, TV drug commercials

If you watch television, you can’t avoid TV drug commercials for maladies from type 2 diabetes to auto-immune diseases like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis to refractory cancers. Do you see these ads as providing the information you need about your medicines? Or do you perceive them as pushing viewers to request drugs that they may not really need? How do you find out what you need to know about the medicines you take?

Can Your Pharmacist Help?

Dr. Aaron Carroll of Indiana University’s School of Medicine describes the possible benefits of really involving pharmacists in medication oversight. A recent study showed that pharmacists can help doctors deprescribe medications that may be unnecessary or even dangerous for older patients. Have you turned to your pharmacist for information on the drugs you take?

Join the Conversation:

We invite you to tell us where you find the information you seek. What do you glean from TV drug commercials? Does your prescriber provide everything you want or need to know? Do you find the leaflets dispensed by the pharmacy helpful? Or have you found another source? To share your story, you may call 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EST on Saturday, February 16, 2019. Or send us email:

This Week’s Guest:

Aaron Carroll, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effectiveness Research. His research focuses on the study of information technology to improve pediatric care, health care policy, and health care reform.

In addition to his scholarly activities, he has written about health, research, and policy for CNN, Bloomberg News, the JAMA Forum, and the Wall Street Journal. The photograph is copyright Marina Waters.

He has co-authored three popular books debunking medical myths, has a popular YouTube show called Healthcare Triage, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times’ The Upshot. Dr. Carroll’s most recent book is The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully.

The research Dr. Carroll describes about pharmacists helping with deprescribing was published in JAMA on Nov. 13, 2018.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:February 16, 2019

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  1. Howard

    When a drug ad comes on, close your eyes and just listen to the narration. Especially the description of side effects. Much more attention-getting and ominous than when accompanied by pictures of idyllic life style, pastoral splendor or playing with grandchildren. These commercials are just as dangerous as those for cigarettes. They should be banned.

  2. Sally

    When you see the drug ads hit the mute and take care of a small job.

  3. Joanne
    New Jersey

    Its unbelievable to me that this is what is allowed in our country. And who would not think the pharmaceutical companies don’t try to manipulate the viewers? Everyone in the commercials is happy and living the best life because of the drugs. It’s a crime. At the end of the day only the executives that make enormous salaries are smiling. At our expense.

  4. carmen

    My husband has type 2 Diabetes, and I listen to all of the commercials.
    My favorite is Jardiance which may cause flesh-eating genital disease.
    We will run right out and get that one. All of us really want to die from that rather than diabetes.

    I read everything and research everything both of us take.
    My best friend was a Pharmaceutical sales rep, and when her company came out with a new drug she spent hours studying the information. When I asked her why she did that she said that the Drs don’t read it so the sales rep has to tell them about every medicine that comes out.

    I found that surprising but now that I am much older I realize the Drs don’t have the time to study every drug that comes out. If you want the truth do your own research.
    My husband was on Januvia, and his sugar kept going up I urged him to get off of it. After 3 months the Dr. took him off and put him on an older med that works just fine.
    BTW, our Pharmacist told him that a lot of his customers take cinnamon, and it helps their sugar to decrease. He started taking it, and it has helped. He has never had terribly high sugar, and I intend to keep it that way.

  5. Pamela
    Portland, OR

    Just last night I had an occasion to talk to a pharmacist. His pharmacy was about to close, and there were no other customers. I have microscopic colitis and take a drug called Cholestyramine to control it. I first heard about Cholestyramine in one of the books by The People’s Pharmacy. My G.I., who spent all of 15 minutes with me, wanted to put me on steroids.

    The Cholestyramine seems to help, and I am careful to take certain fat-soluble supplements to offset possible side effects. But the pharmacist told me that Cholestyramine is apparently being phased out. He was unable to fill my prescription and had to give me a generic called Prevalite Powder. I asked him why Cholestyramine was going away. He thought it was because statins were more popular.

    I asked him if he had ever heard of The People’s Pharmacy. Surprisingly, he hadn’t. How can a pharmacist not be interested in The People’s Pharmacy? I told him to check it out online, especially the reader comments about statins.

    Cholestyramine was originally designed to lower cholesterol and has few of the side effects of statins. Even though that is not what I use it for, I’m curious about why a more benign drug like Cholestyramine is being replaced by something else that appears to carry more risk.

  6. SNH

    The ads are all very lame. (Who says “my moderate to severe” whatever.)
    What I hear is drug companies listing a litany of side effects in order to reduce their chances of being sued …by someone making the case they weren’t informed.

    • Ann

      I had microscopic colitis, and my gastroentrologist told me to take pepto bismol tablets, as he had recently worked with that at Duke University Hospital. And it cured it. Don’t remember the schedule of taking them, but check that out.

  7. Jim

    I find that the only people I can really trust for advice on pharmaceuticals AND supplements and their side effects are naturopathic doctors. I can depend upon my doctor to have read and disseminated information on the effects and side effect of supplements and meds. This is one thing they do really well. I feel that medical doctors are a bit too beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. After all, with the advent of drug commercials, profit seems to have become the primary motive in the drug industry over the safety of the patient. I look forward to the day when naturopathic doctors are legal and licensed in every state in the country.

  8. Anne

    I often think doctors prescribe drugs that were given to them by pharmaceutical reps without knowing much, if anything, about side effects. To be honest, I also think doctors already have a lot on their plates when it comes to diagnosing and treating their customers (because that’s what we really are). Clinics and hospitals would do everyone a favor if doctors were able to consult a pharmacist before deciding on what to try, especially when it’s a drug that hasn’t been around forever.

  9. Nancy
    Lakeland, Florida

    I am glad you are speaking about TV Drug ADs. I can’t understand why drug companies spend millions (maybe billions) of dollars on promoting meds that are high priced and that most managed care insurance plans will not cover or they may with a very large copay. The drugs are not available to the consumer unless prescribed by a doctor anyway. If they weren’t spending so much on useless ads, they could bring their prices down to an affordable level.

    • gary

      It is all about the avarice and greed of the pharmaceuticals: For example: Humira costs $38,000 per year and yet that yearly dosage costs tens of thousands less to produce.
      Congress needs to put a limit on the profits of these awful, awful, infinitely greedy pharmaceuticals.

    • Gary

      As I was curious, I priced the medications advertised on TV: Hold onto your hats: These are per month costs without insurance:
      Rexulti $1,250.00

      Otezla $889.00

      Xeljanz $4,686.00

      Neulasta $5,000.00

      Latuda $1,286.00

      Humira $5,410.00

      Cosentix $9,460.00

      Keytruda $12,500.00

      Ozempic $815.00

      Entyvio $6,565.00

      Varzenio $10,950.00

      You ask how are they able to do this? Answer: Because they can.

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