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Why Drug Commercials Are Far More Harmful Than You Realize

A pharmacist explains why drug commercials are far more harmful than you realize. They promote a world view without responsibilities or risk.
Why Drug Commercials Are Far More Harmful Than You Realize
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Dennis Miller, RPh, is the author of the explosive new book The Shocking Truth About Pharmacy: A Pharmacist Reveals All the Disturbing Secrets. The entire book is available for download from Amazon for 99 cents.

Big Pharma Pretends That Symptoms Are the Disease:

Big Pharma is well on its way to convincing people that the only path to health is through pharmaceuticals. With the possible exception of commercials for drugs for type 2 diabetes (these commercials sometimes quickly mention something like, “When diet and exercise are not enough…”), most drug commercials on TV give absolutely no hint about what is known about the prevention of the condition that the advertised drug treats. Big Pharma ignores disease causation and focuses on treating symptoms.

Big Pharma Obscures the Basic Determinants of Human Health:

Drug commercials on TV are so harmful, insidious, deceptive, and dishonest because they have the power to completely change public perception about the determinants of human health. By portraying the human body in mechanistic and reductionist terms as a machine, Big Pharma is successful in convincing people to think first of pills when faced with an illness, rather than ask themselves what they might do to prevent the condition.

Drug Commercials Are Selling a Belief System:

Drug commercials on TV are not just advertising a specific pharmaceutical. These commercials are promoting an ideology: better living through chemistry, a quick-fix pill for every ill, and the concept that the human body is a deeply flawed machine which can be easily fixed with pharmaceuticals. According to Pharma’s implied narrative, Homo sapiens is a rickety old machine that is constantly prone to breakdown and in constant need of shoring up with pharmaceuticals.

Pharma would like you to believe that the human body is no more complex than a bicycle. In fact, the human body, by virtue of being controlled by the human brain, is often said to be the most complex entity on this planet.

The more I learn about the human body, the more I am overwhelmed by a sense of awe at its complexity. And the more I am shocked at the hubris of the pharmaceutical industry in presuming to understand the full range of effects of its crude drugs in such an infinitely complex biological entity. The multiplicity of awesome feedback loops (which pharmaceuticals obviously lack) are just one example of the miraculously wondrous nature of the human body.

Drug Commercials Absolve People of Personal Responsibility:

Drug commercials seem to suggest that there’s no need to take responsibility for one’s health, no need to eat nutritious foods, no need to exercise or lose weight, no need to avoid tobacco and alcohol, no need for a clean environment, no need to get more sleep, no need to get a firmer mattress, no need to extricate oneself from abusive relationships, no need to avoid food additives and pesticide residues, etc.

The message of drug commercials is that all one needs to do to be healthy is to take pills. This does a major disservice to the public and to the reality that we have tremendous power within ourselves to control our own health without depending on a pile of pills.

To Be Happy and Healthy, All You Need Is a Pill:

Drug commercials on TV typically feature happy people having fun in attractive settings on sunny days, often with the family dog vigorously wagging its tail. Surely you’ve seen drug commercials staged at swimming pools, at a beautiful countryside location with colorful hot air balloons, at a local open-air market with artists displaying their paintings, etc. The message is that, for you to be happy and healthy, all you need to do is take a pill.

These happy scenes with friends, family and pets are intended to divert viewers’ attention from the list of scary side effects. Or perhaps the demented subliminal suggestion is that drug side effects are somehow desirable.

Pharma Ignores the Immense Potential for Prevention:

Pharma has successfully eliminated the concept of prevention from the consciousness of the public as a viable alternative to the pill parade in the USA. In a market-driven world, prevention is almost viewed as subversive.

Big Pharma has been successful in convincing the public that the determinants of human health are beyond the comprehension of the layman and that efforts to prevent disease are a waste of time. Big Pharma’s advertisements have largely convinced a huge segment of the population that health depends entirely on pharmaceuticals.

Drug commercials on TV typically provide zero information about what is known about the prevention of the condition that the drug treats. Seeing no information about how the condition can be prevented convinces viewers that there must be no reasonable way to prevent that condition.

Drug Companies Are Selling a State of Mind:

Drug companies are not selling science. They are selling a state of mind. Pharma has constructed a massive reality distortion field which has bamboozled the public and, in too many cases, health care professionals as well. For example, Big Pharma uses cartoon characters like a turkey to sell Chantix (for smoking cessation), an owl to sell Xyzal (for allergies), a gremlin to sell Lamisil (for toenail fungus), and a mucous-like creation to sell Mucinex (for nasal mucous).

Pharma also utilizes famous actors/actresses and athletes to sell drugs even though it should be obvious that actors, actresses and athletes have zero training in pharmacology and therefore have zero credibility on the subject of pharmaceuticals.

Drug commercials are especially dangerous because they have the ability to create an all-encompassing false narrative and thus completely change how we understand the determinants of human health.

Only the USA and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. In my opinion, by allowing these commercials in this country, we have unleashed a force that has had far more deleterious effects on our health than you likely ever considered. The pharmaceutical industry has been wildly successful in completely changing the way we view sickness and health.

Pharma Commercials Are in a Category by Themselves:

Drug commercials should be viewed as being in a category of their own. That is because drug commercials are different from most other products advertised on television. Specifically, drug commercials involve human health. Pharmaceuticals can adversely affect human health. Pharma unquestioningly portrays drugs as safer and more effective than they are in reality.

It is one thing for commercials to promote products that can adversely impact one’s wallet. It is an entirely different thing for commercials to promote products that can adversely affect one’s health.

There Is No Social Stigma Against Selling Potentially Harmful Products:

If you are tempted to view drug advertisements on TV as frivolous, fluffy, easy to dismiss, and you feel that surely the public views these commercials as pure hype, perhaps you should rethink your position.

In my opinion, it should be obvious that drug commercials need to be much more closely regulated than they are. Ask yourself why only the USA and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

In the USA, there is no social stigma against selling products that have the potential to adversely impact one’s health. And there is no social stigma against aggressively promoting pills to a naive population, even though prevention may be safer, more effective and far less expensive.

In my opinion, in the USA private profits are far more important than public health. Drug commercials are a painfully obvious example of that sad reality.

Dennis Miller, R.Ph. is the author of the explosive new book The Shocking Truth About Pharmacy: A Pharmacist Reveals All the Disturbing Secrets. The entire book is available for download from Amazon for 99 cents.

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