About the Colony

Volume of consumer ads for drugs is alarming

About 10 years ago I suffered a mild heart attack and, after being fitted with a couple of stents, found myself taking three different drugs. Before that, I had only taken an aspirin once or twice a year.

It appears that everyone I know who has had a heart “incident” of some kind takes the same drugs, which I understand help with blood pressure, cholesterol and maybe the “thickness” of my blood. A cardiologist friend of mine hates that term. “Blood doesn’t get thinner,” he says.

What has caught my attention over the past decade and causes me a great deal of alarm is the incessant volume of advertising for all sorts of drugs for all sorts of maladies we see on television. Each commercial, after telling you all the potential side effects, ends with “ask your doctor about …”

So I was delighted to read last week that the American Medical Association called for a ban on consumer advertising for prescription drugs and medical devices.

According to a story in The Tribune on Nov. 18, drugmakers spent $4.5 billion on consumer advertising last year. That number is staggering.

The medical profession is the newest group to express a concern about the consumer spending for prescription drugs. The AMA has joined with the World Health Organization, the National Center for Health Research and some consumer groups that fear such advertising puts pressure on doctors to prescribe medicines for their patients that they don’t think will work, are too expensive — and what scares me — are actually a threat to their well-being, according to the newspaper story.

At least one-half of the time in any given drug commercial on TV is spent telling you all the things that you could experience, including death.

In response to the AMA’s concerns, the story included a statement from the drugmakers saying that such advertising encourages you and me to seek medical advice — and removes the stigma that often comes with medical conditions.

Looking at those ads just makes me think that the morning pain from what I assume is arthritis taking its toll on this 76-year old body isn’t so bad after all.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.