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Hey, just take a pill

Fri, Feb 15th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Winter TV watching is a special health hazard- guaranteed to increase weight and decrease IQ in direct proportion.

Sandwiched between ads for extra cheese pizza and All-You-Can-Eat buffets are ads for cholesterol medications. Dr. Jarvik is especially concerned about my cholesterol since his dad had a cardiac event and he had to change his college major from architectural engineering to medicine. The pharmaceutical industry is rejoicing in that career move on his part.

All the ads for all those medications end with "talk to your doctor." The only reasonable response is to schedule an appointment with your doctor every morning. If your doctor really, really cared about you, he or she would order something to prevent everything.

The meds almost always feature happy and attractive people laughing in grassy fields, playing at sports and having quality time with their families. If there is a pill that can offer us this, why wouldn't we buy it? Okay, so you've never played at any of those sports and you live miles from any such groomed grass-perhaps this is the answer.

The makers of antidepressant medication saturated their market after the sad little ovoid creature in their ads cheered up so these same meds are now marketed to cover "social anxiety disorder" (shyness, is now a disorder), obsessive compulsive disorder, premenstrual syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and menopause. It seems if one pill can do all of that, peace and goodwill should reign across the land evermore.

The erectile dysfunction ads are missing the mark at subtlety. The one they featured with a football being shot in a perfect arc through a tire swing was entertaining. Ladies, let's talk; do we really want a man around who is "ready for her" for 36 hours? What if you have a bridge party coming for lunch? A man who is "ready" for 36 hours is not subtle. The other girls will recognize the leer. They'll leave before the petit fours are served and there he'll be. Ready. The good news is, there is a warning that he should talk to his doctor to make sure he is healthy enough for sexual activity and it takes about six weeks to get an appointment. Tell him he looks a little peaked and make him wait for an okay from a cardiologist.

So, here is the thing with the cost of health care. We live in a savage, free-market society. Health care, as we know it, is not different from the auto industry. Road side billboards titillate us with handsome health care workers with perfect, bleached teeth, stethoscopes swung in a sexy fashion around their necks, smiling and inviting us to their Urgent Care Center. Makes us wish for strep throat just to see those folks. It's clear they are waiting to meet us.

I will admit my prejudice. I am a nurse. While the marketing wizards are calling for business, health care professionals are keeping their heads down and doing their jobs. If you come here or go there with your chest pain or your belly ache, we all are tending to you in the same, hopefully, professional manner. Tragically, few of us look as perky as the billboards would like to demonstrate. Who wants to do the market research to find out if one Emergency Room is 8 minutes faster at tending to that cardiac crisis than the next? We all go to the nearest when we're in real trouble and I'll share a secret-they all have similar treatment modalities for most things. It's not my job though, to deny the marketing directors their mission.

While we are all subject to the carnival barkers of the industry, most of us don't really buy health care. Most of us buy insurance. We don't know what difference it will make until we need it. All those ads should be focused upon our insurers and the Mega Industries can seduce each other. Let those modern day gladiators take the field while we, the TV and billboard watchers, take up our positions as impotent consumers who simply get sick sometimes and don't feel much like shopping when that happens.

Beadrin Youngdahl of Peterson is a Journal contributor.

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