UNACCEPTABLE. I just saw a completely ridiculous commercial for a “restless leg syndrome” drug on TV. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of pharmaceuticals must include a clear statement of the potential adverse effects of the drug, according to the FDA. The potential adverse effects of this particular drug included such tasty morsels as falling asleep at inopportune times, such as when you’re driving, and having sudden, intense urges to have sex or to gamble (these scenarios have the making of one heck of a movie – you think?). One wonders how, with side effects like this, the drug was ever approved. Those who criticize the FDA for being unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, because the powers that be in the FDA are on various company advisory boards, or are stock holders, or have an otherwise vested economic interest in a particular company would correctly argue that this is the reason why. There are also several other compelling reasons why this happens.
I’ll bet my bottom dollar that a major reason most people have restless leg syndrome is because they simply have too much stress, too little exercise and sleep, and/or unhealthy eating habits. This is what happens when profit, rather than the health and quality of life of the masses, becomes the number one priority for our economy. Most companies are also overburdened by the cost of providing health care benefits in this economic environment. And one big reason for the vast increase in healthcare costs is the high cost of drugs developed by the pharmaceutical industry.
The health problems in our society are overwhelming but are actually very profitable for the pharmaceutical industry. We hear about diabetes, high cholesterol, restless leg syndrome, arthritis pain, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, etc., and any other disease or symptom for which there is a major blockbuster drug. Why do we have such problems with these things? Most people know the benefits of eating healthy, exercising, and properly nurturing one’s family (not just economically), but how many really have time to do it adequately? The cost of living has risen in vast disproportion to the growth of salaries over the last 20-30 years or so. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the price of a decent home may have been 1 – 2 times the average annual salary. Today, in most parts of the country, even with depreciation, it is more likely 5 – 10 times. You may ask, what does this have to do with pharmaceutical advertising? Well, if corporate greed had not gotten out of hand the way it has, people would have healthier lives and reduced need for these drugs. Therefore, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the junk food industry, has a vested interest in keeping people stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle. They want to retain the status quo, because it is making them very rich. Each component of our society is inter-dependent, much as in an ecosystem. If a food chain is interrupted by destroying habitat, the consequences for the surrounding environment snowball.
I recently visited my local pharmacy, a branch of a major national chain of drugstores, and noticed that there was a special Snickers bar display within an arms length of where the line met the counter. I felt compelled to ask the pharmacist (who of course had no say in the placement of the display) whether they were offering free diabetes drugs with the purchase of a Snickers bar. Sadly, the answer was no. I can’t imagine a more ironic analogy to the problems in our society.