And I Heard Him Disclaim As He Rode Out Of Sight…

I don’t watch a lot of prime time TV. Beyond football, I mostly stick to Jeopardy, Wheel, the occasional old movie, and the news. These are the meeting houses where my nervous, distracted and aging demographic, the boomers, finally catch up with me.

There are a lot of drug commercials. The annual domestic revenue of pharmaceutical companies is something like $300 billion, or roughly a thousand dollars for every person in America. I think we can assume the average for Wheel watchers is considerably higher than that, and not just from the stress of watching idiots spinning when they obviously know the Prize Puzzle. Spending on drug advertising by US companies was something like $6.5 billion, though I can’t make out if that number was for domestic or global spending. At any rate, $4.5 billion of that went into TV ads.

That’s not slush fund for doctors kind of money (est. $20 billion), but it will buy a lot of 60 second slots. It would buy twice as many 30 second slots, but that’s not possible. Why?

The disclaimer. The 10 to 15 second list of everything that could go wrong when ingesting your miracle drug, from death to even worse, diarrhea. The drug disclaimer may truly be the most bizarre ritual our greedy little corner of the world puts itself through. Want to hear that weather forecast Channel 5 has been teasing for twenty-five minutes? Okay, but for now, here’s just one more shotgun list of everything that can kill you, make you wish you were dead, or have you dealing with your 8 year-old’s curiosity when you’ve had a long day and just want to finish your drink. Have a nice day☺

There are instructions included, too. My favorite is: while you’re asking your doctor if the miracle drug Perplexit is right for you, be sure to inform them of any changes in your health status. Now, I know people don’t always like to tell their doctor stuff, but if your healthcare arrangement depends on TV commercials nudging the process of information sharing along, that is not your doctor–you are their 2 o’clock.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve got all day (while the Bears maneuver for 32nd place to improve their draft position, which at least shows managerial progress), so here’s a little story:

A long time ago I broke down and finally got an umbilical hernia repaired before my small intestine could obstruct and/or burst, which might cause an ugly, ugly case of peritonitis. Several months later I went for a checkup, where the doctor asked, “Which side was your hernia repair on, again?”

I thought long and hard before responding, “It was in the middle.”

He seemed quite confused for a moment and, apparently unsure if he was going to get anywhere at all with me, actually looked more closely at my chart.

“Ah,” he intoned, without a glimpse of humor.

Ah, indeed. I never went back.

So I say let’s take advantage of the situation and throw the libertarians a bone. Do away with these regulations! Free the FDA to focus on whether the drug actually does what the maker says it does.

If you really want to inform the patient, give them a summary of efficacy and potential side effects to read before they leave the clinic–one with meaningful statistics that might allow them to make an informed choice–and make sure the patient has an opportunity to discuss their concerns directly to the doctor/PA.

Enough of my happy hour filled with ineffectual blather about strokes, heart attacks, suicidal thoughts, and bodily fluids oozing from every orifice.

It’s just bad taste.

One response to “And I Heard Him Disclaim As He Rode Out Of Sight…”

  1. We seemingly have so many choices as health care consumers yet those have become increasingly poor. On air TV commercials pack in as much hurried information as your primary care doc’s 7 minute office call. (that’s the prescribed duration for a profitable health mangled org appointment) Even your online health chart gives up surprises that no one told you about. Like my left heart failure out of the blue diagnosis posted without context. WTF?

    Yeah, getting old ain’t for sissies. But, for what we are paying for senior healthcare, you’d think we get better information about our options. But, it’s clear that capitalism and affordable “ risk management” comprehensive health care do not mix.


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