Jewish World Review Feb 6, 2012/ 13 Shevat, 5772
It's funny how scary side effects can be
By Reg Henry
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | One thing that television is good for is making you feel better about yourself -- not the TV programs so much, but the ads, particularly the ones advertising pharmaceutical drugs.
In other countries I have lived in -- Australia, Britain -- I do not remember prescription drugs being advertised in this way. Apparently they were such primitive societies that the cure to what might ail you was left chiefly to doctors.
Can you imagine it? Doctors who went to medical school for years, learning many skills, including the ability to write illegibly, never got the benefit of advice from patients whose only medical qualification was sitting in front of their TVs like great blobs.
All I can conclude is that American doctors must have extraordinary patience when forced to answer TV-inspired drug requests -- or else they are driven to inner fury, which may explain why so many do write illegibly, as it's hard to have good penmanship when you are gritting your teeth.
Whatever the reaction of the doctors, the idea that patients recommend their own medication to trained professionals on the basis of some ads they have seen on TV featuring colorful butterflies -- or perhaps cute puppy dogs -- is quite bizarre when you stop to think about it. Which, of course, nobody does, even as the cost of medical care soars ever upward.
Also bizarre is the practice of drug reps visiting doctors in offices to persuade them to prescribe the latest from their pharmaceutical cornucopia. These reps are famously friendly and some, it is rumored, are quite cute.
Thank goodness our docs are made of sterner professional stuff and never accept any free lunches or other freebies and are in no way influenced by friendly, attractive drug reps after a tough morning spent looking at patients who are naked, particularly those patients who might be asked to leave nudist camps because they are giving nudism a bad name. (Frankly, that was always my fear.) This bizarre way of doing things is nevertheless a natural consequence of our American way of life, where everything is for sale and just about everything can be advertised on television.
But you will note I did say at the beginning that drug ads can also improve a viewer's morale. That is true, because the system is also infested with swarms of lawyers, leading companies to include side-effect warnings in their ads in case they are sued. If you don't feel better after listening to some of the side effects of these advertised drugs, you may already be dead, but I would suggest getting a second opinion.
The other night I was sitting on the sofa, in typical couch-potato mode, when an ad came on for some malady or other. What made a greater impression on me was the disclaimer at the end.
It went on forever -- diarrhea, high fever, bad breath, blurred vision -- and I think I could have gone out to the kitchen for a sandwich and come back to still hear the disclaimer going on: constipation, perspiring feet, rashes and, in rare cases, the risk of stroke and death.
No matter how bad the condition, there's no way I am going to ask my doctor to prescribe that drug for me. Unless, of course, I am feeling suicidal.
However, if drug companies see the benefit of side-effect warnings, I am thinking that it might be time to attach such a label to this column, which is sometimes read by people for whom it should not be prescribed. So here goes in the spirit of consumer information:
-- The Reg Henry column is to be taken by eye once weekly after breakfast or before reality has set in. It is only for the use of patients who like to scratch and laugh.
Patients suffering from Humor Dysfunction Syndrome -- defined as the inability to get a joke even if clowns parachute into your yard to deliver it -- should not take the Reg Henry column. Nor is it advised for the literal-minded or the irony- and metaphor-impaired.
Some patients report snorting coffee through their noses or crying hysterically to the point of being fired by their bosses. Others report falling asleep, which is why heavy machinery should not be operated while reading this column.
If the expressions "many a true word is spoken in jest" and "pull my other leg, it's got a bell on it" mean nothing to you, avoid exposure to this column. Nobody has died laughing from this column but the author lives in hope.
If merriment or depression last for more than four hours, see your newspaper vendor or local circulation manager.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)
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© 2011, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
© 2011, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE