A disease that's just right for you!
Drug company advertising has gotten to be so ubiquitous and so shameless, that they now invent diseases for which drugs just happen to be available. How convenient! Dartmouth, University of British Columbia and Brown University researchers find that in drug advertising ordinary, everyday experiences are now being portrayed as medical/psychiatric problems, for which medication is warranted .
DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising by the pharmaceutical industry essentially doubled between 2002 and 2004 alone going from $2.3 billion in 2002 to $4.2 billion in 2004 . Much of this is the not-so-subtle propaganda that every interaction you have with your environment (people, places, objects) that is less than perfectly smooth and happy is due to a mental, emotional or physical disorder of yours. The anxious question "Is it just me?" is the question that the drug companies love to hear, and to repeat or imply on their innumerable TV commercials.
A related phenomenon is gender-identification of drugs. Prozac has been repackaged as "Sarafem" in lavender and pink, and marketed as the treatment for "premenstrual dysphoric disorder," (PMDD), itself an invented disease with the purpose of dramatizing and medicalizing the irritability that some women experience before menses. Taking Sarafem allows such women to rise to the stress-free and lovely ideal of their femininity, if you believe the commercials. In one such commercial, a woman at a supermarket tries to uncouple a shopping cart from other carts to which it is apparently stuck. She appears frustrated and angry. Then another woman walks over and easily unhooks a cart and moves on. Lest you be tempted to think that the woman is suffering from a normal stressful incident, the voiceover will assure you: "it could be PMDD."
Conversely, Viagra is marketed in a way to appeal to masculinity and masculine aspirations, and has medicalized the fairly common situation of a libido that is not constantly surging. Each of these marketing campaigns holds an idealized image of each gender out to the two respective sexes, as something they can emulate (and can hurry out to demand of their doctor).
Even kids are not protected from pharmaceutical propaganda: Forbes magazine reports what appears to be a new front in direct-to-consumer advertising. There is now a web-based promotion for the acne drug Differin that promises teenagers free music downloads in exchange for signing up at the website, and for getting a prescription and refilling it .
- Moynihan R, Cassels A. Selling Sickness. Nation Books. Greystone Books. 2005.
- "The year 2001 will stand out in any historical accounting." Pharmaceutical Executive. May 2002, p 61-80. (266 Kb PDF)
- Ault A. "Direct to consumer drug ads come under scrutiny." Forbes. November 3, 2005.
The real cost of direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs
For the $4 billion dollars that the pharmaceutical industry invested in drug advertising last year, they have managed to make massive changes in the world of conventional medicine. For one thing, those advertising costs are a huge part of the outrageous prices of pharmaceuticals. The ads are also changing doctor-patient relationships to the extent that consumers are going to their doctors with certain drugs in mind. Doctors are then forced to spend time explaining to patients/consumers that the drugs they have in mind may or may not be warranted for their specific conditions. Drug ads are interfering with the doctor-patient relationship by circumventing physicians' extensive familiarity with application of pharmaceuticals to a particular patient's condition, and those ads are convincing some patients that the dramatization of a particular disease that they have seen on TV is more useful information than their doctor's medical training.
On November 1-2, 2005 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held public hearings on direct-to-consumer drug marketing. Since most FDA officials are former or current employees of drug companies, this hearing was pretty much an affair of foxes judging other foxes' chicken coop raiding. Pharmaceutical groups took on consumer groups in debating the influence of drug ads on public health. There have been calls for a moratorium on such ads, or at least review of ads by the FDA before approval for broadcast. The FDA still has the matter under consideration.
Get ready for the holidays: Fight the onslaught of sugar with yummy whole food desserts
After last month's assault on public health (yes, we mean Halloween candy), it's time to fight back with tasty alternatives that are actually good for you and still hit the sweet spot.
First we must mention that Nancy Appleton's list has grown. Now it is: "146 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health." If you haven't seen this article, it is a really powerful list - we remember when it was just in the 70's and now she is up to 146 - of ways that sugar can quite literally hasten illness and death. Most convincing is that she footnoted each of the 146 to research articles appearing in the conventional medical literature. The 146 footnotes appear at the end of the 146 shockers about sugar toxicity. For us this is the ultimate weapon of last resort to anyone who is obnoxious about pushing sugar on our kids. It is impossible to read Dr. Appleton's list and not want to give up sugar.
For more tactful and pleasant social situations, however, we usually don't have to pull out that big gun. Rather, we woo them and tempt them with our very tasty desserts.
Here is one that makes a deep-down satisfying combination of two seasonal harvests: This is for a single serving.
Dates and pecans
- 1 or 2 dates
- 1/3 cup pecans
- cream to partly cover
Pit and chop dates into small pieces. Add pecans and stir till date pieces are well distributed. Add cream.
And here is one that will hold its own at anyone's birthday party, an "ice cream" that does not commit the 146 sins referenced by Nancy Appleton, and does a lot of good for you besides:
Chocolate from Marz
- a frozen banana (first peeled and cut into chunks)
- a 1-2" square of unsweetened (baking) chocolate (Ghirardelli's works best for this, because it is thin and more breakable than the others.)
- dash of nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
- 2 tablespoons walnuts
- 2 tablespoons water
Naturopathic physician Russell Marz, ND, agreed to share this recipe with us, which is especially appreciated for the high quality omega-3 fatty acids contained in the flax and walnuts as well as the antioxidants that have been found in chocolate. Mix all ingredients in a high-powered blender, such as a Cuisinart, till consistent. This dessert has an ice cream-like texture. For birthday celebrations it would make a good substitute for cake and ice cream.