Misleading medical TV advertisements

Notice how completely modern medicine has changed since the FTC
started allowing drug companies to do TV and radio ads?
Notice how completely modern medicine has changed since the FTC started allowing drug companies to do TV and radio ads? Now you can’t go five minutes of air time without enduring at least three medication commercials, all of which follow roughly the same format: we see mobs of deliriously happy people frolicking in flower-carpeted fields for no discernible reason, obviously toasted to the gills on some highly-desirable drug, having been miraculously relieved of an ailment which surprisingly is seldom mentioned.

It’s as though it’s not really important for you to know if what was wrong with them is what is currently wrong with you; what really matters is the voice-over soothingly crooning “Be sure to bug the living bejeezuz out of your doctor about Expensium – you know it works because just look at what a pretty color it is.” And then I guess we’re supposed to get right on the horn and start wading our way through the automated phone systems of our HMOs to pester our physician about prescribing this wonderful pill that costs six times as much as it’s generic twin so the drug company can make back it’s enormous advertising budget.

Along with this revolution in self-medication comes a lot of things to sell through the media that we didn’t used to get hammered with every time we sought out a little electronic entertainment. Ah, but it’s a brave new world, one in which, for example, “yeast infection” is rapidly becoming as common a commercial subject as Buicks and Fixodent. And for the men (so we won’t feel left out and jealous about the yeast infection thing) we have a barrage of enticements for restoration of our, well, our, you know, our guyosity.

There’s one saturation ad that if you listen to the radio you’ve heard about a thousand times by now, that goes: “Gee, you know there are some things you just don’t talk about. If you have a problem with your car you take it to a mechanic; no problem. But if you have a problem in the bedroom that’s another story, but I found that at [some phone-it-in clinic] they know how to take care of problems like mine” etc etc etc. And now this guy is happy as a lark and you really should call these people and so on.

Well, I’ve been having a problem in the bedroom myself lately, so I wrote down the number and gave them a call. A very nice person answered and I promptly said, “I’ve been having a problem in the bedroom and I hope you can help me. Why is it that no matter what I do, every time we do the laundry I end up having to put an uneven number of socks away in my dresser drawer? Can you answer me that?”

“Ooh, sir, we’re …”

“I mean, dirty socks never leave the house; they just go into the washer, then into the dryer, then back to the bedroom, so how can one get lost time after time? It makes no sense.”

“Sir, we don’t …”

“I can tell you with great certainty that I always, and I mean without fail, wear socks in pairs. Never, not on my office’s most casual Friday, do I wear one sock. I wear two, and I put ’em in the laundry two at a time. Therefore, it stands to reason that I should get back an even number of socks every time, but that’s not how it works in my bedroom and I’m sick of it. Do you have some sort of pill, maybe something in a nice mauve or vermilion, that can help me?”

For some reason the nice person hung up. But I’m thinking of calling again because I’m also having trouble getting my bedroom window to open. I think everyone with a problem in the bedroom should call them. Frequently.

Robert Mitchell practices law in Morgan Hill. His column has appeared in The Dispatch for more than 20 years. It’s published every Tuesday.

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