The well recognized contrast between the disciplines of Health Policy and that of the Practice of Medicine essentially resides in the difference in scope and application; the former investigates and studies population and societal disease trends, while the latter, by its very intrinsic nature, necessarily deals with the individual patient.
Informed by this inarguable and obvious difference, we are disturbed and confused by the vast number of television commercials aimed at marketing of medicines to the general public. These merchandise efforts deal with the most serious conditions such as coronary disease, stroke, cancer, hepatitis C, diabetes and others, as well as less threatening maladies such as digestive discomfort, dry eyes or mouth, dental health, allergies and many others. They often clearly point out that the product has been approved by the FDA, but even such welcome assurance is part of an irresponsible and potentially dangerous program to merchandise medicine on an indiscriminate basis to the general public.
There is crucial importance in the selection of a competent personal and family physician. The physician should be selected on the basis, if available, of a reliable personal recommendation, and should possess the requisite medical knowledge and training, as well as an aptitude for the art of practice. It is of crucial importance that the physician be familiar with the individual patient, his medical history and individual physiology, and to record the same for future reference. The diagnosis and treatment of presenting problems, including the prescription of medicine, where warranted, should be specifically tailored to the needs and personal nuance of the individual patient.
It would not be too much of a stretch to surmise that even the least sophisticated television viewer would not order a pair of leather shoes in response to a commercial, for fear of not getting the right fit. Certainly, the act of offering for sale, any medicine to the general public runs at the very least, the same dismal prospect. Furthermore, the administration of the wrong medicine has the strong probability of leading to disastrous results. A direr scenario is possible if the viewer foolishly engages in his own self- diagnosis, based upon his uninformed understanding and assumptions from the content of the commercial. That species of viewer has the same chance of success as a blind air traffic controller.
Nor is the danger to the unsophisticated viewer by the public advertisement of medicinal cure in any way assuaged by the inevitable legal disclaimer statement, defensibly included by the advertiser at the conclusion of the sales pitch; the same are uniformly delivered with the speed, and articulated clarity of a Civil War Gatling gun and are incomprehensible and useless. Moreover, the purported “authenticated” testimonials of successful past users, especially, the show business or sport celebrities are unprincipled, Even, theoretically, were there any veracity at all to these testimonials, they would still remain far outweighed by the substantive peril created by the confident recommendation of potentially harmful medication to the general public.
To be entirely fair, many of these commercials do recommend the consultation with the consumer’s doctor to ascertain whether the advertised medication is appropriate. Yet we fail to understand the
basic purpose of advertising the medication to the patient as opposed to the doctor who is presumably aware of the medicine deemed indicated for the patient’s needs. A patient would have the right to conclude that the underlying premise for the nature of this species of advertisement is the ignorance of the physician as to the suitable medicine.
What are truly bizarre experiences is seeing and hearing certain commercials extolling the virtues of a particular medicine, and on the very same days on which such advertisements are running, to have attorney solicitations offering to represent any and all parties seriously injured by the use of that same advertised medicine.
Please do stay well!