Post # 691   MEDIA MEDICINE: Redux

The United States, reportedly, is the industry leader in the advertising world. It is home to the largest and most complex advertising market of any nation. This mini-essay’s purpose is to question the propriety of American television advertisement, in the existential and multi-faceted area of medicine.

Scientifically, and logically, the most vital phase in any physician’s treatment of patients is that of acquiring sufficient knowledge to enable appropriate consideration of their respective, nuanced conditions and their past medical history. In addition to the presenting cause, which brought the patient to the doctor, it is vitally important, for him to take into consideration, other past medical problems, organic and otherwise, the general condition of the patient, including, age, chronic illnesses, blood type, allergies and current medication. Prior to diagnosis and treatment, the doctor must familiarize himself with the patient’s particular nature and history, in order to be capable of correctly diagnosing and effectively (and safely) prescribing, appropriate medication.

Regularly transmitted, televised commercials, promoting the purchase and application of particular medicines, (in some cases, for serious physical and mental disease) are irresponsibly, broadcasted to general, unseen millions of viewers. Each such sales pitch tactically utilizes music, exciting props and stereotypically attractive men or women, and is transmitted to the target audience; the latter, as shown by sales data for the advertised product.

Pharmaceutical commercials universally, advise dramatic and rapid, full recovery from the use of their branded product. These would include, as advertised, such pathologies as, cardiac problems, hepatitis C, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, eczema, acne, HIV, flu, shingles, ulcerative colitis, cancer, bipolar depression, schizophrenia and M.S., analogous to the 19th Century, traveling grifters, hawking their celebrated, and purportedly (universally) effective, “snake oil.”

At times, there are general restrictive reservations at the end of the commercial, incomprehensively, rattled off with the speed of a Gatling gun or an auctioneer of farm equipment.  Another cynically worded “assurance,” is the impotent caution: “Do not use, if allergic to any of the ingredients.” We would presume that there are very few people, if any, among the many millions of television viewers, who are familiar with the ingredients in the chemical composition of the advertised, pharmaceutical compound. In our (angry) view, the preceding two reservations are clearly and irresponsibly, cynical and, perceptively, constitute an inadequately communicated, moral admission of corporate, guilty conscience. No attention whatsoever is extended, in their rosy predictions of outcomes, to individual nuance, to side effects of medication, to possible interaction with other medications, to allergy, to age differential, mental health or anecdotal health history.

Fiduciary responsibility needs to be imposed on Pharmaceutical companies (by Statute) in view of the potential existential outcomes in the wrongful, inappropriate, selection of medication, for patients with various medical problems. Medicine is not within the category of products to be responsibly, advertised for sale like sheets and pillowcases, clothes, smartphones and cologne. Tobacco advertisements, for example, have properly, been banned for public health reasons from such advertisement, and so should medicine. Qualified physicians, with specific knowledge of the individual patient’s medical nuance and history, are not replaceable by T.V. glitz and glamor.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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