Monday, April 26, 2010

Drug Ads

It never fails. Whenever I'm watching TV with my dad and a commercial comes on for an anti-depressant, it eventually gets to the list of side-effects, which usually includes something along the lines of increased risk of suicide, at which point my dad invariably says, "Why would anyone want to take that?"

Every single time, I bite my tongue, because I've taken a few classes in Psychology that have all said that anti-depressants are usually a last resort in the treatment of depression because of those side-effects.

In theory, if you're being treated for depression, you're seeing a psychiatrist who knows whether or not you need an anti-depressant, and will discuss those medication options with you, and will know which one will be the most likely to help you. So... why do these pills need commercials during the ten o'clock news?

The idea is that people will go into the doctor's office and say, "Hey, I saw this ad on TV, and y'know... it sounds like I could use it... What do you think?" And the doctor will say, "Well, what are your symptoms?" and from there will be smart enough to figure out if the person needs the drug or not. Clever little way for these drugs to boost their sales. And who knows? It could help someone realize they have something that can be treated, instead of suffering because they think it's "normal."

But the sad truth is that some doctors will just say, "Okay," and hand you a prescription just because you saw a clever little ad on TV. And some of these commercials don't even say what they're supposed to treat; they just show happy people walking through a field. Who doesn't want to happily walk through a field?

Once upon a time, there was some legislation that cartoon characters couldn't be used to advertise cigarettes, because they appealed too much to children, and cigarettes are harmful. Think about that, and then listen to that list of side-effects again and ask yourself why there's an anti-depressant advertising with a cartoony character who bears striking resemblance to a Shel Silverstein character. (I'm referring to Zoloft and to The Missing Piece, and I would gladly insert some pictures if Blogger would only cooperate and let me place them where I want to instead of assuming I want them at the top of the post.)

Of course, the chances that your doctor, pharmacist, and insurance company will all accept a minor being prescribed Zoloft without any amount of fuss are fairly slim. The same is probably true when a little girl sees an advertisement for birth control, featuring an animated ballerina made of flowers. But it still doesn't sit quite right with me.

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