Time to Stop Self Medication, TV Ads That Barrage Viewers With Pill Commercials


Today’s TV commercials bombard viewers with messages that compel us to replace lost hair, remove wrinkles, lift sagging bosoms, reduce our weight, stimulate sex life and eliminate cellulite. Other ads target our emotions, and encourage us to take a pill for every kind and complexion of personality dysfunction.

Lawmakers Seek to Curb Drug Commercials

Which drugs are being advertised the most to consumers? In 2014, two widely recognized erectile dysfunction drugs that have been on the market for more than a decade – Pfizer’s Viagra and and Eli Lilly’s Cialis – ranked among the top five, according to Kantar. Pfizer’s advertising budget for its “little blue pill” has more than doubled in the past five years to $232 million, and the company notably started marketing directly to women in a new ad campaign that drops the long-running innuendo associated with its groundbreaking product.

A handful of legislators are just saying no to TV commercials for prescription drugs. The politicians are taking aim at the 60-second spots that have made viewers familiar with maladies like male urinary urgency and deficient eyelashes – not to mention side effects like four-hour erections.

Medication snake oil.
Medication snake oil promotes selfmedication.

Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, is sponsoring a House bill that would ban ads for prescription sexual aids like Viagra and Levitra from prime-time television, on decency grounds. Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, has said he favors empowering the Food and Drug Administration to bar consumer advertisements for new drugs for an initial period after the F.D.A. approves them – until there has been more real-world experience with the medications.

Meanwhile, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of new York, has introduced a bill called the Say No to Drug Ads Act. It would amend the federal tax code to prevent pharmaceutical companies from deducting the cost of direct-to-consumer drug advertisements as a business expense.

Snake Oil For Sale On TV

Like the old snake oil salesman, these modern-day pill hawkers are pushing drugs for every type of emotional problem known to man – from shyness to erectile dysfunction. According to these new-wave info-commercials, the quality of shyness, once thought of as a quaint and pleasant trait in a person, has now been redefined by the medical community as “socially dysfunctional.” What’s more, they have created a pill (Paxil) to cure it.

Worry too much? Relax, they have a pill (Buspar) to eliminate that too. In fact, they now have a pill to prevent or control just about every natural human feeling we possess. Feel a little tired? Well, according to these TV ads, we’re not just tired, we may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and by-golly they have a pill to cure it. Forget something? We’re not just forgetful, we could be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – and they’ve got a pill for that too. If you’re not already worried, these TV ads will inspire you to be.

Pharmaceutical Rep : Doctor Ratio

The United States has 81,000 pharmaceutical representatives or 1 for every 7.9 physicians.[2] The number and persistence of pharmaceutical representatives has placed a burden on the time of physicians.[12] “As the number of reps went up, the amount of time an average rep spent with doctors went down – so far down, that tactical scaling has spawned a strategic crisis. Physicians no longer spend much time with sales reps, nor do they see this as a serious problem.”

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction has this to say:

“The nonmedical use and abuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem in this country. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 52 million people (20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes. Young people are strongly represented in this group. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey found that about 1 in 12 high school seniors reported past-year nonmedical use of the prescription pain reliever Vicodin in 2010, and 1 in 20 reported abusing OxyContin – making these medications among the most commonly abused drugs by adulterants. The abuse of certain prescription drugs – opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants – can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including addiction. Among those who reported past-year nonmedical use of a prescription drug, nearly 14 percent met criteria for abuse of or dependence on it. The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug abuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include greater availability.”

Problems With Drugs

If we listen closely to the drug advertisements, we will hear the announcer mention the “side effects” of these drugs … But, isn’t that the reason they took the pill in the first place, to elevate those same feelings? The side effects sound more dangerous then the disease.

Two of the most popular prescribed drugs given out in a doctors office today are: Prozac, a treatment for depression, and Xanax, a medication for anxiety. Almost six million prescriptions of each are handed out a year. Among the most profitable companies in America are pharmaceuticals: Johnson and Johnson, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Upjohn.

Socially dysfunctional: Take a pill.

Worried: Take another pill.


Whatever happened to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign and words like self-will and self esteem.

Most alarming, are the millions of children being diagnosed with the behavioral problem known as Attention Deficit Disorder ( ADD). Currently, the popular trend is to treat these kids with the drug Ritalin, causing Ritalin sales to increase more than 33 percent over the past year. An estimated 4 million kids receive Ritalin in the U.S. today. Ritalin is an amphetamine that produces such side effects as: nervousness, insomnia, anorexia, nausea, headache, blood pressure fluctuations, and dizziness. Children who squirm in their seats, fidget with their hands, talk too much, act before thinking, or need a lot of supervision, are given this new drug therapy to calm them down.

Although some may argue that these characteristics can lead to behavioral problems, they just sound like old-fashioned normal kids to me. Does this typical childhood behavior warrant the use of an amphetamine? Ritalin, not surprisingly, has now become a popular street drug among America’s teens.

Valid and Invalid Uses For Drugs

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many medical conditions that require serious prescription drugs, physical treatment and therapy. And I’m grateful that medical science has provided these options for the people that truly need them. Let’s use a little common sense here. For instance, shyness, according to the dictionary, is the unwillingness to thrust oneself into new and unfamiliar social situations. This has been a normal emotion in the human being since we began walking upright. However, today it has been redefined as a social dysfunction and they now have a pill to cure it. Hello! It’s called a personality. It’s what makes us who we are, unique from one another.

If we believe what we see and hear on TV info commercials, then none of us would leave the house without first gulping down a concoction of pills that promises to revise, revive or replace our lagging personality. These Pills, medications and herbs promise to induce a more gregarious frame of mind, inspire euphoria and eliminate worry. Unless I’m mistaken, isn’t this the reason people take illegal drugs and alcohol? It’s not the medication I fear as much as the message is sent: “Drugs are a quick fix.”

The Superficial World Around Us

The superficial world of beauty pageants and high fashion models has been around a long time, but never before has media hype so urged us to replicate this perfection in ourselves. If we are to believe these ads, one must achieve physical perfection in order to live a productive and rewarding life.

Plastic surgery and weight reduction is rampant among women. Witness: Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky’s makeovers. According to media opinion, their greatest fault, more than improper social and sexual behavior, was the fact that they possessed double chins.

Commercials tell women how their quality of life will be vastly improved if only they have a lipo suction, a nose job, an eye lift, a tummy tuck etc. As for the man with a receding hairline? Well, he can’t turn on the TV set without being reminded that he’s loosing his potency and prowess as a man with every lost hair follicle. Viagra commercials fill the airways, preying on self-doubt and insecurities.

Most all of us will fall short when compared to a runway model or muscle bound movie star. Too often, we set tough physical and mental standards for ourselves, standards that are impossible to achieve and to keep. Instead, I’d like to suggest we begin to value the person we are and how much we’ve invested in ourselves just getting to this stage of life.

Enjoy The Way We Are

I remember with pride, my beautiful Italian Grandma. She was all of 5 ft high and almost as round. Today, she’d be described, kindly, as exceedingly plump. No one in the family, including Grandma, ever thought of her weight as a problem. To her husband, it only meant more of her to love and cuddle, to her children and grandchildren her ample bosom and generous lap was a beloved place of warmth and refuge. I can’t imagine, nor would I want to, having a pencil thin Grandma wearing a pair of tight designer jeans, make-up, and fretting over her looks. Thank goodness I grew up at in a time when a woman’s beauty was judged by her actions and not by her dress size.

Psychologists tell us that our limitations and capabilities are all inborn. Some studies say the way a person is raised – the influences of family and culture affect who we are and who we become. And still others believe we inherit our psychological traits, abilities and emotions. I don’t know which of these theories is correct, but before we run out and try to change or rearrange ourselves, lets try enjoying who we are and the learning process that comes with each of these stages of life.

Allison Jones wisely wrote: “If I could wish for my life to be perfect, it would be tempting, but I would have to decline. For then life would no loner teach me anything.”

Cookie Curci is an experienced freelance writer, born and raised in San Jose, California. Cookie writes syndicated columns across the country, and wrote a “Remember When” column for The Willow Glen Resident for 15 years. Her work has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for The Soul books, and in the series of “Mother’s Miracle” books ( Morrow books).

She has a short story in the new book “ELVIS”, Live at the Sahara Tahoe; has been published in San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury news, Woman’s World, Primo magazine, Mature Living, and many websites.

Cookie is currently writing for several Italian American newspapers and magazines, they include LaVoce Las Vegas, Amici Journal, L’italo Americano, Life in Italy and Italiansrus.