Monday, August 01, 2011

Prudery and Probity

I have never considered myself especially prudish when it comes to the subject of sex. But I have decided I am definitely a prude (one who is excessively attentive to propriety or decorum) when it comes to other things, specifically ads for various ailments and bodily functions. I confess I do not want to hear about medical problems or drugs, even though I concede such problems and drugs exist. I am offended by ads for colon health, hemorrhoids, and even Beano or mentions of farting, passing gas, flatulence, or other such problems. I am even more offended by ads for indigestion, acid reflux disease, bloating, and stomach cramps, especially when shown pictures of someone’s interior and how it supposedly works. I particularly despise ads having to do with erectile dysfunction, now more than ever, having been exposed to endless ads for Cialis,Viagra, and male enhancement, ads that show no sign of ever letting up or stopping. I don’t want to see people brushing their teeth, gargling, swishing something cutely around in their mouths, and I despise seeing ads for loose or ill-fitting dentures, denture paste, or other related products. In fact, anything that shows the inside of someone’s mouth, the dentist at work, gum disease, or plaque turns me off immediately. Toothpaste ads might not be so bad if they did not insist on showing them being used. Colonoscopies, enemas, and irritating rectal itch are doubly offensive. When someone takes a pill I do not want to see its career as it careens through the body, I do not like to see hearts thumping, being operated on, or displayed as plastic models, nor do I care for ads dealing with digestive tracts or digestion. Similarly, I am not interested in people’s difficulties when it comes to either constipation or diarrhea. Hair transplants, face-lifts, mammoplasty, rhinoplasty, and mentoplasty I prefer not to hear about, along with cosmetic surgery in general. Cutting or sucking the fat out of the obese I find horrifying. I am also not enchanted with armpits, feet, body hair, nostril scissors, wrinkle removers, hair implants, teeth straighteners, or penis or vaginal alterations. I find it unfortunate that people suffer from these various ailments and conditions, I just wish it would be kept confidential, just between themselves and their doctors, as it used to be in the not so distant past. I do not recall how this mania for medical products got started but I think it definitely offends propriety and decorum. If I am a prude, so be it. If after reading this you come to the conclusion that I am also a “prig,” (one who offends or irritates by observance of proprieties in a pointed manner or to an obnoxious degree), that’s fine with me also. As far as probity goes (adherence to the highest principles and ideals) I must say this kind of advertising does not even come close, being about the sleaziest form of capitalism that exists (aside from the advertising industry itself).

You can dismiss the above as merely the ravings of an old man out of touch with modern marketing techniques if you wish, and you might also suggest that it really does little harm to anyone and, in fact, may even help some people overcome their minor problems. But there is a further, and I believe a far more serious problem relating to these kinds of medical ads. Somehow, in association with the above type ads there has also been an enormous increase in ads for different drugs, I guess you might call it the “Ask Your Doctor” series. Unlike the above ads that might be dismissed as only offending cranks or old men, these drug ads are much more problematical. You might wonder why it is necessary for pharmaceutical companies to advertise their sometimes potentially dangerous wares to the general public at all, certainly they didn’t do it until recent years. The only rationale I can think of is simply to increase their profits by preying on people’s fears about illness and death. I cannot believe that if someone has a heart or liver or lung or prostate or whatever problem they cannot learn from their doctor about the proper treatment. And if they cannot afford to see a doctor they would certainly be ill-advised to buy these various drugs and experiment on themselves (assuming they could get them without a prescription in the first place). The ads promote the benefits of these various drugs and I’m sure if they were not legally required to do so, would not even mention the potentially very serious side effects (as it is they minimize them as best they can). What is worse is that they promote cures for in some cases imaginary ailments, or ailments that didn’t even really exist until they found a pill for them. Restless leg syndrome, for example, probably exists in a severe form in a relatively small number of individuals, but many people have restless legs and have had probably for centuries without resorting to drugs. Low testosterone is another concept I find somewhat questionable, and I have no doubt that drugs for certain problems, medical and otherwise, especially those increasingly administered to children, are perhaps doing more harm than good. Indeed, it appears that according to the drug industry and the doctors that unfortunately get their information almost exclusively from the industry, an increasingly high percentage of U.S. citizens suffer from some form of mental illness. Largely due to the efforts of the industry and their influence on doctors we have become a nation of “pill-poppers,” taking prescription drugs to the point where it has become itself a health problem.

Even if there were no potential health problems associated with pharmaceutical ads they would still be undesirable. Advertising, especially television advertising, is quite expensive, and given the price of other forms of advertising as well, it is not hard to imagine that the cost of prescription drugs is probably twice, and probably even more than that what it would be without this massive attempt to increase profits at the expensive of a gullible (and somewhat hypochondriacal) public. I’m not certain these ads even work very well. How many people do you know who, upon seeing an ad for something, runs to “ask their doctor?” I suspect if someone did this more than once or twice they would get prescribed something for dementia.

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