My foray in a recent column into things from TV commercials that strike me as puzzlements was far from complete. It barely scratched the surface of my discontents. I am puzzled by the contents of TV commercials relating to the world of medicine.
Let it be clear that I have no quarrel with legitimate medicine. Both my son and daughter-in-law are highly-respected physicians. One granddaughter is a physician’s assistant. A much loved niece is a pharmacist. Some of my friends and former students are medical professionals. This is one reason why I bristle at ads in which actors dress up in lab coats and speak as if they are bringing the authority of modern medicine to bear on whatever nostrum they are shilling.
Allow me to introduce “Zyx” as a catchall name for medications being touted in commercials. Some come with warnings to “tell your doctor” or “ask your doctor if Zyx is right for you.”
I personally would never have a stupid doctor, one who did not know about my ailment and relevant treatments. We are instructed by some ads to tell our doctors if we have visited places where certain fungi or other nasty things are prevalent. How are we supposed to know this? Tourism literature does not focus on negatives like fungi.
Many medical commercials contain warnings and disclaimers. “Do not take Zyx if.....” The list of preexisting conditions in which Zyx is contraindicated is often long. It could lead to ringworms, baldness, flatulence or loss of speech. Some say that even deaths have been reported. Except in cases of almost certain impending death, who would accept this treatment option?
They say that people should not take this stuff if they are allergic to any of its ingredients? How are we supposed to know this? Of course, these are butt cover statements. In case problems emerge and litigation follows, the drug maker can contend that the patient had been fully informed.
Some of these pills and potions are said to work miracles. People who are portrayed as being so seriously disabled that they can hardly walk soon become able to zip up and down stairs after taking this marvelous treatment. A major source of disability — particularly among seniors — is arthritis for which no miracle cure exists. I wish, but wishing does not make it so. It stole so much from the life of my father for over 50 years and continues to hold my brother and me in a grip of pain and disability.
Some cures are said to be the product of vigorous scientific investigation but rarely measure up to the canons of scientific methodology. Can this investigation be replicated by others who have no vested interest in the outcome? If not, why not? Are results based on “blind studies” involving comparisons between tests and placebo groups? Have detailed descriptions of methods followed in the study been published, been made available to the interested public? Few of these claims to “science” measure up to the demands of scientific rigor.
Many new cures are claimed to be discoveries about some sort of plants or animals not previously studied. Because these discoveries are so new, sweeping claims for efficacy can be made. Even if the claims for cure do not hold up over time, considerable money can be made before the truth emerges.
The commercial TV line goes something like this. "After years of scientific study, we are offering to the suffering public Zyx2. It has been proven to bring unheard of relief to those who suffer from hookworms, bubonic plague and test anxiety. It is made from a substance derived from the whiskers of articus seabus otterus (arctic sea otters) found exclusively on the rocky shores of Tierra del Fuego. Do not take it if you are allergic to it. Give Zyx2 ample time for your body to assimilate it; six months is recommended. Our toll-free number and website are at the bottom of your TV screen. Use either to place your order for a bottle of 50 for the low, low price of $49.95. You’ll be glad you did."
Back to reality. That’s a dollar a pill. If you order, they’ll be glad you did.
Roger G. Branch Sr. is professor emeritus of sociology at Georgia Southern University and is a retired pastor.