The everyday dose of reality

The creative geniuses in the advertising world who came up with the Geico Gecko and the AFLAC duck, spend all their time thinking up ways to capture our attention.

The advertising brainiacs have figured out that only consumers over age 50 watch the televised evening news. The problem with ads shown then is that we are usually eating dinner and I think a lot of empty-nested couples and singles do the same. The TV execs know this.

I remember when one of the stomach medicines portrayed its healing powers with a diagram of a throbbing, ailing digestive system. I was usually eating while the small intestine pulsed in agony.

These days, however, there are ads with some pretty unappetizing people complaining about their hemorrhoids just as I’m about the spear a mushroom … or a meatball. There have been days that the only thing going down after the Preparation H ad is my fork. The subject matter is indelicate at best, but the timing is terrible. Now, if you are a hemorrhoid sufferer, I’m not denying your right to know about products that might help you. I just don’t want to think about it as I reach for the green grapes.

The ads that are not about affordable life insurance are aimed at the arthritic, the asthmatic, the sleepless, the constipated and those who pee every 45 minutes. If we cramp up after milk, can’t make our own tears, or have skin that cruds up and falls off, there’s a pill. If your toenails have a little devil sprite running around under them, I’m sure they’re painful, but there’s a pill. The ulcer-prone have a choice of the purple pills and stomach acid mints come in spearmint, peppermint and probably Jack Daniels flavor.

The actors on these ads have only two expressions – frowning in aching joint agony or gas attacks, then eventually grinning in relief while bouncing on the beach or tossing a frisbee. You never see them in deep thought, perhaps contemplating whether to even take the drugs. And you never see them calling their doctor. I think that advice, although stupid, is also hysterically funny.

“Before taking our over-priced drug, please be aware that it may cause apoplexy, dyspepsia, dropsy, double vision, sleep walking, and psychedelic phenomena. You may bleed to death, keel over, choke on your tongue, bite off your big toe or be kidnapped by aliens. If you are not sure that Knexovia is for you, we recommend that you call your doctor and ask him.” Yeah right. Imagine it:

“Hello, Sally?” this is Marcy O’Brien. “I need to speak to Dr. Wonderful. I have an important drug question.”

“What’s the name of the drug?” she asks.

“Knexovia,” I offer.

“Well, Dr. Wonderful recommends that any patients calling in about Knexovia be referred directly to their investment adviser. If their life savings can handle a three- month supply without inducing cardiac arrest, he says to go for it.”

I have decided, from personal experience, that any pill advertised on television is guaranteed to cost at least $7 apiece. Or $9. And some docs prescribe new wonder drugs

as casually as they recommend baby aspirin. They seldom mention that my new prescription might be a little pricey.

When you check out at the pharmacy, the shock hits that thirty of these new little life-changers cost $270. So three months = $810? I paid less than that for my first car!! They should keep smelling salts behind the counter.

In reality, all those warnings on television which the announcer rattles off like hog futures, are usually about all the terrible things that you never want to happen. Ever.

“Don’t take this drug if you are in dialysis, or have an enlarged liver, heart failure, cataracts, pancreatitis, are pregnant, want to become pregnant or are allergic to Knexovia.” Wait – you’ve never taken it, but you’re supposed to know whether you are allergic to it? When do you find that out – during your last gasp?

The ad continues, “May cause cramping, hemorrhaging, diarrhea, constipation, erectile dysfunction, blindness, convulsions, seizures or death. And death is listed as just another side-effect. Actually, you could get the same result by telling a senior citizen she is pregnant.

I don’t know what our quality of life would be without some of the medicines that make aging tolerable. But there has to be a happy medium somewhere between waaaaaay too much information and finding out if a drug is appropriate. I will continue to be as informed as possible and try to keep an open mind – a large task for a natural cynic.

Frankly, as long a new drug doesn’t give me the trots or hives, and it actually doesn’t CAUSE pregnancy ….

Marcy O’Brien is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.


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