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JP Sottile writes, "... the advertising and marketing of drugs ... for just about anything and everything under the sun ... has turned the centuries-old doctor-patient relationship in its head."

File photo, generic pills. (photo: file unspecified)
File photo, generic pills. (photo: file unspecified)

Name That Drug

By JP Sottile, Reader Supported News

15 January 11

Reader Supported News | Perspective


on't you want to abilify yourself?

Don't you need to abilify yourself?

Who wouldn't want or doesn't need a little abilification in these hectic, stressful times?

At the very least, you probably know someone ... perhaps even a member of your own family ... who needs to be abilified. In fact, that was one of the rationales given by President W for going into Iraq. He wanted to "abilify" democracy in the Middle East.

So, you ask, how do you get abilified? It's simple. Ask your doctor.

In case you haven't seen the soothing, helpfully-worded T.V. ad, Abilify is yet another drop in the overflowing bucket of pharmaceutical fixes designed to solve all your modern problems. Yes, you guessed it. Abilify is designed to help you cope with depression.

How many depression drugs does that make? Prozac. Lexapro. Effexor. Paxil. Wellbutrin. Cymbalta. And on and on. And on.

Not that untreated depression is a good thing. It isn't.

But the advertising and marketing of drugs ... for just about anything and everything under the sun ... has turned the centuries-old doctor-patient relationship on its head. No longer does a doctor examine you, assess you and refer to her expertise when prescribing a course of action. No, now the drug companies have "empowered" you to assess yourself and go into the office with a specific drug "fix-it" already in mind. Consumer demand for pharmaceuticals is through the roof because the drug companies have trained consumers to demand their products.

The drug pipeline is wide open. Ads for a cavalcade of pain-relieving intoxicants, mood-shifters, sleep inducers, stomach settlers, eyelash enhancers, erection sets and child-numbing elixirs fill the gaps in-between your favorite sitcoms, crime dramas or ballgames. The commercials are so numerous and repetitive, the names of the products become slightly annoying, faintly-recurring mantras in the back of your mind.

Some sound like the actual names of those aliens in the bar scene from Star Wars. Wasn't that Crestor playing a card game with Zocor and Zetia? And the dude with the death sentence on twelve systems? Yup, that's Valtrex. He's been up to no good with that Walrus-looking dude named Vioxx.

The marketing mavens seem fixated on these mystical-sounding monikers. While some could be the rulers of far-off galaxies, others sound like uncharted regions of Middle-Earth: Avandia, Lunesta and Geodon.

Others drugs seem to be branded like kitchen appliances designed to make your life easier. Advair could've been a ventilator for an indoor barbecue. Flomax? Water filtration, of course. And Adderall? The very latest in industrial-inspired kitchen mixers. Have a lot of ingredients? Go ahead, add 'er ... well, you get the idea.

The most transparent naming relies on the word "pro." Propecia ... which should've been the name of Flomax. Protonix ... is what Sulu used to fire at Klingons. And, of course, the aforementioned Lexapro and Prozac. No doubt, they thought better of calling their anti-depressants Amaturzac or LexaRookie.

Some names are just fun to say, over and over and over again. Try saying "Boniva" a few times. It's fun! "BO-neeva!" Ain't it a kick? And, even better, Sally Field is the spokesperson! Boniva sounds like something Burt Reynolds did to her when they were filming Smokey and the Bandit, or like the latest, greatest dog food. Can't you envision feeding your schnauzer a big, healthy bowl of Boniva?

Then there is Yaz! It's a contraceptive. Not Yazoo. No, just like the 80s synth-pop band, this one is branded specifically for the American audience. Apparently, an aging New Waver in the marketing department pitched this as a pill for sexually-active 40-Somethings. Take it just in case you should you find yourself in a "situation."

Then there are the drugs that were just doomed from the beginning.

Last year, a new ad campaign launched yet another stomach acid suppressant. This gurgle-fixer was marketed directly to those who eat too much junk food, but refuse to change their diet. One ad, now absent from the airwaves, showed a portly fellow reeling from eating copious amounts of fast food, potato chips and other processed foods. But, wait! You don't have to suffer. Simply take AcipHex and eat whatever you want without the discomfort your body is using to force you to stop poisoning it!

Yup. Aci-pHex. Say it. Say it a few times. Now, check out the pronunciation in the one commercial trapped for posterity in cyberspace.

You heard it correctly. It is pronounced: "ASS-effects."

Wouldn't AcipHex been the spot-on name for Olestra? Dammit, the marketing folks really missed a chance for some truth in adverrtising on that one. Although, you'd imagine that eating whatever you want, in spite of your body's protestations, would lead to some serious ... AcipHex.

Finally, there are the ads and drugs that simply fall under the heading of "creepy." These are the sex drugs. Sad commentaries on Baby Boomers' inability to accept the march of time, these ads are the most ubiquitous and disturbing. But none come close to the "natural male enhancement" ads of Enzyte:

Whoa. Really? We show this stuff on T.V.?

The sad reality of all these names and the hundreds upon hundreds of drugs crammed on pharmacy shelves, along with those still in the developmental and approval pipelines, is that we've become a nation of pill-poppers. The profits are massive, surpassing $300 billion in 2009. Traditional, hands-on healthcare is little more than a distant memory. Gone for many are the family doctors who knew you for years, treated you from birth to old age and spent time with you in the examination room really trying to "treat" you ... like a human being. Managed healthcare is all about quantity. It is a consumer product, like the drugs that all-too often replace actual doctoring.

Big Pharma doesn't mind this managed healthcare system ... not one bit.

They are the purveyors of amelioration. Not cures. Cures are a bad business model. Look at the variety and increasingly foolish drug names. They provide a clue. The ten-year patent cycle determines what pill we get and when we get it. For every Nexium launched onto the market, there are newer, supposedly more effective versions still in the pipeline. Once Nexium goes generic, the new Nexium is ready to take the marketplace by storm.

Sometimes it just needs a slight chemical tweak and a new, flashy name. Voila! A drug is born.

Chemically similar and doctor endorsed, the speedy approval by the FDA leads to another ten years of patented profits. Of course, there are plenty of instances and plenty of drugs that keep people alive, keep people on their feet and with their families. But you have to wonder about an industry that bypasses your doctor and appeals directly to you with advertising and free offers. Free offers of drugs were, for many years, the tactic of the heroin dealer. The first taste is free, but next time it's going to cost you. Big time.

JP Sottile is a newsroom veteran. His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, Executive Producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington, and a two-time Washington Regional Emmy Award Winner. In addition, JP is a documentary filmmaker.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+31 # arc8iablue 2011-01-15 19:28
I work as a pharmacy tech- I've brought up several times the ridiculousness of the names, so this had me rolling! -Cialis is a favorite (did you See Alice?) In all seriousness though, there need to be some changes. It's a joke that many of the "new" meds that come out are cough/cold combos made from ingredients available over the counter. Or Prilosec and Nexium being chemically almost identical- just like the author said, as soon as one goes generic (actually slightly before) it's "new" brand inbred cousin is ready to go and the drug reps make the rounds to make sure the docs start writing Rx's for it. Claritin>Clarin ex, Prilosec>Proton ix>Prevacid>Nex ium>Zegerid (that last one is Prilosec with good old sodium bicarb added) Zyrtec>Xyxal, Yasmin>Yaz>B-Ya z (yep, they added vitamin B to it.) Also, drugs that have been on the market for decades suddenly being pulled by the FDA. Remember when Mucinex first came out? -soon after, ALL guafenesin products were pulled, with the official reason being that ONLY Mucinex had properly received FDA approval -SERIOUSLY??? -now it's colchicine, an inexpensive med for acute gout- no longer available and the ONLY available med is Colcrys (brand name colchicine) at about 10 TIMES the cost! Big Pharma is running rampant, assimilating everyone it can just like the Borg...
+6 # rf 2011-01-16 08:31
Sounds like you should write an article for the NY Times!
+29 # policymaven 2011-01-15 23:19
As a practicing physician, I can only sadly say that this article is not only true, but is just the tip of the iceberg. For many decades, this industry has been the most profitable one. When they "persuaded" Bill Clinton's FDA to allow TV ads for prescription drugs, something never before allowed, they dramatically increased their bottom line at the public's pocketbook and health.Welcome to the Brave New World called the Matrix-do you want to take the red pill?
+17 # lesliegriffith 2011-01-15 23:40
Consider this: Imagine saving a child with a vaccine instead of killing a child with a bomb. Problem is, most big pharma companies don't make vaccines anymore. They make only drugs to keep you addicted and sadated. There are incredible foundations now doing the work and giving the money to vaccinate children from easily avoided but potentially deadly diseases. Big phama wants only money...and sick people are a guaranteed income. Gates, Skoll and many others are supplying and vaccinating children around the world...but on a much smaller scale than needed. How can America become great again? Saving children in "hostile" countries would be an excellent start. Hearts and minds people...hearts and minds.
-10 # Leilani H 2011-01-16 01:39
Lesliegriffith, with all due respect, HIV Aids virus was spread through vaccinating dark-skinned people in Africa, Dominican Republic, etc. Unfortunately, vaccines can be laced with DNA modifiers that may not show up for years, and no one will know where a disease running rampant came from. Use vaccines to "guarantee" safety, and one could get caught in another net. Is this the Brave New World, too? Best safety is to educate ourselves in how to stay healthy. There are lots of ways to never get any flu. Herbs are potent. Colloidal silver will kill any bacteria or virus in a split second. I have "silver water" in a little spray bottle in my pocket when I go out. It works!
+3 # Leilani H 2011-01-16 01:11
Very good article, and I salute the pharmacist and doctor that add to it with their own truthful remarks! The only way out of this 'sick maze' would be if people study nutrition for themselves. Most doctors don't. I laugh at these ads with disrespect for the profiteers because I study nutrition continually, and every disease has a nutritional source in science behind it. Yes, even cancer! Just google cancer and candida together and see what you get! I tell you, get rid of the mucous, which is overpopulation of yeast in the body, and you won't get sick if your body is getting good nutrition. Then, have "Lacto-fermente d" sauerkraut or real, fermented kimchi when you eat, and your digestion will become clean and perfect.
Thanks JP for starting this conversation. BTW, don't these ads make the doctors feel a little impotent when the patient comes in and tells them what to do? Maybe, they can just be a clerk and write up prescriptions! You know, skip the medical school costs!?
+11 # Capn Canard 2011-01-16 08:23
Where do I start? The advertising of drugs was a huge mistake. Big Pharma has been one the most profitable industries for the past 75 years, and the marketing has been on steroids since Clinton's whorish behavior. I would go so far as to suggest that the profit motive is the reason for most of what is wrong with America. The profit motive is the reason for two wars, and no universal health care in addition to continual increases in health care costs. The cost of oil, nay the very use of oil, is not because it is most effective, efficient and best source of energy, but because is creates the most profit! And oil is running low, therefore the wars are easily rationalized! We lost about 6000 troops and the price per barrel has tripled! GREAT SUCCESS! It is easy to get sucked into things when we are all convinced by this Machiavellian matrix. One need only look at the rationales for our foreign policy to see the what and why and the rationalization s of the corporate whores. These people want money. And not just some money, they want it all! But that is just my opinion.
+11 # Gringaryan 2011-01-16 08:33
For a fascinating look at the pharmaceutical testing being done in a most immoral manner "off shore" (read in poor countries to people who often have no clue what is being done to them or their children in exchange for desperately needed pennies) by BIG Pharma and the new for-profit testing labs... These "testing labs" are working and reporting findings with NO supervision ... check out the recent National Geographic. You will also get a peek at how the FDA fails us constantly in spite of death causing results known world wide and ignored by our same FDA
+8 # genierae 2011-01-16 08:50
This article neglects to mention the disturbing side affects that these medications can cause, including many deaths! The reciting of these negative affects, on their commercials, makes me wonder why anyone would buy them. I have high cholesterol which my doctor wants to treat with one of these new drugs, but I want to try a natural approach first. I hear such horror stories about these drugs and also how the FDA isn't doing its job testing them. I recently stopped taking the calcium supplements that three doctors recommended I take, because a new study showed that not only are they ineffective, but if you're healthy, they increase your chances for a heart attack by 30%! This is outrageous, and just another example of how capitalism, as a first priority, is destroying this society. Once healthcare became a for-profit business, it was doomed. The common good must come first, with capitalism supporting it, or we will not survive as a nation. And if we don't wake up soon, we may not even survive as a species.

We all need to become more involved in our own health, and we need to realize that our minds are very powerfully connected to our physical well-being. If we only knew how potent holistic healing really is, we would not need to worry about these "wonder drugs".
+10 # swalden 2011-01-16 09:59
Very important article, but missing from he article is the responsibility of doctors and patients. Americans want a pill for everything--eas ier and faster than taking responsibility for your lifestyle. People with good healthcare or government subsidies for medication can afford to take as many pills and their doctor cares to prescribe.
As for doctors, they have become lazy. Partly because of the money making machine of medicine and partly because they really don't understand, or know how to cure most these diseases of the industrialized, stressed, polluted, world with processed food products and contaminated water and air.
My opinion is that anyone who would take these drugs with their long list of SIDE EFFECTS must be crazy. But maybe that's the plan--then they can market a new drug for crazy!
+4 # Rara Avis 2011-01-16 13:32
Like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill and so many others I suffer from clinical depression. But even in my case I got to a prescription for this through my doctor and did not ask them for anything. No one needs a pill to make the world in their image. But some of us do need prescriptions for legitimate medical concerns that plague what is otherwise a healthy life. I'm going to be just fine but is our country taking pills just to pursue perfection like face lifts and workouts at the gym? Not that those are illegitimate purusits but the intersection of Madison Avenue with drug manufacturers and a permissive legal environment are not a healthy mix.
+6 # Adoregon 2011-01-16 15:21
Uh, perhaps this is why it is illegal for pharmaceutical corporations to push their drugs directly to consumers in the U.K..

Ask your doctor if reefer is right for you!! It ameliorates a wide range of complaints.
0 # Bob Nuts Sack 2011-08-28 17:17
i like chick pie :)

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