Column by John Young
“If I could have one wish this holiday season, it would be for all children to hold hands and sing together in a spirit of harmony and peace,” thought Steve Martin many Christmases ago.
So appropriate. Hence the need for conflicting times.
Another option, he added, “will give me $30 million a month tax-free in a Swiss bank account.”
Let me share these holiday sentiments.
But please add a wish from me: the executives behind all the drug commercials on TV should be rounded up to the pulp.
In all the talk about drug prices, one chief contributor stares back at us from beyond our reading glasses: ridiculous, expensive, pointless TV spots.
A 2021 study by the advocacy group Health Insurance Plans of America found that at seven out of 10 large pharmaceutical companies, marketing and sales costs exceed research and development costs.
The latter is a lecture to drug goliaths on why the only proper response to criminally high prices is quiet compliance.
The idea behind drug ads is that doctors have never heard of any of these products and we need to tell them what we know.
The active ingredient in these appeals is, “Ask your doctor.” Sounds creative. Of course, physician-patient agreement generally assumes that physicians know appropriate treatments.
A better approach is to ask one’s doctor, “Are you a doctor?” If confirmed, chances are he knows what one learned during “Judge Judy’s” recess.
The main message of these ads is that doctors are out of the loop depending on their cable packages. Why, American Medical Association, do you enjoy these scandals?
Given the prices of the products, all Americans should be up in arms over the untold costs associated with flooding the airwaves as drugmakers do.
Often advertising campaigns target an infinite number of audiences, such as people with puffy eyes from thyroid eye disease. For that, ask your doctor about Tepezza.
Does anyone out there know anyone in this situation? The only reason we know it exists is because a sweet, chubby-eyed woman unloads her plight on America’s televisions.
Increasing the price of these ads is production, apart from saturation point. If you have “moderate to severe plaque psoriasis,” you’ll be the target of Skyrisi’s bouncy jingle: “Nothing. O-o-o-o,” if the target consumer isn’t, but if you have a slow “dumb” hand, the tune bounces in your brain.
And the costs keep piling up.
But jingles and panoramic views and narrative themes don’t drive up drug costs for unnecessary marketing.
Driving the air time is a list of all the bad things a drug can do to you — driven in part by federal requirements and in part by liability concerns.
This absurdity is one of the reasons why these ads are so ridiculous and wrong.
In 1977 the Supreme Court opened this Pandora’s box and struck down restrictions on direct advertising for prescription drugs.
This was not long after another court ruling prevented bar associations from preventing lawyers from advertising their services.
Granted, these strains of televised obscurity and the media as we know it may disappear. But it’s worth the risk.
That’s my wish this holiday season.
If I were president, my first act would be to ban these ads. If a judge says that it violates the First Amendment, I would insist that the amendment be amended to say that “Congress shall make no law” that “restricts the right to free speech, except to drug makers and lawyers who stick a sock in it.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this editorial are those of the author.