On My Soapbox: Drug Advertising on TV
OK, I’ve got a complaint and no one to pitch my bitch to…..except you, Constant Reader. I’ve tried writing to the drug companies about their stupid commercials, but I think they all think I’m just another kook with an axe to grind.
You see, I have an issue with the peddling of powerful drugs to the American consumer, most of whom don’t know their butts from a hole in the ground when it comes to medications. Especially when it comes to recommending antipsychotics, which are some pretty hardcore meds, without ever telling the public that that is EXACTLY what they are.
I think we’ve all seen the commercials in which a female cartoon character just can’t shake her depression until her doctor puts her on Abilify; now there’s a new spot for Latuda, which is another of the newer atypical APs. This one features a real actress who’s obviously living the good life, even with her bipolar depression.
First of all, I do have to give a shout-out to the producers for even mentioning the word bipolar; as we all know, it’s still a highly stigmatized illness despite its (undeserved) reputation as being the diagnosis du jour just because a number of celebrities have come forward with it. I’m even glad this commercial shows regular people doing regular things despite the presence of symptoms we BPs are all too familiar with.
But I have to take issue with the fact that Latuda and Abilify are both being marketed to the American public as antidepressants. I have a pretty good idea as to why this is: people tend to freak out at the word “antipsychotic”. I certainly did when I was first prescribed one, even though I knew better. The average consumer, however, does NOT, and now they’re going to trot down to their primary care provider’s office, tell the doctor that they’ve been on Prozac/Wellbutrin/Lexapro etc. for months and still don’t feel right, and ask for one of these potent drugs. And the PCP who’s not even trained in psych may very well write the script, not really knowing much more about it than the patient.
Now, the commercials do point up the possible side effects ad nauseam, but instead of being scared to death, the consumer is lulled into a false sense of security by the pleasant, soft-focus images of attractive actors riding bicycles and walking on the beach with their equally attractive “family”. I know that even I sometimes find myself wondering if life would be better if I were on one of those drugs. After all, I like beachcombing too, and while we’re at it, I’d like to NOT have depressive episodes, period.
So I pity the poor sucker who drags his sorry butt to his doctor, gets an RX for Abilify or Latuda, and then finds himself unable to get off the stuff when his issue resolves because these medications should never be discontinued without help from someone who actually knows what he or she is doing. And unless a patient really can’t manage his/her illness without one (and there are some of us who can’t), APs really shouldn’t be used long-term. But do you think the drug manufacturer is going to tell consumers that?
Oh HELL no.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is my rant for the day. Thanks for listening.