The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Senior Momentum - March 2017 - Zoë Tummillo


Medicine By Media?



by Zoe Tummillo

What new idiocy is raining down on unsuspecting souls who just want to watch a favorite TV show – not have an on-air doctor’s visit? Medical advice by paid broadcast advertising media, that’s what! 

Everything from bizarre, simplistic solutions to sweeping medical advisories are now available to us on TV commercial breaks. Disguised as pseudo counseling sessions, viewers are encouraged to nag their real medical professionals for remedies recommended by actors and pharmaceutical “providers” promising miracles. They further advise that you not forget to tell your doctor about all your existing conditions including a possible allergic reaction to the item they are hawking! (HUH? Doesn’t “your doctor” know all that?)

Considering that most of the stuff isn’t available without an Rx from a real doctor anyway, these “promotions” are absolutely hilarious when viewed in perspective. Even as I write, in the background on my TV, I am hearing amazing claims that conclude with the usual litany of risks and reactions ranging from a simple headache all the way to death! Indeed, it’s enough to scare you to death. 

The best of these arrogances is the attempt to empower us to advise our doctors, practitioners, and specialists concerning what and how they should be advising us! Do vulnerable viewers among us notice that the cart is pushing the horse? 

Think about those strange portrayals of people in the prime of life yet in dire need of treatments for ailments ordinarily associated with much older “patients!” Who selects those models? (A personal favorite is the dreamy-eyed couple in matching bathtubs overlooking an ocean vista...having just ingested the magic pill! Your tub or mine?

If the ironies were not so shamefully dangerous, it would be amusing. Deliberately and recklessly transposing patient as medication advisor to their medical professional is risky business. Participating fully in one’s medical care and solutions is healthy, advisable and certainly crucial; and I think it’s good to push back with your medical advisors and hold them accountable to explain and defend their choices for you. However, competing with your medical professional is quite another matter! 

Some viewers may perceive a blurred line and may even begin to doubt their real physician. (Gee, why hasn’t my doctor given me that wonderful stuff?) This phenomenon is in the snake oil promotions category, in my opinion. Medicine by media is a lot like relationships by Internet: enough detachment to absolve responsibility; no accountability, no foul!

Common sense and what was sometimes called “covered wagon medicine,” is something oldsters can relate to nicely. Not only were miracle medicines, drugs, advanced therapies and unbelievable surgeries things of a distant future, supportive communication and transportation was also limited. Many, many times, self-help and common sense were all one had to available make do. 

I truly believe that these TV pharmaceutical promoters think we are a bunch of numbskulls. Apparently, these presentations – often delivered in muted, seductive voice-overs – are designed to motivate us to motivate our doctors! (Considering the cost of such advertising, they must be successful.)

Where should the lines be drawn in matters such as this? Romanticizing and promoting highly potent products (involving questionable effects and very serious risks) seems borderline in terms of conscience and integrity in advertising.

Trouble can develop between doctor and patient when a patient applies pressure concerning claims they have heard in a TV ad about a product their doctor may believe is a wrong choice for their patient. 

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing the irresponsible part of this issue. It takes advantage of what the average person may not know (or know how to interpret) about the dark side of these products. Rather, they try to gloss it over in rosy dramatizations, and encourage folks to possibly doubt their own trusted personal medical relationships. 

Think more than twice, and remember that tired old adage: If it seems too good to be true it probably is!