Sep 022008
Authors: Ryan Nowell

We see so many of them, so often, that I daresay we tune them out.

The Antonio Banderas honeybee recommends in a disconcertingly sensual manner that we consult our doctors about banishing pollen and dander from our lives.

The earnest grandpa stands on the eighteenth green, triumphantly making the putt before his gathered, adoring grandkids, finally victorious over the lakeside course — and arthritis!

A man roars out of his driveway on a gleaming metal hog, leather jacket on, moon-eyed wife in tow, on his way to chase America’s raging youth-obsession — all thanks to the confidence granted by his chemically rejuvenated penis.

With Nielsen Media charting pharmaceutical advertising in the ballpark of $5 billion annually, it’s no coincidence that there’s a drug commercial on every time you watch TV.

In this maelstrom of advertising, we often tune out and let the ads wash over us, the gentle, frothy tides of capitalism undulating across our sandy minds. But beware, noble readers, for your very life may depend on your vigilance during the 30 seconds that drug companies have to sell you erections and gel-capped happiness.

Consider the case of Vioxx. It was an arthritis medication taken off the market in 2004.

While dangerous side effects only occurred in 2 percent of those taking it, the drug was backed by a $300 million ad campaign, and by the time it was taken off the market, that measly two percent had swelled to 60,000 deaths from Vioxx-induced heart attacks and strokes.

The Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory body normally in charge of making sure your consumables don’t cause you to stroke out, has responded to anxieties over whether this can happen again with a good-natured shrug. They do not require drug companies to pre-approve new advertising (the majority of which a recent study by the University of Georgia found to be evasive and misleading) with them before being aired.

Professor Richard Kravitz, a walking credential from the University of California, stated in a recent National Public Radio segment that the FDA approves new medications based on very short drug trials that don’t provide conclusive results.

So what action does this agency, there to protect the American consumer from the ever-encroaching horrors of science, decide to take? They’ve urged us “to regard prescription drug ads with thoughtfulness.”

Now, most people would take that as a giant middle finger, but not us, my friends! We’re savvier.

We go to college! We know that the good people at the FDA have too much on their plate to be looking out for our well-being, so it’s up to us to keep those billion dollar conglomerates, with their nigh-unlimited resources, from poisoning our society, with its intense fixation on staying alive and young forever, with their highly-desired, expertly-marketed wonder drugs. Grassroots! Bootstraps! With the power of our thoughtfulness, we will regard those ads right off of the airwaves!

Now, granted, drug ads aren’t entirely without merit.

For the sake of equal time, we should give them their dues.

Pharmaceutical advocacy groups like Pharma and the Coalition for Healthcare Communication have pointed out that drug ads help “stigmatize disease” — an important public service when you consider that Americans have traditionally been very pro-disease.

Even way back when Horace Greeley made his lesser known but equally stirring “Manifest Dysentery” speech; or during that brief spell in World War II, when the ever-popular German measles were patriotically rechristened “Freedom Pox;” or in the early sixties, when the youth craze for exotic fevers became so intense the government released the now classic public service film “Typhoid Madness!”

Yes, Americans just love infectious disease, so it’s a good thing someone is reining us in.

Can’t be licking those door knobs — you’ve got bills to pay, mister!

Ryan Nowell is a senior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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