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Doctor Curmudgeon® Big Pharma Does a Public Service!


By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP

Doctor Curmudgeon does watch television; there are several programs that entrap her and smooth away some of the curmudgeonly things she has encountered during the day.

In the evening, nibbling her veggies or fish or fruit and chocolate, grabbing her remote, she sorts through the programs she has recorded.

And thus, it is only swiftly moving glimmers of advertisements that trespass across her vision. Even though she does not actually watch the “direct to consumer” crap put forth by pharmaceutical companies, images flash by:

Of lovely women, extolling the virtues of erectile drugs.

Of attractive men and women being freed of reflux by popping a pill.

Of drugs causing blissful sleep.

Of wonderful new drugs better for diabetes than anything your uneducated doctor has put you on.

She is aware, that at the end of the panegyric to the wonders of the creations of the pharmaceutical industry, there follows a rapid catalogue of risks.

These are usually recited by the voiceover in a single breath. I suppose that the ad creators feel that if the whole list is said in the briefest period of time, without taking a breath…the viewer can toss it off as not being of much significance

And so, when patients tell me to switch them immediately to the wonderful new med for diabetes (often when their diabetes is well controlled with ye olde Metformin and they feel well on it with no side effects), I scoff.

Then I talk about how well they are doing right now.

“But, Doc, the ad sounded great. You really aren’t going to switch me?”

“No,” I say, “There is no reason to change your medication.” And I review the risks of the drug they have heard extolled on TV.

And still, the patient will say, “Doc, listen, there aren’t that many side effects, and it sounded so good. What’s really the worst thing that could happen?”
I often answer, “You mean, by changing from an old drug about which we know a great deal, that you are feeling well on and is controlling your blood sugar?”

“Yeah,” I hear.

Rising from my seat, I inch closer to my patient and bellow, “Your nose will turn green and then fall off, now take this prescription for Metformin and stop watching television!”

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.

SERMO www.sermo.com “talk real world medicine”

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