Cool Drugs

So, the kid and her friends are sitting around the other night watching TV; lots of squealing and yakking as usual. Suddenly there’s silence, so I peak around the corner to see what’s going on. Silence is never good.

They’re all glued to the TV watching the commercial! The ad shows a lot of teenaged girls giggling, being cool, looking cool, doing cool stuff like flipping their hair around and rubbing shoulders with boys. The girls are all whispering, “Yasmin”.

What or who is Yasmin? Is it a new pop singer? A new TV show? Some kind of clothing line, food, technology?

The ad is alluring and mysterious. The girls watching the ad need to know what Yasmin is. The ad ends with a seductive voice saying, “ask your doctor about Yasmin.”


They more or less lose interest, but I still want to know what they’re trying to lure my kid with now. I go google Yasmin. It’s a new birth control pill. I think to myself, “fuuuuuuck”


The advertising of prescription drugs aimed directly at the public (aptly called Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising or DTCA) is prohibited in all developed countries except the US and New Zealand. In Canada pharma companies can advertise the name of a product or say what it treats; but not both at the same time.


So, we are treated to a whole host of mysterious ads that hint at a vast array of horrible diseases and illnesses that may be afflicting us and for which, thankfully, an attractive new product is available. Or, they try to convince us how much more fun life would be with drugs like Yasmin or Viagra. Forget about side-effects, contraindications, overall health – go ask your doctor to give you this fabulous drug.


If you’re a smart-ass, you may be thinking “Why did my doctor go to medical school, if I have to get my important health information from TV ads? Why do I have to tell him what drug I need? Who does this?”


You might scoff, but this advertising works and is generating kajillions of dollars for the pharma industry. Doctors report twice as many people asking for specific (more expensive, brand-name) drugs. Patients are coming in quoting TV commercials. They get upset if the doctor says, no. Shockingly, 75% of the time, the doctor gives them what they ask for.


Part and parcel of DTCA is something the PR business calls Disease Mongering. Pharma companies call “medical education. Pharma companies convince consumers through advertising that their ordinary ailments require pharmaceutical intervention: e.g.: baldness, sweating, impotence, blushing, or my personal favorite – the ad where a sympathetic voice asks if you get up during the night to pee and if so, you have “overactive bladder” and need this new drug to relax your crazy-assed bladder.


Pharma companies want Health Canada to lift drug advertising restrictions so they can sell more drugs directly to people instead of to doctors. Health Canada is under a lot of pressure to cave.


20 responses to “Cool Drugs

  1. HI…I’m just clicking around…but this post is scary (i can;t spell terrifying ^0^). My daughter’s body belongs to HER not some money-sucking pharma co. These things are making me KRAZY. And I don’t really know what to do about it. Except not fall for it.

  2. Sigh. I remember having to look up another brand name BCP… it’s all so slick. So very very slick…

    and … if you’ll excuse this, a bit sickening.

  3. Here in the U.S. this kind of advertising is totally out of control. At any time of the day or night, there are fairly explicit ads for Viagra and Cialis, not to mention commercials for Yasmin and a ton of other birth control medications. While it’s nice to know there are options out there in case you have an overactive bladder, it’s to the point here that patients go in to their doctors, tell them they want a prescription for such and such and with barely any challenge, the docs write it. This all started in the days of Prozac. It’s out of control. People see these ads, self-diagnose and demand these drugs from their docs. What’s worse, the doctors give in because they’re making money from the drug companies.

    I hope Canada holds out and maintains restrictions on this.

  4. ok

    i am back. got the job and now for the ranting.

    i have seens these types of commercials and they are all about focusing in on out teens and pre teens. how about no.

    how about let the parents worry abotu teaching their children about sex.

    not to mention the fact that the pill actually stops growth. it seals off the bones. within a year of taking it you will no longer grow.

    so i put my young teen on it. she could reach 6ft but she is now 5’5 and will hit 5’6 if she is lucky.

    f**k that noise.

    and if its not something like yasmin it is something like that sweet little girl on the advert for the HPV vaccine.

    wtf is that. are you kidding me? and the not only is there a cute little girl they throw out the many known types of cervical cancer scare. so cute girl + scare = i will get my child this shot. this shot that is new and for all we know could be the cause of future every other cancer but we wont know until enough time has gone by to actually determine this

  5. When we moved to the States we couldn’t get over the amount of ads for medication there were. We also really found it a little hypocritical that a country where their government will not give funding to any school who teaches anything except abstinence for birth control (according to Sue Johanson) allows this!

    It doesn’t just stop there…This is what happens when I go to the doctor in the States; The pen I use is one ad, the clip board another, there is a pillow (yes, a pillow) on the sofa with another ad, there are ads all around me on the wall. The bathroom has an add on the soap, the paper dispenser has another ad, the back door another. Walking the hall to the office, ads everywhere. In the office, they are again on the wall, on the back of the chair, and there are even little socks on the ‘stirrups’ at my OB-GYN’s office with ads.

  6. I don’t see the problem.Everyone in North America has only 1 function. The function is to provide profits for corporations.
    If you people are not going to voluntarily send them your money further actions have to be taken.
    Your health, moral values, choices are of no concern.
    If you are not creating a profit for someone you should get with it before the authorities come calling.
    They won’t be as nice as all the wonderful moments shown you in the ads.

  7. Lemonadesmile – Thank you for stopping by. The way you’ve phrased your comment is very telling — almost like you feel violated by this advertising. And it is violating. It gives us a bit of a helpless feeling doesn’t it?

    Nat – Sorry and ya it is. And so many people seem to be unaware of how they’re being manipulated and invaded. Very sickening.

    Mo – I hope we do, too, but there’s so much pressure from patient advocacy groups even — that claim this is giving patient’s the rights to their own health care instead of having to rely on a doctor to tell them what’s wrong with them. How stupid. Rather the doctor than a pharmaceutical company.

    Violetsky – So coy, so alluring. Let’s all be friends with the fabulously popular Yasmin…that’s what the ad says to me

    Jobthingy – Hey! Congratulations on the jobthingy!!! I hope we’ll hear all about it on your blog. Meanwhile, rant on sister! I did a post on the HPV thing way back when they first started shoving that down our throats. I found out there are a lot of scared parents out there who are willing to believe the pharmas and inject their daughters “to be on the safe side”.

    Helen – Holy crap. There’s a certain amount of propoganda in our doctor’s offices and hospitals, too, but not to that extent. Total brainwashing. To me the pharma industry is the scariest gang of terrorists out there.

    Bandobras – Yes. You are absolutely right, of course. What was I thinking. Shame on me for not being a good docile citizen and taking my medicine as instructed.

  8. I guess Canadians don’t get toenail fungus. Toenail fungus ads were all the rage here for years. The side effects were horrendous and all just to make your toenails look better.

    People always say they love the Harrison Ford movie The Fugitive and how cool Tommy Lee Jones was, but no one ever mentions the scary subplot about crooked pharmateutical companies. I certainly noticed that part of the movie. On the other hand, I always tell my doctor what is wrong with me and tell him what drug I need or what sort of specialist I need to see and he always does it. I actually like that about him. At least I don’t have toenail fungus.

  9. The pill that has me fascinated is Yaz – the only birth control pill that also cures moodiness, bloating, biting, acne, and 10 other precursors to PMS. It’s like they’ve created a pill for the ultimate in Stepford wife. “May cause stroke or death in some women” – but I think that’s a small price to pay.

  10. Geewits – Too cold for toe fungus, I guess. We’re lucky to keep our toes what with all the frostbite and everything. I’m all for taking charge of your own health and doing your research before you see your doctor and being assertive about your treatment — as long as you’re getting your information from a reliable and unbiased source. You go!

    Brad – I want this pill. Who wouldn’t want a pill that could cure everything that could possibly ever happen to you? Brilliant idea. Take care of your medical problems before they ever occur. Why not. And really we’re all going to die anyway, so who’s to say it was because of Yaz?

  11. If Health Canada caves, I’ll…. well, I won’t do anything will I – except be stuck watching more damn drug ads on TV ( sigh).

  12. I thought that the apex of all this was when we had Bob Dole advertising VIAGRA – remember Norm McDonald’s rant on “Dennis Miller live” about not wanting to hear about BOB DOLE’S HARD C*CK.
    I stopped watching television.
    I even stopped taking drugs.

  13. Jazz- It won’t just be TV as someone noted above — in the US drug ads are everywhere. Medical offices/hospitals, etc. are decorated with them. We’ll see them on bus shelters on billboards, on the radio — everywhere. Gah!

    Ellie -And we’re the lucky ones — the crap they’re doing to people in 3rd world countries is unconscionable and pretty much unbelievable

    Lebowski – So, you’re saying drug companies improved your life for the better?

  14. holy crap, how weird it’s being shown on television.

    as for the drug companies, i’m not a big fan of them. all of our health stuff is wildly out of control, and scary.

  15. DP – Drug companies are pretty much in charge of everything. And they’re not in business to take care of our health.

    Mary Lynn – Oh ya!