Pills won’t cure you if you’re a hypochondriac

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

We turn on the television and as sure as the next commercial break, we’ll hear about a new pill for an ailment we’re convinced we must have suddenly come down with.

If we didn’t have restless leg syndrome this time last month, watch a few hundred commercials with people describing the pain of RLS and how it keeps them from sleeping at night and sure enough, RLS is keeping you up at night too.

Sally Field of “Flying Nun” fame has shed her habit and seems to be pitching full time for Boniva, a new miracle drug for osteoporosis. She never introduces herself and there’s no titlebar saying she’s movie star Sally Field, who helped Burt Reynolds avoid Smoky in “Smoky and The Bandit.” But even before you figure out who it is, you know it’s someone you trust and you believe what she’s saying.

There are a whole slew of relatively new brand-name arthritis prescription drugs that have hit the airwaves over the last few years, Vioxx, Celebrex and others have sold the masses on their product, even though some of those drugs are lately experiencing problems with the FDA.

People see the ads on TV and doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies don’t stand a chance. People have to have that latest miracle drug.

My wife worked for a health insurance company for awhile and she was constantly fielding complaints from customers who were mad because their doctor wouldn’t prescribe the medicine they saw on TV. She said reasoning with most of those people was pointless and most of them hung up the phone mad.

The other big thing going on TV pill pitches is some guy named “Smilin’ Bob” who pitches something the commercial calls “natural male enhancement.” The commercials are clever and for obvious reason never say exactly what they’ll do for you. All we know is Bob smiles a lot and his wife is very happy.

Another smiling Bob — Sen. Bob Dole set off the free-for-all in male sexual performance drugs after he did a commercial for Viagra shortly after it came out. If an important guy like Bob Dole admits he can benefit from Viagra, suddenly everyone from Bill Clinton to your grandpa wants a bottle of those miracle pills.

Brand-name drugs are big business and as long as people insist they need that name brand they saw on TV, drug companies are going to continue to get rich. Every time one drug starts to ring the cash register there is no doubt it spurs four other commercials onto the airwaves.

The television has become the medicine show of our generation. Every night the snake oil salesman pulls his wagon into your living room, jumps onto the back of the wagon and begins pitching the latest magic elixir.

Step right up! Get your bottle now, while they last!

Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: