I enjoyed Jerry and Carrie Scheid’s musings about everyday annoyances in the July 11 Post Register. Especially satisfying was their take on TV auto insurance commercials.

As a retired physician, my favorite annoying TV commercials are those promoting prescription drugs ($150 million spent monthly on TV ads). These seem to encompass at least half of all commercials day and night. Only the U.S. and New Zealand allow prescription drugs ads on TV.

Virtually all these drugs are still under patent and are much more expensive ($100s or $1000s monthly) than equally effective, cheaper and older remedies. Insurance companies often either do not cover these advertised miracles or erect onerous bureaucratic obstacles to their use.

The laws of mathematics and statistics (P < .05) can allow the Food and Drug Administration to legally declare a new drug effective even when it only works for 10% of users (the so-called “number needed to treat” to help one patient.) In addition, in order to maintain a free market, Congress forbids the FDA from taking into account whether cheaper, safer or more effective drugs are already available. New “me too” drugs are a big problem.

If I was the U.S. TV czar, I would require drug companies to list the cost, number needed to treat, expected months of life extension and already-available alternatives for each advertised drug as a constant text overlay at the bottom of the entire commercial.

Please don’t ask me about TV ads for over-the-counter “immune support” or “brain/memory supplements.”

James M. David


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