4/8/08

This was a shocker at first...


The first time I visited the Hubster, one of the things I found most surprising was the widespread national advertising for prescription drugs. In the UK the manufacturers are not allowed to advertise prescription only drugs to the general public.

Over here they are regularly featured in TV adverts and every magazine you open is full of drug adverts. The drugs that are advertised seem to cover just about every possible medical problem and include: restless legs, heartburn, dry eyes, weight loss, high cholesterol, blood clots, overactive bladder, herpes, migraines, prostate issues and erectile disfunction (Viagra). If you're a Brit' reading this, yes you read that last one right, I was in disbelief at first too! They seem to have coined a whole new acceptable phrase here for what we call the inability ' to get it up' - Erectile Dysfunction.

But in all seriousness, some of these conditions I don't even consider serious enough to warrant a prescription drug. I had restless legs for many years and would never have expected my Dr to prescribe a drug to treat them!

All the adverts are filmed and presented very tastefully, although I have to say I do find the group of middle-aged men busking together and singing "Viva Viagra" ever so slightly disconcerting!

But what I find more bizarre is that due to advertising laws all these encouraging Ads end with a long spoken list of the possible side affects, admittedly read pretty fast, but still pretty scary. So an Ad will start off with a very 'Hollywood' happy presentation of how this wonder drug can change your life for the better, and end with the fact it could give you some very nasty named side-affects or even kill you "in rare cases". It seems to me you'd often be better off with the original condition than some of the far nastier side affects! They will then advise you to consult with your Dr as to whether it might be suitable for your condition.

I can just imagine how this would go over in the UK, where most Dr's are employed by the NHS and trying to avoid prescribing the new high cost drugs! I can also imagine the reaction if all their patients were coming in suggesting they might need a particular drug, because they had seen a TV advert for it!

No wonder the drug companies here have such control over the medical profession and the costs involved. With a thyroid disease I have certainly noticed the ridiculous cost of prescription drugs and no wonder, with all this high cost advertising going on.

In the UK there is a flat rate prescription charge that you pay for your drugs which is approximately $13.50. In Wales they recently voted to scrap the prescription charge altogether, and pregnant woman, children or over 60's also get free prescription drugs throughout the UK. This is funded by the National Health Service Medicines Budget.

Not long after I got here I had a bout of Athletes Foot and was given a presciption for a Lamisil one dose pill to clear it up. The cost of just that one pill was $220, as I wasn't covered by insurance I turned it down and bought a tube of the cream instead for $12!!


As I have said before here, I am not about to get into the medical system over here, but my personal opinion is it may give good care but the costs are totally out of control. A major reason for this from what I hear from Americans, is due to the government having little or no control over these all powerful drug companies. Maybe the first step needs to be a ban on all advertising of their products to the general public.

I have to say I still wouldn't dream of walking into my Dr and asking for a particular drug. But I would be interested to know whether the Americans reading this would?

12 comments:

Karla said...

Amen sister! You could be speaking what Brad and I have thought for years. It really is ridiculous. I wish people would get over their fear of "socialized medicine" and realize that our system is a piece of junk and the Europeans, while not perfect are certainly more just and intelligent in how they go about caring for their citizens. Sorry - let me climb off my soap box.

Carrie said...

What a great post Sarah.

I agree, I was bamboozled when I saw the TV commercials for drugs here. The other surprise was how those same drug companies can promote their products while offering a "veiled" (in fact outright in most cases) attack on a competitor's brand. That was definitely a new concept for this little Brit!

I loved what Karla said too, though the irony is, we do (kind of) have a form of socialized medicine here in the US, in that those who can pay subsidize those who can't via Medicaid and, to a lessen extent, Medicare.

There are now 46 million Americans with no access to health insurance. Those uninsured people turn to hospitals for needed care and the cost of that care is eventually paid by the public, as hospitals have to pass on the costs somehow. That is, in essence, socialized medicine!

Yet most politicians would baulk at such a suggestion and the very mention of "socialized medicine" is nearly always used pejoratively.

I don't necessarily think our NHS is a shining example of socialized medicine, but what it does provide is a safety net, while covering *everyone*. Those who choose can opt for private health insurance. That to me is a preferable system than the "for profit" medical system we appear to have in the USA, over run by HMOs...

soap box? You bet. My HOT button!

Brown English Muffin said...

my husband and I CONSTANTLY laugh at the list of side affects...I mean wouldn't you rather live with restless leg syndrome than die without it!!!

Almost American said...

I may have to blog about this - I have way too much to say!

As an American (albeit a new one), I might ask my doc about a particular drug, but I'd be more likely to research it online first. My daughter's specialist recommended a particular treatment to me, so I did ask my doc about it. He seemed somewhat offended and insisted he was treating me just fine, refused to give me a referral for a 2nd opinion, and did not change my meds. 12 months later I went back and he suddenly decided I needed the med I'd asked for a year earlier. Not only that, but he had a month's free supply he could give me. My best guess is that a drug rep had recently 'educated' him :-(

Even the kids are influenced by the advertising: DH has a colleague who said one of his kids came running downstairs yelling that his brother was being mean to him. "He says I've got reptile dysfunction!" Dad laughs hysterically, and says, "What's the matter kid - can't get your lizard up?!"

BritGal' Sarah said...

OMG the Hubster and I nearly died laughing at the 'reptile dysfunction' - classic!

Mary said...

Prescription drugs have not always been advertised on television. Maybe in the past dozen years or so, not sure. I always enjoy the 'small print talk' at the end of an ad. Makes me wonder why anyone would take the drug to begin with since the possible side effects are worse than the ailment itself! I'm hypothyroid and can't recall ever seeing an ad on television for Synthroid. Have you? I've seen print ads, I believe.

I do have a question about the British National Health system - Do all British citizens participate? I'm wondering about wealthy people. Do they go to private physicians and pay out of pocket?

Interesting post, Sarah!

BritGal' Sarah said...

Mary - every British citizen has the right to the NHS, whether they choose to not to use it is their decision totally. But I believe just about everyone takes advantage of the prescription charge, even if they pay to go privately for treatment.

When I was there I paid for private insurance to speed up the process, but I still used the prescription charges. There is no private advantage in not doing so!

Roland Hulme said...

Restless leg syndrome! Did you hear one of the side effects of that drug is nymphomania or gambling addicition? No joke...

I felt exactly the same way when I arrived. I'd NEVER seen ads for drugs like they have on TV here.

I think the medical system is flawed, but works well if you have cover. It's still too expensive. Increased competition (from out of state providers) will hopefully drive this cost down.

As for drugs. I do see what you mean, but from working in the pharma industry for a while, I did learn how these expensive pills cover the costs of YEARS of research and development into finding new drugs. That's why america is leading the way in new drugs and new treatments - while the UK is using just generic drugs and is fairly stagnant when it comes to drug research.

As for medical insurance - I agree 100% with Carrie. Universal socialised medical care is already here. The taxpayer gives $15 billion a year to uninsured patients and pays for medicare with their FICA payments.

We NEED to streamline this system and conservatives who cry out: 'We don't want universal health care' are clearly totally ignorant as to what that entails.

Almost American said...

I have to disagree with Roland. Universal socialised medical care is NOT here yet! I know far too many people who cannot afford health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

The NHS has its faults, but I much prefer it to the system over here! At least everyone knows that there is no risk of being bankrupted by medical bills, and the option is there for those who can afford it to bypass the NHS and pay for private health insurance.

Poutalicious said...

What I find disturbing is that insurance companies routinely cover erectile dysfunction drugs and sometimes still won't cover family planning drugs etc.

A Trivita Mom said...

Thanks excellent post and as an American I totally agree about the obnoxious Cialis and Viagra ads which I turn off the minute they come on. My husband is a Pharmacist and yet neither of us approve of drug companies advertising nor the cost of drugs. You are right healthcare costs are due to not only drug companies but practice management companies that are coming in and buying out doctor's practices giving them MILLIONS to buy their practices.Than they treat the practice of medicine as a BUSINESS and suggest ways to the doctors of how to put thru a larger claim to the insurance carriers so they, the practice management company can show a bigger profit!! TRUE story! One such PM co has gone public and selling stock, they have to after all show their board what profits they are getting for them. BUT that said what would happen if we had socialized medicine and you needed bypass surgery and had to wait, thats the fear of most about socialized medicine, or what if you are in your 70's and need a bypass and its determined because of age you could wait for one. Scary thoughts.

Nicole said...

My favorites are the ones that go: "This medicine has been known to induce vomiting, nasua, stroke, cardiac arrest, and in some cases, death."

Then why in the world would anyone want to take it in the first place?!? Talk about the 'cure' being worse than the disease.