Do you have Restless Leg Syndrome? How about insomnia? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Depression?
Come on. You've got to have something wrong with you. Most of us come away from watching drug ads -- about 16 hours a year -- thinking just that. We then go running to our doctors asking for the magic pill, nasal spray or shot.
It's been a decade since the Food and Drug Administration relaxed its regulations on direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies, and a new study of those ads from 2004 published in the current issue of the Annals of Family Medicine yields some interesting and unsettling results.
Although most ads made some factual claims, the study indicates that 95 percent of them made emotional appeals, showing "characters that have lost control over their social, emotional or physical lives without the medication."
Roughly a quarter of the ads said something about risk factors or prevalence of the condition the drug was meant to treat, and none of the ads mentioned lifestyle changes or alternative products.
The ads can lead to self-diagnosis (a dangerous game we all play at one time or another), causing us to overmedicate, which is both unhealthy and expensive. Advertising a product approved by the FDA falls within the rights of the pharmaceutical companies. But with that right comes major responsibility, and ads should empower and inform consumers. If it takes new regulations to get that accomplished, so be it.
The full study is available online in the current issue of the Annals of Family Medicine