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Big fans of Big Pharm

BY CHRIS STEINKE | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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In between obscene local bowling commercials and the plethora of advertisers claiming they're "No. 1 on Highway 1," you might come across an ad promoting prescription drugs.

Stand up, and remove your caps, Americans, because every time you see an 30-second spot for Prozac, a rendition of "America the Beautiful" may be in order.

Just like ads for a baguette boutique open just three hours a week are specific to France, prescription-drug advertisements are uniquely American (unless you count New Zealand as a country. You shouldn't count New Zealand as a country.).

This may strike some as odd but only those who have been hypnotized into believing prescription-drug commercials actually promote health. Fools! Drug advertisements promote drug sales.

You know that Lipitor commercial with the guy who apparently used to swing 20 feet into a pit of rocks as a child? You know, the guy who was still taking "foolish risks" with his cholesterol? You know? You know! Well, he may not have helped you out with your heart problems, but he sure did help Pfizer Inc.

Though Lipitor increases patients' death rates by 58 percent (boo), the cholesterol drugs' sales totaled $5.276 billion in 2010 (Hurray!).

For those mourning their Uncle Terry's premature death, take consolation by imagining all that money tricklin' down to the middle class. Not so bad, right? Right? Right.

OK, you might say. America messed up on one measly drug. Big deal. Well, technically, it's not just one measly drug. It's hundreds of thousands of measly drugs.

America has a bit of a drug problem. You may have learned that from the D.A.R.E. program as a kid. They taught you about all the deadly drugs, like marijuana, acid, MDMA, and heroin. They told you how LSD would make you "hear colors and see sounds," thus extinguishing any interest you may have had in that killer narcotic. But the program (funded entirely by your tax dollars, coincidentally) never told you about the dangers of legal drugs.

Driven by an boost in prescription-narcotic overdoses, drugs are now deadlier than alcohol, which was caused 24,263 deaths in 2009. They also caused more deaths than firearms (31,228 deaths in 2009). Or marijuana (0 in 2009). Or cars.

Wait, cars? Yeah, there were more drug-induced fatalities (37,485) than deaths caused by motor-vehicle accidents (36,284).

There were also more deaths caused by narcotic overdose than suicide (36,547), most of which, I'm sure, had nothing to do with prescription drugs. Let's look it up, just to humor ourselves.

80 percent of those who committed suicide were being treated by psychiatric drugs. Got it.

Which reminds me of that Zoloft commercial I really like. There's a little white blob that can't help but get rained on. He's so sad he doesn't even play with the bluebird. It tells the viewer how the cause of depression is unknown, but that doesn't seem to matter because the little dots are flowing from "Nerve A" to "Nerve B," and then the little blob guy begins to bounce and play with the bluebird because he's all happy and hopped up on meds during the 15 seconds of side-effects and warnings. I don't have to feel this way any more, it tells me.

That commercial first came out when I was 9 years old, and it is still ingrained in my mind. Maybe that's why Zoloft continues to sell, at $48 million in 2009.

Speaking of 2009, that was the year of the height of health-care debates. Pfizer Inc., which owns Zoloft, Lirica, Celebrex, along with Lipitor, spent $25 million in lobbying expenditures in 2009, leading the health-care industry.

I'm sure that money went to the politicians who were already big fans of Big Pharm. That money certainly didn't influence any politician's policies, just supported those who were already ensured of the narcotic industry's effectiveness and goodwill. Right?

Ech, all these stats are making me depressed. And what's worse? Getting arrested for pot would make me even more depressed.

Get at me later, bluebird. I'm gonna go chill with the D.A.R.E. lion.


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