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TV Timeout: Lose the List of Side Effects with Chiropractic Care

By Martha Michael

Lose the Side Effects with Chiropractic Care

Eczema. Seborrhea. Psoriasis. If you remember that Tegrin Shampoo ad from the ‘80s you may also remember a sudden itch that developed on your scalp at the time -- or at least you thought so.

But the “heartbreak of psoriasis” was only the beginning. TV ads for health products and prescription drugs have become an increasingly larger part of our electronic landscape for decades. Pharmaceutical companies spent approximately $6 billion advertising to consumers last year, according to trade magazine Medical Marketing & Media, or MM&M.

Ad agencies craft visual metaphors for TV ads to communicate the benefits of the products they sell. For instance, an award-winning commercial for blood thinner Pradaxa uses red fish swimming through a clear glass circulatory to represent blood cells that can cause strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation.

For people tired of the guilt-inducing commercials they’ve seen on TV, the good news is that next-gen ad men and women are shifting the standards to become more positive, says MM&M.

“Messages like, ‘I’m missing my son’s soccer game,’ are being replaced by a focus on finding that one ‘personally relevant attribute’ of a disease and then bringing it to life in an emotionally resonant way, sometimes through a light-hearted approach,” says Debra Harris of Conde Nast.

“Side Effects May Include”

The comically long lists of side effects on TV commercials have not only become white noise, they’ve led to amusing parodies. Comedy writers for Saturday Night Live created skits poking fun at the typical caveats in drug ads, such as risk of depression, blurred vision and constipation, with warnings of “horrifying sleep paralysis” and “jazz hands,” while suggesting you “take caution when operating a spaceship.”

Those attempts at humor reflect a real world view that the familiar comments at the end of pharma ads (that seem to go on ad nauseum) aren’t working anymore. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, has spoken up about it, saying he favors limiting the long lists of side effects we see on TV commercials. He reached out to consumers last year to create guidelines that enable viewers to better understand the risk information.

The FDA instructs direct-to-consumer marketers to offer “truthful, non-misleading and balanced” facts about risks and benefits of their products. The agency suggests that advertisers streamline the lists to include life-threatening, serious risks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules for prescription drug advertising on broadcast channels requires that the “most important risks” of the drug need to be revealed to consumers. In fact, advertisers don’t have to list all the health risks of a drug as long as advertisers give a variety of sources where you can get prescribing information.

“May Result In”

Not only are pharmaceutical ads more numerous, the diseases are more serious, with warnings of blood disorders, suicidal thoughts, and even death. But it has just added to their credibility, says an article in the New York Times.

“What is seemingly a negative to people who don’t have a condition or disease is a positive to people who suffer from it because they’re thinking, ‘Well, of course it has side effects. It’s fighting a really serious illness,’” says Howard Courtemanche, president of the health and wellness practice at Young & Rubicam. “They’ll say, ‘I’m in a life-or-death situation and I want a drug that’s really strong.”

The most important question is whether or not the ads contribute to wellness for TV viewers. Health care management professor Abby Alpert from Wharton says it does increase drug sales, but health benefits from ads show mixed results. The commercials inspire existing patients to adhere to the use of medication more strictly, but viewers who initiate drug treatment are less likely to continue compliance with treatment.

There’s concern, Alpert says, because “initiating a treatment without complying with it will lead to increased drug spending without very many gains to health.”

“Ask Your Doctor”

It’s perhaps the best advice you’ve heard on a TV ad.

Most would agree that the key to finding their optimal health doesn’t come from a message over the airwaves. In fact, becoming “unplugged” is often a big part of a healthy living plan.

Freeing your nervous system from interference can effectively lead you toward maximum wellness, and a doctor of chiropractic has the education in proper spinal health to get you there. Whether you’re undergoing treatment for a chronic illness or not, a chiropractor can contribute to your level of comfort and, in some cases, free you from undergoing needless procedures or relying on medications.

If you have diabetes, for instance, you want to continue monitoring your blood glucose levels through the safest means possible. But for symptoms of the disease, such as neuropathy, which causes numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, a chiropractor may be able to help you find relief.

And for such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, a chiropractor can treat your back or neck pain, but also help you design a diet and exercise plan to minimize the discomfort. Your practitioner may discuss cross-training instead of repetitive workout programs so you don’t increase the risk of flare-ups, or mild exercise such as walking or yoga.

Flipping the channels may share the glory of Cosentyx or Humira, but natural treatment means freedom from the anxiety of numerous side effects without the sound of plop plop, fizz fizz. And oh, what a relief it is!

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