Public Comment

Ask Your Doctor

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 11:07:00 AM

Having reflected on the matter for quite some time, I’ve reached the conclusion that watching evening television news may very well be injurious to one’s health. I base this conclusion, not on scientific data, but rather on the Power of Suggestion theory. 

Settling down in a comfortable chair with a glass of sherry, as I do every evening for the ABC news at 5:30, I brace myself for the inevitable deluge of drug commercials, claiming to be a cure for every ailment known to man and God—all followed with the command, “Ask Your Doctor.” 

Now I consider myself to be in fairly good health, but I must confess that some of these commercials raise questions in my mind. To begin with, I, like many people, have bothersome allergies. So I pay attention to the commercial that shows a bumble bee hopping from one flower to another and then to a second commercial boasting that their drug “blocks leukotrienes, an underlying cause of indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms.” Ah, but then follows a warning of possible side effects—stomach pain, intestinal upset, heartburn, tiredness, fever, stuffy nose, upper respiratory infection, dizziness, headache and rash.” Forget that! I’ll just go on sneezing and keep a box of Kleenex handy. 

Next come two commercials on medications to fight osteoporosis. First, there’s the one with adorable Sally Field claiming earnestly that she’s been able to reverse her osteoporosis with a once a month drug, remarking that “I have just this one body and this one life.” Who can argue with that? But I’m quite taken with a second commercial which shows an elegant, aristocratic woman—an “on-the-go woman”—proclaiming the wonders of a once a year intravenous injection. That really gets my attention, as I like to think of myself as an “on-the-go-woman” (although I don’t always know where I’m going.) And the side effects of this one aren’t too severe; flu-like symptoms, fever, muscle or joint pain. I jot down the name of this drug. 

Another commercial that really rings a bell deals with a bladder control problem, the “gotta go feeling.” Just one of these pills works all day and night. I write down the name of this drug also, but then am dismayed by the side effects—dry mouth, headache, constipation, stomach pain and, worst, of all a warning not to drive a car. Putting delicacy aside, I think I’ll just go on wetting my knickers! 

Next we’re treated to a commercial advising us on how to lower cholesterol, suggesting that statins work mainly with the liver, while these tablets work in the digestive track. I’m not sure that I have a cholesterol problem, which is just as well as the side effects on this one are ominous; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, rash and hives, nausea, depression and gallstones! 

Now comes a drug commercial for people with poor leg circulation, putting them at risk of a heart attack or stroke. This condition we’re told is called P.A.D., resulting in blood clots, restricting blood flow to your heart. At this point, I’m getting a little depressed—even more so when I read the possible side effects, which include unexplained confusion, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, etc., etc.! 

Getting close to the end of the news broadcast (and they do squeeze in some news), comes a commercial addressing the problem of asthma (or COPD). This is a medication that helps lung function, but, oh, dear, the possible effects of this drug are absolutely blood-curdling! To name a few, there’s pneumonia, cataracts or glaucoma, thrush in the mouth ( pray tell, what is that?) and the chance of death! 

Given the above distressing litany of drug commercials, I believe you will agree with me that watching evening broadcasts may indeed be injurious to one’s health. I therefore suggest that you turn to CNN or C-Span, both of which are mercifully free of such commercials. 


Dorothy Snodgrass is a Berkeley resident.