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A Real Pain
Used to be, the only drugs you saw advertised on TV were headache remedies. If I had a favorite among those ads, I guess it would be the old one for Anacin. It featured the silhouette of a human head with three windows inside it. Anacin’s claim to superiority was that it addressed three different kinds of pain, and each window represented one of the three.

The only one people really cared about, of course, was the middle window. It featured a steel hammer relentlessly pounding, pounding. A regular headache, in other words. The other two, as far as I could ever tell, were depictions of neuritis and neuralgia. Since we don't hear much about those afflictions anymore, I assume that it was Anacin that cured them once and for all.

I can’t say that I really liked those old commercials. They were about pain, after all, which is kind of a downer. But they were bearable, and the hokey imagery provided some amusement, at least for the first hundred or so repetitions. This is not the case here in the new age of drug advertising.

First of all, we’re way beyond mere headaches these days. The airwaves are now flooded with commercials for drugs that treat arthritis, depression, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, intransigent bladders, and a lot of other hellish ailments that people used to have the good grace to keep to themselves.

It is not the airing of private matters that I object to, though, or even to the non-stop hawking of prescription drugs. It is the flavor of the ads themselves that puts me off. The characters in them are excruciatingly bland and pleasant. They laugh at things that are not funny. They are irrepressibly active. They broadcast adorability every minute of their perfect days. I mean, these people are supposed to be sick, right? Why, then, are these geezers are out there playing music, hiking, sailing, bicycling, swimming, and boogying like there’s no tomorrow? And aren’t they just a little bit worried about that list of horrible side effects they are risking? Including death?

No, they are not. They may have life-threatening diseases, but these druggies remain deliriously happy. They are surrounded by other people who are the same way, and I don’t like them, either. They do not suffer, they do not inspire sympathy, they do not deserve the happiness they are faking. They are Stepford sickees.

I find the aging illness actor in the Eliquis ads to be particularly irksome. On top of his infuriating good nature, he is somehow able to draw things with his finger on the TV screen that are miraculously transformed into real objects. Each time he does this, he steps back from his work and beams with a knowing twinkle at what he has done. I’m not exactly sure why that gets to me, but it does. Meanwhile, he’s got blood clots and atrial fibrillation to worry about. And if he’s got any sense, he ought to be on guard for such side effects as excessive bleeding, inability to breathe, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds. But does he care? Of course not. Instead, he runs this carefree attitude that must be an insult to anyone who actually has blood clots.

At least the sick person in those old Anacin ads appeared to be suffering…even though she was a painting of a statue and not a real person at all. I could feel her pain because I could see and hear that pounding hammer inside her head. I would be more accepting of that guy in the Eliquis ad if he fell over clutching his chest once in a while or recoiled in horror at the sight of his blue urine. That might be a disturbing scene to witness, but I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

All I am saying is, if we are going to have prescription drug ads at all, they should be honest. I am not an advocate of human suffering, but I do believe in truth in advertising. Sick people should not be living lives that are more fulfilled and joyful than healthy peoples’. It’s just not fair. If the Anacin lady has to lead a life curtailed by a simple headache, then it is only fair that those with life-threatening diseases should be honestly depicted. Again, I don’t like agony, but I am willing to witness it in the interests of honesty and fair play.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

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