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Overmedicated

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I thought I was healthy. Then I turned on the television and was battered by two consecutive commercials for prescription drugs. The doc who invented the artificial heart waxed about the wonders of a cholesterol-lowering drug, and he certainly must know what he's talking about. I didn't hear him mention any of the people I've read about who took the drug he's representing and experienced muscle aches, brain fogginess and, oh yes, death. Maybe he crammed it into the verbal fine print within the last second of the commercial. Speaking of fogginess, wouldn't you know the next commercial was for a preventive Alzheimer's drug. Being a baby boomer, both commercials created anxiety about the not-too-distant future. I figured I'd escape the anxiety by changing channels.

Wrong! Another commercial for yet another cholesterol-lowering drug, followed by a commercial for a constipation cure-all. I was filled with relief that I don't have toenail fungus, because watching those ugly green critters is so revolting that I have to look away. The next commercial was for natural male enhancement, and my heart filled with gratitude that my significant other doesn't need such a product ... yet. It finally dawned on me that the pharmaceutical companies are marketing to my generation, this huge bubble of people in their 50s. My parents and grandparents didn't take cholesterol-lowering drugs; they stopped eating eggs and fried food. They didn't take drugs for constipation either; they ate prunes. And they didn't have to make $50 co-payments when they did need prescriptions.

These commercials always instruct us to "ask your doctor" about the drug they're marketing. If I did this, the length of my doctor's visit would run out before I got to the questions about the reason I made the appointment in the first place. And if I have a condition that requires medication, can't I trust that my doctor will tell me without my asking? As I sit in the waiting room, young energetic men and women dressed in stylish suits zip in and out, in only the time it takes to drop off some drug samples, schmooze with the office staff, and offer who knows what incentives for giving their products a try. In the meantime, all the sick patients are just pushed back another 15 minutes.

Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, which some insurance carriers attribute largely to the high cost of prescription drugs. And the pharmaceutical companies attribute the high cost of prescription drugs to their extensive research and development expenses. Think about the high cost of creating and running the commercials from which we cannot escape, and something doesn't add up (except the amount of money I'm doling out for my prescriptions--which keeps adding up).

I tell myself not to worry about my anxiety over all this. "Everything will be fine," I assure myself. "After all, there are several anti-anxiety drugs on the market."

I try to calm down, and without thinking, I click on the television and inadvertently expose myself to another deluge. This time they really hit home: Botox, something with a name I can't remember for menopause, and Rozerem, the newest drug for a good night's sleep. Hmm.

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