Monday, January 17, 2005

Medical Wonders

The United States is one of two countries that allow consumer advertising of prescription drugs. The other one is New Zealand. The costs of all those advertisements to get people to buy cures for toe nail fungus, obesity, genital herpes and the other plagues of the 21st Century is about $2.5 billion. After all, the laboratories, equipment, research staff, clinical tests, the people who think up the product names, the sadists who design the impossible-to-open plastic containers and the directors’ stock options cost a fortune. Not to mention the mice. They might breed like rabbits, but they have to be fed, housed, counted, poked, prodded, tested and measured. The mice get as much attention as the contestants in the Miss Universe pageant. This vast expense has to be paid for so that the pharmaceutical industry can continue to cure the maladies of mankind. In the past 20 years, estimates of death caused by Malaria and Aids are about 60,000,000. Encephalitis, cancer and heart disease have added more millions to that toll.

The good news is that several competing teams of female researchers have developed a cure for ED. Those in the medical profession, who had to memorise a dictionary to complete their training, know what ‘ED’ means: Erectile Dysfunction. It’s obvious that the researchers were female since they concentrated on a cure for a male-only dysfunction. One more thing to feel guilty about. Not a thought was given to CD and there are no little purple pills to cure that. In case you are wondering, the warning signs of CD are easy to spot. When she says ‘I have a headache’, she has CD: Cranial Dysfunction. To make up for the lack of a cure for CD, it is not a good idea to say ‘take two aspirins and we can do it in the morning’. Wait for the little green pill - if the men’s team in the lab can ever get their act together.

For all we know, rickets, scurvy, the Black Death, sweating sickness and a mild case of the vapours kill more people than ED. However it is easier to make a television commercial about ED. A leering husband gaping at his wife holding a glass of Chardonnay and soaking in a hot tub is more photogenic than a Congolese village full of orphans trying to pronounce ‘Andromeda Strain’. So, as long as we have to endure the adverts for Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, here is a suggestion for the Pharmocracies that pay for them (and the marketing people who produce them).

Why not say ‘in those rare circumstances that an erection lasts less than four hours, we will give you your money back.’ After all, PE is probably is as big a threat to mankind as ED. It’s a safe bet that Premature Ejaculation is just as much of a problem as Erectile Dysfunction for the wine guzzling nymphomaniac in the hot tub. The conquest of PE could also contribute to a lessening in clinical obesity and lung cancer. After four hours of trying 37 different positions in a hot tub without spilling the Chardonnay or drowning, no man would be able to tuck into a slice of pizza and a cigarette. That’s called an ‘off label application’. It’s a bit like realizing you can use your credit card to scrape your windshield – the manufacturer didn’t design it for that but it works pretty well anyway.

The other issue about these drugs in the US is their cost. One answer might be to save the $2.5 billion and let the family doctor recommend what to do about ED, CD and PE. However, in the spirit of American enterprise, another solution has been worked out by the market: tell your doctor you need it, get the prescription, and buy the stuff in Canada. The fact that there aren’t that many Canadians and that they might need all the little purple pills they can get in attempting to populate a country of almost 10 million square miles with an average temperature of -62F seems to be unfair. Forget importing medicine from India, South America, China or the Middle East. It’s common knowledge that those people make cheap knock-offs. So the latest idea is to get the little purple pills from Europe. Americans need to get out more. Anyone who has spent a weekend in Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm, London or even Helsinki knows that those people don’t need little purple pills.

Seems as if it’s down to just the two of us, New Zealand.

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