Thursday, June 28, 2007


Medical Advertising

Am back in the US and am generally apalled at the rash of pharmaceutical advertising that seems to be everywhere. It is well known to marketing professionals that pharmaceutical sales are essentially a "promotion response", i.e. there is a very strong correlation between promotional expenditure by a pharmaceutical company and the sales of the pill being promoted. The corollary is that non-promoted drugs will have very limited uptake. In addition to bribing doctors and skewing a drugs efficacy profile [most drugs provide some immediate symptomatic relief and these beneficial effects are promoted while the nasty longer term side-effects generally receive passing mention and are brushed aside] pharma companies now have medical advertising to be even more manipulative. It is clear that pharma is no different from big tobacco in its strategic approach.

Unfortunately, what's most worrying is that US consumer trends tend to get replicated all over. Well, it's the same ol' gang.

The following article provides food for thought:

Most forms of advertising, to some degree, rely on "information asymmetry," the idea that the party doing the marketing knows more about the product and how to sell it than the consumer. Information asymmetries result in higher profits for advertisers. It is, thus, in their interest to increase the divide: for them to know more, and the consumer, less. When the product is chewing gum, the imbalance is usually no big deal. But when you’re talking about something as crucial as health care–where the opportunities for information asymmetries happen to be much greater–all sorts of problems crop up.

Pharmaceutical companies argue that direct-to-consumer drug advertising "empowers" the patient to learn more about medical options. This is pretty much a joke, for these drug ads are as uninformative and image-oriented as Calvin Klein ads (although much less sexy). They’re also not geared toward educating people about medical options, which would include drug-free or otherwise unprofitable practices.

What’s more, drug companies know that high information asymmetry in health care has been well-documented since the 1960s. Drug companies also know that patients–although ignorant of professional medical standards–routinely overestimate their ability to make medical judgments. The line about advertising "empowering" thus becomes a cruel irony, encouraging patients to rely even more on their own misjudgments.

The field of optometry, which was deregulated in the 1980s, serves as a prime example. Optometry research has shown a great divide between what patients know versus what they think they know about the medical quality of eye exams. Studies have shown that many consumers (patients) believe they’ve had a medically thorough exam after simply looking at eye charts. Putting patients in rooms with "high-tech"-looking equipment also contributed to patients’ belief that they’re being properly examined.

Irrespective of the technology used, the minimum standard accepted by optometry professors and practitioners dictates that no examination can last less than twenty minutes and be medically adequate. (Short exam-based prescriptions will often improve sight in the short term but decrease visual acuity in the long run.) Yet beyond a certain amount of time, patients may erroneously infer that the service provider is incompetent. One chain firm manager explained during FTC hearings that an optometrist "could only spend ten minutes on each patient because otherwise they might think he wasn’t very good."

Similarly misguided ideas about what constitutes quality care have been found among patients with a variety of health problems. If direct-to-consumer advertising empowers anyone, it’s drug companies. Even the argument that ads encourage people to talk to their doctors is a wash. How many doctors really take the time to talk? And once patients get fixated on trying a certain medicine, chances are they’ll either pressure the doctor for a prescription or find another doctor. Medical advertising encourages such actions by hitting people when they’re ill and most vulnerable to the lure of a quick fix.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007



Poor crying cricket
Your little husband
Was caught by our cat

Even the general
Took off his armor
To gaze
At our peonies

Everything I touch
With tenderness
Pricks like a bramble

Thinking comfortable
With a friend in silence
In the cool evening

In my house this spring
True, there is nothing
That is
There is everything

Because spring has come,
This small gray
Nameless mountain
Is honored by mist

A small hungry child
Told to grind rice,
Gazes on moonlight

One man and one fly
Buzzing together
In one big bare
Sunny room

Moon adrift in a cloud
I have a mind
To borrow
A small ripe melon


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ryna II

Spice Of Life

Herbs and spices have more disease-fighting antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables. Here are some benefits:

Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Aim for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day.

Contains curcumin, which can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Try to have 500 to 800 milligrams a day.

Stops gene mutations that could lead to cancer and may help prevent damage to the blood vessels that raise heart attack risk.

Destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. "Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits."

Contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer (also found in cayenne and red chili peppers). There's no specific recommended dose, but moderation is probably the best way to go.

Can decrease motion sickness and nausea; may also relieve pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Doses used in clinical trials range from 500 to 2,000 mg of powdered ginger. (A quarter-size piece of fresh root contains about 1,000 mg.) More than 6,000 mg can cause stomach irritation. Ginger can also hinder blood clotting.

Health Boost: A USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

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