I am sympathetic to people with health problems. I have health problems too. Tylenol 3’s have pulled me through some pretty tough times. That said, I have no general problem with the people that make the drugs either. They have a product, and have spent millions to research it. Heck, they paid all those folks in white lab coats to drip liquids into test tubes and read mouse DNA under microscopes. Do you want to do that? I don’t. Yes, they often feel the need to create a problem or affliction in order to provide a solution (see Erectile Dysfunction) but that philosophy does go hand in hand with any ad from Pizza Hut or Old Navy. We don’t know we need it until they tell us we do.

But these drug ads are hilarious. Take Paxil, also known as the social anxiety or anti-shyness drug. What a great invention. Shy and nervous? Take heart! Our pill can get you out on the town enjoying life. Just know that nausea, drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea, possible suicidal thoughts, itching, sweating, rash, fever, chills, sore throat and muscle weakness may present themselves…..so party on shy guy!

Now, the drug companies know how ridiculous this all sounds so they have tried to fulfill their legal obligations in more subtle ways. My current favourite is a birth control patch commercial showing a group of women sitting around talking about how great it is while the “alpha gal” in the group informs everyone of the side effects as if they just naturally came up amidst all the free flowing “Sex and the City”-like banter. I can’t speak for women but I figure weight gain, vaginal discharge, nausea, headaches, depression, skin problems and gum inflammation are kind of mood killers in the quest for fun and games. The worst thing is that you can’t even mix it with alcohol. How could you even leave the house with one of these beauties stuck on?

What about Lipitor? It’s the largest selling drug in the world. Designed to lower demon cholesterol it still suffers side effects featuring headaches, insomnia and dizziness. Remarkably, I experience many of the same symptoms shortly after downing a bucket of fried chicken. This may be telling me something.

Propecia has a simple job. Re-grow hair in men. This is an admirable goal. Losing ones hair can really make a guy feel like less of a man. Though when you see side effects featuring our old friend erectile dysfunction and gynecomastia (aka breast gland enlargement) I have to wonder if my money might be better spent on a Gillette 5-blade razor and Yul Brynner vocal lessons.

At least Viagra made a good commercial. Fake affliction or not you have to give them credit for the simple creativity behind showing men skipping to work and jumping over hedges to the tune of “Good Morning.” They studiously avoided rockets lifting off and trains speeding into tunnels and aimed a little higher. Not much higher, but what do you want, deep thoughts? The commercials have suffered of late due to the spectre of potential blindness as an all-new side effect. Add hair growth on your palms and I think we can all admit maybe mom was right about overdoing it, Viagra or not.

Even Nissan has started making fun of them. Check out their new Versa commercials promoting their cure for “autoclaustrophobia”.  The spots are dead ringers for any current drug advertisement on the air, right down to the invented affliction. You have to feel for the poor drug companies. It really is hard to make anal leakage palatable.

I say enough with the whispered or even borderline apologetic explanations of side effects. Bring them out front.

“Do body odor, shrinking testicles, bleeding gums and the loss of your sense of smell worry you? Of course they do, but take our drug and you might squeeze five more years out of your inferior yet livable life. The best news is you don’t have to change a thing about the way you live. Just buy our drug and live 5% worse, but 15% longer. Even Vegas can’t give you odds like that.”

You can’t beat honesty like that. Besides, maybe they’ll invent more drugs to fix the side effects. What do we really have to lose?

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