The Scourge of Polypharmacy

During the first few decades of television, tobacco ads were beamed into American homes, encouraging all of us to indulge. Thanks to the efforts of public health groups and despite the power of the tobacco lobby, this advertising has since vanished from the airwaves. Alcohol consumption, on the other hand, still receives plenty of encouragement, highlighted by joyous partiers and tempered by the hypochritic admonition to drink responsibly.

In recent years, the American pharmaceutical industry has decided to bypass physicians and market their products directly to the public. We are now deluged with their advertisements which depict happy, upscale drug consumers while, in the background, a narrator lists the numerous potential side effects of their miraculous pill. Such irresponsible advertising, which ignores the complexity of medical therapy, exacerbates the perception that there is a quick remedy for every ailment and that bad lifestyle choices can be erased with a prescription drug. This ingrained message results in the excessive use of medications and many Americans end up on dozens of pills, each with its own array of possible complications.

Polypharmacy has now joined tobacco use, alcohol abuse and obesity on the list of major preventable health risks. We can blame this relatively new problem on the legalized drug pushers of American society, on the media moguls that promote their products and on the legislators that permit this form of advertising.