This past week’s Sunday “Post Secrets” had a postcard that said, “I don’t care what you said, I still think RLS IS BULLSHIT” sent on a postcard made from a Mirapex (prescription drug for restless leg syndrome or RLS) ad. This generated a flurry of comments in the Post Secret discussion forum, where people talked about experiencing RLS or witnessing a loved one who suffers from RLS.
Hence is the dilemma for direct to consumer advertising by drug companies.
On the one hand, there is a grain of truth in the ethics of drug companies to mass market to consumers a condition that affects a very small percentage of the population. One wonders why a drug company would choose huge media outlets like magazines and television to talk about a drug for a condition a very small percentage of the population suffers from. Would this create false diagnoses? Foster hypochondrias in those who do not actually suffer from the condition, but have become suggestive to think they do based on what little they know about the condition in a 30 second TV commercial?
On the other hand, those who do suffer from the rare condition can feel a sense of relief that they were not alone or “crazy”, that the condition is indeed a medical one requiring medical intervention, and that there is medical help. Even if drug companies try to educate doctors on a rare condition, doctors may not always have time to do a detailed workup and uncover the condition unless the patient proactively offers this information.
As cynical as I am of DTC advertising by drug companies, I still choose having the information out there than not having the information available at all.
Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei posted an interesting poll on her blog, Eye on DNA: “Would you sell your DNA?” (right column) based on a company that is literally offering people $5000 for their DNA.
As of today, 67 votes were tabulated and it appears that people tend to be a bit possessive of their own DNA, as 34% voted “No way, my DNA is mine and mine alone.” The next group at 24% said that they would sell it for the right price, followed by the altruistic bunch at 18% who said they would freely give away their DNA. 12% additional percent who are willing to give away their DNA has a more practical approach: “DNA is easy to synthesize anyway”.
I’d like to meet the person who is willing to trade her DNA for breast implants. I’m assuming that the person is a “she”, but with cosmetic surgery on the rise for men, you never know if a man would happily opt for a surgically sculpted 6-pack in exchange for his double helices.
Giving my DNA away freely gives me pause. On a practical level, I see freely distributing your DNA as almost the same as publicly posting your social security number, driver’s license, phone number(s), and home address. You never know who ends up with this information. We’re so worried about identity theft these days, who knows what can be done with our biological identities if these fall into the wrong hands?
I voted to sell it for the “right” price, and no, I haven’t considered how much “right” would be. But it won’t be just for $5000, although the company does state, “If your sample is used to generate a replacement organ that we sell, you will also receive a portion of the proceeds.” I’d want to see clauses and contingencies that ensure residual royalties should my DNA miraculously contains an answer to some interesting scientific question (aside from my being a strange specimen to begin with, but that’s beyond this blog!) beyond the current scope of “use”. I don’t have a fierce personal attachment to my DNA and I’d gladly consider a win-win, mutually beneficial arrangement. Having a business transaction ensures that there will be a formal paper trail associated with the process, and safeguards preferably would be in place to prevent fraud and abuse.
So would you sell your DNA?
I don’t know what’s going on, but October has been a productive month for studies that show different ways to get heart attacks. For example, in addition to the “traditional way” of getting a heart attack, you can also get a heart attack by:
Undergoing prostate cancer therapy (consumer news / original research), speculated to be due to androgen deprivation – a key strategy in treating androgen (hormone) dependent prostate cancer.
Being in a bad relationship (consumer news / original research), which made a lot of sense because relationships that cause you to engage in vein-bulging screaming matches probably require your heart to work in overdrive to supply all that blood coloring your face red and engorging your vessels.
Working in a stressful job (consumer news / original research). Here’s what I don’t get: WSJ’s blog entry stated that, “Thankfully, a majority of those who survive heart attacks are able to return to work, other studies suggest.” Huh? If your job is so stressful that it gave you a heart attack, why on earth would you want to return to that job? “Whatever doesn’t kill you make you stronger?”
My blog buddy Johnny Ancich created this very smart cartoon about cigarettes:
and asked, “If Apple made cigarettes, would they be called iCigs?”
It may not be a bad idea if Steve Jobs gets into the cigarette manufacturing business. Just consider at least these 3 benefits: Continue reading
Dr. Hamish Meldrum is the head of the British Medical Association and has upset a lot of people because he wants to stop sugar-coating the obesity problem and start some serious prevention. Meldrum’s view is that obesity is not always a “medical” problem, but a behavioral one, and when doctors are too quick a write a prescription for a pill for a patient who should be best helped with dietary modification and behavioral changes around food, this prevents overweight people from taking personal responsibility about their weight problems. Continue reading