In a recent post, Dr. Free Ride made some excellent points about conflict of interest and medical professionalism (emphasis mine):
What I find more interesting, and problematic, here is [the authors'] unexamined premise that it is a bad thing that medical experts have a certain kind of monopoly. Indeed, their monopoly is recognized by the state: you can’t practice medicine without being properly trained and licensed.
Because of their specialized training, physicians and medical scientists have an expertise that arguably puts them in a better position than the state to promulgate disease definitions and treatment recommendations, and to evaluate research reports. Neither lay people nor elected officials can be assumed to have the expertise to make these decisions. Asking the state to make the rules about which submissions to a medical journal ought to be accepted seems like a really bad idea — so why would asking the state to interfere with the judgment of medical experts in such “gate keeping” seem like a good idea?
I bring this up not because she hits it just right, but because the whole idea of medical “expertism” bugs people. As an internist, I have knowledge that others do not. People seek me out for that knowledge. Application of my tools without the proper knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
That’s why direct-to-consumer drug advertising is a bad idea. It puts a profit-making, product-promoting entity between the patient and the doctor. It essentially enlists the patient in its advertising campaign. These ads corrupt the doctor-patient relationship, and attempt to “de-professionalize” medicine.
Many of these ads are simply deceptive. For example, a popular allergy pill is advertised as being the only one approved for “indoor and outdoor allergies.” Medically, this makes no sense, as they are the same thing. It’s a simple technicality. But really, deceptive or not, these ads are a bad idea.
So, when I saw the headline about objections to certain drug ads, I figured there was some sort of health concern, such as a failure to disclose risks.
Nope. Rather than complain about unethical or deceptive ads, the complaint was about the unseemly nature of one particular common medical problem, erectile dysfunction.
Give me a damned break. This is just another fake morals issue at a time when the entire economy is in the shitter. According to one Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) who apparently isn’t concerned about Pakistan’s nukes or Comerica’s solvency:
A number of people have come up, including colleagues, and said I’m fed up. I don’t want my three or four-year old grandkid asking me what erectile dysfunction is all about. And I don’t blame them.
Hint to all of you offended by ED ads: your kids are going to be asking difficult questions FOREVER. You’d better learn to answer them. Also, these ads aren’t placed during Sesame Street. How do you handle questions from the kids about the plot of Desperate Housewives?
Look, I’m all for getting rid of direct-to-consumer drug advertising (and honestly, I’d like to get rid of direct-to-doctor ads too). But to single out ED ads because they give you the willies is just plain stupid.