Death By Side Effect

Picture: DEA (PD)

Carl Pettit writes at the Good Men Project:

I’ve noticed over the years how commercials have become longer and louder, and how the number of ads for prescription drugs have steadily increased. The latter is probably due, at least in part, to the baby boomers hitting retirement age.

The advertisements that have caught my attention this time around are for underarm testosterone treatments. I’d never seen testosterone ads on television before, but these promos seem to be running all the time, although, for obvious reasons, I didn’t catch any when I watched The View (not my normal fodder) this morning, which was a refreshing change.

Men with low or no testosterone should consult their doctors, and take part in testosterone treatment if needed, yet I’m exceedingly distrustful of national ad campaigns plugging the benefits of topical testosterone without educating the public about the specific reasons a man should take testosterone in the first place. Instinct tells me there are men out there who hear the word ‘testosterone,’ and think, “Yeah, that’s my hormone. I’ll be more macho, my libido will soar, and the girls won’t be able to keep their hands off me.” Such is the mindset of the low information consumer.

I believe there are two reasons why television ads should not be pushing prescription medication, no matter the drug in question. First of all, most laymen don’t know as much about pharmacology as doctors and pharmacists do (at least I hope that’s the case). Let’s take a look at our imaginary friend Joe, a guy who really isn’t a candidate for testosterone treatment, but happens to catch a testosterone ad on television one day. Joe likes what he sees, and decides he wants to me more ‘manly,’ in the traditional sense of the word, similar to a mixed martial arts fighter, perhaps, like Jon Jones. The advisement then instructs Joe to tell his doctor about this wonderful new product. He’s been coached to ask his dealer, in this case his doctor, to give him a drug that he probably doesn’t need, based upon knowledge he received from a 30 second television spot. If Joe were a true candidate for testosterone treatments, his doctor should be the one telling him about his options, not the other way around. If our hypothetical friend doesn’t trust his doctor, or believes he’s better informed because he watches a lot of TV, he might want to sign up for medical school, or find a different doctor.

The second reason, and something that actually bothers me more than the ‘pusher’ nature of these ads, are the horrendous side effects. Again, if someone really has a testosterone problem, or another nettlesome medical condition, the side effects might be worth the risks, but these decisions shouldn’t be made with information gathered from the same folks who use the same marketing techniques to get us to buy a new flavor of Twinkie.

In case you were wondering, and haven’t been watching television recently (I have, and my brain hurts), here are some of the potential side effects the underarm testosterone advertisements warn of:

Product can transfer from your body to others, causes signs of puberty not expected in young children, causes enlarged penis or clitoris in children through secondary contact, increases aggressive behavior, increases acne, harms unborn or breast-feeding babies, aggravates enlarged prostate gland, increases nightly urination, increases risk of prostate cancer, lowers sperm count, swelling of ankles and body, sleep apnea, blood clots in the legs, diarrhea, headaches, vomiting … .

I’m not picking on testosterone commercials exclusively here; it’s just that I’ve noticed a huge upsurge in testosterone marketing. The brutal side effects seem like they would deter all but the most committed and serious user, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case.

Read more here.

20 Comments on "Death By Side Effect"

  1. Its probably not a good idea. I’d like all the testosterone my body is able to naturally produce and no more.
    Its not exactly a longevity hormone. If that were the case women wouldn’t live longer than men.

  2. Aram Jahn | Nov 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    Good German: “Read more here” gets me a 404, FYI.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Nov 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm |

    two things

    testosterone counts have been dropping for decades, if not centuries
    no one knows why
    stop watching TV and the drug ads will go away
    the drug ads are for TV watching sheeple

    • David Howe | Nov 4, 2012 at 9:22 am |

      TV is the opium of the masses. I gave up TV a few months ago and its amazing how much less garbage there is in my consciousness.

      • Has walking amongst the television-dependent majority weirded you out yet?

        • I can’t express how much better / stranger the world is without TV.

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm |

            : ) stranger

            When I first went without TV the world seemed to go through a decidedly David Lynch

          • i’ve actually only seen Dune and a bad quality first five minutes of Eraserhead so if that’s what you mean then…. ouch.

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm |

            Oh god no, You really need to see some more Lynch : )
            Blue Velvet is a good place to start. Then there is always Twin Peaks.

          • I agree. It wasn’t until I stopped watching it altogether that I realised exactly how much of my world was constructed by it and the expectations of others laid upon me who watch it daily. My dream life has also improved considerably. Honestly now when I visit a friend’s home and they have the TV on I can’t escape the feeling that I’m being subtly reality-raped and nudged into a shared reality that frankly I have little taste or patience for. This, however, is usually perceived as total gibberish when you attempt to convey this to anyone who has never considered breaking off from tv-reality.

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm |

            I found it was an easy out to explain any eccentricity to others by just telling them I didn’t watch TV.

          • its actually pretty common not to watch t.v. at least in my circles.

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 6, 2012 at 12:33 am |

            ; ) mine too. It’s when you end up around extended family during the holidays (at least in in my case) that the differences may become more pronounced.

            “Who you say?…No I haven’t seen season XXXIV of American Idol….no, we’re still not going to Church. Would you like to try some eggnog? I’ve been fermenting it since last year, yes raw eggs and liquor”….then they notice my mushroom tree & Krampus sweater. ah holiday cheer! I can’t wait.

  4. InfvoCuernos | Nov 3, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

    I especially like that testosterone is now in topical form, so you can spread your aggressive man-hate through a crowd while you loose your hair and develop prostate cancer! What a deal!

  5. alizardx | Nov 4, 2012 at 2:22 am |

    One shouldn’t assume your doctor has seen/heard everything necessary, there’s so much data that it’s impossible to see everything. If you hear of an interesting new drug or treatment, research if yourself online before asking your doctor to try it, and look for sources your doctor would take seriously. There is a good chance you’ll find out why you do NOT want that drug or therapy.

    The chief orthopedic surgeon at a hospital I was being treated for wrist problems at was greatly interested in an alternative to traditional carpal tunnel release surgery I found. (balloon release, IIRC)

    He probably tried it on someone else, the tests came back and I was diagnosed with tendonitis and referred for physical therapy, which worked.

    My source was an article posted on his own professional association’s website.

    • You’re quite right. A general practitioner is just that, and is there to deal with the minor problems or detect bigger problems and point you towards the proper specialists. As a type 1 diabetic, developped quite recently (adults can develop type 1 too, although it usually occurs in childhood), I found out just how little my doctor knows about it (and he’s one of the better ones).

      So asking your doctor about things is a good idea. Either they have a good reason for not mentioning it, don’t consider it important but might do if it’s important to you, or simply don’t know about it, in which case they can do some research and get back to you.

      • alizardx | Nov 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm |

        My point was actually, do your own research into whatever chronic condition you have. Among other things, your doctor may simply not have time to do that research. Doctors in modern practice are on a corporate treadmill just like other working professionals today.

  6. kowalityjesus | Nov 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm |

    I got in a civil argument earlier this year with my Uncle’s good friend who is a prescription drug rep. He makes of course a very good salary because the industry is making gobs of money.

    I argued that there was no reason to advertise prescription medications on TV because people shouldn’t decide based on advertising whether they need a medication, it should be the decision of doctors. He kept countering with “well the advertisements help people because they know there is medication for their problem” which of course is very flimsy, because you could just ask the doctor that.

    Finally I got him to admit that advertising prescription drugs in the US was illegal until the pharmaceutical industry lobbied to legalize it early in the Reagan administration. He gave an anecdote where an advertisement for Levitra (an ED med) had a man throwing a football through a tire, so all sorts of old ladies came in asking for Levitra because they thought it was for arthritis. Probably just one example among very many. He also looked somewhat ashamed because I had uncovered how marginally ethical his profession is.

    We should make advertising pharmaceuticals about as legal as advertising Cocaine, it is such a shameful national fiasco.

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