Advertising for medicine can be deadly

The NorthWindOnline

Student Newspaper of Northern Michigan University

Sarah O’Neill

Issue date: 10/1/09 Section: Opinion

There is one big problem with our medical world today: the focus is misdirected. No longer is keeping people alive and healthy, no matter how modestly that is done, the main issue.

Pharmaceutical companies are now more worried about financial gain than the health of their consumers. In recent years, getting something on the market and creating a need for the product has become more important than actually perfecting the drug.

When the Gardasil vaccine first came out, my doctor strongly advised I get it. This is obviously because it helps fight cervical cancer by protecting against four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two of which cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases and two more of which cause 90 percent of genital warts, according to www.gardasil.com. However, as I read the brochure given to me I became skeptical. It’s true all vaccines have side effects, but the list for Gardasil is more extensive than most, ranging from headaches to vomiting to seizures. Still, the advertisement made it seem like the most amazing vaccine ever invented, and as a woman who would someday like to have children and live to see them grow, I took the chance. I experienced all seven of the normally listed side effects, but, thankfully, I didn’t seize when I fainted. And I still went back two more times, because I felt like a week of dizziness and vomiting was worth being protected from cervical cancer and other HPV diseases.

Lately, the severity of safety risks tied to this vaccine and others like it are being brought out in the media. In an article this past August, ABC News Medical Unit stated Gardasil has been suspected as a factor in 32 deaths of young girls, and shows the highest incidents of fainting and blood clots of any other vaccine.

Another product targeted toward women, Yaz birth control, recently had a $20 million ad redesign. Their original advertisements stated the drug prevented much more than pregnancy, including severe premenstrual depression and acne, but it declined to mention the fact that it also creates a higher risk for pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks and other serious problems than any other birth control. To top it all off, according to a New York Times article on the situation, Yaz is prescribed more than any other birth control.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.