I don’t watch much regular television, which I find mind numbingly dumb, but for the past few years I have found myself tuning in to CNN to watch the latest episode of the hit comic opera known as American politics under the Trump era.
Unless you are watching PBS or TVO, television is just a moving billboard of dumb ads presented at a grade 10 (maybe) level of education.
What I have found remarkable about watching CNN is the number and types of ads.
Pick any hour, and within that hour a person will be exposed to approximately 35 to 40 different ads. Of this number, a minimum of half the ads will address some aspect of disease or ailment of the human body.
People with fatal diseases are pictured smiling and enjoying upper middle-class lifestyles riding horses or yachting or celebrating lavish dinners with their happy extended families. They are happy, despite having cancer or dementia or diabetes, because they can now avail themselves of various drugs most of which seem to end in ‘mab’, or ‘bab’ or ‘clib’.
The ads imply that that physicians don’t know these drugs exist, so it is your right and responsibility to “speak to your doctor about Zxbtznsbab”, this is followed by at least 30 seconds of rapid speech about how this drug can actually kill you. These ads position themselves almost as public service announcements.
In addition to these pharmaceutical molecule ads, there are countless ads which address every human bodily function or dysfunction including hemorrhoids, toe nail fungus, arthritis, stomach ailments, dandruff, incontinence, dry eyes, bad skin, constipation, diarrhea, itching, allergies, headaches, ear aches, erectile dysfunction, menstrual cramps, hair loss, obesity, nasal congestion, cough, phlegm, flu, vitamin deficiency, etc. etc. etc.
Every one of these human complaints is of course “curable” by whatever wonder product is being advertised.
So, maybe 20 times an hour, a viewer is hit over the head, complete with graphic illustrations, with a message that affects or addresses some aspect of the viewer’s tenuous hold on life. Some of the ads border on disgusting, revolting and at a minimum are distasteful.
The interesting observation is that every one of these products, whether a pharmaceutical molecule or OTC, can only be obtained at a drug store, or “pharmacy” if you prefer.
What an incredibly powerful channel of distribution a pharmacy is. There are very few channels involving other commodities that are so tightly channelled. A “pharmacy” is therefore a license to print money as long as you set aside anything that has to do with the actual act of dispensing medications or providing any kind of “professional service”, which have effectively become loss leaders.
Just sell the stuff that is heavily advertised on TV, which has been basically presold in the mind of the consumer. Sure, it’s nice to talk to the pharmacist once in a while, but how many times will the pharmacist recommend a simple non OTC solution, only to see the consumer wait till the pharmacist leaves and then quickly grab that Cold FX and rush to the cash register. The consumer has been brain washed so thoroughly by TV ads, that it is very difficult to get them off any preconceived mind track.
No wonder Big Pharmacy Retail (BPR) has grown leaps and bounds and “pharmacy” is now imbedded in every grocery store, big box store, mass merchandiser. When the word “Pharmacy” is plastered on the side of the grocery store building, it’s a signal to the consumer that this is the place where you can get all that great stuff you see on TV.
Funny, all these billions of dollars in advertising, manufacturing, and retailing, and all this is dependant on the presence of a registered licenced pharmacist. You would think this would be valued at more than $40/hr. A plumber makes at least twice this rate.
And to think that pharmacists are largely responsible themselves for what has happened to them. In the meantime, academia keeps grinding out more graduates, the regulatory bodies keep inventing more bizarre regulations, and the pharmacy associations keep emailing more implorations to join, so you can get great car discounts, gym memberships, insurance etc.
This is capitalism at its best. All the pieces support each other. But the reality is that pharmacy as a profession has somehow been lost in all this.