Thursday, June 26, 2008
How drug ads target consumers

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I watched the Tony Awards show this year. I found the commercials interesting. We know that most advertisers use their ads for specific audiences. They decide ahead of time who the audience will be. Then they decide which shows to use their ads for. The interesting thing about the Tony Awards was that every commercial break had at least one drug ad. Sometimes there were more than one. Many of the ads repeated. There were ads for antidepressants, blood thinners and even ads for stool softeners. The sponsors had to think that their ads were going to be effective. They had to think that someone was going to go to their physician and ask about the drugs. They would not have spent the money if they did not feel that way. There is a lesson in this for us all. When you watch a television show, you may see a commercial for a drug. It is important to remember that it is not there by coincidence. It is there because the advertiser expects you to be a candidate for that drug. They expect you to go to your physician and ask for the drug. This should make you suspicious. They have already decided before you watched the show what kind of people would be watching. They expected you to watch the show. They expected you to have the kind of problem that they are trying to treat. They are expecting you to act on their ad. If you decide to take such action, then their money is well spent. They have predicted what you will do. They know you better than you know yourself. About 5 years ago, I last wrote on this topic. There are some interesting statistics associated with them. They are a little bit old now but the principles remain the same. Between 1994 and 2001 the amount that drug companies spent on advertising their medications increased tenfold. It went from $250 million per year to $2.5 billion per year. The top 50 drugs that are advertised represent 0.5% of the total drugs on the market. However, they account for 31% of the money spent on drugs. The other 9850 drugs share the remaining 69% among them. Thus, the advertising is very effective. You may wonder who pays for this advertising. The cost of that advertising has to be made up by the companies. They make it up by increasing the cost of medications to cover it. Thus every time you see a drug ad on television, you need to realize that you are paying for that ad when you fill your next prescription. While the ads act like they are giving you information, they are actually nothing more than a sales pitch. The sponsors have no desire to give information. Their desire is to sell their drug. It appears to be effective.

Nanticoke Mears Health Center offers new diagnostic heart tests

The new 64-slice computed tomography (CT) imaging scanner at Nanticoke Mears Health Center is helping physicians diagnose patients with heart disease and chest pain more quickly and accurately. They are doing this by providing patients with two new diagnostic studies: calcium scoring and cardiac computed tomography angiogram (CTA). Calcium scoring is a painless, ten-minute test that uses the special CT equipment to look for the build up of calcium in plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart. This test is used to check for heart disease in its early stage and to determine its severity. It can also be used to predict if a person will get symptoms of heart disease. Calcium test scores range from 0 to 400 and indicate the presence of plaque in a person's body and therefore his or her risk of heart disease. For example, the lower the score, the lower the person's risk for heart attack. Scores over 100 indicate that a moderate to high amount of plaque is present in a person's arteries and that he or she has heart disease. It also indicates that the person is at moderate to high risk of heart attack and that they should start medical treatment and make lifestyle changes to reduce this risk. The calcium scoring test is recommended for men age 35 to 65 and women age 40 to 70 with heart disease risk factors such as family history, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and diabetes. Younger adults should also consider testing if they have a strong family history of heart disease. Cardiac CTA is a minimally-invasive study that uses the CT scanner with an iodine-containing contrast dye that is inserted intravenously through the patient's arm to ensure the best images possible. The cardiac CTA determines if either fatty deposits or calcium deposits have built up in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. When left untreated, these areas of build-up can cause heart disease leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and/or heart attack. This test is recommended for individuals who are at high risk for heart disease, who have symptoms such as chest pain or who have unclear stress-test results. "The goal of the Cardiology lab is to provide minimally invasive testing and treatments that help patients get home and back to their lives as quickly as possible. With the new CT scanner we get detailed images in a matter of seconds. This allows us to give our patients a faster diagnosis and effective treatment plan," says cardiologist Richard P. Simons, D.O. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 302-629-6611, ext. 8671.

Beebe offers screenings Beebe Medical Center will offer bone density screenings from 9 to 11 a.m., Tuesday, July 8, at the CHEER Center in Georgetown. No appointments are necessary for the non-invasive bone density screenings, which take just a few minutes to scan the heel bone for density. A nurse interprets these results. Beebe Medical Center offers bone density screenings regularly to identify osteoporosis, a serious health concern that can lead to fractures that can cause disability and even death.
Osteoporosis, often termed the silent disease because it shows no symptoms until it causes bones to become so fragile that they break, will strike millions of people over the next decade if preventive action is not taken, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General. It is estimated that by 2020, half of all Americans above the age of 50 will be at risk for fractures caused by osteoporosis. Both men and women are at risk. Beebe Medical Center's Orthopaedic Services offers these screenings every other month. For more information, call 302-645-3623.

Stroke support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.

Oncology symposium planned The Sixth Annual Seaside Oncology Symposium will take place Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in Rehoboth Beach. The Tunnell Cancer Center and the Medical Society of Delaware sponsor this annual, half-day symposium to update participants on the diagnosis and management of cancer. It is designed for physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The conference, which begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends with lunch at 1 p.m., is planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and Policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint-sponsorship of the Medical Society of Delaware and Beebe Medical Center. The Seaside Oncology Symposium is supported by unrestricted educational grants from various pharmaceutical companies and programs. Details regarding this year's topics and speakers will be available soon. Hotel reservations may be made directly with the Boardwalk Plaza at 800-332-3224.

Weight Loss Surgery Support The Western New Life WLS Support Group will be having its monthly meeting on June 19. We meet at Trinity United Methodist Church, 17249 Phillips Hill Road, Laurel. We meet each third Thursday of the month. The next meeting is June 17 from 7-8:30 p.m. Everyone who has had, or is thinking about, having weight loss surgery is welcome. Activities: July 17 - craft night - we'll be making new bracelets for our medical IDs. Group Leaders: Jennifer Rosen ( and Heather O'Connor (

Depression support group The Mental health Association in Delaware will be sponsoring a Depression Support Group in Laurel on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. The meetings begin at 7 p.m. The MHA encourages anyone dealing with a depressive disorder to attend. Register in advance by calling 1-800-287-6423. Peer support groups sponsored by Mental Health Association of Delaware are not intended to replace professional mental health treatment. MHA does not publish support group locations; locations are provided with registration.

Caregiver support group Join our monthly support group at the Cheer Community Center, the second Monday of each month at 11 a.m., 302-854-9500. This support group is for you, whether you are a new caregiver or have been taking care of a loved one for years. We are turning the "Fearless Caregiver" book into a guide for our support group. Each month a chapter will be discussed, concerns shared and support given.

National HIV testing day Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) and its community partners will provide free, rapid HIV testing statewide on National HIV Testing Day, Friday, June 27. HIV rapid tests provide results in a single 20-30 minute appointment. In addition to HIV testing, participating agencies will distribute the Delaware HIV Planning Council's 2008 prevention survey. Feedback from the brief survey will be used to determine where HIV/AIDS resources are most needed in the state. The surveys will be conducted through the end of September. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 25 percent or more of people infected with HIV don't know it. Like high blood pressure and diabetes, HIV can damage the body long before symptoms become obvious or life threatening. Just as routine screening for high blood pressure and diabetes is recommended for early detection, the CDC recommends that everyone age 13-64 receive routine HIV screenings as part of regular medical care. "Unfortunately, many people still find it too frightening to believe that they could be infected - even when they know things have happened in their lives that could have put them at risk," said Jim Dickinson, DPH HIV Prevention program administrator. "But the benefits of early treatment are incredible and if you wait until you are sick to find out if you have HIV, those early benefits are gone." "If you are infected and do not know it, you are more likely to infect someone else," said Dr. Jaime Rivera, DPH director. "The best way every Delawarean can help fight this epidemic is by getting tested, getting treatment if needed, and getting educated about how to stop spreading this virus." Locations include: Camp Rehoboth, 37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, June 27 - 10 a.m. -7 p.m. Free confidential rapid HIV testing. Free vouchers from Lori's Cafe and/or Double Dippers for those tested. Informational display. AÊvalid photo ID required. Up till day of event, June 26 - Salvatore Seeley, 302-270-5503. On the day of the event- Anthony Perkins, 302-227-5620. Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Sussex County Health Unit, 544 South Bedford St. (next to DMV) Georgetown, DE 19947. June 27- 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Free confidential rapid HIV testing. No appointment needed. Light refreshments. Giveaways after receiving results. AÊvalid photo ID required. Nieca P. Lietzan, 856-5184.
La Red Health Center, 505 West Market St., Georgetown, DE 19947. June 27 - 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free confidential rapid HIV testing. Informational display. Refreshments. AÊvalid photo ID required. Pablo Molina or Angel Rivera 302-855-2130, ext 103; 236-0514 (cell) Sussex County AIDS Council, Inc., Macedonia A.M.E. Church, 431 North Street Seaford, DE 19973. June 27 - noon - 7 p.m. Free confidential rapid HIV testing. Informational display. Refreshments and giveaways after receiving results. AÊvalid photo ID required. Wade Jones, 302-644-1090, ext.15