Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Same Shift, Different Day

Among the things I don't miss about having regular cable TV are ads. For a long time, we got by with the Internet connection and Netflix streaming, plus DVDs borrowed from the library and, occasionally, rented, to provide us with on-screen entertainment. But certain TV shows my wife wanted to see more current episodes of were not available on Netflix, we added Hulu plus to the mix. And the ads came back.

Now, I don't watch much TV, so it's mostly in the background, and I especially ignore the ads. But there was one that caught my attention and raised my hackles.

In it, a man who works nights has complained to his doctor that he is fatigued, sleepy at work, and suffers from insomnia. And his doctor diagnoses him with SWD, or "Shift Work Disorder."

"Aha," I said to my wife, who was shaking her head, and probably thinking the same thing that I was. "I bet there's a drug for that."

Sure enough, going to the advertiser's Web site, you find information about this horrible disorder that didn't have a name or a diagnosis until someone decided that there was a market for a drug to cure it. You can't tell right away that it's from a drug company, of course. It all looks very public-service, and only if you scroll to the bottom do you see in tiny print: © 2013 Cephalon, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Now, I'm not a raging anti-pharma kind of guy. Drug researchers have done a lot to prolong our lives and make us feel better in the process.

But drug company executives, especially advertising executives, have also done a lot to convince us that we all suffer from horrible disorders that, prior to the advent of widespread drug advertising to consumers, we would have called "life."

Now they want us to run to our doctors to ask for a drug to cure a disease that our poor befuddled physician may never have heard of in his or her life. And this overwhelming campaign of disinformation (or, at the very least, skewed information) doesn't make your doctor's life any easier. Is there a drug for that?

Of course, the way to fight back is to be vigilant, think before you reach for the pill bottle, develop alternate strategies to deal with your problems, and realize that, well, shift happens.