One quite extraordinary feature of television advertising in the US is that the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to promote individual drugs direct to the public. As an industry with enormous lobbying power and vast quantities of cash, this practice produces many “side-effects”. For one thing, there is at least one commercial for a drug in every ad break during a TV show. In order to grab our attention, these ads appeal to people’s fears that there is something the matter with them.
Since living over here, I’ve been amazed at how many men seem to “suffer from Erectile Dysfunction, or ED”; at how many people not just have trouble sleeping, but actively “suffer from insomnia”; or, my favourite, the numbers of Americans beleaguered by something called “Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS”. Why have an occasional niggling sensation in your calf when you can complain about a fully fledged syndrome you saw medicalised and legitimised on TV to a doctor who can write you out a prescription for it? (I thought the internet provided sufficient means for people seeking to self-diagnose. Once years ago I concluded I had Multiple Sclerosis based on completely spurious and unrelated symptoms and poor internet searching skills. That is why I’m not that sort of a doctor.)
To be perfectly honest with you, I think I might even be developing … TIMMS. But if I just keep watching television, I’m sure there will be a pill for me to purchase someday soon to alleviate my symptoms.