Humira, Lyrica, Xeljanz, Trulicity, Xarelto, Otezia, Eliquis, Keytruda, Ibrance, Biktarvy, Jardiance: Any of these words sound familiar? They should, as companies have worked hard to come up with words that make absolutely no sense to anyone, and have spent nearly $1.7 billion on TV ads alone, to sell these names to you.

What are these words? They are drugs that are supposed to treat all kinds of illnesses. That’s the good news. The bad news is, although they may be effective in treating some illnesses, they have some pretty nasty side effects. The irony is, of course, you may need another drug with a name that sounds like something out of Greek mythology, to treat the side effects of swollen lips, rashes, dry throat, kidney failure, stroke or death caused by the cure. Don’t worry, your cholesterol will drop.

The sales pitch tells you about a drug for a certain illness. The smiling actors are usually holding hands on the beach or playing softball or doing something else that is totally unrelated to any illness. The messaging is, once you start taking this drug, you’ll be just as happy as the happy people (who oftentimes have a dog or better yet, a puppy) in their commercials. In all likelihood, you won’t be as happy as the actors in the drug commercials, but the drug companies want you to believe you will. At the end of the lovely commercial, comes the tag line: “Ask your doctor if Xyzqweraltz is right for you.”

Let’s look at how this works. You’re sitting around getting a little older. Your joints are a little stiff. Arthritis (a disease with no known cure) could be the cause. If you watch TV (this would be a good habit to break as soon as physically possible), odds are you’ve seen a commercial for Humira. Of that $1.7 billion all drug companies spent selling you their product, $375 million of these advertising dollars were spent by Humira. They’re the big gun in the explosion of drug advertisement in America. You can learn more about this drug, how it got approved and what it might do for, and to, you by going online to bit.ly/HuffPost_Humira.

The short story is Humira was developed by Abbott Laboratories, a company that came out of nowhere and is now an $8 billion-company. Humira is supposed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s also billed as being able to treat other diseases like Crohn’s disease. The company is forced to disclose their drug also causes cancer. They don’t have the happy people on the beach holding the fluffy puppy telling you you might get cancer. Oh, no, that usually comes out at the end of the commercial. After you’ve been sucked into the commercial and you’re looking at the very happy life of the very happy people, some monotone voice comes on and reads the side effects. By the time you hear about the side effects, you don’t care, because you really, really want to be one of those happy people. Who knows if you even have rheumatoid arthritis? You just want to be one of those happy people.

Abbott Laboratories got to be an $8 billion-company by charging almost $6,000 per month for their new cancer-causing drug. Chances are you don’t have $6,000 left over at the end of the month, so, the chances of you becoming one of those happy beach people are slim. If you have health-care insurance, they might pay for some of it, but you can rest assured you’ll be paying a lot.

Some politicians say we can’t possibly afford a national health-care program. Maybe If we outlawed spending $1.7 billion advertising drugs we may not need and ceased allowing drug companies to tell us to run to our doctors for an unnecessary doctor visit to ask about some drug we saw on TV, then maybe we could. How much time and money is wasted with people setting up unnecessary doctor appointments?

If the goal is to reduce health-care costs, a great place to start would be to ban all drug ads. There is no reason why these drug companies should be spending untoward amounts of money to sell you drugs you can’t buy without a prescription. Next, the government should be allowed to negotiate with drug companies to reduce the inflated cost of these drugs. You can thank former President George W. Bush for disallowing the government from being able to negotiate better prices.

Drugs are not the answer. The answer is eating right and getting plenty of exercise. Read about “Blue Zones,” places on Earth where people live to be very old without the need for any drugs.

Get off the couch and do something, like maybe grow your own organic food; or buy organic food if you can’t grow it. A good start would be to call your local gym and buy a membership.

Oh, and turn off your TV. Happy New Year.

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester Center.

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