Drug advertisements often exploit and target women’s vulnerabilities and insecurities in the roles they play as mother, wife and friend. Through the years, breakthroughs in science and medicine have helped women deal with their specific health concerns. Some of these concerns include, but are not limited to:
- Menstrual discomfort
- Beauty and diet
The drugs and medical devices that have emerged often times have not delivered what they had promised. Even worse, they have injured and killed women.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
In 1942, hormone replacement therapy reared its head and became big business. It promised to help women suffering with the negative effects of menopause, telling husbands that their wives would be much more “pleasant” when they returned home from a long day at the office. By 1975, the link was made between estrogen therapy and uterine cancer, and by 1989, breast cancer.
This didn’t slow pharmaceutical manufacturers from attempting to cash in again, however. Wyeth introduced a combination of estrogen and progesterone in 1996, calling the new drug Prempro. It was later discovered that this company paid ghostwriters to publish scientific papers that played down the risks of taking hormones. Profits rose to $2 billion in 2001, and nearly 70 million prescriptions were filled.
In 2002, the tide turned when a huge federal study was stopped after researchers discovered an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Sales dropped dramatically, but they did continue despite the dangers that were discovered. Pfizer now owns Wyeth, and they announced in 2012 that they will pay up to $1.2 billion to settle 10,000 Prempro patient lawsuits.
Be Aware and be Skeptical
The list could continue on for all of the problem drugs and medical devices that have endangered the lives of women. Here are some ways to make sure you are more aware, and that you are protecting yourself properly:
- Every prescription drug comes with risks, many of them are long-term. We cannot view every drug as a “silver bullet”, as though it magically will cure what ails us. The potential benefits are often not worth the larger risks. Before beginning any prescription drug, research it well with the huge amount of information available at your fingertips via the internet.
- Be most cautious of newer drugs. We know about the side effects of many drugs that have been on the market for a while only because they have been used by millions of people. Many of these people suffered injury, and even death, from the side effects of dangerous drugs. They paid the price for the knowledge we have. Many newer drugs or devices may have only been tested in limited studies sponsored by the manufacturer whose first interest is making money from them, not keeping you safe from harm. Often, women are underrepresented in these tests as well.
- Be especially skeptical of any drug that is heavily advertised. Drug companies are spending billions on advertising to doctors and to the public. Much of this advertising is often cited as manipulative or misleading, especially those targeting women.
- Find trusted sources of information. Make sure that the data you research is not funded by the pharmaceutical manufacturer or related organizations. This includes doctors. Compare what your doctor tells you with information you research. Sometimes doctors are not fully aware of the dangers of the drugs they prescribe. Here are some trusted sources to begin with:
- [email protected] – official information about FDA-approved brand-name and generic drugs and therapeutic products (see the listing of adverse events associated with drugs)
- Drugs.com – look up more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products
- MedlinePlus – tracks drugs and supplements; National Institutes of Health’s website for patient safety
- ConsumerSafety.org – safety alerts, error reporting and other resources from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices
- Dollars for Docs – public database showing payments to doctors by pharmaceutical companies to represent their products
You are your best line of defense for protecting your health, so learn all you can and be preventative and cautious with the drugs you put in your body. Follow my blog to continually receive news and tips that will help you stay on top of your health. be sure to grab my free resource, 10 Secrets the Pharmaceutical Industry Does Not Want You to Know, to keep as a valuable resource for your protection.