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Because I’m old, I still watch the nightly news. The nightly news is depressing. All news is depressing of course, but the regular nightly broadcast is particularly so, not on account of the actual news of the day, which I’ve more or less armoured myself to endure, but because just watching the broadcast is plainly something that only lizardly, superannuated old fucks with one foot in the grave ever do anymore, a shrinking group to which you must belong, else you wouldn’t be watching.

You can tell from the “medical” stories, which usually come right before the heartwarming “dog stories” they throw in to conclude the broadcast, the latter being my own nickname for the regular items that tend to be about plucky and loveable family pets, especially little doggies that find their way back home to Boston after being lost in Yosemite, that sort of thing. They’re included to make you feel better about everything you just saw, and cousin, you really need the pick-me-up, not just to counteract the horror of current events, but to help you deal with the aforementioned medical stories, which are all about old person afflictions and how to treat them, if treat them you can.

Night after night, it’s in-house Doctor What’s-His-Name telling you how to spot the symptoms of artery-clogging high cholesterol, vein-bursting high blood pressure, incipient dementia, cancer in various awkward places, and so on. The prevalence of these segments is a dead giveaway, but if you still had any doubts, you really know you’re part of a vanishing demographic when you take in the ads. They’re all for pharmaceuticals that treat the gruesome problems typical of wrinkly, liver-spotted fossil candidates soon to be knock-knock-knocking on Heaven’s door, to quote a song that only ancient bastards like me will recognize.

The pharmaceutical ads just slay me.

Attached is a comedy song I used to listen to when I was a kid, Headaches by Alan Sherman, whose musical parodies made him the Weird Al of his day. My folks had all his records, and many of the bits were pretty funny. I particularly liked this one, which was a riff on an old hit called Heartaches, and featured some really professional musicianship, with a lively rhythm classified roughly as “half-rumba, half-washboard”, it says here. Sherman is complaining about Aspirin commercials. Aspirin commercials! Oh, long ago innocent days! I’m reminded of it every time I see an ad for something called Taltz, or Astrazenica, or some such shit, the like of which would have been unimaginable back in Sherman’s day, or indeed just a couple of decades ago. Way back then, in the distant 1990s, the baby boom bubble still consisted of fairly healthy folk, young enough to be useful, and there was no demand for all these exotic chemical treatments. Now that we’re all on death’s door, they can’t flog enough of the stuff.

This is one of my “favourites”, as it features a lame-assed version of a song I despised as a 13-year-old, reworked to use the name of the drug instead of the phrase “it’s magic”. I mean, I really, really hated this song. I used to turn the radio off. Now I hear it every damned day, in between videos of the latest weather catastrophes:

OMG, it makes me want to off myself with a straight razor.

At this point, lampooning these things is a tired cliché, I guess, but Christ they make me mental. They last for hours. This is because the usual 30 second slot would never suffice to both tout the drugs’ purported benefits and then recite the legally-mandated lists of possible side effects, the sheer lengths of which are also a comedy cliché, yet not all that funny, if you listen. In fact, they’re harrowing. You’re watching some happy retirees walking on the beach or something, and the voice-over is going “Users of Triassic may experience some or all of the following”, before you get sixty seconds of terrifying possibilities, like, say:

Itchy eyes
Runny nose
Persistent cough
Digestive upset
Glaucoma, cataracts and double vision
Loss of vision
Persistent tinnitus
Loss of hearing
Loss of stomach lining
Loss of skin, typically on face or genitals
Rectal discharge, often including blood
Uncontrolled barking similar to Tourette’s
Uncontrollable vomiting resistant to anti-nauseants
Testicular growths
Ovarian suicide

More than half of them include “death”. Jesus Christ! Death? Look, I just wanted something for my arthritis. I was hoping to lower my Type II diabetic blood sugar levels, for the love of God, and now you say I’m going to die? Like, as in dead? Why me? All I needed was a little help with my psoriatic nerve pain. Just a moment or two of blessed relief from this swelling in my joints. I wasn’t looking to join Seal Team Six for chrissakes. I didn’t figure my chances would be better jumping out of goddam airplanes.

My favourite warning, always on the list, is “Do not use if you are allergic to Jurassic”. No shit. How will I know, before I take it? Do not use if this actually will kill you. Gee mister, thanks for the heads-up.

Fine, you know, all life is risk, this condition is really pissing me off, so damn the torpedoes, give me a whole box of the shit and I’ll swallow all of it with gusto.

Anyway, what I’m really keen to know isn’t how such wee little pills can cause my whole outer epidermis to slough off – I want to know how they come up with the names. They all sound the same, and they all sound as if you’re supposed to be confused about what they do. “Taltz”. What the fuck is a taltz? Why “Ozempic”? Is it supposed to be subliminally evocative of some mood or desirable object? It’s like with cars. Back in the day they used to have names that meant something, like “mustang”, or “impala”, or “galaxy”. Now you get “Qashqui”- ??? – “Elantra” and “Yaris”. Is “Altima” something you drive to work, or take for spastic bowel disorder? Does the Xarelto come in a six cylinder automatic? They must market test these strange multisyllabic concatenations, right? They must hold focus groups, or do surveys or something. Here, pick a favourite drug:

Tell me sir, when you hear the brand name Jevtana, which medical affliction springs immediately to mind? I like “Daliresp”, the brand name for something called, improbably, Roflumilast. To me, “Daliresp” sounds like a surrealist painter breathing wheezily while he paints bendy watches, but apparently I’m wrong and it really sounds like something that could treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which I think I’m about to contract, so good to know it’s out there.

Ah me, I do hate getting old. I’m already taking something called “Atacand”, as well as “Symbicort”, and pretty soon, no doubt, I’ll need steady doses of “Zenlagidol”, “Arctimex” and maybe “Flacktucon”. They’ll either help, or kill me outright, and at that point I’ll be more than ready to run the pharmacological gauntlet. Oh for sure, I’ll feel crappy enough to throw caution to the wind. If the alternative is searing pain during urination, exploding prostate, or adult diapers, I’ll gladly risk death by intestinal dissolution, or whatever’s going.

So will you. You’re just as pathetic as I am. Everybody is, or they wouldn’t bother with all those godawful ads.

2 comments on “Pharmaceutical Commercials

  1. What, you got a problem with the sweet sweet sounds of Pilot? Next you’ll be having a go at ‘Horse with no Name’

    My favourite Pharma ad? Lyrica. The voice-over is priceless. It says “fibromyalgia is THOUGHT to be caused by over-active nerves. Lyrica is BELIEVED to calm those nerves”.

    Then it goes into the side effects:

    Loss of balance or coordination
    Dry mouth
    Breast swelling
    Blurred vision
    Weight gain
    Problems with memory or concentration

    Jesus. I’ll take the Fibromyalgia.


    1. graemecoffin says:

      Oh I rode through the desert on a horse with no tune…(George Martin: zzzzzzzzzzz).


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