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The Super Bowl of Drugs

Warning – rant follows…

The two main takeaways from last night’s SuperBowl are:

  • A really good defense and great defensive plan can beat a really good young quarterback.
  • Drugs are where the money is.

I’ll leave the first point to those more expert in football analysis and focus on the second for a minute or two.

In a sign of the imminent arrival of the Apocalypse, there were three ads for drugs shockingly none for life-threatening conditions.  Nope, we Americans must have way bigger concerns than diabetes and cancer – namely the coming open-toe shoe season and the inner workings of our lower digestive tracts.

Yup, there was an ad for a toenail fungus cure, (TOENAIL FUNGUS?!). another for diarrhea (DIARRHEA?!) and one for Opioid-Induced Constipation.  The cheapo fungus ad cost a mere $5 million for 30 seconds; the animated intestine discussing bowel movements graced our screens for a full minute; so did Astra Zeneca’s solution for the opposite problem.

The toenail fungus AND intestine ads came courtesy of Valeant, a name you may recall from news stories about Federal investigations into its pricing practices.  Over the last few years, Valeant has bought up the rights to at least four drugs – then jacked up the drugs’ prices by a factor of 10. (this is getting to be a common practice)

And opioid-induced constipation?

Okay, that’s a problem, but WhyTF are we taking so many opioids that pharma gets to make more hundreds of millions of dollars on a problem pharma created?

What a brilliant business plan; let’s create a drug that makes people feel really good AND is highly addictive, encourage doctors to prescribe it for everything from a sore back to cancer, then, when we have saturated the market so that there’s enough pills sold to give every American a month’s supply every year, let’s charge them three hundred bucks a month so they can poop.

When you watched those ads, did you think about all the zeros on your health insurance bill this month, realize that your family deductible is about equal to what you paid for your first decent car, and see that your choice of providers is best described as “few and far between?”

We are seeing a free market system running wild.

What does this mean for you?

If we stay on this path, we’re bankrupt.




8 thoughts on “The Super Bowl of Drugs”

  1. And what about that 35 year old, smirking jackass who thumbed his nose, and everything else, at Congress last week.

    Throw his ass in jail, and have a few of his buddies join him, and you may see some results.

    But then again, the ones who replace them will probably do the same…they should be given yuuuuuuge doses of their own medicine,

  2. I made the mistake of posting a comment about the opioid induced constipation ad on Facebook. I won’t be doing that again! While some saw the greed behind the ad, some felt attacked, or that the ad was necessary for patient education (Srsly?). Apparently it is wrong to assume that intelligent people can see through manipulative ads about medication. Or am I just too jaded because of my line of work?!?!

  3. I love how all the OIC commercials show all these bright, awake, active people, with OIC. No they are not! The ones who are taking so many opioids that cause the OIC, are at home gorked out on their couch and drooling from all the opioids! They are the ones who develop the OIC. They can’t function let alone be out for a long walk! You won’t see that on TV!

  4. Joe… You were obviously listening to my rant is I went on and on about this issue of “opioid induced constipation” to my family members. Absolutely amazing.

  5. I too winced at the ads. A new syndrome foisted upon us “OIC” for a condition that is iatrogenic and based upon improper use of opiates for chronic pain. That there is apparently enough money for this drug reflects the significance of the problem. The drug costs about 10.00 per day. And the toenail fungus one is likewise a costly alternative to other generics. The rest of us get to pay for this.

    Perhaps equally troublesome is the TV ad, not on the Super Bowl, for a brand name Type II diabetes drug, that features only plus-sized individuals happily dancing and carrying on in life with a pop sound track, promoting another costly drug that the rest of us are asked to pay for to treat the side effects of lifestyle decisions. Once again, an effort to normalize a condition that is almost totally preventable rather than treatable.

    As to Shkreli, the drug exec – his sin is saying out loud what others are quietly doing. Both the passion for shareholder return above all else, and contempt for reasonable behavior.

  6. Hey Joe,
    $300? try $3000…that’s what I been seeing for Relistor – a subcutaneous OIC injection. WTF is right!

  7. Joe,

    You nailed it on both points actually. :) My sensibilities are increasingly assualted by the drug adds across OIC — and many other topics, while in mixed company, or with my teenage children.

    On the flip side, I know an individual who recently went through brain cancer surgery, chemo, was put on Opioids for the considerable pain, with apparantly predicable result of OIC…followed by new script to treat the OIC…another opportunity loop closed….

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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