Advertising for medicine can be deadly


There is one big problem with our medical world today: the focus is misdirected. No longer is keeping people alive and healthy, no matter how modestly that is done, the main issue.

Pharmaceutical companies are now more worried about financial gain than the health of their consumers. In recent years, getting something on the market and creating a need for the product has become more important than actually perfecting the drug.

When the Gardasil vaccine first came out, my doctor strongly advised I get it. This is obviously because it helps fight cervical cancer by protecting against four types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two of which cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases and two more of which cause 90 percent of genital warts, according to However, as I read the brochure given to me I became skeptical. It’s true all vaccines have side effects, but the list for Gardasil is more extensive than most, ranging from headaches to vomiting to seizures. Still, the advertisement made it seem like the most amazing vaccine ever invented, and as a woman who would someday like to have children and live to see them grow, I took the chance. I experienced all seven of the normally listed side effects, but, thankfully, I didn’t seizure when I fainted. And I still went back two more times, because I felt like a week of dizziness and vomiting was worth being protected from cervical cancer and other HPV diseases.

Lately, the severity of safety risks tied to this vaccine and others like it are being brought out in the media. In an article this past August, ABC News Medical Unit stated Gardasil has been suspected as a factor in 32 deaths of young girls, and shows the highest incidents of fainting and blood clots of any other vaccine.

Another product targeted toward women, Yaz birth control, recently had a $20 million ad redesign. Their original advertisements stated the drug prevented much more than pregnancy, including severe premenstrual depression and acne, but it declined to mention the fact that it also creates a higher risk for pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks and other serious problems than any other birth control. To top it all off, according to a New York Times article on the situation, Yaz is prescribed more than any other birth control.

Many argue that the safety risks, and even deaths, associated with drugs and vaccines are normal, and completely worth it. Women would rather risk deadly side effects than become pregnant, or acquire HPV. But here’s an idea: go to your doctor regularly.

According to the CDC, cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of death in women – about 40 years ago. It has steadily declined since then, due mainly to the fact that women are seeing their doctor annually and getting regular tests, which can find precancerous cells long before they turn into cancer. While cervical cancer, when full-blown, is of the deadliest diseases for women, it is also one of the most treatable if found early, according to the CDC. Other HPV related diseases which Gardasil prevents, which often cause infertility, are also easily treatable if found early.

Overselling products makes it nearly impossible for people to measure whether or not the risks are worth it. The simple task of keeping up with your health is just as effective, if not more. And it also doesn’t have death as a possible side effect. Pharmaceutical companies should put more time into perfecting their products before teaming up with professional medical associations and doctors to overstate its ability.