I find it very interesting how easily people are convinced to behave in ways in conflict with their own self interests.  Advertisements for low-quality junk foods and vehicles that really will not increase your sex appeal are good examples.

Advertisements for prescription drugs that may benefit a few, but are not beneficial for most people are a compelling instance.  You are supposed to run to your physician and request a prescription, for which he or she will get a commission.  That’s how oxycontin became pervasive.

Political advertisements are equally misleading and harming.  Some blurbs argue that government is against you.  Yet, 50% of the federal budget is spent on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  What percentage of Americans would vote to eliminate these programs, as well as funds spent on medical research and education?

Firms such as Cambridge Analytica upped the ante.  They used personal information from Facebook to create political ads targeted to individual people.  These people would learn that specific political candidates agreed with them – on everything!  How could you not vote for them? 

The fact that these ads were totally lies is fully protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.  These ads did not force you to vote in one way or another, just as the ads for questionable prescription drugs do not force you to take these drugs.  Let the buyer beware.  It is up to you to avoid being manipulated.

How does this work for older adults, or perhaps disabled adults, all of whom are dependent on mobility and other services to travel to and from work or to age at home rather than in institutional residences.  Apparently, the marketplace is free to manipulate and motivate them to act not in their best interests.  Vested interests and their profits are fully protected. 

We have a free market economy totally focused on maximizing investors’ returns.  Consumers need to be aware of and avoid manipulation.  This includes doing research using other sources of information to assure claims by pharma, politicians, etc. are valid.  Elderly folks, for instance, should be researching the efficacy of Alzheimer’s drugs.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but that is what beware buyers are supposed to do.

You might think that some combination of patients’ physicians, the FDA, et al. could handle this.  Abramson in Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It. (Mariner, 2022) explains why these professionals are unprepared and prohibited from doing this.  I’ll return to this next week.

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