First, a short test:
C: Jelly Beans
The billions of dollars answer:
Mars, the candy company not the planet, produces $33 billion worth of M&M’s each year, which equates to approximately 146 billion M&M’s. Let’s be generous and say that Americans eat two-thirds of them or approximately 97 billion. The statistics are a bit murky on jelly beans, but Americans eat approximately $85 billion worth, and 16 billion individual jelly beans during the Easter holidays alone each year. Pharmaceuticals on the other hand is more than just pills. We must also consider potions, lotions and various pill-shaped medicinals that use an entirely different orifice. However, pharmaceuticals weighs in at a whopping $425 billion in the US. Again, let’s be generous and say that at least half, or $212.5 billion accounts for pills.
Since I researched these figures using the pick the first available number because I’m tired method, this impromptu breakdown is hardly scientific, and certainly not wholly accurate. However, it is a fair to middling indicator that Americans like their pills more than candy.
Sorry, chocolate fans, not enough billions in your favorite candy’s corner. You just don’t stand a chance when stacked up against Valium et al.
Now, there are several reasons that we like drugs:
First: What’s not to like.
Seriously. If the answer to any problem is take a pill, what a wonderful world we live in. Can you think of an easier way to cure what ails you?
Granted, stepping off the top floor of a tall building without using the elevator also has its fans, but trying to cure everything at once is too ambitious for most people.
You may be among the six percent of our population who think the US Congress is doing a good job, in which case, it’s patently obvious that you’ll swallow anything.
Last: It’s an entertainment expense.
No, not the obvious form of drugs and entertainment, even though a fair amount of us do toke and coke. Instead, let’s look at a recent study, reported in a Wall Street Journal article that shows your doctor is more likely to prescribe American-priced (“Ouch! My wallet!”) pharmaceuticals if the drug company buys them a cheap meal.
Shocking, I know!
It’s hard to believe that your doctor may be making decisions about your health based on his impressions of Merck or Pfizer’s Chicken Tetrazzini, but it’s true. You’d think that highly educated medical professionals would at least hold out for a little prime rib or surf & turf.
Now, I have nothing against drug companies other than:
- Prescriptions that cost fifteen cents elsewhere in the world can cost Americans one hundred dollars.
- The FDA always compares new drugs to a placebo (sugar pill), and nearly anything works better than sugar. [See: Mom’s chicken noodle soup]
- My favorite television shows are always interrupted by commercials—fair enough—but it seems every third one is telling me to ask my doctor for another pill.
Okay, on that last one, most of today’s television programming makes nausea medication essential.Still, I’m disturbed that my doctor, who used to learn his trade by making Grand Rounds at a teaching hospital and reading professional journals, is now making his decisions based on a drug company buying him a free Mediterranean Salad with Feta Vinaigrette. Although, admittedly, the vinaigrette is a healthy choice.
Maybe…possibly…could be, I’m just getting old. In our modern reality, a cheap meal, a promotional lecture, and possibly a discounted tee time is now likely equivalent to the old-school method of dedicated doctors teaching other dedicated doctors about the latest advances for compassionate care of their patients. If not, there’s probably a pill for that, too. When he’s finished his meal, I’ll ask my doctor.