Take A Pill

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Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.


First, a short test:

Do Americans eat more:
A: Pharmaceuticals
B: M&M’s
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.

Second: Predisposition
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.

Book Cover image


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.

Parting Funny: I belong to Bridegrooms Anonymous. Whenever I feel like getting married, they send over a lady in a housecoat and hair curlers to burn my toast for me.Dick Martin
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3 thoughts on “Take A Pill

  1. Balanced by: Whenever I think about getting married, Bride’s Anonymous sends over an unshaved guy with a fat gut and a comb-over, in his underwear, who thinks he is and smells appealing.

    And as for the topic, yes, it is easy to take a pill, a few pills, okay a lot of pills, rather than do some of the things which might help. Such as changing your diet, getting more exercise, or having picked different parents.

    I have had so much pain in my life already that I don’t negotiate with pain any more: I instantly cut it down to the dullest roar I can manage. This requires one prescription pain pill (same dose for over fifteen years), and occasional OTC medication which works for me, because otherwise said exercise can’t and doesn’t happen. Would you continue to do something you know will put your back into spasms for two days because ‘they’ say it keeps you from getting worse?

    For everything else, I avoid the pills if at all possible, and use anything and everything else I can think of before I resort to them, because pills are lazy if you could fix the problem by putting in a reasonable amount of effort.

    If you require me to be heroic, I have choice epithets for you: I will choose when to be heroic. And for many things, a pill can shorten the time to not requiring it; that’s fine, too.

    Pills don’t give you tools for improvement. They can’t.


  2. 146 billion M&M’s! That’s a lot of M&M’s. Saying that I probably eat about 20-30 thousand a year. There’s certainly a vested interest in keeping Americans popping pills forever. With the price of prescriptions no one people are travelling over the border to get what they need/want in Mexico.


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