Why You Should Be Wary of Prescription Drug Ads on TV

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iStock

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration permitted prescription drug companies to start publicizing their products directly to consumers in television advertisements. Compelled by the persuasive spots, patients petitioned their physicians for drugs to alleviate mood disorders, cardiovascular issues, and various other chronic conditions. But two studies released this year both came to a sobering conclusion about this direct-to-consumer approach: While advertising is persuasive by nature, drug spots may actually be misleading.

In a report published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers at Yale University looked at 97 drug ads that aired on television in 2015 and the first half of 2016. Most were targeted to people with arthritis, diabetes, and other ailments that require continuous care. None of them offered objective information about the potential risks of the drugs; the focus was instead on relative improvement in quality of life. In 13 percent of the ads, the drug companies suggested that various diabetes medications could be used off-label to reduce weight or lower blood pressure, a violation of FDA policy.

The spots also emphasized positive results of clinical trials. These efficacy statements dominated the narrative, with statements like “most people using [the drug] saw 75 percent clearer skin,” or “my doctor said [the drug] helps my bones get stronger.” The Yale study concluded that these and similar claims were potentially misleading and difficult to analyze objectively.

Another recent study published in the Annals of Family Medicine [PDF] examined the abundance of lifestyle depictions in the spots. Rather than dwell on risk factors, the 61 ads that researchers analyzed were predominantly made up of footage that made a direct connection between using the drug and an improved quality of life. Many of the ads were addressing conditions (like diabetes and depression) that might benefit from therapies other than medication. Roughly 59 percent of ads depicted a person losing control of their life as a result of their condition, while almost 69 percent suggested the advertised drugs enabled a more active and healthy lifestyle.

The FDA is responsible for making sure companies don't mislead consumers, but critics charge that the agency is not doing its part. It doesn't review prescription drug ads in advance, nor does it restrict ad spending. “Everyone on the ads appears healthy, happy, dancing, and they get better,” internist Andy Lazris, M.D. told Health News Review. “So people are led to believe a) the drug will be effective (which is often not the case), and b) that they should replace their old therapy with the newer one because it’s better (again, which is often not the case)."

“And if they give you any numbers at all, they’re almost always the deceptive relative numbers that look really good, not the more realistic absolute numbers," Lazris added. "So the benefits are over-exaggerated, the harms are downplayed or missed, and that’s how patients can get hurt.”

Because the spots are so short—usually 30 to 60 seconds—it’s difficult to communicate the risk-to-benefit ratio clearly. Even when ads go into a laundry list of side effects, it can become white noise compared to the happy, smiling faces appearing onscreen. (Soon, the FDA might even allow companies to shorten that list, based on its own study that found fewer mentioned side effects allow consumers to retain more information about the drug’s risks.)

The one part of the spots most critics agree is accurate? When they urge viewers to talk to their doctor. Weighing the risks and benefits of prescription medication outside of the fictional and persuasive images of drug spots is the only way to be sure a product is right for you.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

10 Items Under $25 That Will Keep You Warm This Winter

KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon
KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon

If you're someone who finds the freezing temperatures of winter unbearable, even the shortest stints outside can seem like pure torture. But you don't need to spend the next few months dreading every moment you're in your drafty office or outdoors. We looked through Amazon and found plenty of products, ranging from heated scarves to insulated coffee mugs, that will keep you warm without breaking the bank. Check out some of our favorite finds for under $25.

1. Refillable Zippo Hand Warmers; $20

A refillable zippo hand warmer
Zippo/Amazon

There is a long list of unpleasantries that comes along with winter, and being unable to keep your hands warm is definitely near the top of that list. But thankfully, there are these refillable, flameless Zippo hand warmers, which can last for up to 12 hours. All you need to do is remove the burner, add the lighter fluid (which is available on Amazon for $10), place the burner back on, apply a flame, and enjoy the comfort of having warm hands again.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Heated Scarf; $18

A heated scarf
PerfectPrime/Amazon

We have heated gloves, hand warmers, and even heated socks. But what about when your neck gets cold? Enter PerfectPrime’s electric scarf, which comes with two heaters that allow you to swap between low or high heat. All you need to do is hook one of the heaters up to the included USB cord; place both in the inset of the scarf; attach the cord to the power pack, which sits in a small pouch; and enjoy the added warmth. (The power pack isn't included but you can pick one up on Amazon for $27). And when it comes time, the heaters can be removed and the scarf can be thrown in the washer for an easy clean.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mug Warmer; $23

Mug warmer
Vobaga/Amazon

It's hard to stay warm in your home or office when that perfect cup of coffee you just poured yourself goes cold after just a few minutes on your desk. This mug warmer can help prevent that by keeping your drink nice and hot, even if you're away from it for over an hour. Simply hit the “tempering” button to choose your ideal temperature of 104℉, 131℉, or 149℉, and rest your mug on top. And if your distractions take you away for too long, there’s no need to worry as the warmer will shut off after four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

4. USB Hand warmers; $20

hand warmers
Eaterhom/Amazon

If you work in a cold office, forcing yourself to type with freezing hands can seem nearly impossible. But now, you can ensure your hands stay nice and toasty with these super adorable toast hand warmers. Fingerless and with adjustable wrist straps, these plush gloves are one size fits all and perfectly whimsical. All you need to do is slip them on, hook them up to the USB drive on your computer, and enjoy the extra dexterity.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Viking Horns and Beard Beanie; $19

A viking hat
Kafeimali/Amazon

If you're going to be out in the cold, this hand-knit Acrylic beanie, complete with Viking horns and beard, is perfect for bringing a little levity to the bitterness outside. Not only will this winter accessory be a great conversation starter, but the beard and cap will ensure your face and head stay plenty warm. If you aren’t quite feeling the beard—though we really have no idea why you wouldn’t—it’s removable. You can find this beanie in brown, black, and two shades of gray.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Heated mouse; $23

A heated mouse from ValueRays at Amazon.
ValueRays/Amazon

If you don't want to completely cover your hands while working in a chilly office, this heated mouse may be your best bet. It plugs right into your computer through a USB cord and will heat up to 99°F-120°F, allowing you to choose the right level of warmth while avoiding the inevitable sweaty palms that come with wearing gloves indoors. Just remember, this is a mouse designed for work or school—basically anything more casual. If you’re looking to keep warm while doing more precise work (like design work or gaming), check out this heated mouse pad for $33.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Yeti Insulated Mug; $25

An insulated coffee mug from Yeti.
Yeti/Amazon

Pouring yourself a warm drink is the easy part—it’s keeping it warm that gets tricky. And no one wants to rush through their hot coffee or tea just so it doesn’t cool down too fast (think about your poor tongue!). With this insulated mug from Yeti, you can keep your drink warmer for longer, allowing you to sip at your own speed. Yeti is a company known for durability, so this 14-ounce mug is perfect whether you're taking it to the office or on a long hike or camping trip. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hogwarts Scarf; $20

A Hogwarts Harry Potter scarf from Cinereplicas.
Cinereplicas/Amazon

This officially licensed Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf from Cinereplicas is about as authentic to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as you’ll get without an owl delivering you an acceptance letter. The scarf is so faithful to the color scheme from the films that it even uses the same Pantone shades as seen on the screen. The comfy knit feel will keep you warm in the winter, and the movie-accurate design will help it double as part of a costume come Halloween time. For a few dollars more, you can buy scarves based on Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. These Incredibly Warm Socks; $13

Vintage socks from KEAZA sold on Amazon.
KEAZA/Amazon

If you’re working from home—or just taking part in some world-class hygge—you need these incredibly cozy, incredibly versatile socks. You can wear them to sleep on a cold night, keep them on all day like slippers, or wear them with shoes during those early-morning commutes as the thermometers plummet. Best of all, while they’re warm, they’re not suffocating. They’re soft, with enough breathability to prevent your feet from overheating.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Touchscreen gloves; $7-$12

Touchscreen gloves from Amazon.
Achiou/Amazon

Not even the bitter cold should keep you from your Instagram scrolling, and with these touchscreen gloves, you can keep your digits warm without having to sacrifice your social media time. These gloves were made specifically with phones and other gadgets in mind, so while they’re ready to keep you comfortable in winter weather, the material allows you to use your device without worrying that your fingers won’t register on the screen. Plus, the silicone on the gloves will help prevent your phone from slipping from your grip.

Buy it: Amazon

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Scam Alert: A FedEx Tracking Notification Text Wants to Steal Your Credit Card Number

interstid/iStock via Getty Images
interstid/iStock via Getty Images

Thanks to moment-by-moment tracking software offered by delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office, consumers can keep tabs on their packages before they're even delivered. We’ve grown so accustomed to getting notification texts that it might be easy to let a bogus one slip by.

According to How-To Geek, that could prove to be an expensive mistake. The site is reporting that a scam currently making the rounds involves a fraudulent text notification of an impending FedEx package. The message is prompting recipients to “set delivery preferences” for the delivery. When smartphone users click on the link in the message, they’re directed to what looks like an Amazon satisfaction survey. After completing the survey, users are offered a free gift and then asked to remit their credit card information to pay $6.99 for shipping. This also triggers a monthly subscription charge of $98.95.

Due to the deluge of solicitations for customer surveys prompted by businesses, this is a clever bit of misdirection. Needless to say, it’s also not a legitimate offer. Amazon is unlikely to ever route you to a new URL for a “free gift.” If you’re unsure whether you have a package on the way, it’s a good idea to navigate directly to the FedEx or shipper website to check. It’s also best to block the incoming number to opt out of any future texts offering to separate you from your money.

[h/t How-To Geek]

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