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Heroes

Doctors have an idea that could save a ton of money: No more drug ads.

It'll take an act of Congress to ban the practice, but the AMA is on board.

Have you ever thought about how weird it is that drug companies can advertise something you can't even buy without a prescription?

I always thought the process was supposed to be: feel sick, go to the doctor, explain my symptoms, get diagnosed by a professional, and if needed, get a prescription for a drug based on what's wrong with you.

But no, these commercials always end with the same refrain: "Ask your doctor if [our product] is right for you."


That can't be how it's supposed to work, right?

"I saw an ad that told me I should ask you if this medication is right for me, Dr. Stockphotoman." Image via iStock.

The American Medical Association announced it also thinks there's something weird about those ads.

"Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," AMA board chair-elect Patrice Harris said in November. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

And while the amount of money these companies spend marketing and selling their products to doctors is also a big concern, this is a pretty big deal, too.

There are only two countries in the world that allow drug manufacturers to advertise prescription drugs direct to consumers: the United States and New Zealand. And after this announcement, the AMA hopes that number drops by half.

Drug manufacturers spend $4.5 billion on advertising to consumers each year, up 30% from just two years ago.

And $1.1 billion of that ad money in 2014 was spent by a single company, Pfizer, in promoting drugs like Lyrica, Viagara, Celebrex, and Chantix.

In addition to being a really poor way of storing medication, this just can't be sanitary. Buy a wallet, please. Image via iStock.

A strong majority of the public believes prescription pricing is a top health care issue.

An October report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of those polled viewed "Making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions are affordable to those who need them" as a top health care priority. The next most pressing issue, supported by 63% of individuals was urging the government to take action to lower prescription drug prices.

"Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

And that's what the AMA's resolution hopes to address: the skyrocketing cost of drugs.

"In the past few years, prices on generic and brand-name prescription drugs have steadily risen and experienced a 4.7% spike in 2015, according to the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending," reads AMA's press release.

"I take a couple uppers. I down a couple downers But nothing compares to these blue and yellow purple pills." Image via iStock.

But if companies don't advertise, how will people know what to ask for? By trusting our doctors.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is not in favor of AMA's resolution.

A representative tells Bloomberg, "Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners."

And that sort of makes sense, right? But that's kind of the problem. The reason we go into doctors' offices is to have our symptoms diagnosed and treated. When we go in with a diagnosis already in mind (and with a brand name treatment to go with it), we're effectively sidestepping the whole point of having doctors.

I want to live in the world where I go to the doctor, not wait for an ad to tell me about a solution for a problem I didn't know I had. I want to live in a world where I can trust my doctor, not rely on self-diagnosis through marketing dollars. The whole thing is a distraction.

Doing research-y things. Image via iStock.

Unfortunately, the AMA's decision doesn't actually change ... well ... anything. That's up to Congress.

And Congress has forces pushing on all sides of this issue. The most common force? Cold hard cash. That's capitalism for you.

In 2014, the AMA, which represents around 235,000 doctors and medical students, spent $19.7 million lobbying Congress. On the other side of this, PhRMA spent $16.6 million on lobbying in 2014.

A medical technical assistant studies the influenza virus in 2009. Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images.

For better care, we need to get rid of the distraction advertising plays in the process of getting diagnosed.

You can start by contacting your member of Congress and asking about their position on the AMA's recent resolution.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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