Licensed to Ill

There’s an angle of the debate over prescription drugs ads on television that you overlooked: not only do the drug companies seek to use the ads to convince healthy people that they are in fact suffering from serious diseases (and can only get relief from their product), but they simultaneously take advantage of the fear of illness and absolve people of responsibility for their behavior by telling prospective customers that their gas, bloating, and heartburn after an evening at the Tex-Mex buffet might be more than just the natural consequences of over-indulgence in chilies and tequila. If a particular food upsets your stomach, the logical thing to do is to not eat that food – instead, the drug companies encourage people to go ahead and eat it and then buy their pill to counteract the ill effects.

By adding that single line “Ask your doctor if is right for you”, these companies subtly hint that if your doctor says your symptoms don’t require their drug to cure them, then maybe you should find another doctor. We have been trained by the drug companies to believe that if we leave the doctor’s office without a prescription in hand, if the doctor recommends changes in lifestyle or diet instead of medication, that we have been cheated – we have paid good money for an office visit and gotten nothing in return.

We have also been conditioned to see anything that involves discomfort as an illness or a condition that requires remediation. Menstruation is not a disease – it is a normal part of being a healthy woman. Yes, it is sometimes uncomfortable, but it does not require therapy. Menopause is not a disease – again, it is a normal part of being a healthy woman. We stop menstruating because we stop ovulating because our bodies have gotten to a point in the aging process where having children would not be a good idea, so Mother Nature arranges for us not to be able to get pregnant any more. This is a good thing.

We need to realize that there is a certain amount of discomfort and inconvenience associated with being alive, and learn to deal with it instead of reaching for a bottle of pills for every little ache and pain.

Christina Normand

Brad Plumer’s article “Licensed to ill” couldn’t have been more dead on.

Slowly, people are beginning to realize the manipulative ways drug companies have, without providing magnificent results, remained some of the most profitable companies in the world. There must be more regulation in the way companies are allowed to advertise to consumers – and especially doctors.

Without disclosure of funding for studies and “expert” speakers, the objectivity of medical science is slowly eroding away. Thank you for mentioning the American Medical Student Association’s efforts to keep medical education “Pharm Free”. Hopefully, the next generation of doctors will be more educated on this issue and will make their prescription choices by evidence-based medicine not pharmaceutical marketing.

Yavar Moghimi

American Medical Student Association

Sinister Paradise

Having just returned from a three day “vacation” in Dubai, I can’t say the people were nice or friendly. That’s because I never saw them; I don’t think I came in contact with a single local the entire time we were there.

No doubt Dubai is clean, modern, and incredibly safe. But something is missing, and something is terribly wrong. In 40 years of travel to over 100 countries, I’ve never been anywhere like Dubai. But in some strange way, it’s still worth a visit.

James Furhman

No Safe Haven

I applaud your attention to the problem of violence against women, but I am surprised that your normally critical and progressive publication failed to take issue with any of the problems in the Violence Against Women Act. At the very least, continued funding should be contingent upon VAWA’s finally starting to give money to women’s prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence, namely self-defense.

Unfortunately, most of the VAWA dollars have funded efforts to make women’s post-abuse lives more tolerable and perpetrators’ lives more punishing. When, oh when, are we going to stop seeing and treating women exclusively as victims and understand them as also capable of fighting to thwart violence? Precisely because our society still tends to see women who kill their batterers in self-defense as murderers, we must insist that the Violence Against Women Act fund self-defense training efforts. Until society, including VAWA, embraces women’s right and ability to defend themselves, women will appear to be evil aggressors if they are not acting like helpless victims.

Your list of resources fails to mention of the many national self-defense organizations, such as The American Women’s Self-Defense Association (AWSDA); Women Defending Ourselves; Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE); the Women’s Self-Defense Alliance; the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF); and Impact, Prepare, or Model Mugging personal safety courses. These organizations could serve more women if they, too, benefited from some of our tax dollars.

Prof. Martha McCaughey

I appreciate your coverage of domestic violence. However, as usual with this matter, you have misrepresented the scope of domestic violence.

Let’s just get it all out in simple English:

1. Domestic violence is bad.

2. Domestic violence is committed by both men and women against men, women, and children.

From what I have read, the most common form of domestic violence is perpetrated by mothers against children. Do you feel domestic violence against children is less important than domestic violence against women? It seems to me you must.

I’m very liberal, a very strong supporter of all women’s issues, and by no means am I a misogynist. Nevertheless, I found your report to be horribly sexist against men.

My point is not to make men, or women, out to be the “bad guys”. Don’t just write an article bashing men. It’s sensationalist and it’s very lazy journalism.

Tim C. Smith

Home Sour Home

Randall Patterson writes in Mother Jones July/August 2005 issue about a Texas homebuyer whose newly constructed house turned out to be full of flaws. The homebuyer demanded that the construction company fix the problems, to no avail. She had to raise hell to get any attention. Most visibly, she would regularly appear in front of the builder’s new luxury condos with pictures of her rotting house, a basket of lemons, and a sign that read, “Beware! Tremont Homes sold me a lemon!”

While I sympathize with the homebuyer’s anguish, I must disagree with Patterson’s assertion that that speedy construction is one of the reasons for bad quality. This is a common fallacy and must be debunked. Building quickly does not automatically lead to bad quality. On the contrary, factory production expressly ensures consistently high quality. It is building on the site in rain and mud that leads to mistakes. A controlled environment in a dry, clean factory hall allows builders to focus on the piece at hand.

Some things about quality assurance are universal, whether you are building software or houses. If you cannot build and test in a controlled environment then the reliability of your results will suffer.

Antti Hietala

I have some suggestions for Ms. Fogal. Firstly, she may want to look into suing the developers for violating her civil rights. The last I heard, we still have a First Amendment, to which these egregious “gag orders” run directly counter. No sensible court would find that a person would voluntarily or knowingly pay $387,000 for the privilege of signing away their right to free speech. Maybe she could get some help from the ACLU.

Secondly, she could establish a Texas State Homeowners Association. The family home is the most important investment that most people ever make. The developers have lots of money and lawyers, but home owners have numbers; there are a lot more of them than there are developers. If they pool their resources and their votes, they stand a fighting chance of leveling the playing field. The way it stands now, everyone who buys a home is vulnerable.

Joan Lamberth