The article by Joanne Law ["Does Everyone Need a Pill?", July 9] was just wonderful, and very long overdue. My comments are based on 46 years of practice in internal medicine. I am now happily retired.
The practice of pharmaceutical companies flooding the television screens with ads promoting prescription drugs is reprehensible. Their claim that these ads only serve an educational purpose is sheer nonsense. They really only serve the ends of these firms -- to have the public pressure their physicians about the latest TV-featured drug.
A side effect of these commercials is to create the fear of an illness where none may exist.
I believe it is long overdue for the FDA to stop this nefarious practice. From the viewpoint of the pharmaceutical giants, treating restless legs is more important, and far more lucrative, than such problems as malaria, drug-resistant pathogens and affordable drugs for indigent people and nations.
SIDNEY REIFF, M.D. F.A.C.P.
I was thoroughly upset with the article. The argument against drug manufacturers' direct-to-consumer advertising was acceptable. However, there was no need to jab the pharmaceutical representatives who call on physicians' offices: "and I have questions about that pharmaceutical rep with the short skirt and cheerleader smile."
When did a smile constitute bad business practice? Doctors face a barrage of complaints and illness throughout their day, and the last thing they need is another scowling face walking in the door.
Furthermore, unless in Scotland, I have yet to see a man wear a skirt. To generalize that all pharmaceutical representatives are women is downright sexist and uneducated.
My skirts (when I choose to deviate from my typical pant suit) fall at the knee and are tastefully paired with a conservative top and jacket. Didn't women's lib allow us to wear skirts in the workplace without being misconceived as sexually suggestive?
It is obvious that my occupation leads to bias. However, I believe that it is important to set the record straight. We are not as glamorous nor as deviant as authors like Joanne Law represent. Yes, I am blond, slim and tall, but I also graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in biology from Loyola Marymount University. I do not wear short, suggestive skirts, and when I smile I do so because I am a nice person.
I would like to respond to Joanne Law as to why she hasn't heard about IBS until lately. The main reason is she doesn't have IBS, nor does anyone in her circle of family and friends.
Conversation in general doesn't often bring up bowels or bowel problems. And she didn't run across any of us who have it, because we were generally stuck at home, unable to leave, because even though we'd been to doctor after doctor and tried every possible remedy we heard about, nothing worked until Lotronex came on the market.
Those tiny blue pills gave us our lives back, for a few months. Then the very pill that gave us our freedom to be normal was taken off the market. That's when we started talking about our bowels, Ms. Law. We talked and talked and wrote and wrote to everyone and anyone.
Believe it, irritable bowel syndrome is real and we're still talking about it because even though Lotronex is available again, it only helps, not cures, those of us with IBS-D.
Joanne Law is lucky -- she apparently does not have IBS, so she can mock it, like so much of the world does. I suggest she do her research before she concludes that Big Pharma invented IBS. As a member of the IBS Patient Action Group, I can suggest any number of patients and physicians she can interview. I can even refer her to my testimony before the FDA about what it's like to live with IBS.
While I'm not a pill-popper myself, it's OK by me if a pill helps someone feel better. We've all got different tolerance levels for what ails us.
I was also taken aback by the author's depiction of pharmaceutical sales reps. My sister is a rep for Merck and she works hard to keep abreast of the industry so that she can provide accurate information to the doctors she calls on. She's 57 and is definitely not wearing a short skirt into the doctor's office -- she's dressed professionally in a business suit and has dressed professionally for the 25 years that she has been a rep.