Alphabet abuse

Watch a few television commercials and feel your vocabulary shifting. Attractive people acting out slick scripts designed to show them living a good life. If only it weren’t for that pesky disease or embarrassing medical condition.

Perhaps it’s RA. It turns out I have RA, if I believe the commercial. That’s odd. I always thought it was rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve had it for years but never once called it RA. What about ED? Maybe that’s my problem. Embarrassing. Let’s hope that it isn’t Low T.

Not to worry. The warm, inviting commercial assures us that there’s a drug that fixes these things. Of course, we are cautioned, we should be careful. We should not take this medication if we have any of a long list of conditions, including being allergic to that medication. Say what? Some of these commercial warn that this medication can cause death. Why would anyone knowingly take such a drug?

Large pharmaceutical companies wield a lot of power in the United States, spending billions each year on advertising that tries to frighten consumers into worrying about their health and urging them to ask their doctors to prescribe the products being so aggressively marketed. And the campaign is effective. Americans spend a lot more for prescription drugs than any other nation. A lot.

We consumers aren’t the only target. The industry aims its marketing at doctors, researchers and medical schools. One of big pharma’s favorite tools is to pay physicians to lend their names to favorable articles about their products and try to get them published in respectable medical journals. One critic reckons that for every one dollar spent on basic research, big pharma spends $19 on advertising and promotion.

Too much is wrong with this picture, and it’s not only the abuse of the language. No one has my permission to try to glibly reduce the names of my medical conditions, or anyone else’s, to initials. I don’t accept that BS.

Today’s word: rain, rein or reign? Rain, as we know, is moisture that falls from the sky. Rein as a noun is a strap that controls a horse. As a verb rein means to check or guide an animal, person or activity. Reign means to hold office as a king or queen, or as a noun, the period one holds said office. These words all sound the same, but each is quite different from the other.

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