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    With internet and TV ads, hypochondriacs are having a field day
    • July 3, 2023

    By Shaun Tumpane

    Laguna Woods Globe columnist

    I admit, I don’t understand hypochondriacs. One of my friend’s ex-wives was a hypochondriac. He can’t remember which one. Maybe that’s why she’s his ex.

    Anyway, in a less complicated time, when all us self-aware bipeds weren’t bombarded with information from smartphones, smart TVs, TV watches (remember when we all thought how preposterous Dick Tracy’s talking watch was?) and laptops, hypochondriacs were at the mercy and whim of their family doctors, who had to a) determine whether the patient did in fact have a medical problem, and if not, b) decide how to counsel the patient about the dangers of “crying wolf.”

    In those days, the physician was the sole oracle of medicinal remedies, the expert replete with knowledge of all new concoctions, incantations and ointments to soothe and solve any and all maladies. Doctors had it made, with no one other than Hippocratic colleagues to challenge a diagnosis or prescription. Little wonder some acquired a god complex.

    Fast forward to the present day. Hypochondriacs rejoice! A perfect storm of your federal government’s acquiescence to the pharmaceutical lobby’s request to be allowed to advertise prescription drugs and global instantaneous data availability via digital Shell Answer Men on the World Wide Web.

    There’s no shortage of electronic know-it-alls to be a hypochondriac’s co-dependence co-pilot; Web MD, Medicine Plus, Medscape, Healthline, Medicine Net, Everyday Health, Epocrates and RxList are all sources for medical information. These websites can also be unwitting accomplices as hypochondriacs unleash an avalanche of queries to their doctors about the latest drugs to hit the market to cure all sorts of ailments, real and imagined.

    But allowing pharmaceutical companies to advertise their potions, with the disclaimer “contact your doctor to see if Incontinence-Be-Gone is right for you” seems a dereliction of duty.

    I have come up with an interesting, if unscientific, method of determining whether I should consult my doctor about a drug I saw advertised: If the required recitation of the possible side effects takes up more time than championing the efficacy of the medication, forget it.

    One drug advertised listed among possible side effects both diarrhea and constipation. That one’s a head scratcher.

    And while I believe that the requirement to list all known possible side effects makes sense, a more enlightened approach might have been to not allow drugs to be hawked in the electronic public square foisted upon the easily manipulated masses. And remember, sometimes hypochondriacs are actually ill. Take two aspirins and …

    Shaun Tumpane is a Laguna Woods Village resident.

    ​ Orange County Register