Blindly Follow Your Doctor's Advice, Says Nexium CommercialSigh.

I’ve written before about how important it is to become a competent consumer of prescription medication. Or of any medication, really. Even OTC cough & cold drugs are nothing to scoff at — they’re powerful medicines that can have powerful side effects.

It’s important to know what we put into our bodies, right? Of course. Of course it is.

Let me get this message out of the way before I start ranting: I believe it’s important to respect doctors — after all, they have years of education and experience in diagnosing and treating various ailments. They know plenty more about medicine than the average patient does.

But, as patients and consumers of medicine, we need to do our part. We need to play an active role in our own treatment. We can’t just close our eyes and let our doctors make the decisions that will affect our bodies.

It’s important to ask questions. Why did you diagnose me with this disorder? How do I meet the criteria? What diagnostic tests informed your decision? When will I be well again? Why did this problem develop? Is this medication necessary? What are my alternatives?


But according to Nexium’s latest ad campaign, we should simply step back and let our doctors decide what’s best for us — no questions asked:

If you can’t watch the video, here’s the key line that bothers me: “You wouldn’t want your doctor doing your job, so why are you doing his?”

The video opens with a doctor in a white coat using a jackhammer on a construction site and inadvertantly breaking a water main while he’s got a doofy-looking grin on his face. Then, the scene changes to a construction worker shopping for antacids in a pharmacy.

The first scene? It’s absurd. It’s designed that way. Doctors clearly don’t use jackhammers while on the job, and it’s this oddity that captures our attention.

The ad’s creators seem to be implying — by their clever juxtapositioning of the two opening scenes — that looking for an antacid in a pharmacy is about as silly as a general practitioner hammering away in the street and breaking water mains.

Clumsy doctor can’t jackhammer. Construction guy can’t treat his heartburn. Stick to your own job. That’s the message.

And then, the zinger at the end — a slightly re-worded version of the opening line: “Let your doctor do his job, and you do yours.”

Seriously?! What the hell? This is where I got angry.

No! No.


That’s not how medicine ought to work. We need to be active, not passive. We shouldn’t just step back and let our doctor do his or her job — like any other professional we hire, we need to hold doctors accountable. We need to take an active role in our own treatment!

No, Nexium. I’m not just going to sit back and let my doctor do his job and throw me a handful of purple pills. I’m going to drill the doctor. I’m going to ask questions. I’m going to make him explain his choice of medication.

I’m going to ask questions like the following:

  • Why can’t I take an OTC medication for my heartburn?
  • Is there a lifestyle change I can make before I opt for medication?
  • Can I change my eating habits?
  • How can you be sure this is heartburn?
  • What kind of side effects do people experience on Nexium?
  • How long will I need to take the medication?
  • Is there another prescription drug that might be better for me?
  • Have you researched Nexium outside of the material you’ve received from the drug company sales rep who visits your office?

It’s crucial to ask these sorts of questions. Let me tell you a quick story about my father. He’s 62 years old and has high blood pressure. (It’s well-controlled right now, thank goodness…but a few short years ago, it wasn’t.)

My dad went to his doctor complaining of allergies and a stuffy nose. My father was already taking Allegra, which helped with his runny nose, but didn’t really address the stuffiness. Having a constantly stuffy nose was bothersome to my father and made it difficult to breathe.

So, his doctor wrote him a script for 120 mg of 12-hour pseudoephedrine.


Ask any pharmacist. Pseudoephedrine and high blood pressure do not make good bedfellows. Pseudoephedrine can jack up your blood pressure — and thank goodness I happened to know this fact due to my frequent label-reading. My dad told me that he’d be taking his script to CVS later in the day, but I stopped him. I told him that high BP doesn’t mesh well with that type of decongestant.

“But my doctor prescribed it to me!” my dad explained. “Doc wouldn’t give me something that wasn’t good for me.”

Sorry, Dad — but that’s not necessarily true.

I sat down with my dad and we called CVS on speakerphone. I asked to speak with the pharmacist.

“Hi, I have a question about Sudafed,” I began. “My dad has high blood pressure. Can he take pseudoephedrine for his allergies?”

The resounding answer from the pharmacist?

“No. He shouldn’t be taking that. He needs to avoid decongestants like pseudoephedrine because they could raise his blood pressure.”

I thanked him, hung up the phone, and looked at my father while biting my lip and resisting the “I told you so!” approach.

Now, I think my father is a little more inclined to ask questions and do research before accepting a particular medication.

And you should be, too. Don’t be passive.

And don’t buy into the type of blind medical consumerism that AstraZeneca, the makers or Nexium, are advocating.

Your health is too important.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Rennett Stowe