Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC
The premium on the physician’s integrity
YOU must have heard these closing lines or taglines from the advertisements of a generic drug company. “Magrereseta ba si dok ng masama sa ‘yo?” (Will the doctor prescribe something bad for you?). “Ang payo ng daddy kong doktor, piliin lagi ang makabubuti.” (The advice of my doctor dad, choose always that which is good for you.)
These are marketing pitches which are frequently aired on tri-media by a company offering generics drugs. The first ad essentially exalts the physician for his noble task of adhering to the correct and appropriate prescriptions. It propounds on the view via a question that a physician will never willingly harm anyone with his prescription. The second line is a popular opener delivered by newscaster Vicky Morales (well known in the Cardiology community as the daughter of cardiologist and past president of Philippine Heart Association, Dr. Dante Morales).
These lines have something in common. They are both solidly anchored on and profoundly profess the credibility and the integrity of the physician.
To be fair, in Morales’ ad campaign, there is no direct attribution that the cardiologist father actually endorses the products of the drug company. There is nothing that indicates that the cardiologist himself swears by the safety and efficacy of the company’s products. The statement is very ingeniously phrased so that the wisdom of the father’s advice on life in general prefaced the daughter’s actual endorsement of the drug company’s products.
But one wonders how much of this very clever sentence sequencing and construction is lost on the ordinary consumer and the general public. The precise placement of such a general non-endorsement as an opening phrase to precede the actual endorsement can hardly be discerned by anyone – least of all the less than astute observer, reader or listener who happens to be the ordinary drugstore consumer.
This marketing language makes use of ordinary or commonplace statements. But when delivered to drive home the message of an advertisement, they cease to become just plain utterances. In fact, when one hears them as an ordinary buyer and listener, they strongly support the invitation to purchase a company’s generic drugs. They are not mere verbal embellishments but instead are strategically crafted campaigns that can only come with deep thinking and planning.
The campaign pegs the marketing advertisement on the credibility, respectability and stature of the Filipino medical professional (or any physician for that matter) whose pronouncements and choices are generally viewed as well-intentioned, morally founded, benefit-guided, even cost-appropriate. They harness the community’s respect and high regard for the Filipino physician. Such statements put a basic stamp and seal on the premier status that the Filipino physician enjoys – as a trustworthy healthcare professional.
Sadly, sometimes, this prestige and esteem bestowed on the medical professional is not recognized, or worse, even ignored or trampled upon by the very professional who is supposed to protect it. There must be wisdom prohibiting physicians from directly promoting or endorsing a health supplement, cosmetic product or surgical procedure with dubious therapeutic claims which are purely based on isolated testimonies and random anecdotes. One can only lament how some physicians openly market and even sell drugs or substances with doubtful clinical or therapeutic value.
These advertisements should remind and enjoin the medical community to continue to protect and preserve the name and honor of the medical profession. Such ads utilize and capitalize on the good name and credible status of the physician. There are very few sectors in Philippine society that still manage to claim such integrity and credibility. Can we ever imagine an advertisement asking – “Will your Congressman do anything that will be bad for you?” Some might immediately counter that the better question will be – “Will your congressman do anything good for you?”
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Vital Signs Issue 87 Vol. 4, May 1-31 2016