I hate direct-to-consumer drug advertising. Watching TV, I often think to myself that maybe those two lovebirds should get into the same bathtub. Then they might not need medicine.

But, like it or not, the floodgates are open. The worst part is that patients want to prescribe their own treatments. This starts, I believe, with them actually thinking it would be cool to have some oddball condition they hear about in the commercial.

It used to be normal for somebody 90 years old to have arthritis. My grandmother just took an aspirin with a shot of bourbon. Now, everybody who has cable has arthritis because otherwise why would they feel tired and sore after taking the first walk they’ve taken since high school? And, almost everyone now has asthma. Surely the two packs of cigs every day for 20 years couldn’t cause shortness of breath. These people pay a lot for their insurance—they need drugs!

I’m not immune. I once saw this pill you could buy that makes your flabby belly tight as a drum. Hey, it had to work! You should have seen the people they interviewed—they transformed from John Candy to 50 Cent with one bottle of the stuff. I faithfully washed down a couple pills every day (with a nice, dark ale) and, that’s right, I gained four pounds. Hmm … Thinking back, maybe it was a suppository instead of a pill…

Now, of course, the contact lens companies are all over the place telling patients to ask their “eye care provider” (God forbid they should use the term “doctor” in the ad!) about their “free trial lens.” Have you ever charged a soul for a trial lens? Me neither. Oh, somewhere buried in the sub-J1 text at the bottom of the ad is a quick blurb about “excludes examination fees” or some such gunk, but patients who are blind enough to need new contacts and who want a “free” pair can’t see that. I literally have patients who literally show up at my literal front desk and ask for their literally “free trial pair” of the brand name du jour … literally, they do.

These semi-frequent, direct-to-consumer contact lens episodes give me nightmares and poor bladder control and ED—after I spend a half hour explaining to some poor innocent potential patient that the trials are always free here but that they’ll need an examination and contact lens fitting before the “free” lenses are provided.

Even though I’m a liberal arts-educated, almost world-class communicator, I have never, in the history of my office, gained ONE patient from the zillion-dollar advertising these contact lens companies roll out. I have an idea: Why don’t they just knock a couple bucks off what they charge private practitioners for their lenses? I think I get a better price buying multipacks retail online than the company wants to give me! At least they could use the word “doctor” in their ads. Even the ED drug makers do that! I never saw one ED ad that says anything about asking “your ‘Get Happy’ provider.” They simply say “doctor.”

So, patients have more access to health care information now than in any time in history. Google arthritis, you’ll get NSAIDs. Google bone loss, you’ll get Gidget. Google ED, you’ll get side-by-side bathtubs. Google contact lenses, you’ll get what you deserve. The patients know more about all that stuff than any “provider,” and they’ll be glad to bring it up with you, so you’d better start Googling proactively.

But, a word of advice: When you Google some drug or something and you learn that your rich cousin in Nigeria left you a million dollars (plus a month’s worth of blue pills), prepare for nightmares and wetting your pants—common side effects of this sort of thing.

I know because I saw it on TV.