Voices | Feb. 6-13

Reactions, rants and other random musings from you, our readers

Polling station
After looking at who the definitive candidates could be are we truly feeling OK with any them at this point in time?

The SHOUT Out

The long wait is finally over: Voting in the presidential primaries opened this week.

Your turn: Have you picked a candidate to back? Who do you think will win in November? Send your thoughts to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com

Praise for the real men

I just finished reading your from-the-editor piece, “Gregg’s kids” … Nice job with that, Kerith! 

You grew up in what was, way back when, my “suburbs.” I’m an original “North Philly Willie” from Fairhill. My brothers, our pals and I would walk over a mile north to climb trees, go swimming, or play touch football – on actual grass – in Hunting Park! 

We too had it tough as nails during the 1960s and 1970s, but certain teachers, scoutmasters and coaches did for us what Gregg Downer did with you. And we not only survived but thrived. Thank you for the “shout-out” you just gave to all the real men who formed us otherwise wayward youths into better human beings.

– George Shotzbarger, Esquire (Retired Assistant D.A.) | Philadelphia

Thank you for the “shout-out” you just gave to all the real men who formed us otherwise wayward youths into better human beings.

– George Shotzbarger, Esquire (Retired Assistant D.A.) | Philadelphia

You gotta own it 

Dear Editor:

I read Kerith Gabriel’s article on Kobe Bryant’s coach and I gotta say it takes a lot of balls to say you were a fuck up. I was a fuck up too, so mad respect to you my guy, but I don’t think you can blame it on being a black boy in a white world. Take ownership and realize that you were young and dumb but you figured your life out. 

I went to Murrell Dobbins High School back in the ‘80s and we got into a lot of fights and a lot of them I started, but now I’m here in my 50s with a good job, kids, grandkids and a wife I love. I didn’t think I’d have any of that when I was young, dumb and full of …you know. 

Take care of yourself and thanks for sharing your story. Love what y’all are doing with that paper too. I get it at my job and it really looks great. Keep up the work, young brotha.

– M.B. Wallace | Germantown

Millennials and their damn soda

Editor’s note: This letter has been edited for brevity and tone. 

Dear Editor:
The soda tax hurts the people who drink it and need their daily dose of future diabetic problems which will ensure much-needed medical help due to a very poor diet. Again the millennials and wage earners will be expected to pay for their lack of concern for their health. They do not shop at Whole Foods, Sprouts or other quality food stores including Acme and ShopRite, yet the shotgun-proof windows installed in the high-salt processed food emporiums in most “distressed areas” are always packed. 

Also a big shout out to [City Councilman] Kenyatta Johnson, his wonderful other half, Kenny Gamble and also his other half. They care not for soda drinkers but for the $80,000 a year the millennials make. It’s about money. The Puerto Rican, Indian, Asian and Mexican immigrants rely on strength in numbers, work, marriage, then they have children. 

Ironically, like the millennials they want their children to go to quality and safer schools like BOK. Mr. Hite is just being “politically correct” to protect himself and collect his pension. Research the problems that South Philly High School had with racial issues brought on by the children that the millennials and immigrants don’t want their children associating with. Kids from homes where grandma is getting older and dying and the future teenage moms are preparing for another child “born in the ghetto” Elvis.

Miss Sanchez knows her people and most Latins are hard workers and are economic assets to this city. Send like-minded children who want to learn and have someone at home who cares, feed quality healthy food at lunch! This is an uphill battle that I feel is a losing one. Every Sunday the news is filled with black-on-black crimes, family dysfunction and violence. The only true solution is birth control. Slow down and get fewer students and less pressure on teachers from the burbs, young Mary Poppins lookalikes who are young and still idealistic, while the young black teachers are in shock due to a patronizing system that allows low academic standards to continue due again to political sensitivity. They too saw the obstacles involved.

In this age of Trump, learning and knowledge are needed more than ever, for he is ignorance personified.

– Mark Polito | South Philadelphia

Drug ads vital to Americans’ health

Analysts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently scored Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing bill, H.R. 3.

The CBO estimates the bill would reduce revenue at America’s pharmaceutical companies between $0.5 trillion and $1 trillion over the next decade, dramatically reducing innovation and preventing the creation of important new medicines. 

Proponents of Pelosi’s plan appear unfazed. Many have used this news to contend that if drug companies simply scale back spending on television commercials and other direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, they would make up for losses imposed by Pelosi’s plan.

Such suggestions disregard the math and trivialize the importance of drug advertisements.

First, consider the math. Drug companies’ DTC advertising spend is on the low side compared to other industries.

The industry only spends about $6 billion annually on direct-to-consumer advertising to patients. That’s just 3.2 percent of the $187.5 billion in total U.S. revenue for the top 10 pharmaceutical manufacturers, and only a fraction of the up to $1 trillion in lost revenue over 10 years.

By contrast, companies in the consumer-packaged goods industry spend, on average, about 24 percent of revenue on marketing, tech software spends 15 percent, and banking and finance about 8 percent.

While drug companies underspend on DTC advertising compared to other industries, they overspend on research and development, about 21 percent of total revenue – more than any other industry. And it’s the revenue from the sale of those drugs that funds that R&D.

Next, consider the importance of DTC drug ads.

Commercials serve a vital public health purpose by raising awareness of medical conditions that many patients might not know about. 

Consider the famous drug ad for the insomnia medication Rozerem. In this spot, a haggard, sleepless man has a late-night chat with Abraham Lincoln, a talking beaver, and other fantastical figures. These characters are from his dreams – and in the commercial, they explain how they’ve missed him since he stopped sleeping. 

Nearly two out of three American adults suffer from sleep problems, and insomnia costs the economy billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. That commercial – which went viral before we had a term for it – helped raise awareness for a new, effective sleep treatment, which came with much lower addiction risks than existing products. That’s an enormous public health win.

Drug ads convey in a concise, compelling way how products may improve health. Indeed, one national survey found that drug advertising prompts about two in three viewers to take concrete action to better manage their health. 

Defenders of Pelosi’s bill want to lower drug prices and many think eliminating DTC advertising is a way to do that. But advertising is a way companies convey important information to consumers about products that may help them. 

The return on investment isn’t just to drug companies, it’s to people who act on that important medical information.

Merrill Matthews | Dallas, Texas