Warning: Common side effects of watching pharmaceutical advertisements when you do not live in the United States may include gratitude and nausea.
Although there were plenty of bombshell revelations during Oprah Winfrey’s CBS interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Sunday night, there was one aspect of the highly anticipated television event that perplexed many non-Americans — the commonality and casual nature of drug ads.
One Twitter user even compiled a thread of many British people’s reactions to the commercials that aired during the interview on Monday, and it quickly went viral.
Brits who were featured in @AyeshaASiddiqi’s viral thread — and other non-Americans who sounded off on Twitter — called the American ads “surreal” and said they made them feel like they were in “some post-apocalyptic world.”
The fact that Americans are indifferent to these ads while Brits view them as “Saturday Night Live” parodies come to life makes sense.
Aside from New Zealand, the United States is the only country that legally permits drug companies to market directly to consumers. Pharmaceutical ads first became legal in 1985, but the drug commercials of today — which typically feature people frolicking through fields while an endless list of side effects are ticked off as quickly as possible — began in 1997, according to a deep dive by Thrillist.
Health care systems in the U.K. and the U.S. are vastly different as well. In the United Kingdom, the majority of health care is provided by the publicly funded National Health Service and is free. In the United States, however, most Americans gain access to health care through their individual employers. Yet, even if they are covered, many remain vulnerable to massive costs and debt.
This is also not the first time that British people’s utter perplexity towards America’s uneven health care system has gone viral. In December 2019, the news website JOE asked people in the U.K. to guess how much they could be charged for certain procedures or medical devices in America if they did not have insurance — and their responses were bleak.
“Man, so if you’re poor, you’re dead,” one woman said after being told how much money she would have to hand over for an inhaler.