What ails us?

Pfizer, Inc.

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It does not take much to notice the huge deluge of pharmaceutical related commercials. You can't watch any televised sporting event without receiving a pitch for some cholesterol medication or incontinence treatment. Was it always this way? Of course not..

Bill Moyers Journal provided clarity to this particular issue in a recent segment with guest panelist Melody Petersen. The premise of the discussion was that large pharmaceutical companies have an invested billions in marketing drugs to the American people. Often times the drugs are earmarked for ailments that do not yet exist. Anyone with a critical mind was suggest that this sort of behavior is criminal, but these drug companies typically escape judgment due to their very powerful lobbyist. When I reviewed the movie Sicko in an earlier post, I remarked about the pharm lobbyists which have always had the attention of politicians of various Congressional committee chairs.

You really don't need many historical references to understand the value of manipulation.
The phenomenon called Direct-to-Consumer advertising is art form that has been perfected by drug companies. I suppose one could argue that the tobacco and fast-food industries learned and deployed this strategy decades prior to the pharmaceutical industries. However, the difference is quite remarkable. The tobacco industry no longer does any marketing due to numerous health issues attributed to cigarette smoking and other tobacco products. More specifically clinical studies have directly linked lung and throat cancer to cigarette smoking. Huge litigation and bad press ultimately forced the tobacco industry to remove ads targeting children and young adults (see Marlboro Man). Fast food companies have also been put on notice. The FDA now requires McDonald's, Burger King and others to post the caloric intake of all fast-foods served to public. The film Super-Size Me is a very sobering reminder of the gullible nature of children and adults. People will by and consume almost anything when it is marketed directly to them. This is why the blitzkrieg marketing approach of pharmaceuticals is so effectively dangerous. For instance, nail fungus and male enhancement medicines are particularly interesting cases. Drug companies created an animated character/monster which it used to entice or captivate the interest of young viewers. The male enhancement commercials used affable characters from the '60's to describe the value of an energized male with enlarged genitalia. Penile dysfunction is a brisk business these days. No wonder spammers have a field day with this subject matter. The consumer buying potential is immense and if the marketing campaigns go unchecked, the profit margins will continue to be quite significant. Over the counter drugs are not really as profitable as the prescription meds.
The prescription meds are the focal points of the large pharm giants (ie Pfizer, Merck, etc),as consumer are more likely to ask their doctors about the use of the various meds. This is particularly true now that the so-called "Baby Boomer" population has reached retirement age.

As discussed earlier, the drug lobbyists are extremely influential.

With their hoards of cash, the companies have readily handed money to patient groups, hospitals, universities, medical schools, physician societies, government agencies, and just about any organization they want on their side. [...] The industry's cash-filled coffers have given it a stranglehold on medical science.

According to Petersen, the rewards have been large. America has become the top consumer of prescription drugs in the world, with nearly 65% of the population on physician-prescribed medication. In 2005, Americans spent $250 billion dollars on such drugs. This consumption made pharmaceuticals the most profitable business sector in America from 1995-2002.

So, what is a consumer to do? With this aggressive marketing campaign one might think that they cannot withstand the onslaught from large pharm companies. One obvious solution would be to simply ignore the ads by using a PVR which skips ads (ie mythTV). The other alternative is simply use your critical mind to mitigate wasteful spending on these miracle drugs. If you have aging relatives, arm them with information. Discourage them from purchasing anything that is advertised on television. You can mitigate the FUD, by sharing truthful and timely information. Once people, are educated they are not easily scared or fearful.

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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on January 2, 2010 7:05 AM.

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