Creating a market for your drug


Category : Medical Rants

Long time readers know that I have mixed feelings about the pharmaceutical industry. They certainly have brought us important drugs during my career, but they also can impair health care through their marketing and advertising. This article makes the point that once they have a new drug, they often work hard to create a market for that drug – even when it is not really needed! Drug firms ‘inventing diseases’

The report said: “Disease-mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.

It is exemplified mostly explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry-funded disease awareness campaigns – more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health.

The researchers called on doctors, patients and support groups to be aware of the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and for more research into the way in which conditions are presented.

They added: “The motives of health professionals and health advocacy groups may well be the welfare of patients, rather than any direct self-interested financial benefit, but we believe that too often marketers are able to crudely manipulate those motivations.

“Disentangling the different motivations of the different actors in disease-mongering will be a key step towards a better understanding of this phenomenon.”

But Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the research was centred on the US where the drugs industry had much more freedom to promote their products to the public.

“The way you can advertise is much more restricted in the UK so it is wrong to extrapolate it.

For those who want to read the source articles – A Collection of Articles on Disease Mongering in PLoS Medicine

These articles really support my extreme dislike of TV Direct to Consumer Advertising. One must ask how much harm these campaigns cause. We can guess how much money they cost the public.

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Comments (3)

I know what you mean. The true evil in the pharmaceuical industry lies not in vast conspiracies to supress cancer cures or to poison you with one drug to cure you with another, but with the marketing department. Their purpose is to make you feel that you might be ill and compel you to see your doctor. They know that if they stuff the funnel with newly-minted agenda-driven patients they will be rewared on the other end with some newly-minted green linen.

Great blog and great topic too.
The spurt of scientific articles on RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome)offer a case in point. My quick unscientific look at PubMed shows that almost half of all journal articles on this subject were published in the last 2 years, coincidentally around the same time GSK was getting approval for its “wonder” drug. So the problem is not only in the lay press & DTC advertising, but also in the selective funding of research by big pharma.

I think one of the worst aspects of marketing pharmaceuticals directly to patients is that patients might reject older medications that are equally effective in favor of what they see on TV. These drugs tend to be cheaper, too. The commercials for medications use the classic advertising techniques: the implication that if you take this drug, not only will you undergo a miraculous recovery, you will also look like the actors in the commercial: young-looking, slender, apparently wealthy. I wish!

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