4 Creepy Ways Big Pharma Peddles its Drugs
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Of course, good product marketing includes public relations. When Pharma sells a disease with no mention of the drug it is really selling, it's called "unbranded" advertising. Since DTC advertising, Pharma has invaded public service announcements (PSAs) that TV and radio stations confer for free, pretending their take-a-drug messages serve the public good, like messages to change smoke detector batteries or put kids in car seats.
One such "educational" "awareness" campaign called " Depression Is Real" saturated the radio air waves in 2011, funded by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which was investigated by Congress for its Pharma funding from Wyeth, part of Pfizer, and other groups. The high-budget ads, running for free, compare depression to diabetes because it doesn't go away and to cancer because it can be fatal.
4. One Kind of Ad You Won't See Anymore
Animal research at drug companies and the National Institutes of Health is a great scientific iceberg of which people only see a tip. In drug development, millions of animals die to prove a drug's "safety." At academic and medical centers, animal study grants from NIH provide millions to researchers and labs.
As sentiment grows against animal experiments and the government's gigantic National Primate Research Centers (new rules will limit the use of chimpanzees), the research is downplayed and even hidden. But there was a time when Pharma actually flaunted animal research.
"More than a decade of animal research on various animal species has suggested that Librium (chlordiazepozxide HCI) exerts its principal effects on certain key areas of the limbic system," says an ad from the 1970s, showing three monkeys crouching and dangling in cages as assorted experiments are conducted.
An ad for the diet pill Pre-Sate is even worse. It says, "one of the most sophisticated comparative animal studies ever conducted demonstrates direct action on the satiety centers," and shows five photos of cats in experiments. One shows a life-size white cat looking at the camera with a chain around its neck and invasive instrumentation embedded in its skull.
Today's consumers, it seems, wouldn't tolerate ads like these. (Or the experiments behind them.) Why do they tolerate derisive ads about "dog women" and ploys to market pharmaceuticals to kids as if it were candy?
Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets. Martha Rosenberg's first book, Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published by Prometheus Books in April .