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It was a surgeon, Susan Love, who first exposed a drug industry secret when she was widely quoted as saying, “Marketing a disease is the best way to market a drug.”

Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, became one of the first diseases thrust upon the U.S. public as part of a marketing scheme. As described by John Abramson, the drug manufacturer Wyeth-Ayerst hired a public relations firm to stimulate public concern in 1985 about osteoporosis so the company could offer its estrogen therapy drug, Premarin, as an antidote. Sales of Premarin had been lagging before this campaign began, but the public relations effect of stirring up fears increased sales of the drug by 40 percent the first year.

Since then drug advertising has been designed to evoke emotional responses in viewers and readers. We are seeing this trend in the marketing of drugs for type 2 diabetes, for attention deficit disorder, and for erectile dysfunction. Even more recent is the “female sexual dysfunction” campaign promoting the hormone testosterone and Viagra for women, which prompted a rebuke of Pfizer and other drug companies by the British Medical Journal for “a corporate-sponsored creation of a disease.

The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald, pg. 144-45.

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