Prescribing Profits: Big Pharma's Reign over America's Health
Prescribing Profits: Big Pharma's Reign Over America's Health
"The boundaries between academic medicine — medical schools, teaching hospitals, and their faculty — and the pharmaceutical industry have been dissolving since the 1980s, and the important differences between their missions are becoming blurred. Medical research, education, and clinical practice have suffered as a result"
—Marcia Angell, the Boston Review
For decades, Americans have willingly sacrificed thousands of dollars for prescription drugs to help them eat, sleep, focus, relax, lose weight, make friends, have sex, and pursue happiness. Our culture encourages us to look for "quick fixes" to our problems rather than getting to the core of the issue. In recent
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spent more money promoting the drug than PepsiCo spent promoting Pepsi. The excess of marketing was highly effective--by the time it was taken off the market, about 25 million Americans had already taken Vioxx. An important component of DTC advertising is marketing the health conditions themselves in addition to the drug that treats them. Drug companies have gone so far as to invent diseases by redefining the concept of sickness, such as altering the definition of "high" blood pressure, "high" cholesterol, or "poor" ability to focus. This often entails taking existing drugs and re-marketing them to treat a different condition, fabricated or not. This highly unethical advertising technique was showcased in 2000 with the release of Sarafem, a prescription drug created to treat a previously non-existent disease, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company famous for its antidepressant drug Prozac, announced the release of Sarafem about one year before their exclusive patent to sell Prozac was due to expire. In order to prevent the expired patent from dropping sales substantially, the company took Prozac, their blockbuster product which generates $2 billion in sales each year, raised the price thirteen cents per dose, turned it pink, and renamed it "Sarafem" to appeal to the female demographic. Most importantly, they obtained a new patent for Sarafem and assured women it was the only drug on the market