Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs

Article excerpt

Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs Melody Petersen. New York: Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008. 432 pages. $26.00.

Drugs save lives; they also kill. This, however, is of very little concern to pharmaceutical companies, which have as their primary goal not the palliation of pain nor the elimination of disease but rather the generation of money. Capitalism requires profits so that executives can be inequitably remunerated and stockholders lavishly rewarded. One of the many ways in which this is now accomplished is by creating a new disease and then presenting a superfluous cure. In the past, incontinence was an increasingly unpleasant concomitant of the aging process. But if the public could be convinced that it is in reality a medicinally curable ailment, then drug producers could earn more money. So they created overactive bladder!

The key to the pharmaceutical industry's astonishing success is marketing-to the public through advertising and to the medical establishment through various ploys. The end result is that doctors prescribe specific medications, which may have a beneficial effect, and the money rolls in. Naturally, these medicines are sometimes counterindicated and then the patient sickens or dies. The statistics here are truly horrifying: Even when patients follow doctors' instructions, prescription medicines kill about 270 Americans every day.

Within the context of information ethics, the worst thing that the drug industry does is to employ ghostwriting firms to create articles and editorials that misleadingly insist that a product is effective; the pieces are then signed by cooperating physicians. The extent of this prevarication can be measured by the fact that a single firm produced more than 500 manuscripts, and in 2004, ghostwriters earned 400 million dollars. …

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