An Insider's Perspective: Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry's Marketing Practices

By Johar, Kanika | Albany Law Review, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

An Insider's Perspective: Defense of the Pharmaceutical Industry's Marketing Practices


Johar, Kanika, Albany Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

A sharply dressed, attractive female walks into the waiting room of an office. All eyes turn and look at this young lady, who looks quite out of place amongst the throngs of elderly, young, and sick patients waiting long periods to see their doctor. This person, carrying meals, gifts, and free drugs, skips the line of patients waiting to be seen and walks right into the back, embracing a friendly handshake with the physician. The patients are all wondering how much longer they will now have to wait because a "'drug rep" has walked in just as their appointments are to begin. The patients eventually see their doctor, late because of the drug rep, and are wondering if they have been prescribed a drug that the rep was just promoting to their doctor. These same patients eventually go home and turn on the television in the evening to enjoy sports, the evening news, or a sitcom. The evening news may even be airing a special on the marketing tactics of "big pharma.'" Each commercial break is full of ads by drug companies promoting their products ...

It is no wonder that negative perceptions surround the pharmaceutical industry. (1) The woman described above represents a pharmaceutical company, and for many, is an image of what is wrong with today's healthcare industry. The perception that the pharmaceutical industry is market-driven (2) arguably conflicts with the hope that it is a research-driven, (3) lifesaving industry. (4) I would argue that it could be all three.

The right to affordable healthcare for all members of society is a burning topic--cheaper medications are at the forefront of the debate. (5) Although pharmaceuticals only make up about ten percent of all healthcare costs, (6) the pharmaceutical industry falls into the heart of the healthcare debates because of its conflicting role as a provider and profit maker. (7) The companies are providers of essential, yet expensive, medicines that are partially financed by high out-of-pocket costs, and such costs are justified by the industry as the expenses incurred in researching and developing the lifesaving and life-improving medicines of the future, (8) The high profits in the pharmaceutical industry certainly do not help the image. (9) Some believe that pharmaceutical companies have a social contract with society to provide cheap, lifesaving medicines and that the government should be regulating pricing. (10) Others believe that lifesaving medicines only come from innovation, which will be eradicated by heavy regulation of prices if the government were to get involved, thereby leaving companies with little incentive to invest towards research and development. (11)

This paper is a benefits analysis to the services provided by the pharmaceutical industry and aims to address and clarify a few of the many misperceptions about the industry. The pharmaceutical industry is often portrayed as having unethical business practices, and the industry fails to fall into a positive light--more often than not--becoming a target amongst the media, the general public, and politicians. (12) I would like to expose readers to the pharmaceutical world I knew in my former career as a pharmaceutical representative (13) and provide one viewpoint from the other side--the story that is often not told by those who are quick to blame pharmaceutical companies for the problems affecting the healthcare industry. (14)

More specifically, I plan on addressing the practices that are the most widely criticized by opponents: direct-to-consumer marketing, (15) physician-directed marketing, (16) and the so-called lack of regulations governing the pharmaceutical industry's practices. (17) Part II of this paper will begin the discussion by providing relevant background information in order to gain insight into the pharmaceutical industry's world. The background will cover the drug development process from Petri dish to pharmacy, the economic effect of the pharmaceutical industry, and what pharmaceutical marketing entails. …

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