To what extent are we being manipulated by a $5.4 billion industry?

Whether you now it or not, humans are open to suggestion, and are easily manipulated.  We don’t like to confess that, however, if you look at drug trends, you will see a sharp rise in sales after Direct To Consumer marketing of pharmaceuticals shows that after 1997.  I was surprised to learn that only the United States and New Zealand allow direct to consumer marketing.

Why is this a bad practice?

  • Drug manufacturers are enlisting suffering patients to sell the drug after seeing DTC advertising.
  • The ads are full of spin, misinformation and false claims
  • Inadequate, incorrect, or inconsistent labeling
  • Omission or minimization of side effects
  • Unsupported superiority claims

This practice relies on subliminal messaging and innuendo to sell the drugs.    It used to be the case that we would go to the doctor to find out what was wrong with us.  However, in this new information age, we are tempted to go to the doctor and tell him what is wrong with us, and what’s more, ask for the most recently touted drug offering that we remember from the ad campaigns.  This practice has changed the dynamics of health care.  No longer are doctors considered the experts on drugs and dieases.  Many doctors feel the pressure from their patients as they demand the most talked about drug therapies.  DTC advertising creates pressure on the doctors to give their patients drugs they may not need.  In fact, some medical schools now have ‘refusal skills’ training to help doctors with patients who self-diagnose.

Not all the DTC ads are selling name-brand drugs.  Some are called ‘unbranded ads’ which sell a disease to create a market for a drug.   For example, there was an ad campaign for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).   Martha Rosenberg, a nationally recognized reporter, investigated this disease.  She states:  “No doctor I’ve ever interviewed has treated someone with EPI, yet the ads imply that the condition is a major public health issue.”  As you could probably predict, after the ad campaign, a drug to treat EIP was released that cost $1000 per refill.    Now there is some truth in this advertising.  Your pancreas does make enzymes.    Because we eat the Standard American Diet (SAD), most people use up their store of enzymes in their 30’s.  Good health food stores sell pancreatic enzymes.  The big difference is that a month’s supply for organic enzymes is around $40 per month.   That is well shy of the Rx which is synthetic material at best.

Please do not be taken in by celebrity pitches.  These famous people are paid spokesmen for the drug companies.  Ms Rosenberg continues:  “DTC advertising is a cash cow for media outlets and drugmakers.  It is not likely to go away anytime soon…many people are now taking prescription drugs for diseases that they weren’t aware of before DTC advertising…..”

For more information on this subject , check out Martha Rosenberg’s articles and her FDA expose, “Born with a Junk Food Deficiency.”

Until next time,


Dr. Polly