By Dr. Mercola
Mood swings, weight gain, joint pain, tummy problems―you name the ailment, there's a pill for it. And you, the American consumer, are helping Big Pharma sell it. Don't believe it? Well, it's happening right before your eyes, and believe it or not, the United States is one of only two countries in the world that allows this to happen.
A "Disgusting, Dishonorable" Way to Create Sales … Legal in Only Two Countries
What I'm talking about is direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, that barrage of ads you see on TV and in magazines and newspapers, or on the radio and Internet. They're ads telling you to run right out and ask your doctor if this or that pill would be right for you.
Some drug companies have even taken to advertising highly specialized medical devices, like heart stents.
It's a marketing bonanza that's turned America into a medicated mass of people who've been brain-washed into thinking that taking pills will make everything better―even for ailments you might not have. But it's a brilliant move for Big Pharma, who has now turned the consumer into their very own sales rep, and a persuasive one at that. Not only is there a correlation between the amount of money drug companies spend on DTC advertising and the brand of drug patients request from their physicians, but the data shows DTC advertising rapidly converts people into patients.
As mentioned in our featured article:
"It's a disgusting, dishonorable way to generate sales--but it works. In 2008, the House Commerce Committee found that every $1,000 spent on drug ads produces 24 new patients,1 and a 2003 research report found that prescription rates for drugs promoted with DTC ads were nearly seven times greater than those without such promos.2 Ethics aside, these consumer hustles have proven to be profit bonanzas."
As you might suspect, the use of DTC ads has grown rapidly since it was first approved in the U.S. in 1997. At that time, the ads could only be run along with lengthy consumer information warning of risks and side effects, so few companies used them. In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revised the rule so that rather than providing a full disclosure, companies only needed to meet an "adequate standard" when it came to describing risks to consumers. For those who are wondering, the only other country that has legalized DTC advertising is New Zealand (which did so in 1981).
As noted in the featured article:
"Such squishy words (slipped into regulations by industry lobbyists) are a corporate dream. Thanks to the adequacy loophole, fluffy-puffy, no-worries prescription drug ads quickly mushroomed. In 1997, spending on DTC ads was only $220 million; by 2002, it was $2.8 billion; and it has kept a steady pace of roughly $3 billion a year ever since."
Do Drug Ads on TV Really Impact Consumers?
If they didn't, the drug companies would have abandoned them long ago. They keep close tabs on what works and what doesn't when it comes to their advertising dollars (an amount that's roughly double what's spent on research and development). But if you're looking for more concrete data, the FDA conducted two consumer surveys of U.S. adults, asking them questions measuring the influence of DTC advertising on their attitudes toward prescription drugs, health-related behavior, and on aspects of the doctor-patient relationship.
The preliminary results were as follows:3
- Among respondents who had seen a doctor with the past three months and remembered seeing an ad for a prescription drug, approximately 40-50 percent said that an advertisement for a prescription drug had caused them to seek more information, for example, about the drug and their health.
- More than a quarter (27 percent) of survey respondents in the first survey and 18 percent in the second survey who had seen a doctor in the last three months said that an ad for a prescription drug had caused them to ask a doctor about a medical condition or illness that they had not talked to a doctor about before.
- Approximately 7 percent of respondents said they visited their doctor because of something they read or saw, or because of an ad for a prescription drug.
- Forty-two percent of respondents agreed strongly or somewhat agreed that DTC ads make it seem as though the drug will work for everyone.
Unfortunately, when a patient goes in to a doctor's appointment with a prescription solution already in mind, doctors often feel pressured to oblige. An FDA survey of 500 U.S. physicians revealed:4
- About 75 percent believed that DTC ads caused patients to think the drug works better than it did, and many physicians felt some pressure to prescribe something when patients mentioned DTC ads.
- Only 40 percent of physicians believed that patients understood well the possible risks and negative effects of an advertised drug from the DTC ad alone.
- Eight percent of physicians felt very pressured and 20 percent felt somewhat pressured to prescribe the specific brand name drug when the patient asked the physician to do so.
This can have devastating consequences for consumers, who have bought the industry's racket hook, line and sinker, then walk away with a drug they never needed, or which carries unacceptably high risks.
Take Vioxx, for example―Merck's failed drug that caused 140,000 cardiac events, including more than 60,000 deaths, before it was pulled from the market. Merck admits that Vioxx was never intended for the general public. Yet Merck advertised it to the general public. People saw the ads and started demanding it from their doctors, and Merck sold 20 million prescriptions. Far too many people needlessly died before Merck pulled both the ads and the drug.
Vioxx became a blockbuster drug, primarily through the use of aggressive DTC advertising. And as a result, tens of thousands of unsuspecting people died or suffered heart attacks that would never have used the drug had they not been lured in by the glossy advertisements.
But Merck isn't alone in this; direct-to-consumer marketing is a general practice by almost every drug company in America. The problem is that, like Vioxx, some of the drugs being advertised are not what they appear, meaning if you see it advertised, the old axiom, caveat emptor―let the buyer beware―is something to remember. This is to be expected when you consider the source, because pharmaceutical companies lead the pack when it comes to corporate crime.
Do You Really Want to Trust Your Health to Convicted Corporate Criminals?
Drug companies are master marketers, yes, but you've got to look beyond the empty promises of health and happiness that they tack on to just about every prescription and pill. Make no mistake – the leading pharmaceutical companies are also among the largest corporate criminals in the world, and they are little more than white-collar drug dealers.
Fraud, kickbacks, price-setting, bribery and illegal sales activities are all par for the course for big-name drug companies.
Two years ago, I set out to investigate some of the criminal activities that some of the largest pharmaceutical companies had been convicted of lately, and the amount of gross misconduct, fraud and deceit I found was so insidious, so massive, and so overwhelming that it shocked even me. In all, no less than 19 drug companies made AllBusiness.com's Top 100 Corporate Criminals List for the 1990s! You can read the grim details in full here, but here's a sampling of what the top drug companies are up to:
- Merck: With a long list of deaths to its credit and more than $5.5 billion in judgments and fines levied against it, it was five years before Merck made its $30-billion recall of the painkiller Vioxx that I had been warning my readers might be a real killer for some people.
After the drug was withdrawn, and 60,000 had already died, Merck picked up the pieces by getting a new drug fast-tracked and on the market. That drug, which you've probably seen numerous DTC ads for, is Gardasil, a vaccine that so far has been linked to thousands of adverse events, and at least 26 unexplained deaths in just ONE YEAR. It's a situation that the FDA and CDC have repeatedly denied, keeping their heads buried in the sand as adverse reports continue to mount.
Meanwhile, over 90 percent of women infected with HPV clear the infection naturally within two years, at which point cervical cells go back to normal. Even more importantly, PAP smears can identify cervical changes, thereby preventing cervical cancer deaths far more effectively than the HPV vaccine ever will, because there's a sufficient amount of time to find and treat any cervical abnormalities if you're getting regular PAP smears.
Alas, as the HPV vaccine is gaining favor, health officials are beginning to argue against the routine use of PAP smears, despite the fact that no one has ever died from this test, while the HPV vaccine is now harming thousands each year.
- Baxter: Dozens of recalls of products that caused deaths and injuries, at least 11 different guilty pleas to fraud and illegal sales activity, more than 200 lawsuits – many of them stemming from selling AIDS-tainted blood to hemophiliacs – and more than $1.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties.
- Pfizer: In the largest health care fraud settlement in history, Pfizer was ordered to pay $2.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations that the company illegally promoted uses of four of its drugs, including the painkiller Bextra, the antipsychotic Geodon, the antibiotic Zyvox, and the anti-epileptic Lyrica.
Optimal Health Does Not Come in Pill Form
On average, if you take one prescription drug you'll be exposed to 70 potential side effects. Some of the more commonly prescribed drugs average around 100 side effects each -- and some drugs even carry over 500! Despite this, many people and their physicians use drugs as the go-to treatment, even in cases where dietary changes, exercise and safer natural options like stress reduction and supplements exist.
There's no doubt that the United States has been manipulated into becoming a "polypharmacy nation." The word 'polypharmacy' simply means "many drugs," but refers to instances where an individual is taking too many drugs -- either because more drugs are prescribed than are clinically indicated, or when the sheer number of pills simply becomes a burden for the patient.
The problem is, top-selling drugs have nothing to do with preventive health care! The vast majority of them are sold to you based on their ability to lower or reduce isolated symptoms coming from an underlying imbalance in your body.
When you follow the conventional path it is far more likely you will have more symptoms, and the more symptoms the more drugs you need. Then there will be symptoms from the drugs themselves, for which you then may seek out even more drugs...
That's what the drug companies have been selling Americans for the better part of two centuries, starting with the "patent medicines" formulations from yesteryear. It seems to me that the drug companies have now taken patent medicines to their ultimate pinnacle: a pill for every symptom needed every day.
Is this not a phenomenal business model?
The only thing they need to keep raking in their billions in profits is an endless supply of symptoms, which precludes allowing you to regain your optimal health, because that would drive you out of their customer base. An optimally healthy American does NOT fit in their business model. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you and your family can "opt out" of the pharmaceutical industry's current "sick care" model and truly begin to Take Control of Your Health.