the grass is greener on the internet

Treating the misinformation disease
May 4, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , ,

Did you know about the dangers of herpes? Did you know that there are now new treatments available?

Well, we can’t tell you what they are, but we CAN make you extremely worried that you might have a horrible life-debilitating STI and then throw you a lifeline: a small non-embarrassing consultation with a nicely authoritative website called

Ah, but wait. Did you blink? You might have missed this:

Yes, that’s right – big pharma’s got you.

They’re smart people. And since they can’t directly advertise prescription drugs to the mass market, they’ve had to implement a two-step process to get you…

  1. Advertising about medical problems to make you concerned about them, and giving you all the keywords to direct you to their product (either in the ad or on the website).
  2. This will coincide with a round of all the GPs telling them about their latest products and showering them with stationery. Then when you come in for an appointment, spouting off all the right keywords and symptoms, there’s a high chance you’ll end up with the ‘right’ drug.

I think this is great for the government…to an extent. I mean, why spend millions of dollars of taxpayers money to educate the public about diseases when you already have a sector of society that’s filthy rich and has an interest in doing so (and doing it well)?

Not the most reliable method for pharmas – it would be incredibly easy to work off a competitor’s campaign if you had similar products.

Also not great for the public interest if the drug isn’t supported by PBS, or doesn’t have a general application.

The point of the legislation is that the choice of treatment should be made by the patient on recommendation by their GP – not the other way around. So on the one hand, it IS an insidious way of tilting that balance. On the other hand, if it makes people better informed about  their conditions, is it altogether a bad thing?


3 Comments so far
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I don’t think its correct to define ‘big pharma’ as “a sector of society” I always like to be clear on the dividing line between ‘society’ and ‘big-business’, I don’t see many positives in their influence on the medical profession, but its probably innevitable. ~ But related to this issue see: Clay Shirky’s recent Twitter post:

Comment by Simon

Thanks for the link, a bit of a jolt to see how they actually approach it. I guess there are positives and negatives either way…I know a few doctors who wouldn’t eat lunch if they didn’t have pharma reps visiting with food! I found it an interesting quirk that the regulation does have this informative effect, utilising the pharmas for some common good in pursuit of their own.

imho, it could be a sector of society…apart from the companies themselves, stakeholders include investors and potential beneficiaries. NGOs, for example, need drugs to be profitable and successful in the developed world before they can talk about getting pharmas to supply to developing nations, either for sale or in expired surplus…

Comment by katherineliew

My father is a Doctor, I grew up fascinated by the marketing materials of drug companies. The more detailed and more elaborate the prop the better in my mind. My favourite was a perfect replica of a human hand mounted on brass pedestal, and you could open it up and take part all the layers, from skin to veins and arteries to bone to have the ultimate Phama-message locked into your brain.

Every week or two my Dad would filter the crap out and give us the latest cute Pharma-propaganda prop. However, I knew my father was totally immune to this con, he may have tried different drug treatments on his patients, but their efficacy was his ultimate measure.

Ultimately, my angle is that corruptors corrupt the corruptible and the lazy… being immune to this BS is about individual character and personal ethics, and seeing these macro forces clearly. Big-Pharma does not deserve the status as a ‘sector of society’ they are sector of industry.

Words and ideas are powerful… use them carefully, and maintain as much clarity as you can.

Comment by Simon

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