Marketing and Medicines

In principle, one would imagine that the identity of the product would be determined by its manufacturer, but this had changed as marketing companies have now influenced the creation of products as well as the merchandising of them. Many pharmaceutical companies may be seen, in a sense, as captives of their advertising agencies which help the companies decide what products to create as well as how to sell them. Many pharmaceutical companies now spend more on marketing and advertising than they do on research on new medicines.

To see the impact that advertising industry has had upon the pharmaceutical industry, consider an article by Alexander Eichler in the Huff Post Business on Dec. 5, 2013 with the title “Pharmaceutical Companies Spent 19 Times More On Self-Promotion Than Basic Research.” Eichler writes:

Big Pharma might be working a lot harder to sell you products than to develop new ones. Prescription drug companies aren’t putting a lot of resources toward new, groundbreaking medication, according to a recent report in BMJ, a medical journal based in London.

“[P]pharmaceutical research and development turns out mostly minor variations on existing drugs. Sales from these drugs generate steady profits throughout the ups and downs of blockbusters coming off patents.”

It has been reported that for every dollar pharmaceutical companies spend on “basic research,” $19 goes toward promotion and marketing.

According to the website MinnPost, drug company revenues climbed more than $200 billion in the years between 1995 and 2010, while in recent years, more than one in five Americans aged fifty or more had to cut down on drug dosages or switch to cheaper generic drugs because the cost of medications is so high. Marketing agencies are now influencing the kind of research that pharmaceutical companies are doing, we must assume, for areas that would be most fruitful (profitable). This case study, of marketing and pharmaceutical companies, suggests that the role of marketing in society in not always salutary. Some would say it’s never salutary, or hardly ever so.

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