MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Pharma Revolution Is Being Televised

Posted by M. C. on February 3, 2022

The twist in this fourth stage of the pharma revolution is that now unvaccinated persons have been cast as “the enemy,” with all that this implies, up to and including calls to restrict their movement and access to social spheres. Thus we find leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking unfacetiously, with no apparent irony, whether unvaccinated persons should be “tolerated.” 

by Laurie Calhoun

Marketing is essentially the art of persuading people to buy what they would not have bought, left to their own devices. This is achieved through manipulating either desires or perceptions of need. People who do not watch television are exposed to much less advertising of consumer products than are people who do. Similarly, the less time one spends surfing the internet, expressing either explicit or implicit interest in buying possible products, the fewer items there will likely be in one’s various shopping carts, not only because marketers now target people with ads catering to their preferences, but also because one will be exposed to fewer advertisements overall. Big corporations have enormous marketing budgets because advertising works: people often buy what they have been persuaded to believe that they should buy, choosing products with familiar names or whose alleged virtues have been extolled to them through one means or another.

The conspicuous consumption induced by mass market advertising campaigns may or may not be a vice, but it would be difficult to deny that people do not believe themselves to need a product which they do not know to exist. Correlatively, if they do not believe themselves to suffer from a particular disease, then they will not typically seek out a medical treatment for it. Before 1997, direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceutical products was prohibited in the United States, as it is still today throughout most of the world. The presumption against the direct promotion of drugs to patients themselves is grounded in the concern that untutored persons might be persuaded, purely on the basis of seductive advertisements, to pursue treatments of which they have no need.

Throughout history it has been regarded as the role of doctors to recommend possible courses of treatment to patients who require medical intervention. Modern pharmaceutical companies naturally vie for the attention of doctors, in the hopes that they will choose their products over those of competitors. Physicians are the primary readers of journals and magazines featuring articles relaying the results of clinical trials interwoven with advertisements summarizing the virtues of newly manufactured drugs, along with others still under patent. Since 1997, however, patients themselves have been targeted by drug ads as well, through not only television and radio broadcasts but also the internet. The marketing logic which governs new products in general governs pharmaceutical products in particular.

One must first be informed that a disease exists before attempting to ascertain whether one exhibits its symptoms and should undergo a course of palliative treatment. Healthy people do not usually spend their time fretting over diseases, and throughout most of the twentieth century, people who spent their days poring over medical encyclopedias in order to determine what possible ailments they might possibly suffer from were widely regarded as hypochondriacs, who used medical pretexts to seek out attention and treatment when in fact there was nothing physically wrong with them. Likewise, most parents do not pore over reference books to identify diseases ascribable to their ostensibly healthy children. When the FDA (under the influence of the pharmaceutical industry) lifted the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of medical products, everything changed, as patients began to request from their doctors pills which they had learned about through commercials specifically designed by marketing departments to maximize sales.

The medical interventions which a doctor is inclined to recommend have always been determined in part by reigning scientific beliefs regarding which diseases exist and can be eliminated or alleviated. Medical conditions, however, are partitioned and diseases delineated by conventions which transform over time. What were for many years deemed “pathologies” sometimes come to be recognized as lifestyle choices or even normal biological conditions. Homosexuality used to be considered an illness by the medical profession, but today that is no longer the case.

Conversely, moving one’s legs around in the middle of the night was not recognized fifty years ago as a mental disorder. Today, however, “Restless Legs Syndrome” (RLS) has an entry in the latest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A wide range of medications are said by their manufacturers to address this “ailment,” making it entirely possible for a person to conclude on the basis of a television commercial that he or she suffers from RLS and requires psychotropic medication.

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