Why some people don’t like the Pharma industry

An email with this subject line (above) just landed.

A must-open email you’ll probably agree.

In the email is a link to the Pharma Marketing Blog, a blog on, er, marketing in, you guessed it, the Pharmaceutical industry.

The blogger, John Mack, ran a story recently headlined: “”Pharmacia instrumental in creating new disease” says Former VP”.

Posting a presentation by an executive of Pharmacia, now owned by Pfizer, Mack points out that the speaker at an industry conference, back in 2002, outlined the strategies used to convert a “niche product into a Mass Marketing Opportunity.”.

This is basically hyping (at best!) a proposed (and/or existing) medical condition to sell more drugs.

In this case the drug in question was Detrol, designed to tackle overactive bladder “problems”.

Mack calls it “disease mongering”, concluding that, reviewing the evidence in this instance, “in any case, the bigger issue for me is how some pharma marketers take pride in “inventing a disease.””

Ethically right? No. Bad PR? Yes. While this example may be some years old, practices such as this continue to this day, unfortunately.

Clearly it’s not good for Big Pharma’s image when the press or activists pick up on such blatant cynicism in marketing. Old stories always come back to haunt large companies, as this example shows.

UPDATE: April 20 2009. Re-reading this, I ought to give credit to the industry for producing dozens, probably more of life saving drugs over the years! The point is not to be anti-pharma, more to point out that in ethical business reputations can be destroyed very quickly. But so can they change with big moves that show leadership.

For example GSK’s landmark recent moves deserve plaudits. We ran a cover story in our print edition on these recently, here, an editorial here, and a columnist took on the leadership angle, here.

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