A perfect follow to our previous post comes from John Oliver, whose show on HBO is offering the most interesting public interest reporting happening in today’s mainstream media.
By covering important topics in some depth, interspersed by a genuinely funny sarcastic humor, vital information is presented in a memorable way — memorable in part because the presentation evokes a range of emotions, contrasted at intervals in a way that makes a stronger impression that either straight informational [pedantic] journalism or uninterrupted and nihilistic sarcasm.
Oliver is a direct descendant of the Mort Sahl of the 1960s, whose memorable routines consisted of opening up a newspaper, reading from an article, and reacting.
Mort Sahl was print, John Oliver’s multi-media.
As for Saul himself, he cited an earlier predecessor:
“Will Rogers…used to come out with a newspaper and pretend he was a yokel criticizing the intellectuals who ran the government. I come out with a newspaper and pretend I’m an intellectual making fun of the yokels running the government.”
In which case John Oliver’s the alien open up the digital media and making fun of the sociopaths running everything.
Which brings us to the topic at hand. . .
While the proliferation of prescription drug ads on television might leave you suspecting that consumers are the main target of Big Pharma avarice, consider that those same companies spend six times as much hustling physicians.
And they do it through a unique system of seduction, bribery, and outright fraud.
From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:
Marketing to Doctors
Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars marketing drugs to doctors.
We have a few issues with that.
We would add that way back when esnl first started reporting a half century back [9 November 1964, to be exact], Big Pharma could only market to doctors, and then only in restricted circulation trade publications like the Journal of the American Medical Association, to which mere mortals couldn’t subscribe.
It wasn’t until 1985, under the aegis of the Reagan administration [that font of so much evil] that average Americans fell prey to Big Pharma’s seductive wiles.
Oliver isn’t the only one to concerned about the physician/industrial complex.
From the August 2009 Bulletin of the World Health Organization:
Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs has been legal in the USA since 1985, but only really took off in 1997 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eased up on a rule obliging companies to offer a detailed list of side-effects in their infomercials (long format television commercials). Since then the industry has poured money into this form of promotion, spending just under US$5 billion last year alone. The only other country in the world that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads is New Zealand, a country of just over four million people.
Direct-to-consumer advertising informs patients potentially suffering from disease and raises their awareness of treatment options, according to Ken Johnson, senior vice president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an industry trade group. But critics of the practice, and there are many, have their doubts. “The truth is direct-to-consumer advertising is used to drive choice rather than inform it,” says Dr Dee Mangin, associate professor at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Christchurch, New Zealand, pointing out that the ‘driving’ is typically in the direction of expensive brand-name drugs. New Zealand consumers then go to their doctors and the pressure to prescribe begins. Surveys carried out in New Zealand and in the USA show that when a patient asks for a specific drug by name they receive it more often than not. “In an era of shared decision-making, it’s much more likely that general practitioners will just do what the patient asks,” says Mangin. It goes beyond that, of course, because doctors are also being enticed by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their drugs.
The net result is higher cost for the consumer or tax payer. It is the issue of costs that has put the issue of drug marketing and consumption firmly at the heart of the Obama administration’s current review of the USA’s health-care system. “Some of the more thoughtful people in the USA recognize that part of the reason they have a drug expenditure bill that is completely out of control is this kind of advertising,” says Suzanne Hill, a scientist working on rational drug use and drug access at the World Health Organization (WHO). Not so, says PhRMA’s Johnson in a statement in May this year: “[direct-to-consumer advertising] benefits the entire health-care system in the USA by encouraging patients to seek medical attention that may help them manage their conditions and avoid unneeded hospital stays or surgeries,” he says, arguing that fewer surgical interventions inevitably reduce costs.
Direct-to-consumer advertising is also blamed for encouraging so-called off-label uses of drugs; that is to say uses not approved by the FDA, the USA regulator. An example of this would be gels and fillers that had initially been approved by the FDA as dissolvable sutures that are being promoted as scalpel-free alternatives to cosmetic surgery. For Professor Alexander Capron, University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law, the use of direct-to-consumer advertising in the promotion of off-label uses has been if anything, “a more slippery slope”, than aggressive or misleading promotion.