The Placebo, the Panacea?

The powerful pharmaceutical industry, in their general euphoric state of being, seem to be spreading its tentacles deeper the American economy, deeper into the American psyche, deeper into a state of being. These multifaceted, multidimensional tentacles extend the reach of the marketers, researchers, manufactures and lobbyist to the horizon point, which cements a monopolistic position, a way of life.

Surprising? Not really, but the natural state of being“medicated”, if you will.

James Phelps, described by some as the pharmaceutical industry mascot, to others as an insignificant pawn and yet still some declare he simply an objective representative acknowledged and charged himself guilty, as a self confessed disease monger. The context of this confession is in reference to being part of the current national conspiracy against consumers which synchronously exposes the harsh reality of this phenomenon.

What is disease-mongering? Simply ” the corporate sponsored creation or exaggeration of disease for the purpose of selling more drugs”. Create demand, supply the solution in the form of a little white (or yellow, or blue, or pink or….) pill.

By promoting “disease-awareness” campaigns our trust-worthy drug manufacturers have since changed the public perception of what is normal, what is dis-ease. Suddenly, mild conditions are now a serious illness, worthy of it’s own medication. Billboards, tv, magazines invade insidiously the public subconscious and saturate consciousness with an infinite number of barbaric names that will blossom in the American medicine cabinet across the mighty landscape of the land of the free.

Suddenly, a benign condition has ferociously launched into, “If you have…” suddenly carry a FRIGHTENING dimension. “You may be at RISK for…” a curable DISEASE, obviously! They create fears about conditions to draw the attention to the latest treatment!

“Welcome to the safe and secure-land of Lipitor, Lotomex, Aurorix, Strattera, Zoloft, Atacand or Plaxil…(among others)” reassure the soothing words of the protagonist, riding on to the scene on a hero’s white horse, ready to save the day and defeat the evil doer antagonist (your unsettling, uncomfortableness, your symptoms, your DISEASE)! Pharmaceuticals to the rescue! The day is saved! (insert sound of blowing trumpets here)

happy pill Happy pill “I want you…” says the drug manufacturer pointing his finger to the healthy people “…to grab a prescription and be defined as ill. Pick your disease! Restless Leg Syndrome, Social Anxiety Disorder, Attention-Deficit Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Erectile Dysfunction , Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia…the list goes on and on! The new frontier is the American psyche, unchartered waters, borderless possibilities. The American public is the new frontier for all pharmaceutical companies, a market of untapped possibilties. And once a new disease and new drugs saturate that market segment, they just create new markets, new diseases and new cures creating new loyalty, new dividends. Exhilarating!

Now we can see the cogs in motion, a marketing strategy that exclusively aims at nothing more than magnifying sales. Profitable business, indeed. What is at stake? Let’s take a look at the numbers. (Enjoy the ride!)

In 2002, drug companies had 35.9 billion dollars in profit according to Fortune magazines’ annual analysis. Two pharmaceuticals recorded top revenues and profits. With 19.1 billion dollars, Pfizer accumulated the greatest amount of revenue in the drug pharmaceutical sector. Its best drugs were Lipitor (cholesterol), Zoloft (antidepressant) and Zyrtec (allergy). Is it a coincidence? Doesn’t it explain objectively, their strong will to invest in “disease-mongering”?

Wyeth registered 4.4 billion dollars, Effexor (antidepressant) gained the public favors with 2.7 billion dollars in sales, almost 50% of Wyeths’ revenues! Now let’s decompose concretely the revenue, for every dollar of revenue 17 cents is granted to the company’s wallet, the return of assets represents 14.1% (compared with Fortune, the average is 2.3%) and the “return on shareholder equity” is the second highest sector! The cash cow!

In our attempt to understand their objective and approach, a focus on where their investments are dedicated to seems to be relevant! To our surprise the revenues dedicated to R & D (research and development) amounts 14%, profits 17% and marketing and administration, apparently their priority, 30.8%! Let’s not mention 91.4 million on lobbying activities! To be clear, pharmaceutical companies invest in marketing new disease! With new diseases, new markets meaning new drugs! They develop new drugs that require less investment in R & D given that this department is the costliest and the riskiest! Our drug companies found the magic formula, the alchemy! To make money, invent diseases that don’t need to finance the research!

2006 was a good year (harvest wise) since Pfizer proudly shared with us an increase by 2.7 billion dollars that is to say a 73% increase compared with 2005. At the same time, in the first six months of the year 2006, the pharmaceutical industry profits increased by over 8 billion dollars!

We are certain you must be exhausted from reading these numbers, but don’t grab for that pill just yet. There is a point to all of this. As you know, jungle [8] is a conscious brand development agency, concerned with issues surround marketing practices, design issues advertising campaigns, brand experience. You are thinking, there must be a connection there somewhere, right? But it’s not what you think. You see, we noticed a trend in our blog sats. One of our posts from March, 2007 entitled French Ad Campaign – Love and Creepy Crawlies… continuously gets the highest hits and we wondered why. It never occurred to us that the title “creepy crawlies” is a term that has been usurped by the marketers of the the new disease RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome. It never occurred to us that thousands of people would be searching for this symptom which has become part of the American consciousness. It never occurred to us that people were not finding the blog entry we posted in March the true destination for these information seekers, that really the monster in the machine is a new symptom that must find relief.

So all of you out there that landed upon this blog posting in search of your Panacea for your CREEPY CRAWLIES, we ask you to ask yourselves “are simply feeling the dis-ease of the marketers words?” Before becoming the future hypochondriacs inquire indeed but please put a brake on credulity! For magic diseases, choose the magic pill, the placebo!

1 comment for “The Placebo, the Panacea?

  1. July 3, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Ilianie – Nice rant! Great blog. At the outset, let me say I do a lot of work with big pharma. What you say is true. But its also true of almost every other client we work with as well. Profit focused. Pressure to sell. We expect more from people working with health but we’re disappointed when we realize they’re just a bunch of cold-hearted suits like everyone else. From Pfizer to P&G to Pizza Hut – they all answer to the same stock market. I remind them of this every chance I get. It’s a shame because for every scandal there are some pharma companies doing some amazing things for humanity. As for their marketing budgets, they never seem that big when you’re on the receiving end:) Rant on! – Sean

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