Video: Understanding Big Pharma's Propaganda Machine (2016) by Ben Swann
Pharmaceutical advertising has inundated all forms of popular media including television, print, radio, internet, billboards and direct mailing, however this was not always the case. In the 2011 article, Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising (DCPA), on the National Institutes of Health website, we get a glimpse of what preceded the explosion of direct-to-consumer drug advertising:
During the 1980s, the political climate in the U.S. became more favorable to the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, a cultural shift occurred that caused patients to start actively participating in medical decision-making with their health care providers. In response to both of these changes, an increase in DTCPA occurred. In 1981, Merck ran the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) print advertisement for its new antipneumococcal vaccine, Pneumovax (pneumococcal vaccine polyvalent) in Reader's Digest.
The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars annually on direct-to-consumer advertising which is permitted only in the U.S. and three other countries according to Wikipedia. That it is permitted at all raises serious ethical concerns for many, including some healthcare professionals. Consumers who may never research a drug beyond the boundaries of an advertisement, are running to their doctors in record numbers asking for specific brand-name drugs to treat real or perceived health issues without possessing the necessary knowledge as to whether their drug of choice is even applicable, much less whether it's the best treatment available for the problem they may be experiencing. Compounding the problem is the fact that some doctors prescribe drugs based largely on the patients choice. From the 2014 article, Patient requests for specific drugs have major impact on prescribing, reports study, on the ScienceDaily website, we read:
Patient requests for specific medications — including requests for brand-name drugs spurred by direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising — have a substantial impact on doctors' prescribing decisions, suggests a study in the April issue of Medical Care. The journal ispublished by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.[…]
The findings add to concerns over the potential safety and economic impact of prescription drug requests driven by DTC advertising. The United States is one of only two countries that permit DTC advertising — familiar to television viewers as "Ask Your Doctor" ads — for prescription drugs.
The following is an excerpt from a 2006 article on National Institutes for Health website, A History of Drug Advertising: The Evolving Roles of Consumers and Consumer Protection:
The increased use of mass media advertising for prescription drugs has been controversial. Opponents of DTCA argue that it misleads consumers into taking costly prescription drugs that they do not need and that in seeking to sell products, pharmaceutical marketers turn normal human experiences with things like hair loss or shyness into diseases (Angell 2004, 123–26; Mintzes 2002).
Predictably, the sales of prescription drugs has skyrocketed as a result of direct-to-consumer advertising. Are drug ads the new form of healthcare education for consumers?
incentivize me baby!
Pediatricians have the potential to rake in a substantial amount of money through various vaccine incentive programs. From the 2016 Performance Recognition Program by Blue Cross Blue Shield we learn that doctors are paid $400 for each vaccinated child meeting the 'Combo 10' requirement, meaning that the child has received the following vaccinations: 4 DTaP, 3 IPV, 1 MMR, 1 VZV, 3 HiB, 3 Hepatitis B, 4 PCV, 1 HepA, 2 or 3 RV and 2 Influenza vaccinations. According to a 1999 study published on the National Institutes of Health website, Size and age-sex distribution of pediatric practice: a study from Pediatric Research in Office Settings, the average pediatrician has 1,546 patients which equates to potential earnings of $618,400 and this is only for the 'Combo 10' vaccine incentive program. According to a 2014 article, How Many Patients Should A Primary Care Physician Care For? in MedCity News, the actual number of patients a doctor has is much higher, often exceeding 2,500. In an example given in the Blue Cross Blue Shield incentives document, we see that 'Dr. A' earned a total of $7,000 in a single year for 10 of the BC/BS incentive programs in addition to the one for vaccinations.