Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Prarmaceutical Marketing Fallacies

Recently, Cephalon got fined close to a half billion dollars for improper promotion of thier potentially dangerous narcotic medication. This is now added to the several settlements by phamaceutical companies for fracturing federal law. There are hundreds of such lawsuits pending right now, so it's safe to say that criminal activity is common with some if not many pharmaceutical companies. This, of course, poses a potential danger to patients and atrophies the health care system.

Amazingly, with the pharmaceutical industry, the amount spent by them on marketing is far greater than the amount spent on research and innovation, as it approaches 30 billion annually spent on their marketing efforts, so from a financial perspective, this presently takes priority over the research and development, so it seems. This may be considered by many to be a concerning issue, with the exception of the pharmaceutical industry itself, that apparently places great value on this activity.

Yet what may be of most concern is the possible absence of honesty related to the tactics of marketing departments within a pharmaceutical company. These tactics can be deceptive and express themselves in various forms. As a result, the public and medical profession are possibly being lied to by those in the pharmaceutical industry. This happens perhaps due to the fact that marketing departments do not choose to consider the possible harm they may cause by lacking ethics in the development of marketing strategies to promote thier companie's medications.

Marketing in some form exists with every business, regardless of the industry of the business and its purpose. Essentially, marketing in itself is a complex activity- consisting of many specialty elements of various areas and levels, typically of an aggressive nature if revenue predictions are not being met. However, with the pharmaceutical industry, marketing needs to become more specialized and complex due to the delicate nature of patient health and well-being.

This likely would eliminate the possibility of causing harm to patients, and would provide the public what they deserve from the pharmaceutical industry, which is honesty and ethics related to thier medications. Tactics presently activated by pharma marketing departments ignore such caution and consideration. Recently, the marketing tactics of the pharmacetuical industry have come to light to a certin degree, which has caused the public to be more aware of the true intent presently of drug companies.

There have been several settlements paid by pharmaceutical companies for such federal offenses as off-label marketing, which can be very dangerous, and kickbacks to prescribers, among other offenses.

Of course, this marketing issue is in direct conflict of what drug PR firms may try and tell the public about the objectives of the pharma idustry.

Such unwise and irresponsible methods perfomed by the drug industry and thier marketing departments may include:

1. Advertising directly to the consumer. This method of bypassing what should entirely be decided by the heath care provider, as disregarding the determining factor of the heath care provider can possibly lead to inappropriate prescribing of certain advertised meds due to the demands of an unqualified patient who believed the content of such an advertisement that suggests that they are a candidate for a particular drug involved in the advertisement.

Furthermore, it potentially removes the discretion of the provider regarding the best treatment for the patient through such frequent methods of marketing to potential consumers of medications that may not be needed by them. Assessment of a patient by a health care provider is required and necessary, most believe, in order to determine the best treatment for a patient, as well as the doctor's need to consider a patient's medical history, as well as other variables necessary to consider the best course of the patient’s treatment. Ignoring this premise could be damaging to the patient seeking treatment through this strategy implemented by marketing departments of drug companies.

2. Clinical evidence is the ultimate determining factor for pharmaceutical consideration for a patient, as it determines the best treatment regimen of a particular disease state, and this evidence should be utilized by the provider entirely absent of any marketing techniques implemented by a drug maker, which may include embellishments of the drugs promoted by thier makers. Selection of a drug by a doctor for a patient should include true benefits available to them regarding the patient's health, taking into consideration the efficacy and safety of a particular medication.

What should not be included is selecting treatment for a patient's medicinal therapy is choosing a drug for them based on a perception of such a drug based possibly on embellishments and trickery, which has occured often and with intent by drug companies. Profits over image, so it seems, with this pharmaceutical industry, and thier image and reputation have clearly been better viewed in the past, yet now the public's view of his industry is one of disappointment due to such aspects as what has been described.

3. People take issue with the use of celebrities who are paid greatly by some drug companies, possibly to attempt to expand or create a certain medical condition, so the celebrity will discuss a certain disease state determined by who paid such a celebrity. Many examples of this occurring have been noted by others, and can lead to both inappropriate prescribing and over-prescribing of these meds so often promoted to consumers.

This may be appropriate if one is attempting to sell a car, but health care is more of an important topic of concern when considering this tactic. Attempting to have people seek meds due to celebrity endorsements is not appropriate for health care quality. Many consider this marketing tactic a form of deception.

4. Education not only trough sponsored doctors of the drug company, but also statements from various medical groups sponsored as well by the industry for purposes of endorsement have been considered inappropriate for the welfare of public health through awareness techniques such as these methods initiated by marketing departments, which also includes drug company sponsored CME creations for doctors.

This is because there is no thorough clinical evaluation that is necessarily for the best treatment of patients seeking care or concern of their health, but instead is the paradigm of one biased company instead. In addition, the sponsoring of various associations related to disease conditions by this industry can be considered a conflict of interest as well. The introduction of ethics would correct such fallacies as well as others mentioned in this article so far, perhaps, because it appears the pharmaceutical company is clearly misguided, as determined by others.

5. The over-saturation of drug company sales reps who in the past have initiated questionable tactics upon the ultimate direction of their marketing department of their drug company employer, regardless of the validity or legality of such tactics that are normally not questioned by the drug reps in the first place. Such forms of manipulation include various forms of inducements health care providers with the hope of eventual reciprocity from a provider who may accept such an inducemet. This type of activity employed by drug reps is allowed, yet many medical establishments and clinics are progressively prohibiting the activity or presence of drug reps at their locations for reasons such as this.

With the pharmaceutical company, sales reps are required by their employers to follow the direction of their marketing departments without exception. And the questioning of these directives is not tolerated by their employers. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry is becoming viewed as one possessed by greed and profit. So coercing a drug companie's sales force to implement what many consider bribes and kicbacks further aggravates the relationship between the drug company and the medical community as well as the public, it appears.

In the past, the pharmaceutical industry was viewed as being research-driven, innovative, and patient focused. And the efforts of this industry appeared at one time to be performed entirely for the benefit of patient heath. Clearly, this is not the case today. Instead, many view this industry as one with their primary goal is to initiate market-driven profiteering, regardless of the attempts of the industry to convince the public otherwise, as stated previously by their supporters.

So the view by the public of drug companies has been damaging to this industry that perhaps should take this perception of them with more concern and improtance. So to sumarize, the pharma industry seems to be in great need of repair and re-evaluation of their function, which is presently void of thier historical nobility.

This refocus, if it were to happen, should be performed by authentic and bonafide actions of the drug companies instead of what appear to be empty statements by the industry lately, so it seems. The repair can only be done by the pharmceutical industry if they demonstrate efforts entirely based on the restoration of the health of others. An example would be for the pharma industry to voice to the medical community that their products are solely for the benefit of the patients, which is rarely discussed in full detail with members of the health care system they are suppose to serve. Fortunately, medications developed by drug companies have historically been for this reason and are often necessary for the restoration or benefit of the health.

In summary, the medicines now available to us are for the benefit of the patients, and not to have profit motives be the primary objective of the pharmaceutical industry, and this includes health care providers and thier efforts as well. One suggestion is for drug companies to seek out others to join thier organization with awareness of what has been discussed, instead of seeking what may be venture capitalists in opposition of what the pharmaceutical industry should be about, and that is an important aspect of our health care system that needs strength and direction from past treatment of this system by others.

"No president has ever done more for human rights than I have." ---George W. Bush

Dan Abshear

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