This week’s articles discuss some of the methods used by the pharmaceutical industry to render the goals and actions of other influential actors in the R&D process (members of the ‘distribution channel’) compatible with their own. Since physicians, patients, and the rest of these members all act as ‘gatekeepers’ for the success of drug sales, it is vital for drug companies to affect their interests and choices. One of the main goals of pharmaceutical marketing efforts is naturally to mold the latter into whatever will have beneficial outcomes for their sales. Dumit’s article details some of the ways marketing is able to influence consumers, such as affecting even our personal sense of identity in order to convince us we require certain drugs. Cases of direct-to-consumer advertising seem particularly alarming, since it seems to present a route for drug marketing to bypass many of the aforementioned ‘gatekeepers’ helping health care retain its integrity. Information from R&D and drug companies should flow first through regulating bodies, hospitals, insurers and physicians, in order to allow the professional interests of each group to (hopefully) lessen the biased nature of the company-produced information before it reaches the patient. We’ve certainly seen that bias and corruption exist in the preceding stages as well (in research itself, using physicians as ‘opinion leaders’ etc), but allowing drug companies to spoon-feed individuals information about their health using blatantly manipulative marketing techniques is certainly unethical. That said, their ability to interfere on every level, and with every group, involved in the process of health care seems to be what allows pharmaceutical companies to turn each into unknowing (yet willing) accomplices to their own manipulation and achieve blockbuster success. Regulation to remove their ability to involve themselves in many of these ways seems needed to ensure that the separate aims and integrity of all ‘distribution channel’ members are protected.
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