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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  14 of Americans are overweight. This year pharmaceutical companies are finishing research and beginning to petition for FDA approval for a variety of weight-loss drugs. Whether or not the drugs will aid in weight loss in for the most part unknown. Approaches of drug companies, however, are curious. One researcher recommends “diet and exercise with a drug cocktail that responds to the patient’s genetics.” Drug company Regeneron is experimenting with “Axokine,” which was first thought to be a possible remedy for Lou Gehrig’s disease. A daily injection is intended to “fool the brain by making it ‘forget’ missed calories.” Ortho-McNeil hopes to have trials on humans underway for “Topamax,” an epilepsy drug that, when used for its intended purpose, inadvertently reduced the appetite. Topomax’s former owner, Johnson and Johnson, however, halted studies after high doses resulted in memory loss, fatigue, and “a tingling in the limbs” (Kaufman 2002). Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry stands to generate $1 billion US and $20 billion in overall annual worldwide sales upon the introduction of several drugs presently being developed. The Pharmaceutical Industry’s New Voice In 1997 direct-to-consumer advertising and promotion of prescription drugs exploded when the Food and Drug Administration relaxed restrictions on such practices. The total amount spent on advertising by pharmaceutical companies has increased from $859 million in 1997 to $2.49 billion in 2001. (Burton 2002 p. 1.) Yet this was only 16% of the total promotional spending. According to a study commissioned by the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation drug promotion is multi-tiered, and in 2000 drug companies spent $15.7 billion on promotion alone –three fifths of the $25.7 billion spent on research and development. In 2000 over 50 percent of spending on promotional activity went

Authors: Tracy, James.
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14
of Americans are overweight.
This year pharmaceutical companies are finishing research and beginning
to petition for FDA approval for a variety of weight-loss drugs. Whether or not
the drugs will aid in weight loss in for the most part unknown. Approaches of
drug companies, however, are curious. One researcher recommends “diet and
exercise with a drug cocktail that responds to the patient’s genetics.” Drug
company Regeneron is experimenting with “Axokine,” which was first thought
to be a possible remedy for Lou Gehrig’s disease. A daily injection is intended to
“fool the brain by making it ‘forget’ missed calories.” Ortho-McNeil hopes to
have trials on humans underway for “Topamax,” an epilepsy drug that, when
used for its intended purpose, inadvertently reduced the appetite. Topomax’s
former owner, Johnson and Johnson, however, halted studies after high doses
resulted in memory loss, fatigue, and “a tingling in the limbs” (Kaufman 2002).
Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry stands to generate $1 billion US and
$20 billion in overall annual worldwide sales upon the introduction of several
drugs presently being developed.
The Pharmaceutical Industry’s New Voice
In 1997 direct-to-consumer advertising and promotion of prescription
drugs exploded when the Food and Drug Administration relaxed restrictions on
such practices. The total amount spent on advertising by pharmaceutical
companies has increased from $859 million in 1997 to $2.49 billion in 2001.
(Burton 2002 p. 1.) Yet this was only 16% of the total promotional spending.
According to a study commissioned by the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation
drug promotion is multi-tiered, and in 2000 drug companies spent $15.7 billion
on promotion alone –three fifths of the $25.7 billion spent on research and
development. In 2000 over 50 percent of spending on promotional activity went


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