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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  17 There is no such attempt to limit drug advertising in the United States. Nor is there any effective regulatory apparatus to do so if such a project were to be instituted. In fact, federal regulators have moved decidedly in the other direction. Since February of 2002 the FDA has adopted a new policy requiring that its chief counsel’s office clear all warning letters to industry of possible violations of regulations the agency is established to monitor. In a letter from Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in October, Waxman pointed out that “the number of letters involving ad-rule breaches – including warnings and more routine violation notices -- has dropped 70% since December …[yet] there is no evidence that ad quality has improved.” On the contrary, “FDA statistics show the drug industry is running more ads than ever, while the number of complaints the agency receives about them is holding steady” (Adams 2002). Nor does there appear to be any limit to the conquest of space for the distribution of advertising messages. “The Patient Channel,” owned by General Electric’s GE Medical Systems, is a 24 hour television network introduced to 50,000 hospital patients in September 2002 and plans to reach as many as 22 million patients by 2003. As the Wall Street journal explains, the channel will rely most heavily on advertising for prescription drugs for revenue. “On the GE Medical channel, the bedridden will be able to choose among such half-hour educational segments as ‘Cancer Related Fatigue’ and ‘Breath Easy: Allergies and Asthma.’” The marketing director for the channel explains how “the service allows big ‘marketers to directly associate their products with a particular condition in a hospital setting’” (Vranica 2002). Last year the American Medical Association protested that drug ads have done nothing to educate either patient or physician. Rather, many practitioners point out that they impede the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors must answer

Authors: Tracy, James.
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17
There is no such attempt to limit drug advertising in the United States.
Nor is there any effective regulatory apparatus to do so if such a project were to
be instituted. In fact, federal regulators have moved decidedly in the other
direction. Since February of 2002 the FDA has adopted a new policy requiring
that its chief counsel’s office clear all warning letters to industry of possible
violations of regulations the agency is established to monitor. In a letter from
Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California to Health and Human
Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in October, Waxman pointed out that “the
number of letters involving ad-rule breaches – including warnings and more
routine violation notices -- has dropped 70% since December …[yet] there is no
evidence that ad quality has improved.” On the contrary, “FDA statistics show
the drug industry is running more ads than ever, while the number of
complaints the agency receives about them is holding steady” (Adams 2002). Nor
does there appear to be any limit to the conquest of space for the distribution of
advertising messages. “The Patient Channel,” owned by General Electric’s GE
Medical Systems, is a 24 hour television network introduced to 50,000 hospital
patients in September 2002 and plans to reach as many as 22 million patients by
2003. As the Wall Street journal explains, the channel will rely most heavily on
advertising for prescription drugs for revenue. “On the GE Medical channel, the
bedridden will be able to choose among such half-hour educational segments as
‘Cancer Related Fatigue’ and ‘Breath Easy: Allergies and Asthma.’” The
marketing director for the channel explains how “the service allows big
‘marketers to directly associate their products with a particular condition in a
hospital setting’” (Vranica 2002).
Last year the American Medical Association protested that drug ads have
done nothing to educate either patient or physician. Rather, many practitioners
point out that they impede the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors must answer


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