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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  19 points out that “Pharmaceutical companies are coming out with these very expensive new drugs to replace existing drugs, sometimes in the absence of good evidence that their value is worth the extra costs.’” For example, the painkillers Celebrex and Vioxx received tremendous promotion via advertising and had worldwide sales of $5.6 billion. Yet Levine points out that they are marginally more effective than Motrin, although their cost is sixty times more. And although Claritin, the highly advertised allergy drug, had recent annual sales of $2.2 billion, a study reported that two-thirds of those taking it and similar allergy medications don’t actually suffer from allergies. (Carey and Barrett 2001, p. 63.) Pitfalls Along the Trail to Profit Paradise Big pharma must secure and prolong the rights to its intellectual property through patents and simultaneously stimulate demand for its products to maximize profit and thus augment its stock market value. At the same time, however, it must legitimate its for profit practices which have been the subject of considerable scrutiny. In August of 2001, for instance, an alliance of law firms and public interest groups, the Prescription Access Litigation Project, filed suit against two drug advertising agencies for deceptive advertising to elicit consumer demand for Claritin prescriptions. Advertising has since been wielded to protect and bolster the drug industry’s image. A separate tier of “feel good” ads have appeared at the cost of $22.2 million in 2001 that feature “real people whose lives were saved or improved by new drugs. ‘I was first diagnosed with cancer when I was 26,’ says Carrie Ameen, a patient appearing in” one such ad. “’I owe them my life.’” Another ad campaign more forthrightly features a male superhero with an “Rx” on his chest in front of a target and surrounded by knives. The ads appeared in advertising industry publications in early 2002 and were accompanied by text reading, “’The profits. The pipelines. The high cost of

Authors: Tracy, James.
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19
points out that “Pharmaceutical companies are coming out with these very
expensive new drugs to replace existing drugs, sometimes in the absence of good
evidence that their value is worth the extra costs.’” For example, the painkillers
Celebrex and Vioxx received tremendous promotion via advertising and had
worldwide sales of $5.6 billion. Yet Levine points out that they are marginally
more effective than Motrin, although their cost is sixty times more. And
although Claritin, the highly advertised allergy drug, had recent annual sales of
$2.2 billion, a study reported that two-thirds of those taking it and similar allergy
medications don’t actually suffer from allergies. (Carey and Barrett 2001, p. 63.)
Pitfalls Along the Trail to Profit Paradise
Big pharma must secure and prolong the rights to its intellectual property
through patents and simultaneously stimulate demand for its products to
maximize profit and thus augment its stock market value. At the same time,
however, it must legitimate its for profit practices which have been the subject of
considerable scrutiny. In August of 2001, for instance, an alliance of law firms
and public interest groups, the Prescription Access Litigation Project, filed suit
against two drug advertising agencies for deceptive advertising to elicit
consumer demand for Claritin prescriptions. Advertising has since been wielded
to protect and bolster the drug industry’s image. A separate tier of “feel good”
ads have appeared at the cost of $22.2 million in 2001 that feature “real people
whose lives were saved or improved by new drugs. ‘I was first diagnosed with
cancer when I was 26,’ says Carrie Ameen, a patient appearing in” one such ad.
“’I owe them my life.’” Another ad campaign more forthrightly features a male
superhero with an “Rx” on his chest in front of a target and surrounded by
knives. The ads appeared in advertising industry publications in early 2002 and
were accompanied by text reading, “’The profits. The pipelines. The high cost of


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