Pharma creates new syndromes, or how we are all pathological

There have been a number of interesting articles about the ways in which pharmaceutical companies market problems to us. Meika Loe has a good short article in Contexts about the new generation of kids raised on pharma. (This is only the abstract, alas, as I don't know how to upload pdfs onto blogger. Will work on that.)

Alternet has one about Pfizer funding more studies on whether Viagara works for women. With a study sample size of 98. I love that...when anthropologists conduct research with only 25-30 people, we're denigrated for our lack of scientific reroducibility (that may have some truth, if that were all we looked at, but few anthropologists make claims with research conducted only through a few interviews), but when big Pharma conducts studies with fewer than a hundred, they still manage to be picked up by major news outlets. One of the observations the article makes is that the patent on Viagara is set to expire in a few years. I spent a summer interning at an advertising company that created ads for pharma. We worked on a new "extended release" antibiotic that touted itself as a solution to the heightened resistant strains of bacteria. Ironically, it seemd to me, much of that antibiotic resistance came from the over-prescription of the company's own antibiotic. In addition, their patent was about to expire, so it must have seemed a perfect time to launch a new and improved version of their formerly rockstar drug.

I know much of what I'm saying isn't terribly shocking to most who are paying attention to these things, but at the same time, finding multiple examples in which pharma creates demand is important, to confirm what I see happening with the vaccine I work on. In junior high school, my father started working on medical education, and that included direct marketing to physicians. I used to ask him how or why he could justify his work, and he would argue that medicine is not cut-and-dry a bad thing. Perhaps, at 14 or 15, I presented my argument too simplistically. It's not that I want to suggest medications are "bad". But I do think we need to be careful to note how we're implicated in the marketing of pathologies. As I get older and find my body more fallible, it's hard to resist the magic pills (whatever those might be) to cure or solve my discomforts. I can't help but wonder about those who are less medically-savvy or less aware of these nuances, and wonder about how they're affected by the commodification of health and the market of pathology.

No comments: