Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Branding Disease

In a recent article on thebetterhealthstore.com, there was an article titled "Branding Disease, Selling Cures." Quoting the article, "Drug makers have have become expert at creating diseases to sell their pharmaceutical cures."

Stop and think about this for a moment. If you're a drug company and your shareholders want you to keep making a profit year after year, what would be the best way to sell your product? Why not create a need for the drug and then focus on people who possibly might need the drug?

Sure, a case could be made that each person really needs this drug and so the drug company is offering a vital service of health and well being to that consumer. You could make that argument or you could broaden your mindset a little, shift out of our current paradigm and really use all the brain cells to think about this.

If you think I am making this up, consider the following that the article talks about. In 1928, there was a popular book by the name of "Propaganda" by Edwards Bernays. He is considered to be the father of public relations. His main point was that the public relations business was less about selling things than about creating the conditions for things to sell themselves.

So you're saying, so what? Every company out there tries to sell their product and this is America, so what's your point or your beef with doing this? What are you, anti-capitalist? I can answer that last question in one word, NO! I am not against making money but when it preys upon innocent folks and gives the illusion that it is something good for them when maybe it is not, than "Houston, we have a problem!" Please though, let's not stop here. Let's explore this a little further and I think you will understand the point I'm trying to make (and the article was making).

Pharmaceutical marketers now sell drugs by selling the diseases that they treat, otherwise known as "disease branding". To brand a disease is to shape its public perception in order to make it more palatable to potential patients.

Panic disorder, reflux disease, erectile dysfunction, restless legs syndrome, bipolar disorder, overactive bladder, ADHD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and even clinical depression: All these conditions were once regarded as rare until a marketing campaign transformed the brand.

Let me repeat that last statement from the article again because it is important. "ALL THESE CONDITIONS WERE ONCE REGARDED AS RARE UNTIL A MARKETING CAMPAIGN TRANSFORMED THE BRAND."

Once a branded disease has achieved a degree of cultural legitimacy, there is no need to convince anyone that a drug to treat it is necessary. It will come to them as their own idea.

Disease branding works especially well for two kinds of conditions. The first is the shameful condition that can be destigmatized. Another good candidate for branding is a condition that can be plausibly portrayed as under-diagnosed. Branding such a condition assures potential patients that they are part of a large and credible community of sufferers.

For another moment of truth, consider the following event that took place in 2002. The vice president of Pharmacia, Neil Wolf, explained the branding strategy in a presentation called "Positioning Detrol: Creating a Disease." By creating the disease of "overactive bladder," he claimed that Pharmacia created a market of 21 million potential patients.

Here's another moment of truth to bring the point I'm trying to make, closer to home. In order to convince shy people they had social anxiety disorder, GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, hired a PR firm called Cohn and Wolfe. Cohn and Wolfe put together a public awareness campaign called "Imagine being allergic to people," which was allegedly sponsored by a group called the "Social Anxiety Disorders Coalition."

I could share so much more from the article but if this has gotten your attention, please go read the entire article. It is mind blowing exactly what is going on in the medical industry. I knew there was a shift in the advertising and marketing of these drugs but I could not quite put my finger on it until I read this article. If this doesn't wake someone up a little, than please rush to the doctor and have someone check your pulse - you might not be alive!

Am I being too radical on all of this? I don't think so and I've tried to offer some proof according to the article on the better health store.com website. We really need to wake up in this country because our health care system as we know it is failing. We are spending record amounts of money in medical care and are not any more healthy than we were 20 years ago. As humans, it is part of our existence to become more aware of ourselves and to grow, evolve and learn rather than just be mere participants in life.

I'm going to leave you with one statement in the article that I think really brings the entire article home. "If all drugs were harmless, disease branding would be relatively harmless, too. But no drug is completely benign." If you need any proof of that, just search the side effect of any drug you are interested in and see how many serious conditions (including death) are listed. That should be more than enough to make everyone sit up and think instead of just ingesting what is being marketing to them.

As with everything that I post, please feel free to challenge it for your own life and see what fits and what does not. Use the information here to help you learn more about yourself and the best way to take care of yourself. Do not use this information as the sole source of medical advice as to how to live your life. This is not meant as medical advice. It is only meant as information to help you understand and evolve as a human.

To Read The Complete Article, go to Branding Disease, Selling Cure found on The Better Health Store.com .

Blog Post & Images (c) 12/10/10 Don Shetterly - use by permission only


  1. Thank you, thank you , thank you for bringing this to public awareness..Although, if people stop and question..they know this as the truth. But, I really wonder if people even care anymore. Because, they trust their doctors who are perscribing these medications but they are overlooking the fact many doctors are given paybacks to perscribe the same meds.. Last year Pharmaceutical companies spend 200 MILLION dollars in lobbying at OUR congress..isnt' that an amazing number..and most of their testing of new meds are in very poor countries, like china, india, parts of africa..and although FDA approves about 2000 medication testing areas around the world, last year of that they visited a whole 65 locations..This is not to get our readers to be paranoid, but to recognize what is going on so you can make better and clear choices.

  2. Thank you! I have been echoing your sentiment for two decades.

    1. I'm glad to find someone else that echoes the same thoughts on this. Maybe there are more of us out there? :)






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