Ben Goldacre on Pharmaceutical Marketing

By Michael Edmonds 18/11/2012

Marketing, therefore, exists for no reason other than to pervert evidence-based decision making in medicine.

This is a quote from Ben Goldacre’s new book, “Bad Pharma” criticizing the intense marketing used by pharmaceutical companies. According to Dr Goldacre “the pharmaceutical industry overall spends about twice as much on marketing and promotion as it does on research and development” – a very sobering and disappointing fact.

Of particular concern to New Zealanders (as we are one of the few countries who allow it) is the direct to consumer drug advertising which drug companies engage in. Most of us will be familiar with the flashy prime time ad’s encouraging us to badger our doctors about this treatment of asthma or that treatment to produce geriatric erections. What a pity all of this money isn’t going into research looking for the next breakthrough drug instead of applying marketing psychology to convince us to second guess medical professionals.

In his book Dr Goldacre describes how these ads can not only convince us that we have a problem when we don’t but they are also used by drug companies to encourage patients to request more expensive drugs when other cheaper drugs are just as effective.

“Bad Pharma” is a sobering, thoroughly researched book which lays bare the pharmaceutical industry – challenges, failures and sometimes unscrupulous treatment of patients. Well worth a read.