Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs

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Macmillan, 2008 - Business & Economics - 432 pages
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In the last thirty years, the big pharmaceutical companies have transformed themselves into marketing machines selling dangerous medicines as if they were Coca-Cola or Cadillacs. They pitch drugs with video games and soft cuddly toys for children; promote them in churches and subways, at NASCAR races and state fairs. They’ve become experts at promoting fear of disease, just so they can sell us hope.   No question: drugs can save lives. But the relentless marketing that has enriched corporate executives and sent stock prices soaring has come with a dark side. Prescription pills taken as directed by physicians are estimated to kill one American every five minutes. And that figure doesn’t reflect the damage done as the overmedicated take to the roads.   Our Daily Medsconnects the dots for the first time to show how corporate salesmanship has triumphed over science inside the biggest pharmaceutical companies and, in turn, how this promotion driven industry has taken over the practice of medicine and is changing American life.   It is an ageless story of the battle between good and evil, with potentially life-changing consequences for everyone, not just the 65 percent of Americans who unscrew a prescription cap every day. An industry with the promise to help so many is now leaving a legacy of needless harm. Melody Petersencovered the pharmaceutical beat forThe New York Timesfor four years. In 1997, her investigative reporting won a Gerald Loeb Award, one of the highest honors in business journalism. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles. A Finalist for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

In the last thirty years, the big pharmaceutical companies have transformed themselves into marketing machines selling dangerous medicines as if they were Coca-Cola or Cadillacs. They pitch drugs with video games and soft cuddly toys for children; promote them in churches and subways, at NASCAR races and state fairs. They’ve become experts at promoting fear of disease, just so they can sell us hope.   There is no doubt that pharmaceutical drugs can save lives. But the relentless marketing that has enriched corporate executives and sent stock prices soaring has not come without consequences. Prescription pills taken as directed by physicians are estimated to kill one American every five minutes. And that figure doesn’t reflect the damage done as the overmedicated take to the roads.   InOur Daily Meds, Melody Petersen connects the dots to show how corporate salesmanship has triumphed over science inside the biggest pharmaceutical companies and, in turn, how this promotion driven industry has taken over the practice of medicine and is changing American life. She shows how an industry with the promise to help so many is leaving a legacy of needless harm and potentially life-changing consequences for everyone, not just the 65 percent of Americans who unscrew a prescription cap every day.

"Everyone talks about health care, but few ask why we're so sick to begin with. Melody Petersen's book goes a long way toward explaining that the people who came up with the 'cures' are actually the problem."—Bill Maher,Real Time

"Full disclosure: Not long ago I worked as one of a small army of associates defending pharmaceutical products liability cases. As one fellow lawyer put it, we were 'making the world safe for giant pharmaceutical companies.' Much of my time was spent reviewing marketing for the drug at issue. Given that, I readOur Daily Meds, by formerNew York Timeswriter [Petersen] with no small measure of interest. The subtitle—How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs—gives a small hint of the book's attitude toward big pharma. And given how easy a target drugmakers are, I was expecting somewhat of a hatchet job. Instead, I found myself thoroughly persuaded by Petersen's book. She presents a cogent, well-researched argument that pharmaceutical companies, under pressure from investors, have become supremely focused on developing 'blockbuster' billion-dollar-a-year drugs . . . Petersen's indictment of the pharmaceutical companies, and more surprisingly, the doctors who play along, is damning. She describes how doctors are treated to all-expense-paid conferences at resorts and hotels by the drug companies and then complain when they're not chauffeured to and from, or when there's inadequate entertainment for their children. Or doctors are paid to let their names be listed as authors on articles in medical journals written by pharmaceutical companies, copies of which are then distributed to other doctors by the company's marketers as though they're independent confirmation of the drug's safety and efficacy . . . Attorneys who may have touched one of the numerous product liability lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and their products will likely find this book extremely interesting. But non-lawyer healthcare consumers will also gain a tremendous amount from this well-researched book."—Fabio Bertoni,New York Law Journal Magazine  

"A devastating, often shocking, critique of a once proud industry that has been converted by corporate greed into a vast marketing machine that is often a menace to health.  Petersen supports her indictment with an abundance of fascinating detail and human interest stories.  An excellent contribution to the growing demand for better regulation of an industry that has grown way too powerful and heedless of the interests of its customers."—Marcia Angell, M. D., Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Arnold S. Relman, M. D., Prof. Emeritus of Medicine and of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School    "Drug companies have institutionalized deception, said a former pharmaceutical executive at a 1990 Senate hearing. And formerNew York Timesreporter Petersen details these deceptions with information that will be startling even to those who closely follow the news on big pharma. Her subtitle,How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs, is most effectively illustrated in a chapter detailing Parke-Davis's aggressive marketing of the epilepsy drug Neurontin for everything, in blatant disregard of regulations against promoting drugs for uses not approved by the FDA. Such reporting, rather than style or analysis, is Petersen's strength. Much of what she recounts—such as the glut of copycat drugs like antacids, and marketers' lavish wining and dining of doctors—has been covered in books by others, like Marcia Angell. But Petersen fleshes out these issues and names prominent doctors who, she says, are on the take. She is particularly strong on the ghostwriting of medical journal articles by advertising agencies. She also covers less familiar matters, like the environmental impact of drug residues in water . . . she ends with tough, sound suggestions for reforms to make the pharmaceutical industry honest and to protect consumers."—Publishers Weekly
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - satyridae - LibraryThing

I thought I was plenty cynical about Big Pharma. Then I read this book and found that my view was rosy and innocent in the extreme. It's a damning indictment of the current practices of the industry ... Read full review

OUR DAILY MEDS: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A no-punches-pulled indictment of the pharmaceutical industry in the United States.Big Pharma has been making money but doing harm ever since it shifted a quarter-century ago from research to ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
one Creating Disease
15
two Midwestern Medicine Show
38
three Chemical Imbalance
80
four The Early Years
115
The Age of the Blockbuster
133
seven Neurontin for Everything
212
eight Altered State
255
nine Deadly Doses
294
Notes
339
Bibliography
409
Index
415
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About the author (2008)

Melody Petersencovered the pharmaceutical beat forThe New York Times
for four years. In 1997, her investigative reporting won a Gerald Loeb Award, one of the highest honors in business journalism. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

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