Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food

In the good old days, the tobacco industry had a strategic marketing playbook script that worked something like this:

  • emphasize personal responsibility for choosing to smoke
  • pay scientists to deliver research that instills doubt about risks
  • criticize the “junk science” that finds harms associated with smoking
  • make self-regulatory pledges
  • lobby with massive resources to stifle government action
  • introduce “safer” products
  • simultaneously manipulate and deny both the addictive nature of tobacco products and marketing said products to children

The compelling question asked by researchers Drs. Kelly Brownell and Kenneth Warner is this: How does the script of the modern food industry compare to that tobacco industry script?  Continue reading

“We never imagined people would think of osteopenia as a disease”

Here’s a drug marketing plan that is dazzling in its brilliant effectiveness. I’m thinking of including it in any future PR workshops I do on marketing communications. It’s a plan to sell pills to treat something called osteopenia, a condition that only recently started to be thought of as a problem that even needs treatment.

It’s a plan to convince consumers and their physicians that these pills should be in the medicine cabinets of millions of women worldwide.

But more broadly, it’s a plan to change the definition of what a disease is, and the role that drug companies can play in that change.  Continue reading

NEJM editor: “No longer possible to believe much of clinical research published”

NEJM posterHarvard Medical School’s Dr. Marcia Angell is the author of The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. But more to the point, she’s also the former Editor-in-Chief at the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably one of the most respected medical journals on earth. But after reading her article in the New York Review of Books called Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption, one wonders if any medical journal on earth is worth anybody’s respect anymore.

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”

Dr. Angell cites the case of Dr. Joseph L. Biederman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of pediatric psychopharmacology at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital. She explains:

“Thanks largely to him, children as young as two years old are now being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with a cocktail of powerful drugs, many of which were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose, and none of which were approved for children below ten years of age.” Continue reading