Why Big Pharma wants your e-mail address

When I returned home from hospital following my heart attack, I brought with me a small old-growth forest’s worth of heart health reading material that the Coronary Care Unit staff had given me upon discharge. Included in this pile was a free subscription offer for an e-newsletter called My Plavix Partner from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis.

These are the drug companies that manufacture Plavix (clopidogrel) – an anti-platelet drug commonly prescribed to inhibit blood clots in those of us with coronary artery disease. So I dutifully signed up to subscribe to My Plavix Partner.

Every month, I’d get an e-newsletter with photos and stories from my Plavix partner, ostensibly written by a chubby middle-aged American man who told me that he too, just like me, had survived a heart attack. In every issue, he and his Plavix-taking friends would now become my friends too by sharing their helpful info about heart health with me.

This was my first introduction to what’s called permission-based e-mail marketing, in which companies get permission (via the subscription application I’d completed, for example) to get in touch directly with their customers.   Continue reading