“Best book I’ve ever read!” Rave reviews for sale

A new restaurant opens nearby, and our favourite foodie blogger raves about it. We’re thinking of renovating the kitchen, so we seek out client feedback on local contractor websites. The performance run of a small indie play is held over because its word-of-mouth buzz goes viral on Twitter.

Thus lies the power of the good review.  Likewise, if others trash the restaurant, the contractor or the play, we can be equally influenced to stay away, too.

Reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising, they offer some illusion of truth coming from real live people. But it turns out that a disturbing number of consumer reviews are bought and sold – just like everything else in marketing.   Continue reading

Painkiller overdose deaths top those from heroin and cocaine

Almost everything I know about chronic pain I learned while working in hospice palliative care, where pain management was one of the most important components in easing the end-of-life suffering of our patients.  But even before then, one April morning in 1983, I listened to my father’s oncologist tell our family:

 We are reluctant to give him morphine for his pain because it’s addictive.”   

My Dad, who had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, died nine hours after that pronouncement. But at least he wasn’t an addict when he died.  Continue reading

Stealth marketing: how Big Pharma tries to shape medical news

Although Jeanne Lenzer’s article about stealth marketing in Reporting On Health is actually meant for other journalists, it reminds me that we consumers should all be more savvy when it comes to evaluating medical news. Before my own heart attack, for example, I pretty well swallowed any medical miracle breakthrough news without question.

But because I now take a fistful of powerful cardiac medications everyday, I have become gradually both aware of and alarmed by Big Pharma marketing, and especially about what Dr. Marcia Angell herself (for over 20 years the Editor-in-Chief at the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) calls “… its pervasive conflicts of interest that corrupt the medical profession.”

In fact, I have absolutely no way of knowing which of my cardiac meds were prescribed for me based on flawed research or tainted medical journal articles that were funded and ghostwritten by the very drug companies who stand to gain by paying for positive outcomes.  And, worse, neither do my doctors. This is allowed to happen in part because of what we now know as stealth marketing“.

Continue reading