Why patients hate the C-word

Way back in 1847, the American Medical Association panel on ethics decreed that “the patient should obey the physician.” There may very well be physicians today – in the era of empowered patients and patient-centred care and those darned Medical Googlers who glance nostalgically backwards at those good old days.

Let’s consider, for example, the simple clinical interaction of prescribing medication.  If you reliably take the daily meds that your doctor has prescribed for your high blood pressure, you’ll feel fine.  But if you stop taking your medication, you’ll still feel fine.  At least, until you suffer a stroke or heart attack or any number of consequences that have been linked to untreated hypertension.

Those who do obediently take their meds are what doctors call “compliant”. And, oh. Have I mentioned how much many patients like me hate that word? Continue reading

A philosopher’s take on Big Pharma marketing

You may not expect to find an ivory tower academic whose erudite specialty is philosophy hanging out at drug marketing conferences, but that’s where you would have found Dr. Sergio Sismondo a few years ago. The professor of philosophy at my old stomping ground, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, turned up at the annual meeting of the International Society of Medical Planning Professionals, one of two large organizations representing medical communications firms.

A medical communications firm is a business that sells services to pharmaceutical and other companies for “managing” the publication and placement of scientific research papers for maximal marketing impact, often  running a full publicity campaign to help sell the drug being “studied”. This is an alarmingly widespread practice in which drug companies essentially decide what your physician will end up reading in medical journals.  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