BRENTFORD, England — Pharmaceutical executives across the industry are ramping up direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns as British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline signaled the end of an era in which they paid doctors to promote brand-name drugs.
Discontinuing the practice of paying doctors to hawk certain drugs to their peers at medical conferences and compensating sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions written need not cripple the business model, say industry insiders.
Instead, drug manufactures believe that “further increasing the addictive nature of [their] products promises to insulate the industry from charges of conflicts of interest without negatively impacting sales.”
Lionel Wagner, chief lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America went as far as to claim, “Once patients get a taste of control over their own healthcare, they are pretty much unstoppable. They’ll chase that dragon from CVS to Walgreens to Duane Reade looking for 48-hour, 72-hour, or week-long prescription antacid relief with a newer, even less chalky taste.”
The Food and Drug Administration opened the floodgates to direct-to-consumer broadcast advertising in 1997 when it significantly relaxed the requirements on pharmaceutical companies.
“Recognizing that doctors were nothing more than a hindrance to effective self-medication was only the first step,” offered Wagner. “If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, why not add an infusion of opiates and a goji berry blast?”
“It doesn’t take someone with a medical degree to tell you that drug adherence would skyrocket after a change like that,” agreed Nancy Simone, a general practitioner and compensated spokesperson for Crestor. “Forgetting to take one’s medication will be a thing of the past, and I won’t even have to hound my patients.”
Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, insisted the policy shift is unrelated to a widening bribery investigation in China but is instead reflective of his company’s insatiable drive “to try and make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing.”
Said Witty, “We’ve never stopped jonesing for a permanent fix to an industry that become reliant on the fickle whims of government regulators and scientific studies.”
Pfizer, a competitor, has launched its own campaign: “The first dose is free.™”