Opinion by Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen
In 1999 “Big Pharma” went to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and got permission to advertise drugs, drugs, and more drugs directly to the American consumer. Their intent, as it became obvious, was two things: (1) sell more drugs to the American consumer, and, (2) control the media, especially US television..
TV network news, it appears, got the lion’s share of advertising dollars. I estimate that 55% percent of all advertising during the News Hours are paid for by “Big Pharma.” More, about a third of the entire newscast, itself, is focused on how wonderful your “local drug peddler” actually is. Almost every night a new wonder drug (snort) is presented, that will absolutely save humanity – and, of course, this never actually happens. Network TV news is just about ALL advertising hype – with the occasional brainless “car chase – endlessly documented by the 3.5 million dollar ($3,500,000) network helicopter.”
Television News departments have sold out for the money – there is no doubt about that. Even more, the networks, beyond the news features, couldn’t go even part of a season without another boring TV series about life in a hospital – without ever mentioning that those same hospitals are the number one (#1) killer of Americans, ahead of heart disease and cancer.
Yes, US television has sold out to “Big Pharma.” There is no doubt about it. But, the question is “Did TV do ‘Big Pharma’ any good?” And the answer is “no, it did not…” and, we can all laugh about that.
What do I mean “no, it did not..?” There’s an easy answer – in two parts:
(1) Despite the fact that “Big Pharma” spent billions of dollars, since 1999, on television, a recent Harris poll shows that only nine percent (9%) of the American public believes what the pharmaceutical industry says is the truth. In a recent article on Common Dreams newswire, titled “Fact squad on prescription Drugs” it is explained that:
WASHINGTON – December 7, 2005– According to a October 2005 Harris Poll, only nine percent of the American public considers the pharmaceutical industry generally honest and trustworthy. If perception were reality, the prescription drug industry would be in Chapter 11.
Whether it is anger at the callous disregard for human health revealed in the Vioxx and SSRI scandals; irritation with the incessant peddling of drugs directly to consumers and giveaways to doctors; ire at the frustration with the concealment of adverse clinical trial findings; exasperation that safe, cheap drugs are barred from importation from Canada; or disgust with conflicts of interest in the drug approval process and the buying of political influence, over 90 percent of the public views the drug industry with suspicion. A majority say they want more, not less, regulation. Indeed, industry sales are down this year and companies are laying off thousands of workers. But these selective factoids can be deceiving: Pfizer is among the companies cutting its workforce, while its profits for 2005 will be $8 billion. Hold your pity.”
(2) The television news industry has hurt itself with its bald faced promo of drugs, drugs, and more drugs. The image, I think, of the average network news channel broadcaster is very similar to that of those young people, male and female, standing on the corner of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood every night, ready to sell themselves to anybody who’ll give them the money they need for clothing, shelter, drugs, and the slightest bit of approval from their strong-arm pimp.
It’s just that the rewards in TV news are slightly, but not much, higher.
Tim Bolen – Consumer Advocate