Big Pharma and Advertising
Dr. Mark Mandell-Brown’s dad, Marvin Brown, recently wrote an article for an Ohio magazine called the Senior Times regarding an original article posted in the New York Times about the existence of Big Pharma and advertising. Below is the whole article by Brown. You can also view this article at http://www.seniortimescolumbusdigital.com under the section “Savvy Seniors”.
In the ten years that I have been privileged to have this monthly outlet in the Senior Times. I have on more than one occasion railed against the aggressive efforts of major pharmaceutical companies to convince us that we are in peril of having a disease that we didn’t even know existed.
Two of the most heavily pushed supposed afflictions in current marketing efforts involve male potency, with massive expenditures being made to help alleviate “erectile dysfunction” and “low testosterone.”
Recently the Columbus Dispatch, in an article reprinted from the New York Times, noted that advertisements selling testosterone gel were distressing physicians who claim that that “low T” is an invented condition and use of the gel has potentially harmful effects, not only on patients but on the nation’s multi-trillion dollar health care costs as well.
One of the physicians quoted was Dr. Joel Finkelstein, an associate professor and medical researcher at Harvard University. Although the Dispatch didn’t note it, Dr. Finkelstein is a 1972 graduate of Columbus’ Eastmoor High School since renamed Eastmoor Academy. He is studying male hormone changes associated with aging.
The Dispatch/New York Times article quoted Joel as saying, “The market for testosterone gels evolved because there is an appetite among men and because there is advertising. The problem is that no one has proved that it works and we don’t know the risks.”
Joel was a classmate and friend of my son, Mark, now a noted plastic surgeon practicing in Cincinnati. Both played for the Eastmoor tennis team that won a city championship. Joel and Mark did their undergraduate studies at Northwestern University.
Last year at their 40th year Eastmoor class reunion, Joel addressed the attendees on what a marvelous education they had received at Eastmoor and how meaningful an experience they were given. My son was so impressed with the tribute that he paid for a full-page advertisement in the Dispatch to reprint Joel’s speech.
Mark and Joel and another distinguished Eastmoor graduate, Archie Griffin, were all nominated for academic athletic achievement honors at their high school. Joel place first, Mark second and Archie third. Archie, of course, went on to become the only two-time winner of collegiate football’s highest honor, the Heisman trophy and then a career at Ohio State University where he is now president and CEO of the OSU Alumni Association.
As an aside, my younger son, Randall, was on Eastmoor’s wrestling team with Archie. With all the recent turmoil in the Columbus school district regarding alleged changing of school attendance records in an effort to achieve the appearance of better performance and in light of the proliferation of charter schools competing with public schools, it is comforting to reflect on how well the school system carried out its missions in past decades and how so many of Eastmoor’s graduates distinguished themselves in professions and business careers.
On the other hand, it is discouraging to consider that with Big Pharma continuing to spend multi-billions on advertising to consumers and with some physicians yielding to patient demands for the prescriptions being promoted, we are likely to remain a nation of pill poppers indefinitely into the future. More on this subject next month. Stay tuned.
Columbus resident Marvin Brown is a retired advertising and publishing executive.