Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 08 2008

Big Bucks, Big Pharma Documentary: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs

By Worker Bee

No, it’s not our rant this time. Instead, we’re serving up someone else’s argument for your enjoyment and discussion. You’ll find the voices of a whole host of folks closer to the core than we (thankfully) ever get: physicians, a former pharma sales representative, and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

(And the timing is apt, we thought. Just two weeks ago the British Medical Journal published research that illuminates (too positive a word, yes) the “invisible influence” that the pharmaceutical industry has on physician education. We invite you to read up on the strategy of silent sponsorship of and input into conference sessions that doctors believe are independent presentations.)

And now for our feature presentation:

via YouTube via Media Education Foundation

We have to say that even we were blown away by the montage of ad clips. We knew every single one, and it’s not just because we eat and breathe this stuff. Anyone know if Jay Leno has ever used pharma ads for Jay Walking? We bet our bottom dollar that people would be more familiar with the arsenal of drugs than they are with their elected officials or basic biological concepts. How could they not be? As the video illustrates, this stuff is in our face every day. You sit down to watch even the nightly news, and pharmaceutical options for ED and cholesterol are as much of the experience as the real news stories themselves.

The subtitle of the video, “Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs,” is all too fitting. This new medical “age” we’re in is crafted to make us feel that it’s normal to be taking medication. It’s the rational, common, proactive thing to “ask your doctor.” And the faces of celebrities, former football stars, heck, even a presidential candidate suggest to us that if those larger than life people take it, why shouldn’t we consider it?

As one of the physicians states in the video, this cultivated message has, of course, resulted in people coming into their doctors’ offices with list in hand of what they want to try. And even if we’re not one of the ones running to see our doctors about the latest magical pill, the string of ad material hits home the idea that we can’t possibly be entirely unaffected by this kind of media. It’s an insidious shift in mindset and health culture that these companies are selling as much as a particular drug itself.

Most of us are undoubtedly old enough to remember the time when drugs (other than over the counter remedies) weren’t advertised on television. Seems like a different age when you look back, doesn’t it? It was.

Further Reading:

Strivor can help you with Motivational Deficiency Disorder.

Big Pharma: Bad Science and Bad Business

PharmaGossip: Things People Don’t Know About Big Pharma

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10 thoughts on “Big Bucks, Big Pharma Documentary: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs”

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  1. Sisson,

    Your leftist politics are a pain in the but. Your site has valuable nutritional info but your pro-socialist, pro-nanny-state, pro-welfare-state crap is tiring. I get that you hate capitalism and those “eviiiil corporations”, but not everyone is so ignorant. Stick to food and training and ditch the politics. Either that or move to North Korea. They have a nice little government that deals effectively with all those corporations and free-thinking individuals. Maybe you’d like it there.

  2. I wouldn’t go quite as far as Mr Kim, but I kind of see where he’s coming from. Over on the right-hand side of your page you have categories like “Big Pharma”, “Big Moo”, etc. It’s kind of annoying. Big companies hire big numbers of people, have big research budgets and create big economic activity, all of which makes the USA the Big Top Dog.

    I agree with scrutiny on techniques and tactics – it’s the marketing people that need to be reined in. But lets leave the Big Conspiracy theories behind. No one holds people down and shoves drugs down their throats.

    Many people around the world have had their lives and their quality of life saved by “Big Pharma” who spent Big Money on research and development and (surprise, surprise) expected a financial return.

    By all means knock the excesses, but please dispense with the sneering “little guy against the giant corporation” tone.

  3. Wow, Kim. You are way off base! I’ve been following Mark’s site for some time now. He does a great service to his readers by showing the other side to many arguments. Someone needs to be a watchdog and shed some light on the marketing tactics of big business – from fast food to Big Pharma. Your anti-capitalism comment is way off base as well… you may have noticed the link to “Mark’s Store” at the top of the page…

    Chainey- What conspiracy theories are you referring to? I’ve never seen any on Mark’s Daily Apple. I’ve never gotten the impression that Mark is suggesting people are holding others down and shoving drugs down their throat. Mark has always been about personal responsibility. But part of being responsible is making informed decisions. Key word being informed. Without people like Mark it can sometimes be difficult to get all sides of the story.

  4. Kim-

    What does politics have to do with it?

    Can you not be pro-capitalist, pro-corporation and still be of the mind that ethical marketing decisions should be made?

    The guy can’t even take issue with questionable marketing tactics without being call a socialist. Give me a break.

    Oh, and he isn’t the first one to voice complaints about the state of our health care industry.

    Mark’s goal – to help educate people about how to lead a healthy life – seems genuine. Unfortunately, leading a healthy life to many in t he United States means popping the latest, greatest drug they’ve been taught they need. Mark is simply pointing this out and offering alternatives.

    A couple more quick points then I’ll shut up…

    The post was published by a “Worker Bee”. I’m sure Mark gives final approval, but he probably also didn’t write it…


    It’s Mark’s blog!!! He can say whatever he wants on it!

  5. Kim’s a troll. That North Korea comment is ridiculous. Keep up the great work, Mark!

  6. Thanks all. I considered deleting John Kim’s comment at first, but then thought “what the hell”, I’ll see what others think. I never wanted to get into a habit of censoring my readers’ comments anyway…maybe that’s what JK wanted?


    1) It is my blog, so I feel that I can and should say whatever I believe is appropriate to my message.
    2) My message here is one of education. Believe me, I am all for “free-thinking” – it’s what this blog is mostly about (ironic that you should suggest otherwise), but it’s tough for most people to think freely when the facts have been distorted by a broken system for so long. People think doctors have answers. They don’t – they have opinions, and quite often, despite the best intentions, those opinions can do more harm than good. I am trying to help people make informed choices with regards to their health, their diet and fitness, etc. There’s way too much assumption that the person in the white jacket has all the answers.
    3) I am a huge fan of private enterprise. This blog is a hobby. I own a successful vitamin company that I started from nothing eleven years ago. One of the biggest hurdles I have is that I can’t say much about the incredible power of certain well-researched supplements or else I get in trouble with the FDA. On the other hand, Pharma can say pretty much whatever they want and lead people (IMHO) down a very slippery slope). Sometimes I have to paint Pharma and the FDA as the bad guys. It’s one thing to sell me a lemon used car and pocket huge $$ in the name of free enterprise. It’s another to convince me I need something for my health and charge huge $$ for it when in fact it might well harm me. I’m sure most people who work in Pharma are great people and truly want to do good work…but the system breaks down on so many levels, the public needs to know.
    4) I don’t believe we have used the term “conspiracy theory” in over a thousand posts here except to deny that we truly believe there is any.

    I do appreciate that you dig the diet and exercise advice. There will be plenty more of that. Stay tuned.

  7. Mark, I say keep up the good work. It’s your blog, and so run it as you see fit and post what you like. We as the readers may not always agree with what you say or your decisions, but you are very fair with us when you don’t share our opinions, so I feel you deserve the same courtesy in return. If someone doesn’t like a particular topic that you post they don’t have to read it, simple as that. Don’t give in to these people that feel they speak for the rest of us though, because they don’t.

  8. There are many positive aspects to free enterprise. Ethical decision-making taking a backseat to profits is nothing new. When such behavior is made public, it generates a great deal of anger and debate; as it should. Do we then change our entire system because of a few greedy men? No. Because the reality is just that, a few greedy men, which generate a great deal of press. The issue here as far as I’m concerned, is a society that appears to becoming increasingly dependant on the idea that a quick fix (a pill in this case) is and should be the standard mode of operation and thinking. This mindset will feed the fire of increase for disease processes such as CAD and diabetes.

  9. Mark, you’re doing a great job and this is a great post! Why more people aren’t outraged at the way our health is treated in this country is beyond me.


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