Snake Oil – Big Pharma Marketing Budgets

Posted on April 7, 2011

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Define: Snake Oil>>> Expression applied metaphorically to any product (usually medical) with exaggerated marketing but questionable and / or unverifiable quality of benefit.

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

I have taken prescription medicine before so I am not against pills per se – I agree that some products trotted out by Big Pharma undoubtedly work.  But it is extremely naive to think that they all do…

Some of the drugs produced by Big Pharma are simply costly placebos or even worse, a cure more terrible than the disease

If the whole process of drug development through testing, verification and product marketing seems like an intimidating subject to you, then I would recommend  Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks – it’s a very readable book that strips away the industry jargon and it will really get you thinking about drug efficacy, or more accurately the unverifiable nature of drug effectiveness – the second characteristic of “snake oil” …

But this blog is mainly to draw your attention to the first feature of snake oil – Exaggerated Marketing Practices.   We all know that Big Pharma Corporations make huge money, most people I talk to believe that it’s OK for Big Pharma to make gigantic profits because they have to justify massive Development Expenses and cover the costs of getting the drug to market.  But I contend that this argument is simply wrong, it’s an Urban Myth…

Big Pharma spends MORE on Marketing than it does on Research and Development !

Thats right – more on marketing than on Research and Development – they would rather spend their time convincing you to buy (or more accurately a doctor to prescribe) a product than they would spending time making drugs that actually work.    You would think that mere “word of mouth” advertising would be enough for products that offer to save or prolong your very life -why the big expense?

It has taken quite some time of sifting through tedious financial statements from the 2010 financial year to bring you some outrageous figures:

  • [Johnson and Johnson: Marketing = $19.0Billion, R&D = $6.8Billion]
  • [Pfizer: Marketing = $19.6Billion, R&D = $9.4Billion]
  • [Roche: Marketing = $9.5 Billion, R&D = $10 Billion]
  • more figures to come

3 x daily with meals placebos anyone?

Wouldn’t it be nice if they focused on making drugs that work, rather than trying to force us to swallow placebos?

Here is an industry than needs more regulation – what about some sort of limitation on the amount of money they can spend on marketing compared to R&D?

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