John Oliver on Big Pharma and the Marketing of Drugs to Doctors

By Elaine Magliaro

John Oliver’s HBO program Last Week Tonight is back from a three-month hiatus. Oliver did a killer segment last night on Big Phrama and the huge amount of money that drug companies spend on marketing their drugs to doctors

During the program, Oliver said, “Drug companies are like high school boyfriends. They’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.”

Inae Oh (Mother Jones):

According to one report referenced on Sunday’s show, nine out of ten drug companies allocate significantly more on marketing than actual scientific research–a practice Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently announced she is working to reverse. Much of the money is spent on attractive representatives, many of whom are clueless to the products they’re selling, to push the drugs. Some reps even dangle complimentary meals to persuade doctors into cashing in.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Marketing to Doctors (HBO)

SOURCES

John Oliver: Big Pharma is like a teen boy — more interested in getting inside you than being effective (Raw Story)

John Oliver: Big Pharma Is Like Your High School Boyfriend, Only Concerned with “Getting Inside You” (Mother Jones)

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14 Responses to John Oliver on Big Pharma and the Marketing of Drugs to Doctors

  1. bettykath says:

    A friend of mine, a doctor, told about the gifts she rec’d, including toys for her kids. She would also be evaluated on what drugs she prescribed and in what quantities. Since she advocated lifestyle changes instead of drugs (choice left to the patient), she rarely prescribed enough to keep the drug companies happy. She was eventually drummed out of the profession.

  2. “Drug companies are like high school boyfriends. They’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.”

    I get your point, Mr. Oliver, but I don’t think you speak of everyone’s high school days.

    Just sayin’.

  3. Inga says:

    Not only toys for kids, booze for docs, uniforms, lunches for staff, trips to so called conferences, office supplies, so much bribery.

  4. Things have changed regarding gifts. The main thing now is a free lunch for the clinic staff while the detail rep gives a presentation. Typically PowerPoint, video, or both. New laws have made things a bit more difficult when it comes to bribing promotional items for doctors.

    A psychiatrist friend of mine threw the Prozac rep out of his office at the time Prozac went generic. Seems they repackaged it in pink, or some such, with a brand new copyright/trademark. The marketing push was aimed at “female problems.” PMS if memory serves. When the rep started his schtick about the latest and greatest thing for the ladies, my friend went ballistic. At least he didn’t do anything for which he could be indicted.

  5. blouise says:

    Also need to watch which drugs the hospitals are pushing. I’d be willing to wager there’s a whole lot to be investigated on that front.

  6. blouise17 says:

    Drug companies are like high school boyfriends. They’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.”

    I get your point, Mr. Oliver, but I don’t think you speak of everyone’s high school days.

    Just sayin’.

    😉

  7. pete says:

    I never knew Red Lobster had take-out until I saw a drug rep delivering to a doctors office for lunch.

    I was proscribed Advair for some time. According to my insurance they were paying around $220.00 per discus. A woman I know was that has the same disorder as me was traveling to Saudi Arabia. She told me that while in Egypt she refilled her script for Advair. It cost her $7.00 US.

  8. We go offshore to find some news of interest. From the RT (Russia Today) news website:

    Pentagon dropped over $500,000 on Viagra last year.

    Lends a whole new meaning to, “Support the troops.”

  9. Inga says:

    Chuck, that’s an uplifting report. o_O

  10. buckaroo says:

    Sounds like we have two problems – unprofessional physicians after spending decades in time & money to care for the nation health & a pharmaceutical industry. anxious to sell its product.

  11. pete says:

    see you doctor if you’ve been standing at attention for more than four hours.

  12. blouise17 says:

    Viagra was originally conceived as a treatment for hypertension and angina but during testing it was noted that male test subjects got erections. The Pfizer patent runs through 2020 here in the States and much longer in other countries. Lilly’s Cialis gives them some competition but the overall sales for penis rehabilitation reaches $5 billion-a-year in the global market.

  13. mespo727272 says:

    Pete:

    “see you doctor if you’ve been standing at attention for more than four hours.”
    *****************

    Personally, I’d see my tailor since its pays to advertise.

  14. Slartibartfast says:

    Having been looking into pharmaceutical R&D costs, I’m dubious about this claim. Pretty much the absolute minimum R&D cost is $400 million per drug–that’s the bargain basement for the company who has developed a single drug (successfully). A more realistic cost for a larger company (i.e. a company more likely to do a significant amount of advertising) could have a median R&D cost of more like $5.3 billion. If we assume that half of that cost is lost sales from reduced patent lifetimes, this means at least $100 million to $1.5 billion spent on marketing. While I’m sure they spend a lot, it seems a little bit ridiculous that drug companies have marketing campaigns similar in magnitude to campaigns for the presidency.

    Just sayin’…

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