How The Drug Industry Uses Creativity To Bypass Advertising Laws

How The Drug Industry Uses Creativity To Bypass Ad...

How The Drug Industry Uses Creativity To Bypass Advertising Laws

Shane Ellison M. Sc.

Late comedian Bill Hicks said that “Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.” With the onslaught of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising, watching television has now become suicide in slow motion. If you don’t know what DTC advertising is then you are likely a victim.

DTC advertising is a commercial that begins by highlighting some enormous biological problem like indigestion, sneezing or watery eyes. It ends by telling you about the miracle drug that will cure such insurmountable illness. The pharmaceutical industry states that DTC advertising is an important vehicle for conveying information to patients and medical doctors.[1] In reality, DTC advertising is a way of profiteering by converting healthy people into patients.

According to the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), sales for DTC advertised drugs increase 20% faster than sales for drugs that are not heavily advertised to consumers. The GAO reported that regardless of the lack of safety and effectiveness, DTC advertising always increases the sale of a drug. Leveraging this, the drug industry spends about $2 to $3 billion annually to unleash false advertising campaigns in order to sell drugs that “lack safety and efficacy.” To skirt the law, they use creativity. Here are some glaring examples:

In a most aggressive attempt to bypass FDA regulations, makers of Nexium should get an award for their creativity. Running drug ads for the “purple pill,” Nexium maker Astra-Zeneca became exempt from all FDA regulations by simply not stating the name of the drug. Instead, the company called it the “Healing Purple Pill.” Capitalizing on the loophole, its ad both failed to describe the condition it is intended to treat and failed to describe the risks and benefits associated with taking the drug. The only thing the hypnotized masses knew was that they should “ask their doctor if the healing purple pill was right for them.” Overnight, AstraZeneca obtained unbridled marketing power and convinced millions that the drug would cure something, which led to a purple pill feast.

Numerous drug companies have followed this lead. Schering-Plough raked in its share of profits using this marketing technique for Claritin. By stating the drug’s name but not what it was used for, the ads for Claritin were exempt from FDA regulations. Therefore, the ads did not disclose the drug’s risks; a clear violation of current laws. The only thing the hypnotized masses knew was that, Claritin was the next best thing since Dairy Queen – without the dangers. This popularity eventually resulted in the approval of Claritin as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug. Now, anyone who sneezes or coughs can rush to the grocer and gulp down Claritin.

Ex-FDA commissioner Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., has publicly admitted the faults of DTC advertising in general, noting:

“Physicians and others are concerned that consumers may not always get a balanced view of the benefits and risks of a product.”

DTC advertising works because it forges a belief among the general public that drugs, not lifestyle habits and nutrition, confer health and longevity. Once in place, most people become prescription drug addicts. Their way of thinking goes like this:

“I’ll ignore proper nutrition, suck down diet soda, and sit myself in a cubicle all day. I’ll relinquish my health responsibility to my doctor by following his orders. Never mind drug side-effects, my expanding waist line, afternoon lethargy and the inability to exercise or make love to my spouse. To procure health I’ll just eat drugs: the cholesterol and blood-pressure lowering kind. After all, my corporate drug-eating insurance plan will pay for them.”

This mind-set, like a bullet to the head, shortens life-span. Outside of emergency medicine, not a single drug cures disease. They just mask symptoms. You’d have to be a health retard not to notice. As documented in my book, Health Myths Exposed, while prescription drug use has risen, sickness has skyrocketed thanks to drug induced illness like cancer, diabetes and obesity. But you don’t have to take my word for it. To test whether or not drug use confers health you can perform a simple test using a co-worker as a lab rat:

Observe him gargling down his drugs…Now, is he healthy? He sports drug induced low cholesterol courtesy of Lipitor and has blood pressure akin to that of a 13 year old thanks to Atenolol or Coreg. But is he really healthy? No! Looking at our lab rat we can see that despite his expense for the meds he is pretty damn sick…He is clinically obese, has troubles sleeping and his wife is not very happy in bed…But rest assured, Joe Coffee will tell you he is healthy and in the same breath he will recite his "good" cholesterol levels. This is what I call a valuable lab rat…He provides us with so much insight. Insight that shows very few prescription drugs have any value outside of emergency medicine. But Joe Coffee’s doctor will assure him that he is healthy cause his “numbers look great!"

DTC advertising crippled Joe Coffee’s logic and health and it will cripple your kids. Growing up under this advertising machine ensures that, as adults, our children become prescription drug worshipers. Unable to distinguish the indoctrination disguised as advertising from the truth, adults who grow up exposed to drug ads will inevitably abandon lifestyle and nutritional habits to procure health and instead reach for drugs, drugs and more drugs.

Admittedly, DTC advertisements usually do mention the potential side effects of drugs, yet doctors tend to discount them. They simply regurgitate the pharmaceutical-company quote of “the benefits outweigh the risks.” Rent-a-quote medical doctors use this statement to bury the pharmaceutical bullet deeper into the minds of the masses.

Once a nation under God, we are now one nation under drugs thanks to DTC advertising and rent-a-quote medical doctors. Bill Hicks allegedly died from cancer. But many more people will succumb to the pharmaceutical bullet.


1, Henry, David A. and Newby, David. Drug Advertising: Truths, half truths and few statistics. Medical Journal of Australia. 2002;177(6): 285-286.

© 2007 Shane Ellison – All Rights Reserved


Shane holds a Master's degree in organic chemistry and has first-hand industry experience with drug research, design and synthesis. With his keen ability to sift through scientific literature and weed out fact from fiction, Shane has empowered thousands to assert their health freedom by saying "no" to prescription drugs. Learn more about his books Health Myths Exposed and The Hidden Truth about Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs.

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