Health & Fitness

Understanding Big Pharma’s Propaganda Machine


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Laurie Powell, a former medical brand strategist, spent a decade identifying drugs that would have the potential to treat prevalent and widespread medical issues, and persuading physicians to believe that these drugs were valuable, even if their effectiveness or overall safety was not yet proven.

According to Powell, ad agencies work with pharmaceutical companies to create ghostwritten articles that praise certain drugs utilizing cherry-picked data, and these articles are provided to medical journals. These “scientific articles” are not truly scientific, says Powell, but are actually forms of advertisements created to convince physicians to believe in a certain drug’s potential as well as influence their colleagues.

“It would start with New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, those kinds of large publications,” says Powell, as well as communicating with smaller publications more specifically tailored to certain medical conditions. “We’d plan out over the next few years how we’re going to take the messages that come from the data— which we’d slice and dice that up— and disseminate those messages throughout those publications over a course of years.”

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