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How pharmaceutical companies sell you their 'best' drugs

The US medical profession and overall population are “educated” on a continuous basis by the pharmaceutical companies. The top 10 drugs sold in the US in 2013 totaled 48.6 billion dollars.

Botox is a poison now prescribed for headaches
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

This education starts in medical schools and continues through the provision of drug sales tools, samples and seminars to the medical doctors (MDs) for as long the doctors are practicing. There are incentive plans to boost the MD's income and sponsorships to exotic meeting venues that are underwritten by the pharmaceutical companies.

In recent years, one of the newest and most successful sales approaches is to use the phrase, “Ask your doctor about the benefits of” the new drug that the sponsor has just advertised on TV. The doctors that have been indoctrinated to find the right pill for whatever ails you will generally write the prescription that you have asked to receive.

The pharmaceutical companies are counting on your lack of attention to the really serious side effects that they share in their TV ads. The beginning of the advertisement starts with a health issue and a happy patient that has found the pill to solve the problem. The end of the ad lists issues side effects like headache, diarrhea, and itchy skin. The final reminder is to “ask your doctor”.

The FDA has provided a “stay out of court” approach that requires the drug companies to rapidly list all of the really serious side effects in the ad. The ads must do this. This is always done in the middle of the ad because the marketing studies show that consumers really only listen to the beginning and end of the advertisements. Advertisers know that the beginning and end are what are remembered. The rest is just blah, blah, blah and not that important to most ad targets.

The top three drugs sold in 2013 were Abilify, Nexium and Humira. The website for Abilify provides information about the effects and a free product offer. The site also provides a link to ABILIFY Assist, and Tools for Therapy. These links help the doctors, patients and pharmacists to qualify insurance payments for Abilify, get free samples and continuing discounts, and an warnings about the possible effects of the drug.

Abilify is a drug to help the anti-depressant drug that isn’t working potentially work better. The warnings include mention that Abilify may cause suicidal thoughts among users, and that Abilify should not be used with patients with dementia because it makes them more likely to die.

Medical News Today provides a list of 20 drugs that have interactions with Abilify. Some of them are commonly prescribed anti-depressants. provides the list of the top selling drugs, with the top 10 products each generating over 3 billion dollars in revenue per year in 2013.

Nexium is the purple pill that helps reduce heartburn. You know that because you have heard the Nexium ad repeatedly before and after it became available over the counter. It became an over the counter drug when the patent ran out. Strong advertising has helped maintain its revenue stream. Nexium works and now it is less expensive. claims to be an independent source of drug information. This is important because most of the website information available is by the pharmaceutical manufacturer of the product. provides a link to Nexium side effects in a subsection For Healthcare Professionals. The major categories for potential but rare side effects include a long list of gastrointestinal diseases, nervous systems disorders including seizures, cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat, and so on.

The term General Side Effects is what the ads usually mention at the end of the dialog. Consider the above list of side effects listed by for Nexium and then see what the ads emphasize as side effects as quoted below.

General side effects including hot flushes, fatigue, fever, flu-like disorder, leg edema, malaise, pain, earache, tinnitus, otitis, parosmia, taste loss, taste perversion, and enlarged abdomen have been reported.

The same discussions regarding how side effects are described for Abilify and Nexium occur for Humira and all of the other pharmaceutical drugs. Doctors generally trust that the drug companies are providing reliable safety information. The actual testing, which is often used to justify the cost of new drugs, can be as short as 6 months and involve fewer than a few thousand people. The FDA provides a mechanism to identify post-marketing issues. This is the true test of drug safety, and you are potentially the bad result that didn't show up in the limited manufacturer tests.

The other source of data for seriously flawed drugs are the advertisements by lawyers seeking clients that have had proven medical problems. One of the latest drugs is Androgel and similar testosterone gels to increase testosterone for better sexual performance. The ads promoting testing of "low-T" have been removed. While the admonishment that masturbation can make you blind is rarely true, Viagra and Cialis have a much worse safety record. These drugs can cause strokes, heart attacks, and permanent damage to reproductive organs. The side effects of Botox use for treating migraine headaches is now being revealed through lawsuits, and is forcing disclosures in the TV advertisements.

The side effects of many of the drugs being sold are substantially worse than the disease they are supposed to cure. The incidence rates of the most severe side effects are often found in less than 2% of the patients. The alternatives for many of the pharmaceutical drugs can be found in foods and herbs that have been used for 3,000 to 5,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicines.

These alternatives are dismissed by most medical doctors because there have been no double blind studies done by the pharmaceutical companies that the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists rely upon for their drug information. This shows the effectiveness of the indoctrination and incentives provided to the medical profession by the pharmaceutical companies.

The way that pharmaceutical drugs are promoted has changed the way that many people look at their health, with an expectation that people can expect surgery or a pill to compensate for poor choices with regard to what they eat and drink, and lifestyles that include no exercise, high stress levels, and ignoring their body until a critical problem occurs.

When you see your next TV, internet or printed advertisement for a drug to cure your health issue, listen to the middle of the ad. Consider what else you can be doing to solve your problem besides taking a pill that may cure you, or that may seriously injure or kill you.

Be aware that the pharmaceutical companies have spent billions in research and hundreds of millions in advertising to get you to buy a product to cure whatever you are experiencing. The doctors get their information from the companies making the drugs. When you are offered a new pill, use your brain and the internet to find out the benefits and potential side effects before you commit to a new drug. The best approach may be to make a commitment to change your lifestyle to be healthier instead of depending upon a pill to save you from your unhealthy choices.

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