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Do Pharmaceutical Commercials Benefit Americans?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

On this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Melody Petersen, an independent journalist who formerly covered the drug industry for the NEW YORK TIMES and is author of OUR DAILY MEDS: HOW THE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES TRANSFORMED THEMSELVES INTO SLICK MARKETING MACHINES AND HOOKED THE NATION ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS.

Addressing how advertising and marketing have affected the prescription drug business, Petersen said:

“A very powerful technique that the drug companies spend millions and millions of dollars on is hiring physicians to give lectures to other physicians on their drugs. It looks like the physician is up there giving his independent position on this drug, but often he’s been trained by an advertising agency. His slide presentation has been created by an ad agency. It looks like independent science, but it’s not... They want to get as many articles published in our medical journals as they can that show their products in favorable lights and will get physicians to prescribe them, so they often hire a Madison Avenue ad agency to write up an article for them or a study. The name of the ad agency rarely appears in the published version; instead, they hire doctors to put their names on as author... It’s gone so far that some independent scientists are starting to view our medical literature as propaganda.”

Others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), argue that “direct to consumer” ads help educate and engage prospective patients about their healthcare options.

What do you think?


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after listening to Dr.angell Im confused up to this point i was a 100 percent for obamas reform bil. but if I will be suportting the in insurence companys and giving them more power and money and make them more involved in hglealthcare forget it .Im all for single payer health reform.but the growing power of the peaple is getting stronger take insurence companys out of healthcare.

May 17, 2008, William Hopkins, MD wrote, in part, "Congress, the populace and the regulatory agencies, to a far greater depth than you addressed, are intricately strangled by this devious money machine web of the pharmaceutical indstries' creation.

It is not beyond consideration that Big Pharma monitors this blog, and is fully capable of finding seemingly unconnected ways to discredit doctors such as me who raise these issues.

Make no mistake about my background. I am a 60 year old lifelong Republican, conservative, middle class doctor. I am not a social reformer. In fact, I doubt this is reformable short of armed insurrection. Or a wholesale turning out of every elected representative in Washington. And the populace is far too duped and complacent to do that.

Thanks for trying anyway."

Well, it's almost 2 years later, and the "truth" has its boots on, now what?

Hand over the leadership to spunking hooligans who just want to get theirs out of the system...? Surely, no one BELIEVES that the tea baggers CARE...? Most of them LOVED their job telling people to shut up and suffer because insurance won't cover it.

There are THOUSANDS of us who have REAL data about the morally repugnant shenanigans that is called FOR PROFIT "health care". The door has been opened by a former Pfizer employee who brought Qui Tam to bear against Pfizer - and won.

Make arrangements with patients to understand when the strike is going to be

and half of them might suddenly be "feeling" less depressed and might join in the fun.

jpn fan: Sadists do have to "fork" people over. Ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog? Here we are, midstream in treachery, and the scorpion is about to sting on health reform, even as we are economically boiled. (Sue Myrick and Patrick McHenry and Richard Burr are scorpions, and they cannot change their sadist nature. A bought sadist politician is worse than a half-bought compromiser like the late EMK, but Kucinich proves we can do better. Support HR 676.

Note:Why can't Moyers let people see the art of jpn? It's only art, and we are adult citizens. Sometimes action is spurred by radical inspiration. You don't have to "fork" people to survive, unless you're bought.

Becca: I'm witnessing very similar medical experiences here in NC. They treat enough to get the money and when it goes so does the patient.
We need a new medical system and less business training for doctors. I also worry about privacy as Obama's crew works to digitize medical records. If financial institutions can't keep our credit cards safe and if there are consumer researchers spying on all our habits, employers and whomever else will soon know our medical condition before and better than we do ourselves. Then it's off to the abboitoire. (Fresh hearts on demand for 76 year old billionaire football owners.)

Our entire medical system in the US is in dire need of a vast overhaul.

Of course, not every drug nor every person in the medical profession should be described as "evil." Yet, the entire system is systematically failing the masses as much as it is saving people in certain cases. If you are in an accident, or in a medical crisis then yes, you may be helped at a hospital. If you don't have insurance what is the odds that you will receive the best of care?

I read that the number 1 cause of death in the US is ERROR by the medical world. Either by giving the wrong medication or some other human error. Research it and see what you find.

From my own experience I've found that at least in the south (TN, GA) they are literally starving people to death. This was before the Terri Schiavo story. They told people it is an easy way to go. They hounded people to kill their loved ones on a daily basis. It happened to me regarding my Mom. It happened to other patients around her. My Mom was 74 and alert, when they weren't over-medicating her. She wanted to live but, I had to fight at every turn to try to give her that chance. Unfortunately, the patient and family are at the mercy of the system. They "own" the patient and must medicate them to their heart's desire. I begged them not to give my Mom morphene, but they wouldn't comply. It bounced her blood pressure all over the place and then, her kidneys shut down. The Dr. tried to stop feeding her, and even told her do you don't really want to live like this. It never occurred to my Mom to even think of saying ok, go ahead and kill me. They did anyway.
It was just a matter of time.
They refused to let me move her to another facility, and even threatened to move her out of state (several states away) because they wanted her to go back to their substandard long term care faclity. When I refused they threatened all types of things like billing me personally for her care even though she had medicare and a supplimental policy.

In my opinion, if your medicare is about to run out so is your time on this earth in these hospitals. It makes me fearful for the boomer generation about to learn first hand what the reality is like. I'm only hoping that the entire country hasn't followed the (TN and GA) resolution to caring for the elderly.

There was a man 74 who had a stroke, they talked the family into unplugging his respirator after a week. During the family meeting in his hospital room they said he had tears in his eyes listening to them talk about the procedure. They unplugged his respirator but, he didn't die. The hospital talked the family into removing his feeding tube. It took them 12 days to starve him to death.

A man of 54 was in an auto accident. He was brought to the hospital from a smaller town. He was talking upon arrival. His young daughter was talked into unplugging his respirator within 2 weeks. They told her he wouldn't want to live in a nursing home for months. So, he was dead.

Even the best of hospitals and its workers make mistakes, yet what I saw in treatment at that hospital in TN was not what I would describe as a situation anyone should have to endure. When people are as disposable as this, where do we draw the line? When do we question the system? Who wants to be treated in such a system? Not me! God forbid, especially if you don't have insurance. The case of my Mom. She went into the hospital for a test and some young intern gave her the wrong medication which would lead from one error to the next, and the next, and next until her already frail body could live no design of the "system." Please, let's fight for healthcare reform for all!


Each person has an individual genetic pattern
that may be affected variously by various chemical concoctions. No prescription drug should be commercially advertized
since its effect is so likely to be adverse to many. Let the Doctors educated to medicinal practice, be purely the deciders.

You are so right about Crestor, Lipitor and so on Steve Messina. There has not been time to determine the statistics on long term effects. These drugs are prescribed assuming patient diets will not change. I not only reversed diabetes II, but also hypertension and narrowed arteries on a vegan diet as suggested by Dr. Neil Barnard's research at George Washington Univ.

I also wonder about long term suffering after ED remedies, now in larger doses. They not only affect the genitals but delicate areas such as the eyes and kidneys. Well, I guess they'll do it till they go blind or piss blood. I haven't heard much about (permanent, not visiting)penis transplants, but anything's possible with profit motive, maybe from equines, performed in Thailand.

Anyway, thanks for the heads-up, Steve.

I think that Melody Peterson is right on the money with "Our Daily Meds". A few weeks ago, ABC led the World News Tonight news show with a breaking lead story. "We should now start taking statins even if we don't have high cholesterol".
They specifically named Crestor. The university study stated that the statins would help keep your heart healthy in other ways. They also mentioned that Crestor payed for the study.
I know that the makers of Crestor pay a large sum of money to advertise on the networks and to me, this story was nothing more than the ABC paying back the people who pay their salary's. Who do they think they a fooling.
How many people will have the liver problems that drug companies point out are so common when taking these drugs. All of this done in the name of boosting shareholder profits. The drug companies and the media making billions of dollars at the consumers expense.
Every few years there are major issues that affect millions of people in a negative way. The problems a few years ago. The motgage, auto and banking issues today.
But there is one more major negative issue that is festering out there. I predict that we will see millions of American's needing Liver transplants at he same time. This should come to the surface in about ten years and we can thank our goverment, our drug companies and the media for it. But the media always makes out. They will make billions more reporting the story.

I started reading Ms. Petersen's book this week, and honestly couldn't finish it. I work at an Advertising Agency and have worked with pharmaceutical clients for the past 5 years, and, before that, with food industry clients. Her book is a bit like a Michael Moore documentary -- about 10% is real, and the balance must be taken with a whole ocean full of salt, as it is either taken entirely out of context or just flat out misrepresented.

The United States is a Capitalist Economy. Yes, pharmaceutical companies do have a bottom line, and, often, shareholders. You'll find that most large companies in this country do -- regardless of the industry they are in, including food, wine, gas & oil, solar and wind power, tobacco, fast food, grocery stores, media (certainly including television) and even railroads and shipping companies.

There is no shame in the profit motive here. If you want to argue that the pharma industry should all be privatized and government run, I think I'd disagree, as we'd be taking all the money from cancer research at this point and using it to blow up Iraqis and recruit 16 year old boys into the military before they finish high school with promises of exotic travel. Further, I'm not so sure that socialized healthcare is such a great idea -- my husband's family lives in Europe, and his mother recently died of cancer that took her physician over 6 months to find, despite the fact that it was in her bones, liver, lungs and brain. I think I'll stick with Aetna and my own physician, thank you very much.

And truly, the claim that the industry is fully organized to develop and sell pills to people who don't need them is ridiculous. First and foremost, the idea that such a huge group of people would be motivated by money alone to develop drugs they didn't have any real belief in is ridiculous; the suicide rates for that group of people would be through the roof. All of this research is undertaken to try to help people. And many of the medications developed do. Even the lifestyle drugs can have a huge impact. Ms. Petersen makes light of detrol, but a condition such as overactive bladder can have a *huge* impact on a person's, self esteem and confidence, not to mention their ability to make a living. Try working on a factory production line at a factory if you have to run to the bathroom even once an hour -- and most of the women who do have overactive bladder really do have to *run* to get there fast enough.

Yes, these medications almost always have side effects, so each person needs to decide for him or herself if the benefit is worth the risk of the side effect. The position she has taken, that these companies develop these drugs, intending to or carelessly harming people, and make up conditions to treat, is again ridiculous. I'm not saying they never do anything wrong. Of course not. There are bad apples in any and every industry, company, group, race, gender, city, etc. But the vast majority of people are good, and want to do good things for their fellow human beings. The pharmaceutical industry is no worse -- or better -- than any other. But their intent is certainly NOT to hurt people in order to make money. That is not a sustainable business model in any industry.

As much as we'd like healthcare to be a hard science, there is still a large part of it that is art. And every body is different, handles sickness, stress, pain, and treatment differently. Yes, sometimes the results of clinical studies are all over the board, which makes it difficult to know what is real and when there are confounding factors involved. But I will tell you that there are people today, who knowing full well the risks associated with Vioxx, would *happily* take it again, because nothing else can help them to handle their arthritis like it did, and without it, they can barely function.

Ms. Petersen has forgotten that many things have changed over the past 50 years. My mother smoked and drank when she was pregnant with me. No one I knew as a kid wore a helmet to go biking -- even if they were on a motorcycle, let alone a 10 speed. Seatbelts?? I think I wore one for the first time when I took Driver's Ed. We have learned many things about the human body over the past 50 years. We know that cigarettes harm a fetus, and we also know that older women who fall down and break their hips have a much higher rate of dying over the course of the following year. If Grandma had taken detrol so she had just a little bit more control over her bladder perhaps she wouldn't have to be in such a huge rush to get to the bathroom that she fell and consequently broke her hip. We have identified many different conditions and diseases that weren't understood 50 years ago. Ms. Petersen may not deem them all worthy of treatment -- but I don't think that's her decision to make.

I do agree that often the conditions the pharmaceutical companies treatment focus on don't benefit the masses or the poor. Sorry. Again -- it's a capitalist society. If Ms. Petersen wants to encourage the development for treatments that may benefit these groups more than existing treatments, or to make them more affordable, then perhaps a better investment of her time would be working with a non-profit organization or research center to try to raise funds to get that research done and that medication developed. I'd be happy to help her advertise it and arrange some CME around it. Because if no one tells the doctors about it, and the people who would benefit from it don't know about it either, then no one will take it, and it won't help very many people...

I am 45 yrs.old.The only time I got to see a doctor is when I got a physical for employment.I have hyphertention arthuritis.I don't have the money.I work 44 hr's a week.

In response to SN- I have idiopathic severe primary RLS- since childhood. I was finally diagnosed and given Requip at the age of forty and actually slept through the night for the first time. How many times did I hear from doctors that it was grwoing pains, nerves etc.? Which is worse? Chronic insomnia or a pill that allows sleep? I'll take the lame commercials and stupid comments fom would be comedians as long as it raises awareness about a disease that I know won't kill me, but wish it would.

As a practicing psychiatrist in the state of NY what I do not understand is why the state medicaid system forces us to prescribe ambien CR (currently under patent) for sleep instead of generic ambien. What did the decision makers receive from the makers of ambien CR?

I remember Melody Peterson's articles when she worked for the Times. Though there is a certain sameness to the anti-Pharma books (and no books about family members killed by the drugs)I say the more the merrier.

My only son was killed by Eli Lilly's "blockbuster" Zyprexa back before there were any warnings, except deep in the bowels of the FDA. Only later did I learn (see blog furious seasons) that Lilly KNEW the drug caused diabetes, hyperglycemia, and death but decided to hide the news from the public.

None of them are in prison. In Pharmaland, it's okay to kill people, and okay to get away with it.

Although Ms. Peterson has some legitimate points many of her comments were misleading and not well-balanced. Absolutely, pharmaceutical companies are aggressive in marketing to patients and physicians. But please give physicians some credit for being able to see through the hype and give the public some credit also. While overactive bladder (Detrol)or uncomplicated toenail fungus (Lamisil) are not life threatening conditions for which pharmaceutical agents must be prescribed, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, peptic ulcer disease, and diabetes are! Without the pharmaceutical agents for these diseases reductions in the incidence of stroke and heart disease, and reductions in complications from diabetes and death from stomach ulcers would not have occurred. Over my 20 years of practicing medicine my ability to help patients better control their chronic diseases has improved because of the newer, safer, more efficacious medications developed by the pharmaceutical industry. How many people are actually able to comply with taking multiple medications four times per day, every day for their hypertension and diabetes? Very few. But thanks to true R&D (research and development) by the pharmaceutical industry we now can offer patients choices of how to manage their chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. We do need to have a dialogue about the current state of affairs: direct-to-consumer advertising, misleading advertising to physicians, unacceptably high adverse drug reactions, over-prescribing/over-utilization of health care resources, etc. but it must be balanced and facilitate problem-solving not finger pointing and the maligning of an entire industry. P.S. If Ms. Peterson is interested, the last "gift" I received from a pharmaceutical representative were some books for my medical students which had the company's propaganda on it. I therefore did not give it to the medical students.

Did you ever stop to think that without the profit motive in phamaceuticals we would have an entirely different set of medications to treat entirely different disease categories? Then you begin to think our entire existence is skewed from the benevolent experience it might be were it not for global corporate capitalism. I'm ready to throw off the money parasites, get paid for the useful work I could be otherwise doing and find out what kind of world human beings would fashion without these "inhuman citizens" quashing and perverting our altruistic efforts.

I wanted to thank you and Melody Petersen for bringing this disturbing story to light. My wife and I have been talking about this for some time but thought we where just being paranoid. I do not remember when I stopped trusting doctors, but it's been awhile.

Thank you for raising awareness of this important topic. After nearly 10 years living overseas, one of the biggest changes upon returning to the US was the unbridled ability of pharmas to advertise directly to the consumer. (the other change being the explosion of 24 hour news). I have huge ethical problems with this. My 11 year old daughter watched a 'hilarious' utube video called "Mike forgets to take his meds". It clearly emphasizes the level of infiltration these meds/drugs have had on all levels of our society is alarming. I am not opposed to legitimate use of meds when needed but as you said in your show, many health conditions have now been created so as to create markets for the meds.

I totally agree that until physicians are freed from the grip of pharmaceutical companies and can be free to act as the patient advocate again, we as consumers are in danger of being overmedicated to address problems that can often be treated with healthy lifestyle and other less risky methods. I feel helpless as a consumer and a parent in knowing who I can trust when it comes to our family health. Keep the discussion going until it effects change!

Apparently Petersen has an agenda – prove that western pharmaceuticals companies are greedy beyond all bounds. Populated by evil people who feed on the sick and weak.

Petersen is, stylistically, no Ann Coulter, but her analytical approach as manifested on the show is equivalent. Craft statements to fit her case for vilification and ignore all contrary information.

Unfortunately her approach is the norm. No on-the-one-hand-this and on-the-other-hand-that. No Consumer Reports column A compared to column B with strengths and weaknesses highlighted. It’s here’s the villain and these are the reasons I know he is a villain.

It is not surprising that evaluative rigor is not Petersen’s strength. If we needed the lesson, the run up to the Iraq war taught us not to expect independent analysis from journalists. However, it was surprising that Bill Moyers did not question even her most extreme statements and generally seemed to accept every utterance as gospel.

Like Petersen, I also find many marketing and lobbying practices of pharmaceuticals companies deplorable. [Likewise many otherwise respected health care providers and businesses have deplorable marketing and lobbying practices.] Yet, as a retired employee with 30 plus years in universities and the pharmaceuticals industry, I know first hand that billions of dollars are spent every year by the pharmaceuticals industry on leading edge research that is solely focused on advancing the health of mankind. [Scientists in the industry have won Nobel prizes for their work.] I know industry scientists who have the highest credentials and integrity who have committed their lives to finding cures for dreaded diseases. [Many of these scientists left academia and government for pharmaceuticals companies to gain the resources they felt they needed to attack complex diseases.] I know people who have worked weeks on end with no breaks to solve complex manufacturing problems to ensure potent drugs are manufactured to the necessary high quality. In other words, the picture Petersen paints of people in the industry and their motives simply isn’t what I have experienced first hand. No doubt her villains are in the industry, but the vast majority of professionals in the pharmaceuticals industry are highly educated, hard working, and focused on improving human health.

More personally, as a recent cancer survivor, I have gained an extension to my life as a result of research in health care. Research sponsored or executed by government agencies, universities, foundations, AND the pharmaceuticals industry. There is no perfect chemotherapy and radiation is a bitch – but many agents today are better than those of just a few years ago and techniques in radiation are more effective and sparing because of this research.

Given the advanced state of science and technology today we believe we are positioned to make breakthroughs that could eradicate much disease and suffering. To do so, we must have constructive debates that allow us to find more effective paths to important cures and widespread support for those paths. We must also effect policies that ensure all will benefit from medical advances. While Petersen’s vilification approach may enrich Petersen and may make interesting TV, it is not a constructive contribution to this important debate.

Manipulation for the purpose of making a dime is the American way of business. Even in the business of food production - we're told all the treaties for importing/exporting of crops is to give us higher quantities and cheaper prices. We see what prices have done. The only product that has gone up in quality, gone down in price, and seems to be perfectly abundant - is marijuana. Even the medical marijuana (Marinol) used in cancer treatments is easy, cheap, and abundant - but since the medical industries can't make a huge profit off it, we end up depending on Morphines and Fentanyls and OxyCodones at prices that rival Mercedes and Lexus.

I watched the interview with Ms. Peterson while I was in the middle of reading David Michaels' Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. In a chapter entitled "The Country Has a Drug Problem" Michaels describes how pharmaceutical companies' manipulation of the medical community begins even before the slick ad campaigns- the scientific process itself is subverted to benefit the profit margins of these companies. Michaels sets the behavior of the pharmaceutical companies within the wider view of how various industries (tobacco, chemical, asbestos, etc.) have, and continue to, manipulate science, aided by PR firms, lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, regulatory agencies, and members of the medical and scientific communities themselves. I look forward to reading Ms. Peterson's book, as well.

Last night I watched the PBS documentary on life expectancy
("Unnatural Causes")in the United States. The quality of our healthcare was charted at
below that of Cuba at about 30th, despite the fact we pay out more for it per patient than any other nation. The disadvantages of being poor were compounded by the stresses of "hierarchy." In other words, our system not only exploits those lower on the status ladder, it abuses them. As resources dry up and spending power falls we are moving deeper and deeper into a psychological fascism built upon sadistic practice. As I study the employments of my friends and associates I find the corporate system increasingly cruel and arbitrary in the ways employees are treated. This is in a system where customers and clients are increasingly exploited, defrauded and mistreated to maximize profit. In other words, those with sadistic capabilities are sought and rewarded to fulfill such bureaucratic functions. More and more jobs produce nothing and provide no public service but perform extractive procedures upon the public for the corporate employer. This partially explains why things work poorer and poorer for customers as corporate management wrings out margins. This country is entering cascade failure in every sector. The medical system is no exception. I myself am tired of being treated from a MacDonalds' menu of ailments and treatments, recruited into inappropriate disease categories, and prescribed medicines I don't need while my symptoms go unexamined and my complaints unanswered. The only possible explanation is the perks and punishments doctors receive from providers and drug firms. I no longer trust any physician or hospital. Never seek medical help before doing your research, and never go to the doctor or hospital without taking along an advocate/witness.

In the better off countries of the world, are there significant differences (percentage-wise)in what's prescribed as compared to in the U.S? Do we pay more because we're rich and able to support those who aren't?
I've participated in having an informing lunch which caught Doctors up a bit on current research they likely wouldn't have found. It benefitted the patients, and maybe us, (we do have competitors).
Oh yeah, I only take generic prescription meds.

This is a very important beginning to the discussion of healthcare in America. The true key to health, however, lies in each of our power... building a strong immune system through a healthy diet (short on sugar & meat & long on whole grains, fresh vegetables & fruit), an active lifestyle, positive attitudes (including forgiveness, gratitude, & generosity) & a preventative frame of mind about health rather than a dependency on the symptomatic treatment arising from lack of attention to the above. It is asking for disaster to ignore good health habits & figure if things go wrong, you can always take a pill to straighten yourself out.

By masking symptoms instead of actual healing, the pharmaceutical products that stand for healthcare in America are making us sicker, weaker, & are killing us in greater & greater numbers, at the same time as they are creating great wealth for the drug companies & destroying the integrity of medical professionals who we trust to have our best interests at heart.

Human medicines have come from plants since time immemorial. It is not an accident that common weeds & trees growing everywhere were put on this earth for our health benefit. Even the most primitive societies have gathered fruits, nuts, syrups, & barks from trees and roots, leaves, & flowers of fresh plants for soups, teas, poultices, etc. Essential oils, distillations from fresh plants, have been used since biblical times for both medicinal & ritual purposes. Dried plants & herbs have many applications today. When grown without chemicals, harvested gently, & delivered fresh to the body, plants are a harmless, nutritional, & in the form of essential oils, a powerful, synergistic antidote for almost any imbalance, disease, or condition.

Pharmaceutical drugs begin with plants, but isolate single chemical compounds (from the hundreds, even thousands that make up any individual plant, which even in trace quantities contribute to its overall therapeutic value), which are then reproduced in a laboratory & manipulated by science until they bear little resemblance (other than a chemical profile) to the plant from which they were derived. Since humans & plants have evolved together, the human body understands, accepts, & easily absorbs plant compounds, but views the pharmaceutical imposter as a toxin. The liver & kidneys process all toxins, eventually overloading these organs, leading to increased allergic reactions, skin conditions, acidity, inflammation, & disease.

This is the LEAST of the damage these pharmaceutical drugs do. You hear the commercials & warnings – they can cause anything from depression & anxiety to diarrhea, headaches, heart attacks, suicide, extreme urges, & death. Plus they only offer symptomatic relief & do not get to the true root of the issue!

We must teach our children about how the body works & the importance of good nutrition & a healthy lifestyle from an early age. Every person should understand they alone are responsible for their own health & well being & that they ignore this wisdom & count on a pill to cure them at a great risk. When medical conditions arise, we should FIRST DO NO HARM, & use diet or fasting, non-invasive therapies such as acupuncture & chiropractics, yoga & meditation, powerful & beneficial essential oils & other vitamin, mineral, & herbal supplements, to restore balance & health.

There is a huge role for interventional medicine (including some pharmaceutical drugs) in the face of accidents, injuries, & other life-threatening situations where natural remedies are ineffective. However, today toxic pharmaceuticals are recommended to people of all ages, including VERY young children, for everything from depression due to life’s misfortunes to anything the drug companies decide to call a medical condition. There is considerable science that proves pure essential oils of peppermint, lavender, thyme, clove, & lemon, for example, are extremely effective in treating many common & chronic conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, indigestion, acne, asthma, & many more, as well as killing most viruses & bacteria, including MRSA’s.


Ms. Peterson is not the first person to highlight the plight of the drug companies' profit before medicine incentive plans. Just search Amazon and you will see many books from MD's, former editors of the Medical journals and others that have written important works on this problem. We have been under a fog in this country for years about the drug companies motives. The biggest fog yet was the HRT story. For 60 years, the drug companies produced study after study showing the benefits of HRT. Finally, an independent study was done with 10,000 women and it had to be stopped for ethical reasons, the women on HRT were experiencing more health problems than the control group. Directly in opposition to the thousands of research studies that the drug companies had been offering the public and doctors for SIXTY YEARS. Lets get some historical perspective here. Years of manipulating the US congress, the FDA, the medical journals, the AMA, the drug companies rule the medical profession and not very wisely. I know there are medical researches out there with good intentions, however, how can they survive in a world that can make them an outcast if they go against the grain?
We need to wake up to the realities of this situation. We have allowed the US to nose dive in effective medical care compared to the rest of the develeped nations. We need an independent council of medical professionals NOT in bed with drug companies. There is just no other way, And it is up to the legislators to do this, we need to unlock the control of the drug companies in congress. The US has been dupped by this industry long enough.

Please permit my response to an article in the Guardian almost two years ago. I wrote something similar to the NY Times but never received a response.

I'm very happy to see this work and book by Ms. Petersen. It is desperately needed.

From: Marilyn Blundin
Date: June 27, 2006 3:45:37 PM CEST
Subject: The Pharmco Cartel

Dear Mr. Mayes,

Thank you so much for the article by Sarah Bosely, Health Editor "Drug Firms a Danger to Health". The marketing practices and budgets of the pharmaceuticals are a pollutant to the health systems of the European community and a cancer that we do not want to spread. It deserves aggressive therapy and the best "consumer education" possible.

While some people might debate that "free markets" serve the best interest of the economy, the subtle nuances of that statement in the context of prescriptions to manage illness, become a profound message of the "sale" of humanity. I worked as an administrator for a private practice of anesthesiologists in Philadelphia for twenty years ... through the economic changes that followed the implementation of DRGs, PPS, HMO and all of the other alpha mutations that followed the movement of healthcare into a "Consumer Market". Look to the US today ... the "capital" shifted from the hands of the providers to the hands of the middle man. That used to be known as extortion...and I used these words when I negotiated with the insurance carrier Independence Blue Cross. It is not a coincidence that the US is experiencing brain drain. What this shift of resource created was less health service, more barriers to access, and higher stress for the people who remained to care for the sick. I think I remember a Princeton study that examined some of those issues, but I haven't read it.

I spent several months at Gemelli hospital in Rome recently for surgery and radiation therapy. While I was there, I observed the "world around me" as it was a comfortable environment for me for many years. I could tell you without doubt, who were the drug salespeople ... the profile is cookie cutter. Admittedly, I didn't like them when they came "calling" at the hospital with their "free lunches" to obtain some of their marketing research. It's one of those relationships described as you can't live with them and you can't live without them. At that time, the doctors were only interesting in their patient's outcomes and left the budget worries to the Hospital administrators. But when DRG went into affect and budget cuts followed, doctors needed more and more to throw themselves into the decision processes of business. The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial that lamented "When can we get back to the discussion of Medicine?". Now the NEJM takes advertising dollars from the pharms for the Journal. I realize that it is only my opinion, but there was something fundamentally out of balance when the "consumer market" entered the healthcare industry full steam ahead.

I now take Arimidex which is packaged differently than the generic brands that I take for thyroid. Now why is that I wonder??? I'm a US citizen and I'm married to an Italian so I am in the Italian health system. The ladies in US are suffering far beyond the diagnosis of the cancer, some making life and death decisions based on access to medication and therapy. They are loosing their homes and can't afford the medicine after they loose their jobs because they are too sick to work. Where did middle america go?

I am not polly anna and I don't think that there is a perfect world anywhere, but can't we draw the line in the sand when the cannibals of free market eat all there is to eat, burp, then leave the table without even offering to clean the dishes?!

If there is any way possible to protect the EU from this rape of humanity while "no one is looking", please contribute to that cause.

Thanks for permitting me your time.

Sincerely yours,

Marilyn Blundin
Bracciano, Italy

Mr. Moyers. May God richly bless you for speaking truth to power ( the people ). I remain hopeful that we the people will not remain silent but rise up with our actions and turn from our bias ways. Nevertheless, your commentary is a powerful example of... " Right is right if nobody does it and wrong is wrong if everybody does it." My prayer is that God will continue to show you favor and reward you for speaking tte truth.

I want to thank both Moyers for presenting this story and Petersen for writing this book. I agree with the premise of the book. However I think its describing the symptom of a much larger problem. I am not sure I have a complete grasp on it, but I want to lay what I have out.

What I find is that its not advertising. Its the use of it. I makes me think of a strong personality, being able to subdue a weaker one. Such as an abusive parent with a child. Or a teacher struggling with an over- powering classroom. While a teacher or parent may need to "prove dominance" for order purposes and to teach values and right and wrong. It can be used for selfish means. This is what I feel much of the population has become. I see it in the way we watch hours of television a day. We assume its a great way to get information. The point I think Petersen makes quite well is that we don't investigate what goes into our brains as information. We don't research drugs that companies want us to use, and we don't check on our "professionals" credentials. We just take a Doctors opinion as fact, or a News channel as non-biased.

This creates a large, mostly lethargic (or perhaps a better word is apathetic) populace. This works great for large corporations that want to make huge profits. Now I don't think it some big conspiracy theory, but I do think it is advantageous to large Corporations and Advertising agencies.

I do think however, that large money making companies do try to keep this Silent Majority, "Silent," when at all possible.

The Silent Majority only has two ways to deal with any situation. It either: believes the spin as it is put forth and lives within it. Or The Majority has to wake up from the dream-nightmare and focus on what is the truth of the situation. What is fascinating is that just as fast as the Majority wakes up, it falls prey to the spin again. This usually happens because the Silent Majority is not equipped to research the truth of a situation. The spin machine cranks up hard and fast moving clockwise in one hand while all of a sudden the other hand moves counter clockwise.

So what would be a fix for this? If you listen to the politicians its the "two" party system. If you watch a lot of TV its a pill. If its radio its probably whatever has the catchiest jingle that gets stuck in your head. The truth is, the only fix is in ourselves. We need to keep track of ourselves much better than we do now. We feel entitled to have a Doctor diagnose and fix us by usually being seen only 20 minutes every few months. We need to research our options. We need to become part of communities that don't just think like we do. We need to be challenged. We need to see criticism and confrontation not as something negative, but as learning experiences. So do what I do. Sit down watch some news and ask the 5 W's and How. Does your news source answer it? You would be surprised how many don't. Also don't be afraid to take a stand. Even if you end up being wrong, at least you learn from the situation. If you have questions about your health care research it. Confront your Doctor and see what he/she has to say. Also keep a journal as one does if they are on a diet. Just like keeping track of what goes into your body, keeping a Rx journal, or a gasoline journal. You will be surprised by the results.

So thank you again to Moyers and Petersen. I hope this book will help energize the Silent Majority into the middle and away from the spinning tops of big business.

This was very informative, what I'd like to know is how do we find a doctor that has 'kicked the sales reps out'? A list would be a great help. Does one exist?

An aspect of this marketing of pharmaceuticals to would-be customers via mass media is this. Health insurance companies that provide their customers with the benefit of having their pharmaceuticals covered have seen their expenses increase dramatically, because of their customers' over-use of pharmaceuticals. They have made up for this increase in their pharmaceutical expenses by raising premiums. For health insurance customers like me and my family, who have our own non-employer-provided health insurance policies that do not cover pharmaceutical expenses, both our premiums and our out-of-pocket expenses for pharmaceuticals have risen dramatically.

This small case shows how a free-market health care industry is not able to provide solutions to the problem of rising health care costs, and results in those of us who are trying to be responsible health care consumers cannot possibly win in this scenario.

My husband's annual out-of-pocket expenses for cholesterol-lowering and asthma medications now are a whopping $2,300, and climbing, even though we price-shop for the lowest prices in the country.

In order for universal health care to work, big pharma must be reined in, and must become an industry that is adequately profitable, instead of one of our most profitable, being in the top five nation-wide.

The truth is that TV's deader than a stuck hawg.By the time it goes digital everyone except the underclass (who have little income) will be bleeping all the commercials. But then everyday I get 50 spam messages offering to make my penis girthier and lengthier for longer, and I see drug pop-ups on almost every site I visit. It's the users of pharmaceuticals and their insurance ultimately paying for all this brainwashing. Talk about a circle of perversion!
It doesn't surprise me and I doubt it can ever be regulated under capitalism.
It is only another symptom of the cascade failure of the American state and economy as a pseudo-democracy. I deplore the suffering we have caused by failing to resist.
But if you take enough mood altering meds you can sit calmly watching your freedoms and securities rain down around you. Most doctors are "kickback freaks."

I don't think this woman was being sceptical but rather pointing out the government's collaboration in this whole thing.

Consider the fact that a few years ago the IRS was extending a $25,000 tax credit to small businesses for vehicle purchase. The credit was essentially used by anyone of millions who claim small business deductions to purchase SUV's which were considered to be trucks, and we know where we stand on gas consumption today?

My grandmother is strong.
She's prescription drug strong.

The interview with Ms. Peterson had some strengths, and some weaknesses. The DTC advertising by drug companies is pernicious, and should be stopped. And there is no doubt that drug companies spend more money in promotion than in drug development (although some of that is done by non-profit agencies like the NIH.)

However, I think Ms. Peterson's eight years devotion to the subject may have compromised her objectivity. Is she promoting a skeptical eye towards drug companies' claims, or a fear of doctors? She seems to imply that all clinical studies are suspect, that doctors who have your best interest at heart are few and far between, and that drugs that "only" provide a better quality of life should be avoided. Why? Why not try anti-anxiety medication if you are anxious? It may help, it may not. If it helps, and the side-effects are not disruptive, you've gained something. If side-effects are a problem, and the drug is not effective, in most cases you're just back where you started.

Bill, your comment that Detrol LA increases imbalance in older patients concerns me as my mother is taking it and her balance is getting worse. (of course, she's over 90 as well). I googled Detrol LA and did not find a reference to the study you mentioned. Can you help me find it? Thanks very much. John Buckley

First full disclosure: I worked in drug industry research for 25 years. I don't believe in taking medicine unless I feel the risk factors balance in my favor for taking it. Many people express surprise and shock when told there is a risk to taking a pill. More disclosure: I am a HUGE fan of Bill Moyers, first when he was doing NOW, and now in his JOURNAL. This story of Melody's was presented in his unblemished and flawless style and I found it very convincing. Except that I know better. My many smart and well-intentioned colleagues in research were not out to dupe the world into taking dangerous and ineffective pills in order to make our lives more comfortable. I can tell you that the industry as a whole is not the corrupt band of ne'er-do-wells that you might conclude from Moyers' report. Still, I don't fault Moyers, or Petersen, for the report, and in fact I deplore the tactics that were revealed in it. The fact is that many human ailments are still waiting for a pill or a treatment that can bring about recovery, and while we wait, many ineffective or marginally effective pills and treatments are touted as being the best availble. In many cases they are the best available, but of course they have flaws. The industry is putting its best stuff out there, but the fact is that the human body is a pretty wonderful and complicated machine, crafted by over a billion years of evolution to be self-repairing and robust. As a result, it is very hard to make improvements or, when there is real trouble, to get out of that trouble. I applaud Moyers for exposing problems, especially those brought about by human greed. But he should avoid such a one-sided broadside as this report. It makes one think that the whole industry is corrupt, and that no one should ever take a pill. It made me seriously wonder if the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis might actually not be so universally evil as I had previously thought, which thinking was bolstered by Moyers' earlier reports. Bill Moyers, PLEASE I know you need to remain focused as a journalist, and not complicate the picture, but PLEASE take just a moment to point out that the evil you are exposing is not universal in a whole segment of American life or rampant throughout a whole industry that contains no redeeming features. Please.

I would be very interested to know where Melody got her figure of 100,000 deaths per year due to prescription drugs (maybe it will be in her book). I can only find a JAMA article from 2007 that quotes a figure of 15,000 (which is still too many) (,
but when I am talking to people and telling them this, it is nice to be able to back up these statistics.

What a drag it is getting old

“Kids are different today,”

I hear every mother say

Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she’s not really ill

There’s a little yellow pill

She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

“Things are different today,”

I hear every mother say

Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag

So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak

And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these

Outside the door, she took four more

What a drag it is getting old

“Men just aren’t the same today”

I hear every mother say

They just don’t appreciate that you get tired

They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind

So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor please, some more of these

Outside the door, she took four more

What a drag it is getting old

“Life’s just much too hard today,”

I hear every mother say

The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore

And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose

No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

Considering that our country is the only one besides New Zealand that even ALLOWS those commercials for prescription drugs, and that we pay far more than they do, I'm thinking it is a terrible thing. It just adds to the cost, and makes us use far more drugs than we should.

Most of my medications are generic. That helps. My anti-cholesterol medication is a major problem. The one that seems to work best is expensive. The one that I now use may not really help the problem.

My antidepressant medication is expensive but it is the one that seems to have the fewest side-effects. My former (now retired) psychiatrist and I worked on finding a good one for several years.

Since retirement, the price of my medications has become significant. I find it difficult to pay for the antidepressant and anti-cholesterol medications. I resent the way that the drug companies milk us for excessive profits.

Doctors ought to refuse meals, trip, and other gifts from the drug companies. I know a few who do refuse them.

She makes some good pointsbut I think that she leaves the viewers hopeless as to the situation and that all of medicine is tainted and not right. I think that she goes overboard and is allowed to do so because she has made some accurate findings known to the public. She could do us a service and see if these problems were present before physicians were allowed to advertise. Physicians were not the ones to open these floodgates.the Legislature and the Court system that allowing widespread advertisemen was OK and physicians were aghast but helpless. True pharmaceutical representatives needed to be checked and physicians were very slow to curtail this. However no President took on the Pharmaceutical Companies.Clinton threatened but did not do anything.
I think that the Book was good to reveal some of these problems but I think the Book does physicians wrong when the case is stated that it applies to most of what physicians do in their offices each day. We still have many excellent physicians making good decisions every day in regards to these problems and drugs still benefit patients when given properly.

The good news is that the basis of medical therapeutics is moving away from benzene ring pharmaceuticals and moving toward biologics, "smart" drugs, nanotechnology, genetic intervention, proteomics, and other less toxic solutions. As a medical writer for ten years and in clinical healthcare for 30 years prior, and having worked for both promotional ad agencies and medical education communication companies, I do have to say that not ALL medical education and publications are based on promotional smoke and mirrors. Today's programs are legit and many offer excellent, fair-balanced instruction. Academics who appear shocked regarding the pharma industry's profit sector should stop crying crocodile tears. Duke and other academic centers of excellence jumped on the pharma research gravy train long ago and have their own agenda based on profit and greed. My hopes are that Ms. Petersen's next task will be to expose the real threat: the banking industry's continued involvement in healthcare. Banking executives, via insurance companies, have hijacked the care of millions based on the premise of 'managed care'. The banks and their insurance companies' next initiative will be to take over all medical education targeted to physicians and other healthcare professionals as well as that provided to patients. The banking industry is not held to the same regulatory guidance as are pharmaceutical companies, advertsing agencies and medical communication companies. But they are held accountable to their share-holders. They also possess no competencies in in the medical management of human beings, but have many friends in the US Senate and US Congress. A third expose could address why Afghanistan (only since the US invasion circa 2001 ) is producing bumper crops of opium and yet third world countries can't obtain any opioid analgesia for their people who suffer from cancer and acute and chronic painful conditions. In comparison to the banking industry's amazing dictitorial edicts to doctors on how to treat patients and to patients as to what care they may or may not receive, and in light of the US blessed legal/illegal opium trade, the fervor over pharmaceutical profit-making is really, in the larger scope of things, the very small fish.

I was glad to see this information on your program. I would like to call to your attention that Marcia Angell, MD, covered this topic, in great depth, several years ago in her book titled "The Truth About The Drug Companies.

Petersen's blunt analysis of drug advertising is long overdue. It's clear to any physician that funding for many published studies comes from the pharmaceutical industry; it's sad that a cynical impression of how much more widespread this is that I had imagined is completely true.

There is only one completely reliable publication for physicians: "The Medical Letter." Entirely supported by subscriptions, with no advertising, the articles are short, and every new drug is compared, in efficacy, side effects, and patient cost, to older medications. The articles are not signed, and the impression is that the writers are the ones doing the drug company funded research, saying, without fear of losing their research funding, that Wondercillin at twenty dollars a pill is no better than Penicillin at ten cents a pill. The Medical Letter has covered everything from Coronary Artery Bypass Graft surgery to Preparation H. It's really the only medical journal worth reading (and that includes JAMA and The New England Journal of Medicine).

This publication exists because physicians want information that's unbiased and quick to acquire. Plenty of physicians have no interest whatever in being bribed to prescribe a certain medication, even by so little as a bag of free bagels delivered by the "drug rep" to the office staff.

Petersen's work should be mandatory reading for high school students (along with Fast Food Nation, but that's another story). Mass market advertising of prescription medications to consumers should be prohibited. It's all about preying on the nationwide epidemic of hypochondriasis. There's no doubt that the corporate ethos is based on erectile dysfunction:

"When there's an opportunity to make a killing in the pharmaceutical market, will you be ready?"

The media is long overdue for reporting on how health care information has been "hijacked" by the pharma giants.
The medical profession has lost tremendous legitimacy and relevance to "health care" with their frivolous over-medicating of the American public.

I watched Frontline some 2 weeks ago about the drug industry. Too bad Hilary,Obama and McCain did not see the same program.
Melody Petersen hit the nail on the head. But if you think, with a new president, anything will change, I have my doubts. The pharmacuetical industry won't stand for it. With all there money tied up in their libbyist campaign, nothing will ever change except higher drug costs in the future.

Jonathan L. Heccht (Harvard pathologist) argues that disconnecting docs (and presumably researchers) from big pharma to prevent them from acting as extensions of big pharma’s sales force would prevent useful collaboration. A possible solution is for big phama to pool all its R&D money into an anonymous escrow to fund research. Researchers or docs who want to participate can sign up for various research investigations / grants / clinical studies. Scientists at big pharma could exchange information anonymously via email with academic researchers. Breaches would be a criminal offense. Better, would be that research be funded from the pool of money by social need, bang for the buck.

For Hecht to claim that caffeine is similar to Detrol because both promise benefits and both are dangerous is silly.

It is misleading to claim that FDA approval requires superiority to existing drugs since the ‘superiority’ may be an ever so slight improvement that sometimes manifests for a small segment of a population. In any case, the credibility of clinical studies and the independence of the FDA are, as Peterson and others point out, dubious. The FDA should require independent clinical studies showing absolute performance along a range of metrics so that everyone could understand where, say, Vioxx is superior to aspirin and by how much. Similarly, for the adverse effects along with the probabilities of each effect for various patient populations (including kids and elderly).

Clinical studies do not have to be huge and expensive. Antibioitic studies should take only a few months to get a result, but big pharma has not interested in antibioitics despite the growing need because the margins aren’t there. Cancer studies can, of course, take years and be expensive for that reason. Big pharma also outsources clinical studies as well as manufacturing to third world countries for obvious reasons.

As for “genomic medicine” (a vague term for a highly complex area), it is clearly the way forward but biology is complex and messy, progress will be fitful, slow and expensive. In the meantime, pharma will keep mining their compound libraries for ways to recycle existing assets. But this is increasingly like drilling for new sources of oil which is why big pharma has delivered declining numbers of ‘new chemical entities’ over the past couple decades, and increasingly relies on “me too” drugs of dubious superiority but higher price to support their margins.

‘Genomic testing’ will advance far faster than ‘genomic therapies’, hence congressional efforts to preclude its use by insurance companies (employers?) against persons. Trying to preclude private insurance corporations from actuarial assessments of ‘genetic’ risks just reveals another way in which corporate / industrial medical care has failed. And the behavior of big pharma as revealed by Melody Peterson and others belies all those claims to the efficiency and equity of “free market” distribution mechanisms.

I have reviewed some of the commentary regarding this question and find that there truly are Americans who think the barrage of pharma advertising is acceptable. I can only presume that these folks are under the age of 40, and have grown up with these relentless advertisements.
Melody Peterson is to be applauded for her research into this dangerous trend, and her timely book with it's very real warnings for our medical future.
For many years I have complained to friends and family regarding pharmaceutical advertisements and their manufactured diseases. Suddenly America is rife with depressed, incontinent, sexually impotent, cholesterol clogged citizens. A cursory reading of the novel '1984' would immediately provide us with the reason for these advertisements. SOMA and other drugs, for recreational as well as other uses, were actively promoted by the government (sic FDA) in the novel for it was understood a drugged citizenry is an easily led citizenry. Wrapped in a cocoon of contentment, with no stress or strife, the citizens in '1984' could not even formulate the thought to question their government.
We have been led to the place where we as patients are to instruct the physician which medications are to be prescribed for us (tell your doctor you want more information on...).
It is absolutely necessary this trend be stopped. Thank goodness we have Senate hearings starting regarding these advertisements; and Melody Peterson's book should be required reading for all physicians and lawmakers.

I think a better question is:
Are drugs beneficial?


My thanks to Melody Petersen and Bill Moyers for presenting this view of the state of the pharmaceutical industry. We consumers need to examine everything we take very carefully. I have often wondered why so many pharmaceuticals are advertised like breakfast cereals, in magazines and on television and such. If consumers want to research a particular drug, the information is out there. Why hawk and propagandize it? Why use psuedoscience and pretend (non-academic) studies? Why devote so much money to push it by way of sales reps and outright cash?

I so agree with Ms. Peterson. A while back I was with a grass-roots movement to control the access to sudo ephendrin to combat the growing meth problem. Sudo Ephedrin is a core ingredient in the manufacture of meth. Pfizer attended some of our meetings assuring us they were doing all they could to find a way to manufacture cold pills that coud not have ephedrin extracted. Doesn't really matter though when 55 gallon drums of Sudo ephedrin wind up at super meth labs in Mexico so it can be smuggled across the boarder. Three guesses where that sudo ephedrin comes from.

Ms Petersen; Thank you for your research uncovering the problems of our profit-making rather than consumer-oriented pharma industry; and for writing a book on the subject. You are not alone. Dr. John Abramson in his book "Overdosed America" said the same things. Dr. Gordon Guyatt of Canada has studied the misrepresentation of drug trials by summaries written by adv. personnel. Dr. Beatrice Golomb of UCSD Medical and her co-workers have written dozens of papers showing serious adverse side effects of Lipitor and other statin drugs. Even I have written an essay on this subject as well as an Op-Ed piece. We need every voice we can get. Again, thank you for your contribution to the fight.

Congratulations to Bill Moyers and Melody Petersen for this great report on the pernicious influence of pharmaceutical companies on modern American society. In some ways I think these companies have an effect similar to that of the railroad industry of a century ago - they have a stranglehold on the economy and on the political life of the country.

I would have liked to have seen more information on how dangerous modern pharmaceuticals can be. The statement made near the beginning about how many people are killed by using them, even while following instructions to the letter, made me think that the dangers were going to be discussed in more depth. But I realize that that might take a longer report (and maybe the book has a lot more on that aspect of the problem). One thing I would like to mention in particular, though, is how damaging psychiatric drugs have been to many people. As a group, people who take these drugs over a long period of time have a many-years-shorter than average lifespan, due largely to the drugs' many side effects.

These drugs destroy physical health in many ways: by damaging the heart, by making diabetes more likely, and by causing the failure of vital organs (like kidneys), as well as in other ways. Worse still, many people are forced against their will to take these drugs - drugs which ultimately end up significantly shortening their lives. I hope that Bill Moyers will report more on this subject in the future.

My former psychiatrist prescribed a medication produced by a company in which she owned stock.
When someone sued that company about the medication she prescribed, she stopped writing tha script. I don't think she did anything wrong. She was the best in her field in my city.

But the way the reps of drug companies haunt doctors' offices feels obscene to me.

One doctor I met told me that she could eat at the best restaurants every night, get free wine from the best wine ship and take trips during the year. She found it outrageous and so do I.

I know that I need medications, but I wonder about the way they come to me. My nephew works as a med rep (actually as a regional supervisor to a company). He earns between $180,000 and 200,000 a year. He is a fine fellow. I love him but I don't understand how his company can pay at such a high level,unless something is wrong with the system.

It was great to hear Melody Peterson on your journal.
One fact that was not spelled out clearly during the interview but may be mentioned in her book: The pharmaceutical industry spends about 10% of its budget on Research and Development and about 24% on Marketing. That sums it pretty much up.
Further, as a physician I do not spend any time with drug reps.

The drug industry is making a joke of health care in America. Billions of dollars are spent marketing unneeded, costly meds for public relations created ailments (shyness is a disorder?)driving up the cost of health care paid by the consumer and taxpayers, while the truly, seriously sick are being priced out of affording their meds as employers, insurance companies and Medicare Part D, shift drug costs to individuals.

Expensive specialty drugs like biologics, which there are no generics, which can keep you from becoming disabled or dying, are now being classified as "Tier 4" drugs, requiring instead of an affordable copay, 20 to 30 percent of the total cost, which can range from several hundred or over a thousand dollars a month for the individual. What's the point of insurance?

Our health care system is a joke and the only ones laughing are the drug and insurance companies -- all the way to the bank.

Oh, and to that guy who is against a single payer system claiming it would limit drug choice, we're there now, if your insurance and pharmacy benefit managers aren't getting rebates for your preferred drug from the drug makers, most likely it won't be on the drug formulary. So much for your free market.

To Ray, MD:

You may find technical information about the urine test that measures levels of several neurotransmitters by going to the web site for NeuroScience Laboratories in Wisconsin. Yes, urine contains breakdown products of neurotransmitters, but their web site provides technical papers that explain the process by which the urine test can be used to deduce the levels of several neurotransmitters. Since amino acids are the precursors of neurotransmitters, they also provide Targeted Amino Acid Therapy -- TAAT -- to correct any imbalances detected. Since neurotransmitters are involved in hundred of biological processes, TAAT enables practitioners to resolve many conditions for which, in the past, they could only relieve the symptoms. Having benefitted from TAAT myself, I can vouch for its efficacy. For example, now that I have a complete supply of neurotransmitters, my antidepressant works even better.

As I mentioned in my first post, I "vastly oversimplified" my description of how antidepressants work, because of short space and the assumption that most readers would be laymen. For anyone interested in a more technical and up-to-date treatment of the subject, see "The Synaptic Self" by Joseph LeDoux, PhD, specifically the chapter titled "Synaptic Sickness".

Bravo and thanks to Moyers Journal for being on top of a confounding, despicable situation in the pharma industry. Take ALL THE ADS OFF TV, LOWER THE EXORBITANT CEO SALARIES, quit paying govt to "approve" your drugs, and we stand a much better chance of lowering EVERYONE's drug cost. Not only health care, insurance, hospitals, but the pharma industry too needs a complete overhaul. Congress, Presidential Candidates, are you hearing us out hear raging loud and clear about these obscene expenses and profits? Keep telling it like it is, not how "sponsors" of network/cable tv WANT it to be!! Thank goodness for PBS and Moyers - once again, you are our national treasure!!

It is not the drug companies who are really paying for the advertising: for all the slick ads on TV, Magazines, and Newspapers for the junk mail, for the endorsements, etc.
It is the patient, the consumer, and/or the taxpayer who is ultimately paying for it all!
How many ads for Viagra or Cyalis does the average male or female or child need to see or hear--per week, per day, or per hour?
How beneficial is this inundation of the public, by profit making moguls?
It is a situation out of control, expensive, and harmful; adding to all of our medical costs!
It endangers the cause of universal public healthcare!

Excellent interview! I sat up straight when I heard that only the US and New Zealand allow tv advertising of pharmaceuticals - I have alerted my sister down under. Manipulation of public concern for health in this manner is worse than criminal. It ought not to be legal.

Another great PBS show. Thank you. Having had a bad experience with several antidepressants, painkillers and incompetent doctors in a corrupt state workers comp system, which led me to the brink of suicide, the need for reform in the pharma, medical and social systems is crucial. Also our systems of government at every level, education, media, law and our faulty economic system of capitalism all need huge reforms. Ethics, morals, integrity, where are they. They don't co exist well with capitalism, do they? But greed and selfishness do. Who seems to getting the benefits of so called justice these days? Corporations and crooks. It's a sad day we have come to when a citizen of this country feels a need to wear a Kevlar vest just to tell the truth. Why are so many things coming to the forefront simultaneously. We the people are not being served well by any system in this country. I hope a nonviolent social revolution will come.

The Melody Petersen piece was thorough; she clearly has done her homework. So how does it happen that a knowledgeable journalist like Petersen thinks the disease is "Alteimer's? (You corrected this error in your online transcript of the piece.) Too many people already think it's "Old-Timer's", and allowing Petersen's mispronunciation to slip into the interview only adds to the confusion.

Thank you very much for a great article on America's drug (peddlers)manufacturer's. A quote from Dr. Royal Lee as follows: Drugs are poisons... Let organic foods be your medicine, for your body. America is the biggest drug addicts and we wonder why Americans are Mcfast eaters too! GMO to the rescue.. so sad, really !!! Are you next ?

I have been an internist for 28 years and, before that, was a registered pharmacist. I have witnessed the problems Ms. Petersen wrote about, firsthand. I want to thank her for showing me that I am not the only one who sees this dilemma.

I routinely read what the medical journals report about new "studies" and "breakthroughs" and toss them in the trash. As Ms. Petersen points out so well, they are nothing more than ads.

In my own practice, I find many patients are very anxious to know more about their medications and I have helped many eliminate, balance and correct their own. I do not accept health insurance so I am able to spend the time necessary for these reviews. But, it seems to me that the public is reluctant to hear negative facts about the drug industry; and to hear any bad news about our health system in general.

In my experience, knowledge, by itself, is not a catalyst for change. It is only when the greediness and manipulations of the drug companies becomes overwhelming to the public, that something can be done. When oil becomes too expensive to afford and the economy become stagnate and declines, an alternative fuel will become available.

In the meantime, I'll continue to do my part to help the people I can, while the
"mills of the gods grind slowly...", etc.

I have been an internist for 28 years and, before that, was a registered pharmacist. I have witnessed the problems Ms. Petersen wrote about, firsthand. I want to thank her for showing me that I am not the only one who sees this dilemma.

I routinely read what the medical journals report about new "studies" and "breakthroughs" and toss them in the trash. As Ms. Petersen points out so well, they are nothing more than ads.

In my own practice, I find many patients are very anxious to know more about their medications and I have helped many eliminate, balance and correct their own. I do not accept health insurance so I am able to spend the time necessary for these reviews. But, it seems to me that the public is reluctant to hear negative facts about the drug industry; and to hear any bad news about our health system in general.

In my experience, knowledge, by itself, is not a catalyst for change. It is only when the greediness and manipulations of the drug companies becomes overwhelming to the public, that something can be done. When oil becomes too expensive to afford and the economy become stagnate and declines, an alternative fuel will become available.

In the meantime, I'll continue to do my part to help the people I can, while the
"mills of the gods grind slowly...", etc.

(I'm a pathologist at Harvard, specializing in women's cancers and pregnancy related health)

1. Ms. Petersen called for laws disconnecting doctors from Pharma (doctors should not receive money from industry).

Not all such cooperation is evil collusion. Collaborative research funded by Pharma is increasingly important in the face of shrinking federal funds. Many of these scientists are respected in our community. I have helped to train some of those doctor/scientists, and still collaborate with some of them. In fact Merk has a research building on our campus.

There has to be a distinction made between the marketing/ business and the research divisions of those companies in any discussion of the subject of the doctor’s take.

2. You rightly drew parallels between the goals and techniques of Pharma and the tobacco industry, but Ms. Petersen expressed her view that drug producers should be held to some other moral standard because personal health was involved. I think she meant that a PROMISE of health was involved, to be distinguished from the promise of social status offered by cigarette, clothing or perfume sellers. But there is no distinction between the industries. “America runs on Dunkin,” suggests that the coffee will allow you to accomplish more in a day; Detrol promises more time off the toilet to spend with your family. Both are dangerous drugs and both are easily obtained.

The people who run large Pharma are businessmen doing business in a shrinking market. The block-buster drugs have been discovered and are going generic. Any new drugs need to be proven better than then old before approval, but given the miraculous nature of the old drugs (even aspirin), it is hard to prove advantage. Studies have to be huge and expensive and marginal benefits have to be exaggerated.

Most significant research in these ‘post-human-genome’ days is geared toward molecular/targeted medicine with the goal of personally tailored medicine. This is really bad for the drug business since it would break up the market, but offers opportunity for marketing genetic testing (the next frontier; an area that is poorly regulated and ripe for consumer abuse).

3. I oppose the snake oil medicine show (direct to patient marketing), and am cautious about interpreting articles in the journals I don’t routinely read (I constantly tell my residents that most of the voluminous medical/scientific literature is either wrong or irrelevant-published for the resume, business or in preparation for a grant proposal). This time of year (American Society of Clinical Oncology – ASCO meeting) one sees the stock market vultures combing the scientific abstracts for information they can over-interpret and use to manipulate the market.

I believe in free markets and don’t want a single payer government run system that limits drug choice. This will stifle new drug development and hurt patients who don’t have the average/predicted response as determined by drug trials.

Medical associations and consumer groups need to continue providing guidance to their communities, distinguishing fact from fantasy. They need to publish rates of compliance with their recommendations for standard of practice. This is a difficult and expensive task that is not sufficiently rewarded in either academics or in practice. However, the job would be easier without Viagra billboards outside the window and having patients misled by poor media coverage of medical developments (i.e. a 60 Minutes story on a hope remedy version of radio frequency ablation?) and unselected PubMed searches.

I'd like to thank Ms. Peterson and the good people at the Journal for their courageous work. My question is how could patients inform themselves as to whether their MDs are in the front pocket of the pharmaceutical industry or if they are taking a stand against the influence of the industry? Is there a registry of independent physicians out there?

Joshua Stark
Brooklyn, NY

William Hopkins, MD: Since when do you have to be on the left to be a social reformer? This isn't a right-left issue. This is an injustice that only citizens, armed with the facts, can fix. Got grandchildren? All you need is motivation.

The majority of the comments I've read here indicate the emergence of a distrust of the pharmaceutical industry that I fervently hope will lead to reform. What is alarming, though is that many of these comments also reflect a growing distrust of physicians themselves. The doctor-patient relationship is essential to healing and trust is essential to that relationship. It does health care no good to, explicitly or implicitly, tell people that their doctors cannot be trusted.

To Carol Ginn: Your exposition of how antidepressants work is partially right. Mostly, it's outdated. The direct effect of raising levels of serotonin or norepinephrine is not responsible for symptom relief, although it can be responsible for side effects such as loose stools, agitation, or the famous sexual side effects. Alterations of the amounts of these neurotransmitters in the parts of the central nervous system implicated in mood causes "remodeling" of these neurons at the level of receptors. That's why it takes days to weeks for them to take effect.

I know of no urine test to determine which antidepressant should work the best and neither does my partner. Back in the '80s, the dexamethasone suppression test (DST) was thought to be able to diagnose so-called biologic depression. It did not meet expectations and never was put into general use. Any urine test is probably looking for breakdown products of serotonin (5-hydroxy-indoleacetic acid) or norepinephrine (homovanillic acid). This could be tricky, too, because what's in the urine may not be an accurate reflection of what's in the brain. Early studies of the newer antidepressants involved monitoring levels of these substances in volunteer patients, but to get inside the blood-brain barrier, spinal taps were used and levels were measured in cerebrospinal fluid. Currently, if any doctor says he or she can decide which antidepressant to use with a urine test, I'd be skeptical. Needless to say, a trial of a proven drug, combined with your psychiatrist's experience is a lot less risky than a lumbar puncture.

All this info is wonderful, but encouraging all of your readers to research "Codex Alimentarius" is a must for it will control all of the "pills and supplements" availability in the the very near future. Ms. Peterson has opened the door. Now research "Codex" and act like she has.

I read somewhere -- sorry forgot where-- that it is often a patient who suggests a treatment to her doctor. Patient has seen the ads in some women's magazine or on television. When I used to work in the schools, the schools got so much advertising from ciba about ritalin ...the next thing you knew the teachers thought themselves experts on ADD, were diagnosing everyone with it, and thought ritalin was the only cure for it.

The bigger problem is being ignored. Say you fall victim to one of these ads and your doctor prescribes what you want, besides it setting a dangerous precedent.


Once your on a prescription regiment your now "drop-able" because you have a "prior" condition.

It's a Setup for Failure.

BRAVO Melody! Remember to wear your Kevlar!

Full disclosure here: my wife & I are brokers in the Natural Food Industry.

Awhile ago my wife and I were displaying oned of our lines at a Florida Health Food Store when a nice looking lady approached us. She appeared to be in her late forties-early fifties. She then told us that she had been a nurse for OVER forty years and that she had learned two things - "STAY AWAY FROM DOCTORS AND DON'T TAKE THEIR PILLS."

Keep up the pressure on Congress now to RID our airwaves of these misleading commercials.

Because of the conflict of interest with Drug Companies sponsoring Media, people are dangerously unaware of problems these drugs cause. I recommend you visit to hear what patients are really saying. Some drugs are OK to take if they are well researched. I take them reluctantly on occasion. The amount of drugs Americans are taking are way disproportionate to other countries.

Bill, love the journal.
In response to the story on Pharma-Marketing, I really disagree withe drug companies "direct marketing" to consumers via television commercials. Rather than empowering patients with information, they're overloading patients with information, some of it being conflicting information and creating a nation of ill informed patients telling their physician what medication that they want for some perceived ill that they may not even have. These patients then assail their physician with requests for drugs that may not be the best for their condition but would really do no harm, so they go ahead and write for the drug just to get the patient off of their back about this particular drug. This can only lead to ill advised and even dangerous prescribing habits by physicians.
And maybe even more to the point, I'm tired of every commercial break hearing about which erectile dysfunction pill works better, faster or longer than the others.
My point being that drug commercials have no business on my television or my radio. Let the physician make the diagnosis' and determinations as to what drug, if any is most appropriate for their patients.
On the costs of drugs, this is absolutely insane, why do we here in the US pay more for drugs than anywhere else in the world?

Only PBS can face the drug and health insurance companies in the eye and tell us the truth about our health care mess. Bravo.

Our campaign in California for single-payer SB 840 (Kuehl) health care reform will control drug prices, eliminate for-profit insurance, cover all Californians and do it for $8 Billion dollars less each year.

Humane. Fair. Inclusive. Simple. Like Medicare for All. Private care. Public insurance.

I should also recommend Harvard's Dr. John Abramson's incredible book, "Overdosed America". He tells in detail how the pharma industry has totally corrupted our FDA and all of our medical knowlege periodicals. Peer review journals? As long as your peer is an AD Agency (which now also conducts 80% of all drug research)

Again, keep on with the truth telling. We actually might just change things!

Bravo...for Melody Peterson...there are dozens of people I know who have a medicine cabinet full of medicines and many of them don´t know what they are for. I believe most Americans are over-medicated and it is about time they take stock in what they really need, if it is really necessay; and take stock their own health. Perhaps, a swim or light excercise may help more than a pill.

You have a knack for digging up the real issues that matter. Congratulations on airing Melody Peterson's expose` on how drug companies and the medical profession are bilking Americans unmercifully aided and abetted by the advertising industry.

For years, my wife, Barbara, who is a retired pharmacy tech., has been saying the things Melody said about how all this television advertising of drugs drives people to question their doctors and treat them with suspicion if they don’t do as the advertisements say. Since doctoring is a business that depends on patient satisfaction, doctors are pressured into complying with the television advertising. Then all the expensive advertising gets used to justify inordinately higher prescription drug prices.

Like politics and political campaigns, big money is corrupting the goodness of America. We may brag about being a powerful nation, but we are being cut down to our knees or worse by our own deceit. Nations we once looked down on, now look at us with disrespect, distrust, and disdain. We’ve become the world’s laughing stock.

Today’s news tells abut President Bush going to Saudi Arabia to beg for more oil. The interview showed Mr. Bush making shallow jokes with nervous laughter as he tried to cajole them into believing that we are their very best friends. The Saudi’s weren’t laughing. They were snickering as they flatly said “NO.”

We’re on our way down. My grandfather used to say, “Pride comes before a fall.” He also said, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

It doesn’t look good for us.

Hello Mr Moyers and Ms Petersen.

The greatest flaw in your book and in your presentation, as incredible as it may seem, is its understatement of the problem. The pharmaceutical industry is far worse than even your presentation presents.

The vast majority of these drugs are dirt cheap to manufacture, and the charges are astronomic. But only in the United States. Why is it that Americans are willing to pay literally 10x what citizens of other countries pay? My mother's anti-cancer Thalidomide, a 50+ year-old, cheap to make, no patent, no research outlay, drug, costs $148 per pill in the USA. It costs SEVEN CENTS in Brazil. A month's supply of Accutane costs $712.00 in America. The exact same drug costs $108.00 in Canada. Examples abound.

It gets worse. Patients are charged literally thousands of dollars per month for drugs that cost a few pennies to make. But the pharmaceutical industry has often managed to patent a minor deliver change, and with heavy marketing, charges and gets tens of dollars per pill for what is in reality a dirt cheap drug, often decades if not hundreds of years old.

And the polypharmacy! Don't even get me started. Even conscientious doctors just give up in the face of demands by well-marketed patients. If you are a physician, don't even think about trying to bill fairly for any time you spend trying to educate your patients. Just write the Rx and get on to the next overmedicated chump on your schedule. They won't appreciate it anyway, they've been watching the ads on TV and already know what they want.

Congress, the populace and the regulatory agencies, to a far greater depth than you addressed, are intricately strangled by this devious money machine web of the pharmaceutical indstries' creation.

It is not beyond consideration that Big Pharma monitors this blog, and is fully capable of finding seemingly unconnected ways to discredit doctors such as me who raise these issues.

Make no mistake about my background. I am a 60 year old lifelong Republican, conservative, middle class doctor. I am not a social reformer. In fact, I doubt this is reformable short of armed insurrection. Or a wholesale turning out of every elected representative in Washington. And the populace is far too duped and complacent to do that.

Thanks for trying anyway.

As a retired but working person, I find health care costs a great difficulty. I have been off some of my medications for several weeks (again) because I do not have the money to pay the co-pays. One of the problems is pressure from my insurance provider for me to use a medication for depression tha is cheaper than the one that I have used for several years. That medication has fewewr sexual side-effects than the medicattions my provider prefers me to use.

I don't think that I use the medication I do use beccause I have used it for many years. Does advertising cause this problem. Maybe. I don't know.

The fact that medical care in the United Statees costs much more than care in other rich societies is a problem.

I watched this with great interest as I have been a nurse for 25 years and have watched a distint change in recent years. Although I agree with Dr. Macchia about the causes of incontinence, a more obvious indication for Ms. Peterson would be the new disease of RLS, restless leg syndrome. Suddenly if you are feeling nervous energy its RLS. Most dsiturbing was when the rep from the company tried to get me to understand that children had this problem too. All I could think is how my mom would have told me to go outside and run around, now it's to be medicated. I find that most doctors ONLY know what the reps tell them, and few research. They have no idea of the cost or the total implications and rarely do more than glance at the studies. What Ms. Peterson missed was that keeping the doctors from getting money would not solve the problem becuase it's often NOT monetary. The last one I worked for would make a deal that he would write their scripts to excess in exchange for getting him to speak for the company so he would get pay AND an addition to his CV/

Dear friend, I feel we've grown old together so forgive me if I use the familiar form of communication. Your programs have always been a blithe light in the otherwise drear gloom of broadcast TV. I've experienced so many emotions while watching and listening. I've often been angry, frustrated and disappointed with my government, myself and my fellow Americans. But, never have I been indifferent. Tonight, as I listened to Melody Petersen I found an inconsolable sense of sadness sweep over me. What has become of the land of my forebears that we have allowed ourselves to devolve to such a state? I do not enjoy the emotions you have caused me to experience over the years but I thank you from the depth of my being for
each and every one of them.
Good night and be well, my friend.

Dear friend, I feel we've grown old together so forgive me if I use the familiar form of communication. Your programs have always been a blithe light in the otherwise drear gloom of broadcast TV. I've experienced so many emotions while watching and listening. I've often been angry, frustrated and disappointed with my government, myself and my fellow Americans. But, never have I been indifferent. Tonight, as I listened to Melody Petersen I found an inconsolable sense of sadness sweep over me. What has become of the land of my forebears that we have allowed ourselves to devolve to such a state? I do not enjoy the emotions you have caused me to experience over the years but I thank you from the depth of my being for
each and every one of them.
Good night and be well, my friend.

In our society, as well as in the world, the primary reason conflicting interests are so difficult to resolve is that we collectively pretend that we can continue to operate our social order, without regard to the very cosmic laws that make our lives even possible. And if we would put our predispositions aside, and contemplate these "cross- purposes" from the specific to the general, the revelation would be that all problems in our social order tend to collide with these laws.

Now to be more specific to the conflicts with pharmacuetical companies, costs, profits and the health of those who consume these drugs, it is simple from a "big picture" perspective. We cannot move toward a productive, and harmonious society, while conflating liberty with untempered competition(de facto Social Dawinism)the rule of law, while in a UNITARY EXSISTENCE! Now one can argue, ad infinitum, about specifics and their infinite relationships to one another. However, as it is in an equation, if one operation is wrong, within a number of operations, the whole thing is wrong! The cosmic paradigm that sustains our "platform" and all else in the universe is no different! The question is however, are we ready to escape thousands of years of dogmatic delusion in order to discover that competition is merely a base mode of progress, not the apogee of its possibility? Or, are we merely content with being vying "macrobes" under the pretension of intellect!

Yes, the aformentioned is not convenient, nor "practical". But the immutable laws of the universe do not judge, and do not "care"! It is our judgment, our choice, our consequence, or benefit.

This is not new information, but it is wonderful to see it consolidated.

As a registered dietitian (MS, RD) and licensed massage therapist, for over 20 years I have been aware that both the research and publication of studies are influenced by who is paying the bill to fund the research and who provides grants to universities. This is not much different from how lobbyists affect politicians' votes ...with money. There is no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to provide financial support for studies showing how to live a healthy life without medications. There is even speculation that
pharmaceutical companies may withdraw university funding if anti-drug studies are published.

Having one parent born and raised in another country and having traveled abroad, my experience has shown me that in European countries, preventive healthcare is promoted more and is not as dependent upon prescriptive drugs as here in the U.S. Yes, there are trade-offs. If you really need a prescriptive drug to save your life, it's great to have it. But, pharmaceutical companies have gone to extremes to increase the number of users of their drugs, and accompanying this increased usage are the increased medical side-effects and dependencies of our population which may not be reversible.

It is one thing to pay the high price for a prescriptive drug if it will consistently promote better health for the entire body. Probably no one would be discussing this topic if this were the case. But when this is not the case (paying for something that may compromise health), it doesn't seem cost-effective, for the individual's pocketbook or our country's.

As F. Land mentioned, this "is only the tip of the iceberg." In defense of some doctors, insurance companies may limit a physician's face-time with a patient, encouraging them to resort to handing out a pill instead of allowing time to listen to the patient. With this discussion initiated by Melody Petersen, hopefully we can continue discussing so that we may become more aware and learn how to have a win-win situation. Prescriptive medications have their place, but the way it is right now (over-prescribing) does not seem like their best use. I will buy this book.

I have long thought that medicines cause many medical problems. I am a Family Nurse Practitioner. In my practice I wrote less prescriptions than my physician counterparts. Medications have side effects. The drug companies spend $9000/year per health care provider. I loved this presentation it educates the public. I'm just sad you didn't promote going to a nurse practitioner which are not the favorites of pharmaceutical companies. I'm quite sure that compared to physicians there are few nurse practitioners that are paid by pharmaceutical companies.

Thank you Bill Moyers and Melody Petersen. You have given us the truth. Far to many doctors treat the symptoms and not the cause. If this pill does not work, hold on, we have another one to try. Big Business runs every aspect of this country. PROFIT being the ONLY concern that matters. There are far to many pills given and far too little listening and diagnosing going on in today's medical treatment. I will say one thing in the drug companies defense. Helping people who cannot afford their prescriptions is wonderful. But for the billions they are making it is a generosity they can well afford.

Thanks to Bill Moyers for having Ms. Petersen on the show. I am not a doctor. I am only a 60+ white female U.S. citizen. So I am able to remember before 1992, when drug companies did not advertise with cutsie Ads. Me, I have it figured out and have had things pretty well figured out for awhile, now. It is my children and grandchildren that I worry about. I will buy Ms. Petersen's book.

this work is only the tip of the iceberg. i'd like to see much more investigative, scientific and other journalism on the subject. and, i'd like to see physicians not being paid by drug companies, and honoring their oaths. further, i'd like to see my fellow community members take more initiative in researching their health conditions and understanding their bodies. many of our organs have an amazing capacity to heal and regenerate themselves depending on the severity of damage, and we should give ourselves every opportunity before flooding ourselves with chemicals that may, and often do, cause irreparable harm. thanks to Ms. Peterson for putting herself on the line like this, and to Mr. Moyers and crew for having the insight to feature this important work.

Interview with Melody Peterson has caused me to think we perhaps need to change the spelling of pharmaceutical to "pharmapseudocal"

Thanks to Melody Peterson for her comprehensive expose of the pharma lobby. Doctors are being courted, pestered, to prescribe expensive prescriptions, with loads of samples. The drug companies are virtually selling addictive products, each with their own dangerous side effects.

Ms. Petersen educates us regarding who is funding studies, giving reviews and presents criticism. Always follow the money trail. Who funds these ventures, and what is their bias/objective? Dr. Dean Ornish was aware of this when he did research for his books regarding cholesterol and diet. The one thing that disturbs me is the fact that not all of us are savvy enough to know how to discern who has objective information and a critical perspective. Maybe the answer is a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the pharmaceutical/medical industries and the information which they provide.

Bravo to Bill Moyers for presenting another reason for watching great television without commercials. While big pharma may continue to reap billions in profits at the cost of refillable human distress without batting an eye, it was interesting to see that perhaps they were watching. After the program aired, I went to find the web site for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alliance, a so called .org offering information to unsuspecting patients, but one that Ms. Peterson found was a front for the advertising agency hired by Big Pharma. Guess what? The web site was not available as it was "under construction". Let's wait a couple days.

The fact that the author spent 8 years researching this book is surprising in that some aspects related in the report are dated and no longer part of industry practice.
I take exception to the clinical point made about incontinence in the comments on Detrol. As a Phamacia employee in the medical affairs section working on Detrol during it's last year of development and post marketing I can tell you that incontinence is only part of the indication for the use of Derol and all the drugs in this class and the wet(incontinent) patient is only 1/3 of the patients who take these drugs. Patients with urinary urgency and frequency are by far the more common indication for use of Detrol LA and other drugs in the class. The fact you represented incontinece as an uncommon condition indicates a lack of understanding on the part of the author and or the research staff. Any urologist, or read Campbells Urology will back the clinical issues I raise. Who are you to tell a patient that their troubling symptoms are unimportant. When Detrol was launcehed I'd guess that 5% of the patients affected with overactive bladder knew there was a new treatment available. Not many urologists and certainly few primary care physicians were aware of the condition so the need to advertise to physicians and to patients seems worthwhile from an educational point of view. The same could be said for Caverject, the first treatment for erectile dysfunction approved in the early 90's. Nobody knew much about the problem (ED, not impotence) and promotion brought many patients to treatment. If this is the level of the authors depth of research it is certainly lacking or she is just jumping on an easy target. As a 37 year industry veteran I'm not ashmaned of these ads. By the way, these ads are strictly controlled for content by DDMAC, an arm of the FDA and the right to advertise is a free speach issue guaranteed by the constitution of the US. (see Washington Legal Foundation) I don't really care about how other countries regulate. Other countries also don't discover many new drugs so they can regulate themselves as much as they want.

Everybody hates the drug companies until they get sick. At that point they want the latest and the best treatment available and many times it's a drug made by us demons.

Much as I agree with Ms. Petersen's criticism of the pharmaceutical industry, I must respond to her reference to the ill-designed study that supposedly shows that antidepressants are no more effective than a sugar pill. This study did not take into account the fact that "depression" is a group of diseases that have several different causes, and which therefore require different treatments. To vastly oversimplify, depression may be treated with three general categories of antidepressants -- 1) those which increase the amount of calming neurotransmitters in the synapses between brain cells, 2) those which increase the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in the synapses between brain cells, and 3) dual-acting antidepressants that increase the amounts of both calming and excitatory neurotransmitters in the synapses between brain cells. So if a patient has a deficiency of excitatory neurotransmitters, but is treated with an antidepressant that increases the calming neurotransmitters instead, that antidepressant will not work for that patient. In fact, this is why Prozac is reported to sometimes cause suicidal tendencies. Prozac increases the calming neurotransmitters in the synapses. When it is given to a patient who has a deficiency of excitatory neurotransmitters, it worsens the imbalance of calming and excitatory neurotransmitters, thereby worsening that patient's depression. About five years ago a non-invasive urine test became available in the US that measures neurotransmitter levels, and which can help a doctor choose the correct category of antidepressant medication. As this diagnostic test comes into more general use, doctors will be better able to choose the correct category of antidepressant.

To Meli, let me add my congratulations to you. I think it's great that you need no meds.

To Dr. Macchia,I disagree that Ms. Petersen's position is, by virtue of it's being anti-industry, inherently liberal. It was sadly accurate in many ways. It's chief problem was oversimplification, which tends to tar all of us docs with the same brush. A lot of us (yourself included, probably) prescribe meds only when indicated, only use enough to work, and use the ones we trust to be efficacious, regardless of what's new and sexy.

On another note, it would be great if conservatives would examine the "what's good for GM is good for the country" philosophy a little. The "anti-industry=liberal=wrong" formulation is just as reductionistic as Ms. Petersen's thesis.

This was an excellent interview and I cannot wait to read her book! Thanks for inviting her to speak out! We need more people like her to support us.

Congratulations on having Melody Petersen on your program. For a while, I thought I was the only American outraged by the advertising of the pharmaceutical companies. Once again, we have the distinction of being one of only two countries on the planet pursuing a course which is driven by unmitigated greed rather than out of concern for the commonweal. I note, too, that the first comment posted is the usual disingenuous nonsense we can count on apologists for the excesses of capitalism that have been allowed since the Reagan era. I will buy the book. I will send PBS a donation. I will seek out groups that are working to abolish pharmaceutical advertising on television. Thank you again.

When I went for a yearly check up at my GYN my doctor asked me what medications I was currently taking. When I said none, he was like, congratulations. It is sad that this is not normal anymore. I cannot stand the pharma companies and are so glad that I see past these idiot commercials.

While I believe the concerns expressed re marketing and big pharma are fundamentally correct your example of incontinence demonstrated a horrendous ignorance of the condition. There are many causes of incontinence and OAB is only one of them. This error only weakens your argument. Secondly, as usual you conducted a one-sided highly biased (liberal)presentation. Where is the contrary opinion?

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