Drug Companies Use Fear Mongering to Increase Profits

Drug Companies Use Fear Mongering to Increase Profits

A recent article by Teen Vogue describes the process that a pharmaceutical company used to “create” a disease that people were originally unconcerned with. More specifically, the drug company Burroughs Wellcome and Co. did not create any diseases. Instead, they took a relatively common and harmless disease, herpes, and made it into a monster.

When they originally introduced their miracle drug Zovirax, which reduced the severity of herpes, there was little interest in it because at the time, in the 1960s, many people either did not worry about herpes or mistook herpes outbreaks as a pimple or ingrown hair. What was once just termed a cold sore now has a more villainous persona; the word herpes induces a sort of uneasy feeling or fear that did not always exist. Even now with the heavy stigma against the herpes disease, 90% of the population will have herpes by the time they reach the age of 50 (either HSV-1, which is predominantly spread mouth to mouth, or HSV-2, which is predominantly spread by genital contact). Genital herpes is not uncommon either, with one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 testing positive for genital herpes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Almost all people with genital herpes have no symptoms other than a mild outbreak, similar to a pimple.

It was not until the 1960s that doctors were able to tell the difference between the two types of herpes. Before that, a person just had “herpes,” they were not labeled type one or type two. Type one, on the mouth, was perceived as okay, while those with type two were seen as having done something immoral or impure. According to Project Accept, which is a nonprofit with a focus on removing the stigma against those with herpes, claims that the drug company Burroughs Wellcome and Co. created fear around herpes to increase sales of their drug, Zovirax. In a Journal of Clinical Investigations paper written by Dr. Pedro Cuatrecasas, then the head of research and development of Burroughs Wellcome, they used anxiety to create a more profitable market. He wrote, “During the R&D of acyclovir (Zovirax), the marketing [department of Burroughs Wellcome] insisted that there were ‘no markets’ for this compound. Most had hardly heard of genital herpes.” In the years that followed, the company is blamed for using a marketing campaign to promote fear and disgust with herpes and by raising patient concerns with their outbreaks and the social ramifications that go along with having a stigmatized disease.

Metabolic Syndrome Created Recently

Burroughs Wellcome and Co. is not alone in its unethical marketing. Just recently, another disease, in this case syndrom, is being hyped. According to a an article titled Disease Marketing and Fear Mongering, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 2005, a new syndrome is about to be spread across the lips of millions. Metabolic syndrome, formerly known as Syndrome X, is now considered to be precursor to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This term has been manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry, and patients are already being tested for it. The trade journal, Pharmaceutical Executive, went so far as to say, “A new disease is being born.” Millions of Americans are being prescribed medications that they neither need nor want, and these over-medicated patients suffer serious health consequences as a result of the unethical practices of big pharmaceutical companies. Contact an experienced pharmaceutical litigation attorney at once if you have suffered the negative consequences of a drug that was prescribed to you.

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