Here is some food for thought from a site, stopsdrugads.org, that firmly believes the answer is YES. The following is a condensation of a portion of their message that deals with an aspect of drug marketing that is not too different from many tech product marketing programs : create a need or problem the customer didn’t know they had, give it a unique identity, and then introduce a cure that fits the need perfectly. Which explains why such marketing efforts are frequently referred to as “snake oil marketing.”
In the opinion of the people at stopdrugads.org, pharmaceutical companies and their advertising agencies strive to convince people that they are ill, and to invent new classes of illness. For example, in an article titled “The Art of Branding a Condition,” Vince Parry, a marketing executive, discusses how pharmaceutical companies are “fostering the creation of a condition and aligning it with a product.” An article in Reuters Business Insight explains that drug companies can “create new disease markets” through “the medicalization of many natural processes” which are “worthy of medical intervention.” This often involves, according to Vince Parry, “elevating the importance of an existing condition,” or “raising the level of awareness about something we don’t even know we have until we began looking at it further.”
For example, GlaxoSmithKline took the notion of shyness and turned it into “social anxiety disorder.” They hired a pr firm to help establish “social anxiety disorder” as a way of “cultivating the marketplace” even before the launch of their drug Paxil. The pr effort, which involved “aggressive media outreach,” generated “1.1 billion media impressions” in one year, and won an award from the Public Relations Society of America,. Later on, GlaxoSmithKline issued a pamphlet claiming that “Social anxiety disorder is a lot more common than you think…1 out of every 8 Americans suffers from social anxiety disorder. The good news is that it is treatable.” But after a review of the literature, prominent psychiatrists argue that fewer than 1 percent suffer from social phobia.
So where do I stand on this issue? I think the drug companies have stepped way over the line and need to be reined in. As a starting point I’d like to see a tough set of message guide lines that would put the brakes on blatant medicalization of natural processes.It takes unfair advantage of human fear about sickness, and drives people to take meds that are either unnecessary, or worse, potentially harmful.