There are now more than 700 million obese people worldwide, 108 million of them children, reported the New York Times in 2017. In Brazil, food giant Nestle sends vendors door-to-door hawking its high-calorie junk food and giving customers a full month to pay for their purchases. Nestle calls the junk food hawkers, who are themselves obese, “micro-entrepreneurs.” Big Food is increasingly targeting poor countries as “emerging markets” ...

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It is not clear whether Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were getting drug treatment for depression. What is clear is that suicide in the U.S. has never been higher even as the use of SSRI antidepressants has also never been higher. One in every eight American adults recently took an antidepressant says the CDC and the number is only rising. Are the drugs working? The use of ...

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Long before the Internet and direct-to-consumer advertising, the medical profession tried to reassure people about their health concerns. Remember “take two aspirins and call me in the morning?" Flash forward to today’s online “symptom checkers.” They are quizzes to see if someone has a certain disease and exhortations to see their doctor even if they feel fine. Once drug makers discovered that health fears and even hypochondria sell drugs, there seems ...

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More than a decade ago, the job of the pharmaceutical rep was enviable. Direct-to-consumer advertising pre-sold many drugs so doctors already knew about them. Medical offices welcomed the reps who were usually physically attractive and brought lunch. In fact, reps sometimes had their own reception rooms in medical offices. By 2011 thanks to drug safety scandals and new methods of marketing, the bloom had fallen off the pharma reps’ roses. ...

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One night in 1997, as Americans watched Touched by an Angel they were touched by something else unexpected: an ad for a prescription allergy pill called Claritin, sold directly to patients. Prescription drugs had never been sold directly to the public before -- a marketing tactic called direct-to-consumer or DTC advertising. How could average people, who certainly had not been to medical school, know if the medication was appropriate or safe ...

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Where did the medical community get the idea that Vioxx, Trovan and Baycol were safe and the benefits of Prempro, Neurontin and bisphosphonates outweighed their risks? From research published in medical journals written by drug companies or drug-company funded authors. Scratch the surface of many blockbuster drugs that went on to be discredited, or even withdrawn as risks emerged, and an elaborate "publication plan" emerges, developed by ...

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An excerpt from Born With a Junk Food Deficiency, (Prometheus Books, 2012).  Can anyone remember life before Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising with its notorious “Ask Your Doctor” ads? The only thing laypeople knew about prescription drugs came from the ads they peeked at in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in the doctor’s waiting room. The ads were full of vaguely ominous terms—nulligravida? hemodialysis?—as well as side effects ...

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