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Grassley Checking Up on WebMD With Cymbalta Using Behavioral Algorithms To Sell Drugs By Eli Lilly

Posted Feb 20 2010 10:49am

Do you need a test to see if you are suffering from depression?  Eli Lilly of course is thinking you should, as is probably every other pharmaceutical company who has an anti-depressant drug on the market.  If you are depressed, or I should say diagnosed, well guess what happens.  You get a prescription from your doctor and Lilly imagemakes money.  Granted there are patients who really do have problems and issues in this area and need help, and I’m not trying to take away from that at all.  I see the ads on TV and they are all over the place, and they have a very “suggestive” undertone.  It’s like the mushrooms that are kept in the dark and fed you know what, so do we have some subliminal efforts here with commercials and ads? 

Me, I think so and actually I am getting very tired of hearing the voice that tells you to visit your doctor and find out.  I think this is suggestive and if the ad running on TV this time doesn’t get you, wait until the next break and there will be an ad from a competitor with their solutions.  It seems to be this is entirely out of hand and getting into a marketing situation and taking away from a real life clinical situation where a “real” diagnosis can be made.  Granted the economy is enough to depress anyone right now, and in normal life we may experience a day or a few hours of depression, but that is life and doesn’t mean we need to rush off and see our doctor over a temporary state of mind that corrects itself.  In my opinion, the marketing done in this area is in fact trying to capitalize on this and create areas of doubt where perhaps it should not exist. 

By doing this blog, I get emails from companies, individuals, etc. that feel they have something to offer and I try to determine as best as I can if there’s information or educational value, or is it just someone wanting a plug for marketing purposes, and even with what I get, sometimes I will ask someone else to see what they think too as perhaps my view is not how someone else would view it.  I get some that fall into some “gray” areas in my brain at times so then I ask. 

Grassley seems to be somewhat of the same opinion here, trying to bring this to light and make sure that advertising efforts are shown up front.  I like that idea too as now I can say, “gee just another drug company trying to convince me that I am depressed for market share sales with drugs”.  We all have to figure that out somewhere along the line and for those who really need help and a drug, that still takes place in the doctor’s office with a patient/doctor relationship, not all these ads we see with subliminal messages that try to create more than necessary doubts.  I have a friend who is a family practice doctor that sees those on TV (even buy doctors occasionally have a little time for TV) and he says “ what next, I’m so tired of those types of ads, pretty disgusting what pays the bills for TV shows today”.  He thinks they are distasteful too, whether on TV or an ad on the web.  “Find out what your doctor needs to know”, I don’t like the undertones here at all as it makes it sound like you need to tell your doctor how to diagnose you! 

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One thing for sure and it has been documented well on the web is that pharma uses ads “because they work” and they sell drugs.  I just think the marketing and how we are fed through an electronic IV of such a steady dose has become a bit overwhelming and would like to see something a bit more positive out there rather than a pill being the answer to all ailments out there to get your “brain” back in order. When I have time for TV I want to be entertained and escape for an hour or so from all of this, so perhaps Grassley here can put a dent in some of this “over advertising” and make it clear to consumers that “this is an ad and these folks are pushing pills” so don’t begin to assume this is posted here for better health, you already know that the answer is to talk to your doctor and we could certainly do without some of the subliminal messages that flood the TV, airwaves and the web to promote the sale of pill, for the sake of selling pills.  Is it really necessary to have a “pharma sponsored” test for depression to add more fuel to the fire here? You are better off looking to your doctor and reading up with information that is not sponsored as a source of information when looking.  The algorithmic formula is not a complete answer with using an online sponsored test. 

For the sake of selling drugs, the competition may have another test online that they use and with the way marketing thrives today, each one could possibly be having you skewed toward their drug with the algorithmic formulas created to do just that.  BD

There’s that word again, algorithms, and advertising uses them too to determine behavioral trends to best sell their products.  BD 

Grassley, who is the ranking Republican on the US Senate Finance Committee, is investigating the relationship between WebMD and drugmakers after learning the web site is running a TV ad that encourage people to take a depression-screening test sponsored by Eli Lilly, which sells Cymbalta.

So he wants WebMD, which lots of folks visit for medical info, to disclose its ties to the industry, in general, because the Lilly sponsorship raises questions about WebMD’s “independence,” according to this Feb. 18 letter to WebMD exec Wayne Gattinella. The ad encourages people to visit WebMD’s site to take a depression-screening test (see here).

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