Is it possible for a big organization to do terrible things in plain sight? This article discusses how a pharmaceutical company transformed itself into a neighborhood drug dealer.
Let’s take a closer look at the background of a company called Purdue Pharma. Purdue decided to create a new market entirely by aggressively working to normalize the use of opioids for the management of chronic pain. Purdue created a campaign claiming the idea that there was a national epidemic of untreated pain in America. They wanted the medical industry to do a better job of prescribing opioids.
Purdue utilized an AstroTurf campaign by creating unbranded websites that were supposedly independent information from independent groups. However, the contributors were fake, and the information was completely misleading and false. Purdue even created sales ads that purposely underemphasized the addiction element of opioids. The addiction rate was at least ten times what they were claiming.
When marketing the opioids, Purdue made a point to say that the people who got addicted were of bad character. Plus, they claimed those people were intentionally trying to abuse the medication and that it wouldn’t happen to a responsible person. Typically, in an ad, you have to balance fair and balanced information. However, Purdue completely minimized the risks of opioids.
In 2001 alone, the company spent 200,000 million dollars promoting Oxycontin. In 2004, it became the leading drug of abuse in the United States. However, sales representatives were making six-figure bonuses and loving it. Purdue recruited and trained doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to be their spokespeople.
Purdue kept a database of doctors in order to influence them to prescribe their products. The company would identify physicians with high numbers of chronic pain patients and determine which doctors would prescribe more willingly. Purdue gave away their products for free, knowing those patients would want more.
So it turns out Purdue manipulated the system and created drug addicts. Things weren’t looking good for Purdue, they took the heat. The result was years of negative press coverage, increased scrutiny from regulators, multi-million dollar fines and several major lawsuits. Did Purdue pull back and recognize the error of their ways? No, they doubled down.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why some people distrust marketing.
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