Brainwash: to make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them. –Cambridge Dictionary.
Pharmaceutical companies are now a trillion dollar business globally. They spend billions of dollars on marketing to convince doctors and patients of the value of their products. They spend even more spreading misinformation about their competition and lobbying to get laws passed that favor their product and enhance their profits.
Pharmaceutical companies have many ways of doing all this, some obvious and some less so. The most visible way is direct to consumer (DTC) advertising, which is targeted to patients. DTC advertising is legal only in the United States and New Zealand. All other countries consider it bad policy that creates inappropriate demand and ultimately harms patients. Glitzy TV, magazine and newspaper ads praising the benefits of pharmaceuticals are one of the media’s main revenue sources. As a result, a secondary effect of this advertising is that there is financial pressure on the media to not criticize pharmaceuticals and also not give too much attention to other alternatives.
Drug company sales representatives swarm into doctor’s offices, extolling the benefits of their products. Busy doctors, who have little time to research treatments, are given copies of journal articles with favorable findings on the drug company’s products. These journal articles are often ghostwritten by the company’s marketing department. Well known researchers’ names who had nothing to do with the research are often on the articles. These “contributors” are often paid for the use of their names.
Pharmaceutical companies are not above lying in their contacts with physicians. When Oxycontin, an extended release opioid, went on the market in 1996, its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, told its sales reps to tell doctors that it was almost never addictive when given to pain patients. Purdue Pharma knew better—their own research showed that many pain patients did get addicted to Oxycontin. Other drug manufactures started telling similar lies. This was the start of the opioid epidemic. In 2007, Purdue Pharma plead guilty to criminal consumer fraud for lying about Oxycontin’s addictive potential. Millions became addicted and over 190,000 have died as a result of this lie, but due to drug company clout no one went to jail and the company paid a meaningless fine.
Besides lying about their own research, drug companies are not above lying about the value of alternatives to their products. The most insidious way they do this is that they design and fund studies of alternative treatments that are designed to fail, so that they can claim that the alternatives don’t work and their products work better. A common way to do this is to use too low a dose of a vitamin or herb or food or too few sessions of a treatment like biofeedback or acupuncture. When the studies show no effect, they are cited as proof that these alternative treatments don’t work.
Pharmaceutical companies have also been able to use their clout to influence legislation to censor their competition. All across the globe, including in the United States, It is a criminal offense for the producer or seller of a natural substance, including foods, vitamins and herbs, to claim it can prevent or heal any disease, even if the claim is true. This substantially limits the positive information consumers receive about the value of natural products, except for the most proactive patients who search for the information from other sources on their own.
All of this adds up to the fact that patients have a distorted view of the effectiveness and safety of drugs versus other available treatments for pain. In fact, many natural substances and treatments are as or more powerful for pain relief than any pharmaceuticals, with fewer side effects. When patients are completely resistant to this idea, and refuse to investigate it any further, it may be because they are brainwashed.
For more information about the safest and most effective pain treatments read: The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments.