Subtle ads have stoked sales of anti-depressants

London : Subtle advertising by drug companies has persuaded doctors to prescribe three times more anti-depressants than they did in the 1970s.

Their methods were exposed by a New York ad executive, Vince Parry, in a 2003 article, describing how he collaborated with drug companies to foster “the creation of medical disorders”, by deploying three main strategies.

First, heighten the importance of symptoms, then redefine an existing condition, before developing “a new condition for an unmet market need.”

The several instances of this brand conditioning include “medicalising” normal physical events and redefining psychological traits as quasi-psychiatric illnesses (so shyness becomes social phobia), reports the Telegraph.

Most importantly, redefining the limits of what is considered normal of some physiological variable such as blood pressure or cholesterol.

The process is subtle, a carefully orchestrated campaign to shift perceptions involving the cooperation of prominent doctors.

And it has proved to be very effective, with pharmaceutical industry sales during this period doubling from $400 billion (250 billion pounds) to $800 billion (500 billion pounds) a year.

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