Blockbuster Drug Part II

In 1955, a “blockbuster” drug was introduced by the pharmaceutical company, Carter Products. This wonder drug was classified as a tranquilizer and went under the name, Miltown. It was the first in a slew of non-barbiturate drugs that duped the American public. The company would gain large profits and do so quickly. It had only been for sale one year and Mitown owned 70% of the market, as they grossed millions of dollars. Many of these companies were weaving through artfully casted steps as they deliberated on successful methods on making money through promotion.

Carter products decided their strongest link to success laid in an advertisement campaign. The pharmaceutical company hired an agency, ‘Ted Bates and company’, to oversee this project. They began by influencing doctor’s opinions for the wondrous pharmaceutical they called Miltown. Their advertising campaign would create publicity as they sponsored conferences for physician, bought ads for the covers of magazines, offered free samples for drugs, and distributed catalogues.  They went to extraordinary lengths to provide a successful advertisement campaign. Doctors could earn points that attributed towards buying items from their catalogues, or have pillows embroidered with the name of the drug on it. Meanwhile, the FDA was dormant, and nowhere to be seen. Drug companies held the reigns of the American public.  Physicians were considered knowledgeable enough to correctly advise the proper methods of dispensing medicine. However, advertisement was not just aimed at doctors.  Vice President of Marketing for Mead and Johnson Company conveyed their egotistical thinking with the comment, that [we should] “…please the star of the show- the customer.”

The star of the show was the American public. Carter Products began a strategy that is referred to as “backgrounder.” They hired two writers to produce stories in popular magazines, and wrote hundreds of articles, such as, “Will Wonder Drugs Never Cease!” Miltown also linked themselves to celebrities as they juiced every inch of the advertisement market. Would these problems be stopped?

Shortly, after the drug Miltown, in the Early 1960’s a drug named Quaaludes was introduced, and because it was a new patent, they held stricter rights for the sale and distribution. This drug claimed to help many ailments, including, anxiety. At this time in America, 50% of people reported having used a tranquilizer, and Anxiety ran high as world war II ended. This drug would be competing among others, such as, Valium and Librium. America was thought to be overmedicated during this era, and they pursed many forms of medication. That meant Quaaludes would have even more success.

They would roll out an advertising campaign, much like Miltown. Everything about the drug Quaaludes screamed manipulation. Even its name was the center of a publicity campaign. The aa in its name was created to mimic other successful drugs with the same two letters. Quaaludes were said to be a safe tranquilizer which would promote happiness, and claimed that unlike older drugs, it was not harmful or addictive. Barbiturates were known for dependency and thus, Quaaludes seemed like a positive alternative. In a short matter of time it became evident that the American public had been misled by this pharmaceutical wonder.

Bad publicity would fling. The rumors, at first, was that it was a very dangerous and an addictive medication. Journal of Mississippi Medical Association stated, “[Quaalude] is one of the most desired, if not the most desired, illegally sold drug for nonmedical use on the street….”  An article in the Washington Post reads, “The ‘Safe’ drug is Not That Safe.” It was becoming clear that Quaaludes created both addiction and dependency. It appeared that drug companies held the reigns of the public.

Everything was going up in storm. The public were upset about the lies and fabrication, regarding their pharmaceutical research. Congressional meetings were also being held, people were concerned, and so was the pharmaceutical company. They had a lot of revenue at stake. As the matter went on, one pharmacologist testified to congress as he explained, [drug companies] “are as much a pusher as the man on the corner who is selling a few bags of heroin.” In 1981, Federal agents would shut down clinics for illegal trafficking of the drug Quaalude, and medical staff were arrested.  Shortly later, year 1984, the distribution was outlawed, and Quaaludes would be listed in the highest rank of controlled substances, schedule I. The FDA had monumental changes, and the DEA was given much more authority over policing in the medical domain. Who would receive blame? Many people pointed the finger at the government. The FDA caught a lot of criticism. They had had just begun to alter its ways, by requiring warning labels on pill bottle, records kept, and proper research. Nevertheless, it was the end of that nightmare.

Presently, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders assure Americans that, as president, they will modify the illegal world of drugs. Both of them have been speaking out about heroin usage, as Time Magazine reported that heroin was devastating the nation, while usage creeps from 17% to 32% However, the center of disease control reports the usage of synthetic chemicals has also increased to a staggering 227% in 2015. Yes, synthetic substances are clearly the new “blockbuster drug.” This story has yet to finish.

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