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Celebrity Drug Pushers

July 21st, 2005

Dr Petra

We love celebrity. We can’t get enough of stories about the lifestyles, scandals and lovelives of the rich and famous. Celebrities choices of cars homes and clothing are immediately copied.

So when they endorse other products perhaps it’s not surprising people will also rush out and buy them.

Which is why some pharmaceutical companies have deliberately included celebrity spokespeople to promote their products.

Politicians and baseball stars have been recruited in the US to promote drugs for sexual dysfunction, earning anything from $2000 to $2 million for their time. And in other campaigns famous faces have been included in musical concerts or public speaking events to persuade couples they need medication to put the oomph back in their love lives.

Unfortunately this has the effect of not just targeting those in genuine need of medication, but all those men who don’t need any help with sexual functioning but begin to get anxious after seeing endless adverts with famous faces telling them they ought to be worried but there is a ‘cure’.

Medical organisations have expressed increased concern about celebrities endorsing medical products or programmes. This includes celebs suggesting we have endless unnecessary health checks, recommending untested ‘herbal cures’ or plastic surgery, or advocating medications – many of which aren’t needed.

These worries, and accounts of how pharmaceuticals are medicalising everyday conditions and behaviours have now been uncovered in a new book Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us all into Patients by investigative health journalist Ray Moynihan and drug policy researcher Alan Cassels. You can read an excerpt here.

At every sex research conference I’ve attended drug reps encouraging me to persuade men to use their products have always approached me. Whenever I’ve expressed my concern that men who don’t need erectile dysfunction drugs are being made to worry they need to medicate – with many self-prescribing drugs bought from the Internet – the answer is always the same. ‘That’s nothing to do with us’.

But when you’re paying celebrities to convince guys the do need to take sex drugs then clearly it most certainly is something to do with you.

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