Saturday, April 08, 2006

Selling sickness

On the radio today they were discussing the selling of sickness
Now I am far from an "anticapitalist" but we have to realize this is what the current economic system naturally and legally creates. that makes the problem much more dificult to deal with than just corruption or some rogue companies.

Basicaly in any market a business will have a certain supply and there will be a corresponding demand. the business will probably want to increase it's profit by supplyin more product for lower cost or more product or higher price by providing higher quality, but in addition to this the company can use the strategy of creating demand. A classic example is coke - you advertise your brand and associate it with "fun times" or a fear lets say. Suddenly it is not your production that is the important variable but instead it is what people want. This could easily lead down a track where you create desires you only partially meet (for example raising the fear of an illness and providing a drug that only partly treats it with side effects).

It is not really a quirk of the pharmaceutical industry or a result of corruption - it is part of the very nature of the system. the challenge for policy makers however is that as bad as this may sound it is nothing like the damage that is caused by just throwing out the system altogether. It is not enough to just point out something bad about capitalism - if one wants change one must point out a superior system. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

The best strategy is therefore to just tinker with the edges... Solutions might centre around things like
does advertising in general need to have some regulatory standards?
Should we be stricter about ads strictly telling the truth?
do we need stronger consumer organizations?
or do we need companies to be liabile for over use etc? things where they are not directly responsible but possibly still indirectly responsible as a result of advertising.


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