ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Birth of a drug monopoly

Updated on January 9, 2017

It starts with a rash of television advertisements describing a health problem no one ever heard of, such as fibromyalgia, hepatitis C, restless leg syndrome, shingles, and the latest, PBA (pseudobulbar affect, a condition that causes episodes of uncontrolled crying or laughing which is inappropriate or disproportionate in intensity). Viewers start their usual self-diagnosis and determine that they are suffering from the phenomenon.

After three or four months, the ads direct viewers to an Internet site which explains the condition, its symptoms, its causes, and the history of attempts to treat it. Three or four months later, ads start appearing that there is in fact a drug to treat the condition, and all those self-diagnosed sufferers skedaddle to their physicians not only with a believable list of symptoms, but a ready-made cure to be prescribed. Doctors, flooded with medical information on a daily basis, might do a cursory attempt at research, then prescribe the drug. Physician Assistants, whose better-than-nurse training and pay makes their sole profession the prescribing of drugs, do not even do the research.

This is an example of creating demand so that supplies can be sold. Pharmaceutical companies cannot always come up with a newer or better treatment for cancer, arthritis or heart disease. So they also tackle lesser known problems. The research, clinical trials and submission to the FDA incur tremendous costs. The reward is a ten year patent on the drug. But that won’t pay off until the drug is heard about and used. Hence the campaign to create the demand. If the patients listened carefully to the FCC-required listing of side effects and warnings, of course, this plan could backfire. But most prospective patients are closer to Munchausen than Mr. Spock.

When the patent is ready to expire, the pharmaceutical company comes up with a new method of drug delivery. If the drug originally came out as a tablet/pill, the new method could be a time-released capsule, a patch, or injection. Research, trials and submission go much faster than the original, and the company gets a new ten year patent. This can go on, changing the delivery method, for decades. By the time the company runs out of patents, the drug has finally made a profit.

Is this legitimate? Yes. The patent is the government’s method of encouraging pharmaceutical research, by guaranteeing a return on investment. Is it ethical? Well … let’s say it is practical. Without the patents and the ad campaigns, pharmaceutical companies could not afford the research at all.

Any medical student or nursing student will admit that on learning the symptoms of a disease, there is a human tendency to suspect one is suffering from that disease. And the ordinary person in the street is often relieved to discover a reason for some odd little symptom he or she has noticed in the past. Even doctors, hoping to have their patients feel 100%, will become curious.

A good example is hepatitis C. A check with the CDC site suggests that anyone who is a “baby boomer” should be tested. Since this is the largest purchasing group in America, such testing would bring in a good amount of income, especially if tests are positive. Hep C has a dormant form which doesn’t display symptoms for decades, so this older population is most at risk. Hep C is not recognized in standard blood tests, so anyone who was an intravenous drug user or who had a transfusion before 1992 (at which point blood supplies started testing for Hep C) is at risk. This narrows down the number of prospective patients but is not included in the advertising.

By optigan13 - Based on File:Sources of Infection for Persons with Hepatitis C (CDC) US.png which was created from CDC figures (
By optigan13 - Based on File:Sources of Infection for Persons with Hepatitis C (CDC) US.png which was created from CDC figures (


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)