Are we making the way the world go mad? That too in American style? Drug Companies market illness like any other product launch. Book Review: The Globalisation of American Psyche – Crazy Like Us By Ethan Watters
where American style depression, Post Traumatic stress disorder and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions
Ethan Watters writes how American mental health professionals & pharmaceutical companies, have hastened the spread of Western mental disorders. Sometimes – very innocently, but many times with devious marketing and sinister plots, undermining the entire approach a culture may have to – Understanding the mind. “Crazy Like Us’’ is a shocker and an un-putdownable read.
In true investigative journalist style, Watters writes 4 pharmaceutical marketing success stories – Each case opens with a scene, he then amplifies it, adds characters and goes on to add more mystery. The 4 stories are:
The Rise of Anorexia in Hong Kong;
Post traumatic stress disorder in Sri Lanka;
Schizophrenia in Zanzibar,
And The Mega marketing of Depression in Japan….
Drug Companies market illness like any other product launch.
The book talks of the period 1998-2008, when mega marketing campaigns were launched by western drug companies in Japan. Efforts were made to change the narrative and make Depression the buzz word in Japan…shape the very consciousness of the Japanese consumer.
A TV series was launched showing Americans taking anti-depressants just like any other medicine
• Advertisements for Depression suggested – Nothing was wrong with being Depressed, there was no Stigma Depression. Just like you catch a cold. Depression was like “Cold of the soul”. Just like you buy a cough syrup, you can buy a anti-depressant
• In the 5 years of marketing intensive activity – 177 books about Depression were published, as compared to 25 in previous 5 years. “Depression” became the most mentioned word on TV
• Since marketing DTP – Direct to Patients was banned in Japan – the legislation was circumvented by adding self-rating quizzes on the company websites for people to check, if they might have depression., People were enticed to answer questions and encouraged to go to the doctors.
• Incidentally something similar is happening across many countries today. Social media if full of surrogate ads like these.. which in the garb of promoting patient awareness, and data gathering tools for Drug companies aswell
• PR articles were placed in magazines, mirroring the exact points of anti-depressant medication – with the objective to lure the younger generation
• A PR windfall occurred when an agency confirmed that Crown Princess of Japan was also taking anti-depressant medication
• The marketing process involved – Physicians, Opinion leaders, Patient advocacy groups, lobbying with public health to include anti-depressants on insurance list, PR agencies. The Research projects funded were an attempt to blind everyone with “scientific studies” whose results were half suppressed
Overtime the marketing efforts paid off.
Foot fall of patients who perceived themselves Depressed, grew. People started walking into clinics, with these pamphlets, articles and quiz results to check their levels of Depression. They were put on a DSM checklist, a loose definition that can extend to any type of symptom. Idea of Mild Depression gained ground in Japan.