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Drug companies face the music

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7513.410-a (Published 11 August 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:410
  1. Allison Barrett, second year medical student (abarrett{at}bmj.com)
  1. Boston University School of Medicine, and BMJ Clegg scholar

    How do you get people to tune in to the tricks of pharmaceutical marketing? A US band, the country/bluegrass satirists the Austin Lounge Lizards, has decided that one approach is to write and record a song about it.

    The group has collaborated with US watchdog body Consumers Union—New York based publishers of the reputable Consumer Reports—to come up with the song “The Drugs I Need,” which tells the story of the fake drug Progenitorivox, made by the fake company SquabbMerlCo, for a fake “strange” disease. Though entirely farcical, the song is part of Consumers Union's serious Prescription for Change campaign, which aims to provide consumers with safe, effective, and affordable drugs, while making them aware of ongoing political-pharmaceutical movements. The campaign is calling for increased drug safety laws and accountability.


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    Hoping to strike a chord with patients

    “The Drugs I Need” takes a tongue in cheek look at drug advertising. It chronicles the marketing process and how a consumer might view and be influenced by an advertisement. The song's chorus is a satire on US drug advertisements' list of side effects: “It may cause deprivation, humiliation, debtors' prison and deportation/Dark depictions, dire predictions, life as seen in Dickens' fiction.”

    The voice-over end credits imitate the rapid strings of warnings following adverts: “Any resemblance to actual drugs, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Any unauthorised use of your own judgment in the application of Progenitorivox is strictly prohibited. Progenitorivox may not be reproduced without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.”

    The video to the song, produced by the Animation Farm, depicts sad, sickly characters experiencing awful side effects, and a happy pink pill dancing across a psychodelic sun filled backdrop.

    The song and video are available on line at http://www.prescriptionforchange.org/

    View Abstract