Health & Medical

Don’t Believe Consumer RX Marketing

Reader’s Digest’s Fall Perfect Example

In the ’50s, when I started my professional career in pharmacy, the Readers Digest was a respected magazine that provided condensed versions of new books by well-known authors.

At that time, it was verboten to advertise prescription drugs to the American consumer.

Somewhere along the way, a creative advertising manager for a pharmaceutical company convinced the Reader’s Digest that there were new wonder drugs coming on to the market that the American consumer needed to learn about. The articles circumvented any of the restrictions that the FDA then had in place that did not allow the advertising of prescription drugs.

Rx CartoonThe argument that prevailed was that the articles were informational and did not violate the rules. Years later, it became common knowledge that the Reader’s Digest was the source of information for the consumer who was seeking answers to a medical problem. A strong tie between Readers Digest and the pharmaceutical industry developed.

A dramatic change developed when the FDA for marketing to the physician approved an antihistamine named Seldane that did not have the potential for causing drowsiness. At that time, another advertising manager convinced the FDA that in the public interest the prescription drug should be advertised directly to the consumer.

It would save lives since people were dying in the workplace and on the road because they had taken an old fashion antihistamine that caused them to fall asleep in hazarded situations. The FDA bought the argument. This opened the floodgates of direct advertising and today, the pharmaceutical industry spends close to 5-billion dollars on direct advertising to the consumer.

Of course, they had to raise the cost of their branded goods to cover this expense. In the meantime, a few years after Seldane was on the market, a rash of reports was coming in that people were dying from heart valve malfunction. Dr. Woolsey, who was with Georgetown University at that time proved that Seldane was the culprit and it was removed from the market. Over the years, some drugs written about in the Reader‘s Digest have been removed from the market because of the harm they’ve done. Others received a Black Box warning and remained on the market until physicians discovered there were safer drugs to use. Some made the grade and are reasonably safe if properly taken.

It was recently reported that sale of branded pharmaceuticals in the United States will drop 17 percent in 2008 because of the number of branded products that have gone generic. Generic prescribing has become the mainstay of savings in the Medicare D program. In addition, the number of new drugs being approved has slowed and the branded pharmaceutical manufacture’s future is beginning to look grim.

The latest Reader’s Digest front cover publicizes their main article called “The Vitamin Hoax” – “10 Not to Take” written by Neena Samuel. If you go to and search on Health, you will discover a whole series of negative articles warning you against the use of vitamins.

In actuality, as long as the recommended daily intake of the vitamins is not exceeded there should be little potential for harm. Buying your vitamins from reputable sources is a must. Neena, who I believe is his or her pen name, may be biased in the articles for other reasons. The healthier we are, the less dependent we are on the medical system, and we use fewer prescription drugs.

Could there be a clever marketing agenda developing again?

At the same time, there is little known about how many prescription drugs depletes the body of essential nutrients for good health. The FDA has not required the manufacturers to disclose this information to the physician or the public. As an example, the use of Statin (anti-cholesterol) drugs can deplete the body’s store of Coenzyme Q 10.

In my opinion, on a scale 1 to 100 (good to bad), the harm is done by consumers taking vitamins and nutrients is a 2 and pharmaceuticals is a 60.

There are websites that truly believe that there is a movement afoot to control the nutritional market globally. Go to or if you want to learn more.

Today, Reader‘s Digest is just another slick magazine with a lot of spins and no condensed book articles.

Tom Braun

Retired but not yet senile!

T. Braun, Pharmacist, Buyer, Marketing Executive for a Major Drug Chain. Active for over 45 years in Pharmacy.

Legal Stuff: Permission is granted to all to reproduce this document in whole and redistribute to all that are as concerned as I about the future of our Medical system that has so many superior attributes that is operating under needless dark clouds of distress.

Disclaimer – This document is informational in nature. Medical advice should be secured through your physician.



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