Several readers wrote yesterday that I’d missed out the pharmaceutical industry from my money and influence flow charts. And I myself pointed out that I’d missed out the tobacco companies and Tobacco Control. The medical profession was also missing..
I’ll start with the pharmaceutical industry – Big Pharma -. And I suppose that I should in the same breath bring in the tobacco companies – Big Tobacco -. Because it seems to me that Big Pharma is trying win customers from Big Tobacco. It wants people to stop smoking tobacco, and instead use its NRT products. Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are business rivals. They want people to buy their product, not the other guy’s.
And it seems to me in this respect that, quite simply, Big Tobacco has a much better product than Big Pharma. Cigarettes and pipes and cigars may be nicotine delivery systems, but they also have a whole host of cultural associations that bland white boxes of pills and tablets completely lack. They’re very sexy.
There’s nothing sexy about medications. And, worse still, because medications are what sick people need, Big Pharma’s products are strongly associated with sickness and death.
In fact, I think Big Pharma has a very big problem selling its products. Because nobody really wants them. Nobody likes taking tablets. Nobody wants to be sick. So how do you get people to buy your tablets?
Worse still, Big Pharma makes Drugs. And many of its customers become Drug Addicts. For example in the Opioid Crisis:
Nearly 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016 alone. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 of these deaths, more than any previous year on record.
So Big Pharma is killing almost as many people as Big Tobacco is supposed to be killing.
It seems to me that what Big Pharma has done has been to project all the deficiencies of its own products onto Big Tobacco. Smokers are compared to drug addicts, as helplessly addicted to cigarettes as drug addicts are to heroin (an opioid). And their habit is killing them. And killing people around them. Big Pharma is accusing Big Tobacco of doing what it has itself been doing for over a century.
Big Tobacco is also an old well-established industry that has been around for centuries. It’s also the industry on which America was built. As I’ve often pointed out, antismoking is anti-American. By contrast Big Pharma is a relative newcomer, trying to break into an already crowded market.
Who are Big Pharma’s customers? Sick people. Many of them are ordinary people buying Aspirin and Hedex and cough pastilles. But perhaps the biggest customers of all are the medical profession who are the only people allowed to prescribe powerful drugs (like opioids). And in fact the medical profession often seems to have become the sales force for Big Pharma. And if you visit a doctor these days, you’re more than likely to be prescribed pharma products of one kind or other. For many years I used to be prescribed sleeping tablets (which I’ve since replaced with whisky, which is much nicer than sleeping tablets). And doctors are in a prime position to tell patients to stop using tobacco products, and start using pharma products instead. And this is exactly what they’re doing. They’re even driving smokers out of hospital precincts in the attempt to get them to switch products.
And of course the newest rivals in the nicotine delivery business are e-cigarettes. Because when tobacco and smoking had been demonized sufficiently, it created a demand for a new smoking experience in which there wasn’t any smoke. And e-cigarettes have caught on in ways that NRT products never could. Because e-cigarettes are almost as sexy as cigarettes.
So a sub-flowchart of these new influences and money flows would introduce three competing industries trying to gain customer share among ordinary people, and with the pharma industries influencing the medical profession to get patients to stop buying tobacco products (and maybe also now stop buying vaping products as well). Tobacco advertising bans show up as red crosses on tobacco company influence on customers, And smoking bans are red crosses blocking ordinary people from buying or using tobacco products.
I haven’t got the time today to put in the rest of this slowly growing flow chart (are there apps to draw these sorts of charts, and use them to move boxes and arrows around?) But one of the things that seems to be coming out of the exercise is that ordinary people have a lot of spending power, but very little influence. About the only influence they have is with their votes, which they only get to use once every couple of years (although in the UK we’re having two votes in one month). But the situation of Big Tobacco would seem to be even worse, in that it is being prevented from exerting any influence at all. While Big Pharma is highly influential in a medical profession that has more or less become their sales force.
But another thing that might be added into this flowchart is the online social media in which ordinary people can exert influence on each other (I’m doing it right now using WordPress), and which is in competition with the MSM who used to have a monopoly on influence over ordinary people.