Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your pharmacy is the vet's office

70% of the 35 million pounds of antibiotics used in the US last year went to cows, chickens and pigs. Worldwide, it was 50% (AP).

Not really delving into how a disgusting percentage of those animals weren't even sick and the drugs are used simply to cut the cost of feed and these over-dosed factory farm animals are the petri dishes for impending global epidemics of antibiotic-resistent supergerms, I would like instead to focus on focus.

That is, the focus of the pharmaceutical industry. If the bulk of their market for antibiotics is non-human, then what does that say about the antibiotics that they offer us, their secondary market? Are we swallowing pig medicine (I'm not being metaphorical here)? Are we being sold farm food?

Let's consider Pharma's incentives. If cows don't care about commercials, if they can't consult their doctors, if they can't sue and don't understand the value of a double blind study (because they're just cows), if they can suck down pills all day long as an alternative to food, and if their well being can be marginalized in a misinterpretation of the old testament, slave-species paradigm, then they would make the most perfect client Pharma could have ever dreamed up. It's the agri-pharma-marketing equivelant of Alex Murphy and Steve Austin's cyborg love child.

So why does Pharma even bother marketing to Humans? Because they need their glossy human campaign to legitimize their livestock pharmaceutical campaign. Humans are the vice presidential nomination on Pharma's public opinion ticket. We balance out their would-be perception problems and bring in the swing states. Humans are Pharma's Sarah Palin.

It's the same reason Big Tobacco sells cigarettes in the US. They'd much rather focus on the overcrowded and tort-ignorant populations of China and India, but brother tiger and brother bear still look to Americans for trends and so Cancer Stick Corp. is stuck marketing to sue-happy yankee tweens.

But make no mistake, as soon as Mastercard develops a hoof-friendly electronic signature pad, you'll have to buy all your meds at the feed and grain store.