Thursday, December 04, 2008

Marketing Causes Death: the Link Between Black Friday and Black Boxes

AdvertisingAge reports: "Security should have been better, but advertising also helped kill a temporary worker at Wal-Mart, according to a lawsuit filed by the estate and relatives of the 34-year-old man trampled by a pre-dawn Black Friday crowd at a Valley Stream, N.Y., store" (see "Lawsuit: Marketing Blamed in Wal-Mart Trampling Death").

Meanwhile, across the pond, a BMJ commentary written by David P Kao, fellow, cardiovascular medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, concludes "New efficiencies in drug marketing exacerbate the problem [of reduced FDA focus on safety] because rapid adoption of new drugs can quickly expose large numbers of patients to unknown risks" (see "What can we learn from drug marketing efficiency?" and "Aggressive Drug Marketing May Endanger People").

It's a rare thing to see two independent, nearly simultaneous accusations that marketing can be dangerous to our health and well-being!

Experts in both these cases cite the need for better safety oversight.

In the Wal-Mart case, "Wal-Mart didn't appear to have enough security to handle the crowds and that police had told retailers in the county two weeks earlier that security and crowd control were their responsibility," reports AdvertisingAge.

In the drug case, David Kao suggests that drug companies' marketing techniques could be used to improve safety surveillance systems, which is largely the responsibility of Physicians. The FDA oversees the process, but really does not have enough "boots on the ground" to effectively enforce day-to-day drug safety issues. Similarly, police forces do not have enough personnel to provide security at every Wal-Mart.

With drug safety, it's largely up to physicians and patients to voluntarily report problems to the FDA and although drug companies have promised to do post-marketing safety surveillance, the majority of those promises go unfulfilled.

I suspect that Wal-Mart and other stores will also promise to implement better security, but that these promises will also go unfulfilled.

Oh, well. Such is the story in our "market-driven" economy!


  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    An interesting attempt to parallel the two situations but when will we hold people accountable to their own actions? Marketing did not kill the Walmart employee people acting like animals to get an LCD TV did. You cannot safeguard eveything and neither can any regulatory agency. The doctor AND the patient must know the risks with ANY drug and act accordingly. There is risk with anything you do including taking medicine, the problem is people want a magic pill that cures their problems and no side effects.

  2. Individuals can be held accountable, but a mob or crowd cannot. And yes, you can't safeguard everything. But can Wal-Mart's marketing staff(and that of other retailers,)alone or in consort with marketing firms, be considered completely blameless, having essentially incited mobs to riot by advertising "door-busting sales" and enticing them out in the middle of the night? And this after days if not weeks of saturation advertising via print and televion. It may be a grey area from a legal standpoint, but not so in terms of ethics. And the issue with pharmaceutical companies is not that individual patients are unwilling to take certain risks; but rather that many pharmaceutical companies have marketed drugs in spite of risks known to them from their own research, without disclosure, until forced by independent statistics several years down the road to admit that in fact, they knew these risks were there all along.


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