Suffer the Children

The case against labeling and medicating children, and effective alternatives for treating them

Marketing Magic

How Pharma uses Comic Books to sell ADHD Drugs to Kids

Reading yet one more story of how pharmaceutical companies are boosting rates of ADHD in American kids--and boosting their own profits in a $9 billion industry--generally inspires a feeling of ennui. Enough, already, we are all thinking. We already know that Big Pharma in cahoots with psychopharmacology mavens like Joseph Biederman have played a huge role in the unnecessary and wanton diagnosing and drugging of American children.

So what else is new?

Tenacious New York Times reporter Alan Schwartz thinks there’s plenty. In his eye-opening article in yesterday’s New York Times he discloses marketing tactics that Big Pharma has used to boost its markets that were shocking even to me. Not only do drug companies place 100 pages per year of color advertisements in the prominent medical journal The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; they are now turning to publications read not by qualified medical doctors but by children.

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According to Schwartz, the drug giant “Shire--the longtime market leader, with several A.D.H.D. medications including Adderall — recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to demystify the disorder and uses superheroes to tell children, “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!”

Not only do kids come home from school carrying drug-company authored pamphlets given to them by school psychologists alleging to make them “normal;” now the kids can go to their parents asking for drugs suggested by comic books they have read themselves.

If you too are suffering from ennui at all the fuss about pharmaceutical companies marketing ADHD and its quick fix cures for motives of profit not of genuine concern for our country's children, you may want to watch this 5 minute video that accompanies Schwartz’s Times article. In the video, Harvard professor Dr. Aaron Kesselheim analyzes marketing ads and discusses how they play on parents' fears about their children not doing well at school. Especially interesting is Kesselheim's point that pharmaceutical ads employ techniques that emphasize the benefits of the drugs, while underplaying or not mentioning their risks.

It’s an ennui-cure for sure.


Copyright © Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D.


Marilyn Wedge is the author of Pills are not for Preschoolers: A Drug-free Approach for Troubled Kids

Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., is a family therapist and the author of Suffer the Children: The Case Against Labeling and Medicating and an Effective Alternative.


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