Marketing research gives the advertiser and its agency the data they need to identify consumer needs, develop new products and communication strategies, and assess the effectiveness of marketing programs. It also often provides the basis for advertising claims.
However, the way some advertisers use research data can lead to serious ethical lapses. Clever researchers can hide, shape, and manipulate statistics. Unfortunately, some researchers and marketers deliberately withhold information, falsify figures, alter results, misuse or ignore pertinent data, compromise the research design, or misinterpret the results to support their point of view.
Trying to spin the nutritional numbers to its advantage with consumers on the Atkins, South Beach, and other high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, KFC created two television ads “aimed at educating the public that fried chicken can actually be part of a healthy diet.” One ad showed a wife plopping down a bucket of fried chicken in front of her TV-engrossed husband, proudly explaining that they are starting to eat better (“healthier” is implied). A second ad showed a man sitting on the tailgate of a truck, again with a bucket of fried chicken; his friend compliments him on his “fantastic” appearance. Compared to a Burger King Whopper, the company claimed, its fried chicken was veritable health food. Almost. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “although it is true that the two fried chicken breasts have slightly less total fat and saturated fat than a Whopper, they have more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories.”
It didn’t take a lawsuit or months of investigation for the public to know that KFC’s statistics were skewed. Consumer protection groups were up in arms as soon as the ads aired, forcing the company to pull the ads within a month of their October 2003 launch. In response to the FTC’s inquiry, KFC marketing executive Scott Bergen said, “We have always believed our ads to be truthful and factually accurate.” In their settlement with the FTC, the company agreed to simply stop running the ads. Six months after the debacle, KFC tried the healthy tack again, this time offering roastedchicken.
Sometimes misleading health information in advertisements can be hazardous to more than just the waistline. Consider the fen-phen controversy in which Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products, was accused of ignoring research findings. Wyeth manufactured Redux (dexfenfluramine) and Pondimin (fenfluramine), which become the “fen” portion of fen-phen. In 1996, fen-phen was approved for distribution in the United States, and by the end of 1996 thousands of people had reported health complications. In 1997, it was found that fen was linked to heart valve damage and an often-fatal lung disease called primary pulmonary hypertension. Subsequently, the manufacturer was pressured to pull the drug off the shelf.
By the end of 1997, American Home Products was the subject of thousands of civil lawsuits over fen-phen by people who claimed that the drug caused their health problems. In 1999, American Home Products went under fire for allegedly withholding important information from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Leo Lutwak, a physician and medical officer for the FDA, claimed in an interview with CBS News, “American Home Products twisted the meaning of my research to make it seem as if there was no way to predict fen-phen’s hazards. What I had actually written was, that in view of the covering up of information by the drug company, the FDA had no way of predicting some of these side effects.” He said, “I’ve asked to be allowed to set the record straight, but was told it was against FDA policy to testify in a civil suit.” His testimony would have been crucial for the thousands of people who were involved in civil suits.
Then, the Dallas Morning News reported that American Home Products had received researcher reports of leaky heart valves in fen-phen users in 1997. At the same time, though, it was lobbying members of Congress and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to ease restrictions on the use of Pondimin and Redux. The lobbying campaign didn’t work, and Pondimin and Redux were pulled from the market in September 1997.
Page 229In conjunction with lobbying legislators, American Home Products hired “ghostwriters” to write articles that promoted fen-phen. Then, according to lawsuit evidence cited in the Associated Press, the company used respected researchers to publish these articles under their own names. Because the drug was pulled off the shelves in 1997, only 2 of the 10 articles were actually published in medical journals; the other 8 were canceled. Doug Petkus, American Home Products spokesperson, defended the articles. “This is a common practice in the industry,” he said. “The companies have some input, it seems, in the initial development of the piece…but the proposed author has the last say.” However, medical ethicists and editors of notable medical journals do not agree with this type of practice.
Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, believes “that line between the author’s independent conclusions and the company’s conclusions has been blurred.” Critics allege that oftentimes drug companies influence authors to bury unfavorable results and that this undue influence leads the public to believe that these drugs are safer and more effective than they actually are. In response to these types of allegations, the medical journals are updating their policies and guidelines regarding journal submissions to ensure their own credibility, as well as the health and safety of the general public.
Read everything in bold and underline and answerr the 2 questions below. If you use resources please let them be creditable and cite in text and in reference page. NUMBER the questions. NO MORE THAN one page for work
In November 1999, American Home Products agreed to settle the more than 11,000 fen-phen lawsuits for a whopping $4.83 billion. This was one of the biggest product liability settlements ever. Of course, as part of the settlement, the company admitted no wrongdoing.
There is a lot of money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry; companies go to great lengths and great expense to get their products approved. But ignoring, manipulating, or omitting pertinent research findings is not only unethical, it’s potentially lethal.
1. Are there any circumstances that might justify portraying research findings in a biased or distorted fashion?
2. Why is it so important when discussing scientific research results with a client to report all results, not just those that put the client in a good light?