The stories we sell: A narrative analysis of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising\r\n

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2007-03-12
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Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the issue of direct-to-consumer (DTC) television advertising for prescription drugs. First, it explores the terms and categories currently used to understand and debate this issue. Then, it draws from the traditions of history, hermeneutic philosophy, interpretive anthropology, visual studies, and the ethical criticism of literature to develop and advocate an alternative paradigm for thinking about pharmaceutical marketing. The project involves a theoretical exploration of an interpretive, and specifically narrative, approach to drug commercials, as well as a demonstration of this approach in three analytical chapters, each dedicated to a single advertisement. \r\nThe methods used in this dissertation are those of humanities scholarship, and include careful and comparative reading, rigorous linguistic interpretation, philosophical investigation, and narrative analysis. By bringing these scholastic approaches to bear on the issue of DTC advertising, this project offers a novel perspective from which to consider issues in health policy, one which allows and encourages an active, participatory stance on the part of patients and the public as a whole. This kind of critical, interpretive reframing of pharmaceutical advertising not only divests the industry of the free-market rhetoric upon which it relies to justify its marketing practices, it also directs public discourse towards a careful examination of the suggested narratives conveyed by these commercials. Ultimately, this narrative paradigm highlights the extent to which individuals are free to rigorously evaluate, and then deliberately accept, reject, or retell the stories told by drug companies about health, illness, and American medicine.\r\n

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Keywords
pharmaceutical advertising, narrative ethics, medical humanities, literature and medicine, hermeneutic philosophy, advertising ethics
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