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Where Science and Capital intersect, an overarching legitimating theme stands out in advertising discourse -- this is the promise that new drugs created by the pharmaceutical industry have the potential for ameliorating human suffering by reducing disease and finding cures for human ailments.American Pharmaceuticals01-98 These discoveries are seen resulting in the extension of fruitful longevity. The promise of long life absent the debilitating diseases and afflictions that have plagued humankind is a compelling vision, especially when signified via the magic of music and beautiful photography; or when set against the power of testimonials by those who have been blessed with recovery from illness. Science and salvation -- at least, salvation for individuals and their nuclear family -- appear not simply as miracles of science, but as science unlocking our understanding of Nature so that we can finally live harmoniously with it.

America's Pharmaceutical Companies

This industry-wide consortium representing the interests of pharmaceutical corporations such as Merck, Pfizer, Johnson& Johnson, Glaxo-Wellcome, Squibb et. al., runs a campaign proclaiming their research in battling ailments. In one commercial we watch young girls playing soccer. Dr. Fred Brown, identified as pharmaceutical company researcher, narrates.

    Dr. Brown: "When a patient undergoes an asthma attack. They are literally gasping for breath."
    Young female soccer player: "When I have an asthma attack it's really, really scary."
    Dr. Brown: "Asthma is caused by an inflammation of the lung. The new medicines that the pharmaceutical industry have created for asthma allow patients greater flexibility in their lifestyle. Hopefully one day no one will suffer from asthma anymore."

Signifiers of medical science (liquid being poured into a test tube, an X-ray of lungs, and plastic balls symbolizing molecular structure) are interspersed with shots of Dr. Brown and the girls playing soccer. The ad ends with the name, America's Pharmaceutical Companies, printed in red background, mortised in a blue sky with a bird soaring overhead. Below, the tagline -- "Leading the way in the search for cures" -- frames their mission.

America's Pharmaceutical Companies02-00 America's Pharmaceutical Companies02-00 America's Pharmaceutical Companies02-00 America's Pharmaceutical Companies02-00

Another ad in the campaign for America's Pharmaceutical Companies works as an advocacy ad. A series of elderly persons participate in sports such as tennis, swimming, horseback riding, biking, golfing, and even directing a marching band are spliced with images of researchers in white coats checking charts, a test tube held in the air, computerized graphs, liquid being poured from a beaker to a test tube, and smiling individual faces. The male narrator's voiceover explains that:

Our ideas about aging are changing
What was old yesterday is today active and alive
Our ideas about aging are changing
And prescription medicines are helping to change them
New medicines that help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
That stop osteoporosis before it cripples
That relieve arthritis pain.
Medicines that reduce the need for surgery
and hospital stays.
Most of America's seniors have insurance coverage for these medicines
But some of our seniors don't.
At America's Pharmaceutical Companies we want every senior to have access to prescription medicines.
Our ideas about aging are changing
As part of that change, let's expand Medicare coverage for prescription medicines, so that all our seniors that need them can have them.
To learn more about our ideas on expanding drug coverage for seniors
Visit us at www.coverageforseniors.org

Given growing public anxieties about the rising cost of healthcare, and particularly the costs of prescription drugs, the drug industry represents itself as an advocate of providing the necessary state support to make these drugs available to people who can't afford them. While this text continues to tout revolutionary advances in medicines, it recognizes that touting miracles and denying people access to these wonders is a politically unwise position.


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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey