Last updated on: 3/13/2014 | Author:

Marcia Angell, MD Biography

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Con to the question "Should Prescription Drugs Be Advertised Directly to Consumers?"

“There is this kind of marketing that is designed to convince people that they need pills. It’s designed to convince them that they need particular pills that happen to be more expensive, or just going on patent rather than coming off. Then, armed with this feeling, the consumer goes to the physician, who often just prescribes the pills. It’s a buyer’s market here. Doctors don’t want to lose patients. They don’t want to say no to patients. They’re, in some sense, too busy to say no to patients. They are forced to see more and more patients more and more rapidly. It’s faster to write out a prescription than it is to try to talk with patient and convince the patient that he or she may have been manipulated by these ads.

In addition, the doctors themselves are manipulated by the same ads, and also by what amounts to bribery from the drug companies. The drug companies turn up. They have $8 billion worth of free samples that they give to doctors. The doctors hand out the free samples to patients. It makes the doctor look good. The patient has free samples. But both the doctor and the patient, from that point on, are hooked on that particular drug. And believe me, it’s not going to be a generic, and it’s not going to be a drug that’s just going off patent. It is going to be a new, newly patented, high-price drug. So in a sense, both the doctors and the consumers are sucked into a sort of ‘bait and switch,’ because sooner or later they will have to pay for [that drug.]”

Interview with Frontline,, Nov. 26, 2002

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Member, Association of American Physicians
  • Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences
  • Member, Alpha Omega Alpha National Honor Medical Society
  • Master, American College of Physicians
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine, 1999-June 30, 2000
  • Executive Editor, New England Journal of Medicine, 1988-1999
  • Editorial Staff Member, New England Journal of Medicine, 1979-1988
  • MD, Boston University School of Medicine, 1967
  • Fulbright Scholar, Microbiology (Frankfurt, Germany)
  • BS, Chemistry and Mathematics, James Madison University, 1960
  • Born Apr. 20, 1939 in Knoxville, TN
  • First woman to serve as Editor-in-Chief of New England Journal of Medicine
  • Named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans in 1997
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should Prescription Drugs Be Advertised Directly to Consumers?