2002 is the year when two very powerful pharmaceutical companies, Cook and Bard, began marketing their IVC filters as “optionally retrievable,” even though they had previously always been marketed as permanent implants. The change in marketing started in 2002, and carried into 2003. The marketing campaign was very strong, it had everything in order and was highly successful — the only glitch was a slight problem with fact. Because, you see, nothing had actually been done to make the previously permanent IVC filters turn into now “optionally retrievable” IVC filters. It was a marketing ploy, but the devices themselves remained very much the same.
Have you ever met someone who is really good at sales and marketing? Give them a few minutes, and they can easily sell you something you’ll never need or use — something you’d never even known you’d wanted, or known about at all. Same thing goes with pharmaceutical marketing and branding. This type of marketing is a way for major pharmaceutical companies and their marketing divisions to communicate with the medical community, doctors and patients.
So we were sold. We were sold an IVC filter device that went through a major marketing campaign change — like that Tropicana orange juice re-branding that resulted in countless complaints by consumers who missed the old packaging. The problem is, this goes so much farther than marketing, so much farther than pretty labels and colors, so much farther than consumers choosing pretty packages. Now, we’re talking patient health and safety; now, we’re talking life and death.
For a medical device that is supposed to keep us living, the serious associated complications we’re seeing is a very big deal. And all signs point to 2002. Because it’s that very year when the marketing team needed to back up their patient communication with cold, hard science. It was that point when the IVC filters they were now selling as “optionally retrievable” needed to actually be what they said they were.
That didn’t happen. And look at us now.