Swine flu – It’s just brilliant branding by the drug companies

Swine flu - A safer for of unbranded flu
Swine flu - A safer form of unbranded flu

Call me a cynic if you want, but looking at the stats behind Swine flu, compared to the unbranded ‘seasonal flu’, you’re actually better off catching Swine flu.

According to the Guardian yesterday, The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, stated that as a worst case, 30% of the UK population could be infected by the H1N1 virus, with 65,000 killed.

The best case scenario, according to Sir Liam is that only 5% of the population contract the virus, with 3,100 deaths.

Now 65,000 people sounds like quite a lot to me, but is actually only 0.1% of the population – and that’s the worst case – almost doomsday – like scenrario.

3,100 is still a large number and I wouldn’t dream of belittling the pain caused by any single one of those deaths, but it is 0.05% of the population – which is a tiny, tiny percentage.

Over the winter of 1999/2000 we had a really bad epidemic of unbranded flu break out in the UK and 21,000 people died, over and above the base level – but no-one in the media seemed to notice. A missed opportunity by the drug companies that they weren’t going to make again?

Is it media hype, very carefully managed PR by the drug companies, or just further proof that we have to have a name for everything, so we can gather together as a herd, to share the problem, under one common banner?

My feeling is that the drug companies are simply loving it. Who had ever heard of Tamiflu or Relenza before this ‘pandemic’ started? Let alone had pangs of guilt about not having any in stock in case any of our families contract it.

Even the word ‘pandemic’ is one designed to strike fear into the hearts of normal people. I personally know three people who have had various degrees of swine flu. All seem fine a few days/weeks on.

Flu is a killer anyway. It is a hideous way for those with underlying health problems to die, but that’s my point – it always has done and probably always will.

But it does feel like we’ve heard it all before and this is more to do with media and marketing hype than it is to do with reality. H5N1 or Bird flu was going to wipe us all out – yet only a few people died – and the Y2k bug was going to take out all of our computers at the end of the last millenium. But they didn’t. Yet, millions were spent in preparing for their coming, which never quite came.

As a branding and marketing exercise for the people at Roche who own Tamiflu or GSK, who own Relenza, they couldn’t have planned a better campaign if they tried.

Or am I being a huge cycnic?

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2 thoughts on “Swine flu – It’s just brilliant branding by the drug companies

  1. You should read Risk – the science of politics and fear by Dan Gardner (if you haven’t already). Coming form a very similar place to you and full of loads of really interesting reasons why we believe what we do.
    Have to say I agree but my ‘caveman brain’ panicks when I think of swineflu and my kids in the same scecnario!

    1. Thanks kelly. I was starting to think I was the only one with the same thoughts, but lots of people have been saying the same sort of things. I’ll add the risk book to my reading list. Cheers. John

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