The Man Who Managed Your Marketing? Estes Kefauver and the Drug Hearings on Antitrust and Monopoly

  • Andrew Pressey University of Birmingham, United Kingdom


Purpose – The U.S. Senate hearings on pricing in the market for drugs in 1959, and lasting ten months, was part of a series of wider senatorial hearings into a range of American industries including the markets for milk, bread, automobiles, and steel, undertaken by the Senate Subcommittee on
Antitrust and Monopoly, chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee between 1957 and 1963. The study examines how a body that had the initial investigational remit to examine the subject of ‘administered prices’ in the drug industry, became instead largely a systematic critique of the marketing activities and techniques practiced by pharmaceutical firms of the day.

Design/methodology/approach – The study draws on the Senate Subcommittee hearings for prescription drugs.

Findings – Three objectionable marketing practices were identified by the Antitrust Subcommittee: The use of sales representatives and high-pressure sales techniques, industry promotional practices,
expenditure and deceptiveness, and the role of drug branding to hold consumers captive to major brands.

Research limitation/implications – Rather than being an investigation that was perceived by some as out of tune with the major events of the day (most notably civil rights), it will be demonstrated that far
from being an anachronism, the hearings were an important precursor to the consumer rights movement, which peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, and establish a link between antitrust issues and contemporary consumer politics.

Originality/value of the paper – The paper demonstrates the historical value of studying regulatory body appraisals of marketing practices.


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