Recently, some of you may have seen ads for "Fresh & Sexy," a new product on the market with somewhat provocative ads. Basically, they're "intimate wipes," to be used for frantically wiping off your naughty bits in situations where you're filthy, and desperately need to clean up before getting laid.
Now, I personally have to question the need for this product, at least in civilized societies. The majority of us bathe regularly, and hopefully don't need such items. A friend of mine commented that if she were "in a situation where I was that disgustingly filthy, like a long camping trip away from water, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the wipes with me. Or be near a store where I could buy them." By the same token, societies where regular bathing is rare are unlikely to carry "Fresh & Sexy" in local stores.
There's also the point that people have been banging each other for roughly 2 million years, of which only the last 100 or so have seen regular washing. So filth, and the absence of "intimate wipes," has never stopped them for >99.9% of human history.
But this is modern marketing. Necessity is no longer the mother of invention. Nowadays, instead of making a product that people actually need, it's easier to make a product, then convince people they need it. It's how P. T. Barnum got rich.
The same trend is in pharmaceuticals. There are a lot of drugs that are legitimately useful, but some companies try to create drugs we don't need, then hope to convince us we do.
Let's take the fictitious drug Ophelicia, which is an overpriced knock-off of a cheap generic, polonicoxib.
R&G pharmaceuticals (the original manufacturer of both) knows their aging drug has been used off-label* for a boatload of stuff, and its profitable patent life is running out. So they're sinking research dollars into getting more indications for it, rather than, say, a new drug that might benefit people.
Sometimes you get a REALLY painful hangnail. It hurts more if you accidentally bang your finger on something, you can't pick your nose with it, and start screaming if Purell or salsa get on it.
There are MANY dirt-cheap generic drugs, such as polonicoxib, that can be used for a hangnail, all reasonably effective.
R&G, smelling a market opening, sinks a few hundred million bucks into getting Ophelicia OFFICIALLY FDA APPROVED for hangnail pain. Granted, their data didn't show it was any more effective than the 20 cheap generics out there, but now their sales reps can proudly say "We are the ONLY drug with an FDA approval for this debilitating condition."
Unfortunately, there aren't enough people with painful hangnails to make this indication financially worthwhile. Besides, any insurance company will force you to try 5 cheap generics before they'll let you think about prescribing Ophelicia and it's $20/day price tag (I agree with them).
BUT it adds to the razzle-dazzle. Your average doctor will figure it has so many indications for pain, it must be good for anything, and grab it off the shelf without trying a generic. It's much easier to hand someone a bottle of samples than it is to write a script (R&G knows this. Why do you think the companies give away all those samples?). If the patient is hooked, maybe they'll pay for it. Or the doctor will find it easier to have her staff fill out a pre-authorization form than call in for some cheap polonicoxib. After all, it's not her problem.
This gets back to the need for intimate wipes: Is it really there in modern societies? Probably not. But there isn't a need for a drug that's specifically indicated for hangnail pain, either. It's the game, and R&G and their competitors are simply players looking for an edge.
The key to selling is marketing, and the gold standard of marketing is making people think they need something that they don't.
*Prescribing it for something other than what the official FDA rules say you should use it for. This is very common. Odds are that you've taken something off-label.