Pharmaceutical Industry


"Though the pharmaceutical industry claims to be a high-risk business, it makes higher profits than any other industry--by a long shot, year after year.

"Contrary to popular belief, big drug companies spend far less on research and development than on marketing.

"Drug companies have enormous influence over what doctors are taught about drugs and what they prescribe...

""Big pharma" has the largest lobby in Washington, with more lobbyists than there are elected representatives in Congress, and contributes heavily to political campaigns...

"... companies re-patent variations on older drugs that are often inferior to their predecessors... the industry's grip on the highest levels of government... the FDA makes a hideous farce out of impartial monitoring and testing...

"Despite all its excesses, this is an important industry that should be saved--mainly from itself" (Marcia Angell. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It)


"When it comes to fraud, Enron, Tyco, and Big Tobacco have nothing on Big Pharma. Some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical and health care companies are paying huge fines to settle whistleblower lawsuits that allege they manipulate the prices of their drugs and services in order to defraud Medicaid and Medicare...

"Nationally, fraud-related settlements from these whistleblower lawsuits have totaled several billion dollars...

"...here's why fraud is rampant: State and federal health agencies rely on the drug industry to honestly report the prices on their drugs... Drug makers were publishing one price for their drugs, but were charging their customers (pharmacists, hospitals, and others) a much lower price. Those customers could then seek reimbursement from Medicaid at the higher price published by the drug makers, and pocket the difference. That difference is known as the "spread"...

"Texas is among 20 states that are suing drug makers" (Robert Bryce. "Texas Goes After Big Pharma." Texas Observer, March 4, 2005: 6-7, 19).


"Medical journals are immoral, a former BMJ editors tells Sarah Boseley...

"Richard Smith thinks that the way the medical journals make their money, by publishing scientific papers, is immoral. He also says that they are little more than a marketing tool of the drug companies. That's harsh talk from anybody--but even more remarkable from Smith, who was editor of the British Medical Journal for 25 years until his departure last summer.

"Smith is writing a book about publication ethics. He started compiling a list of incidents where the publication of a paper in a medical journal had raised ethical questions, as with the alleged link of MMR, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, to autism and the flawed study in 1990 which suggested that women who attended the Bristol cancer help centre were just as likely to die as those who did not.

""It was as I began to think about these things that this started to bother me," says Smith. "I'd always known medical journalism wasn't about the truth, and I tried to write that at least once a year. It's partly because of the nature of science--it's about provisional truths"..

"But another thought," he says, "was that this whole business of sending original research to doctors is kind of crazy. When you talk to ordinary doctors, they are not scientists, and yet here we are sending them this mass of complicated information that most of them are not equipped to critically appraise. They haven't got the time."...

""Peer review is a very flawed practice," he says. "It is slow and expensive, a lottery, and prone to abuse and bias. Much of the time it doesn't pick up errors."

"Before the Internet came along, scientific papers had to be published in journals. But now, he believes, journals should give up what are in effect immoral earnings. Instead, he says, all research should be published in one large free database, with access for all. Smith has joined the board of directors of the free access online Public Library of Science" (Sarah Boseley. "A question of ethics." Guardian Weekly, July 8, 2005: 19).


"...a severe form of mental illness known as PMDD. "Think it's PMS? It could be PMDD," intones the [TV ad] voiceover...

"...the condition has essentially been invented... there is no strong scientific evidence to distinguish it from normal premenstrual difficulties. Even worse, arguese Caplan, using a medical label to explain away the severe distress some women experience in the lead-up to their period runs the risk of masking the underlying causes of their suffering.

"In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has accepted that the condition PMDD exists and has approved Lilly's Prozac and several similar antidepressants for its treatment, yet in other parts of the world it is not even a recognized disease. It is not listed as a separate disorder in the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases. And even in the United States, despite the hard work of Endicott, Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies, PMDD still has only a partial listing of the psychiatrists' manual of diseases, the DSM, and is therefore not seen as a fully official category of illness...

"The pharmaceutical industry in the United States now spends more than $3 billion a year on direct-to-consumer advertising... Increasingly, however, these commercials are not just selling drugs but also the diseases that go with them...

"In the late 1990s Lilly's antidepressant Prozac--whose chemical name is fluoxetine--was about to lose its patent, and the manufacturer stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars because of the emergence of cheaper generic competitors. Winning approval of the drug for a new disease might re-energize sales of this blockbuster chemical... Lilly decided to repaint Prozac in attractive lavender and pink and rename it Sarafem...

"For specialists in pharmaceutical marketing like Vince Parry, the story of PMDD and Sarafem is a great example of a company "fostering the creation of a condition and aligning it with a product"...

"This is typical. Despite repeated violations across the industry, and tens of millions of Americans being regularly exposed to misleading information about the risks and benefits of widely prescribed drugs, companies are rarely fined and executives are not held accountable.

"Another theme has recently emerged in pharmaceutical industry advertising. Researchers are finding more and more ads helping to sell the idea that everday human experiences are symptoms of medical conditions requiring treatment with drugs" (Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels. "A disease for every pill." The Nation, Oct. 17, 2005: 22-25).


"...cancer... remains at the top of the FDA's list when it comes to regulation, scrutiny, and harassment...

"History has demonstrated time and time again that the more successful the natural therapy is against cancer, the more fierce and ruthless the response will be from the FDA, the pharmaceutical industry, and established medicine...

Realizing this, many in the industry are hesitant to even talk about a natural product for cancer these days--much less commit research funds to these products" (Dr. David G. Williams. "Politics as Usual, and Patients Pay." Alternatives, June, 2007: 1).


Colby Glass, MLIS