Finally, congress is investigating the giant pharmaceutical company’s corrupt research practices. In the drug business, promoting health and safety should be priority number one. Unfortunately, it is merely a distant second. In the pharmaceutical industry, making money supersedes science. Some even go as far as claiming that drug makers have become a billion dollar empire not because of research and science, but rather from slick marketing and deceit. This claim has some validity since the drug companies spend almost twice as much on the marketing of their drugs then on the development of their drugs.
Some also argue that many drugs are over-prescribed, and that drug companies’ huge profits are often spent developing and advertising expensive designer drugs (such as Viagra) instead of life-saving medications. But now, even the effectiveness of the drugs is being called in to question by the on going congressional inquiry. Presently, Congress is learning that the drug makers have paid millions of dollars in cash and other benefits to the very doctors who are supposed to be independently testing these drugs. Rarely will such a doctor bite the hand that feeds them. Even more insidious, the drug companies employ thousands of foreign-born chemists who are in the US on a work visa. Their career allows them and their family the right to live and work in the U.S. This demands allegiance to their employer and many suspect that end result of their research reflects this allegiance.
Perhaps the most alarming discovery of the investigation however points towards the work of Dr. Joseph Beiderman. Dr Beiderman, one of the world’s most renowned child psychologists at the Harvard Medical School, apparently failed to report to Harvard University that he had received at least $1.4 million in personal income from drug companies. It was also found that Dr. Biederman had asked a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary to provide him with almost $1 million to start a research center to, “move forward the commercial goals of J.& J.” As a front-runner in the field of psychology, Biederman was responsible for introducing a new era of using powerful, risky, and expensive antipsychotic medicines in young people.
Hopefully, the present congressional investigation will lead to reforms for the pharmaceutical industry. One reform would be to break the financial relationship and dependence of the medical profession to drug makers. Others would be to hold drug makers accountable in a court of law for false advertising and marketing of drugs that harm patients. The recent vioxx civil trials, which resulted in huge verdicts against the drug makers, is just one example of how effective this system works. After a few juries heard the truth about this drug maker, and awarded appropriate damages, the vioxx maker quickly settled all the claims against it. That result sent a strong message to the drug makers that they will be held accountable for deceit in the pursuit of profits. Hopefully, congress will enact stricter and further reforms as well. This will allow all of us to have confidence that the medicine we pay for and use has been fairly and legitimately tested by independent doctors and are benefiting our long term health.