Occupy Wall Street and Corruption within the Pharmaceutical Industry
Those of you who know me, know that I entertain ideas that fall outside the norm. My opinions, views and take on things are neither left or right, rather they are focused on what works and some times what works is far away from existing systems or structures.
I’ve spent nearly a decade inside the drug discovery pipe line as a research technician, clinical research coordinator and then clinical research manager. I can tell you from my own experience many things I would change about it. I also have read about my fare share about lawsuits, cover ups, and interesting decisions pharmaceutical companies have made, not in the best interest of their clients, but in the best interest of their own bottom line. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek but not un-serious letter to the Pharma industry about it’s marketing tactics and re-patenting process a few months ago.
I have also been tracking the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not an occupier myself, I have offered clothing and food donations, retweets, a Facebook blog, connections to political figures and passed out information there. I love the notion of massive, positive change and I support them. I offer this blog as a space to debate one of the demands of the protestors that directly relates to the pharmaceutical industry. In the demands, they are addressing corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, that run our governments. Here is the demand:
“They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.”
While I agree with the general sentiment of this statement, I do not believe that pharma companies block generic forms of medicine. They can’t do that outright. Rather, they beat them out via marketing the next best (but not really) drug for what ever condition the drug with the recently expired patent targeted. You can read more about how they do that in the open letter I mentioned above.
Another serious charge I would add is that the cost of fighting related lawsuits brought against the pharmaceutical corporations for repackaging old drugs are built into their budget. Here is a blog of mine outlining the nefarious ways pharma industry does this.
And sometimes the pharma industry tries to dodge due process all together and not just to beat out the generics, but to sell bad medicine. Here is a scary quote from a different article highlighting a more insidious issue:
“The fact that the drug industry can get the FDA to rewrite the rules so that CEOs can escape accountability for putting dangerous and deadly drugs on the market is the scariest example yet of how much control these big corporations have over our political process,” Ken Suggs, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of Americatold the Post.
“The Vioxx example showed that the FDA and Merck were too close for comfort,” Senator Grassely told Health News on March 12, 2005. “Testimony and documents at our Finance Committee hearing showed that the FDA allowed itself to be manipulated by Merck,” he said.
Based on a trial that took place in 2000, both the FDA and Merck were aware that heart attacks were five times more likely in patients taking Vioxx than among those taking a similar drug, Sen Grassley pointed out, but the FDA did nothing to change the labeling on the drug for nearly two years, while Merck aggressively marketed its product on nightly TV. 
But wait, the corruption gets even worse! The doctors themselves who take a very serious, ethical oath when they become doctors are also in bed with the pharma industry. In Overdosed America, author John Abramson tells us that the results of a groundbreaking high cholesterol medicine called Pravachol were spun by the doctors who had published the article. The New England Journal of Medicine, perhaps one of the highest regarded medical journals in the world agreed to publish an article that seemed to state that Pravachol was better at reducing cholesterol and had less side effects than existing statins (high cholesterol medication). John Abramson conducted a little research of his own and read that paper very carefully and determined that Pravachol was actually no better than existing drugs and in fact, caused harm in some population demographics. John’s whistle blowing and the publication of his book was not enough to change the inevitable. Pravachol soon flooded the pages of prescription booklets and flowed into the throats of unwitting patients and billions of dollars flowed into the banks of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Nothing has been done about this.
So when the FDA, prestigious scientific journals and individual doctors are in bed with these pharmaceutical industries, what can we people do but sit in a public park, and demand reform?
What do you think?