Friday, September 29, 2006

Drug Companies Pressure Ministers

Some of the country's leading pharmaceutical firms have been pressurising government officials to approve their expensive drugs. According to The Guardian, over an eight month period between October and May this year, senior executives from 10 drug companies met ministers to press for 'favourable' decisions. In documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, they discovered that:

In recent years, drugs companies have been making obscene profits. They claim that this is necessary for future research, but this is dubious at best. The majority of drug companies in the US for example, spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research. In 2003, drug companies spent more than $7 billion on one-on-one marketing to doctors. There is some evidence that this kind of marketing influences the drugs that are eventually prescribed. There is little doubt that the profits that are being generated by the big drugs companies are simply ploughed into ever more sophisticated marketing techniques, rather than producing cheap, effective medication.

The drugs companies are no different from any other corporation on the face of the planet. They have a fundamental need to make money to satisfy their shareholders. The effectiveness and safety of their medication is far less important than the marketing of their products. This will undoubtedly lead us into significant problems in the future, especially given the scandal of TGN1412. Effectively we are putting our lives in the hands of marketing men, rather than doctors, a dangerous concept indeed.