Pageviews Since May, 2012 (That's when I added this view counter) Website has been up since 2007

Friday, March 11, 2011

Big Pharma's Rise To Fortune And Fame

In the year 754, Arabian pharmacists opened in Baghdad what was to be the first known drugstore in the world.

Soon thereafter many more drugstores would pop up here and there throughout Europe and by the 19th century, these drugstores spread to North America and evolved into bigger drugstores and eventually into pharmaceutical companies.

The discoveries of penicillin and insulin brought great excitement to pharmaceutical companies during the 1920’s and 1930’s and led to mass distribution of these medicines.

During the 1950’s, huge growth in the industry took place with the development of sophisticated manufacturing processes. New drugs were continually being researched and produced and several years after the second world war, the demand for drugs like the first oral contraceptive was phenomenal in the 1960’s.

This new drug, “The Pill”, was pretty much responsible for ending the baby boomer era. This time period also ushered demands for drugs like heart medications and high-blood pressure medicines. Another popular item on society’s drug shopping list during this time period was the MAO Inhibitors, Thorazine and Haldol along with tranquilizers.

These new drugs brought about a revolution in the use of psychiatric medications. Valium became the most widely prescribed drug in history from 1963 onward, at least, until public controversy about patients becoming addicted to it began to stifle its use.

Then there was the Thalidomide tragedy during the 1960’s, a new tranquilizer used by pregnant women that caused severe birth defects. With the introduction of new marketing techniques like the internet and other medias during the 1990‘s, drug purchases became possible directly from drug producers by consumers and as a result, drug advertisements on radio and television began to flood the market.

In 1997, the FDA relaxed the previously stiffer requirements that drug producers thoroughly explain the side effects and adverse reactions of drugs in their advertisements, which greatly accelerated pharmaceutical sales. The next big seller was the much sought after antidepressants, especially Prozac.

Today, there are more than 200 major pharmaceutical companies researching and producing a constant flow of drugs onto the market. One thing that helps keep the flow going is the fact that doctors will many times receive incentives to prescribe medications.

If you find that hard to believe, you should know that the president of the American Psychiatric Association recently admitted that in general, it is rather common for psychiatrists to accept bribes and kickbacks from drug companies to push their products.

Another common complaint against pharmaceutical companies is disease mongering or the act of encouraging medical professionals to create new disorders that will require new medications. Billions of dollars are invested in expensive medications, while very little interest exists in investing in treatments for sicknesses in countries with little or no money to spend on drugs such as malaria in Africa.

A private consulting firm known as Bain & Company reported that the cost of discovering, developing and marketing each new drug was nearly $1.7 billion in 2003. In order to save money, pharmaceutical companies will sometimes re-formulate an existing drug, give it a new name and release it as something “new and improved” to people who are desperate to improve their health.

The cost of producing these types of drugs are less than $200 million, a big savings by comparison. The world spent $643 billion on prescription drugs in 2006. Pfizer's pill for cholesterol, Lipitor presently tops the list as best-selling drug in the world.

With annual sales of $12.9 billion, this drug has been at the top for five years in a row. In the United States, 3.4 billion total drug prescriptions are written every year with new blockbuster drugs to be released in the near future.

A big part of pharmaceutical companies success is that they commonly spend a huge amount of money on advertising and marketing. In the US, drug companies spend $19 billion a year on marketing campaigns.

Besides marketing, pharmaceutical companies hire sales representatives to speak directly to physicians while they are at work in their offices and clinics, encouraging them to write prescriptions and leaving with them bundles of samples and other gifts.

Drug companies spend $5 billion a year sending these drug reps to visit doctor’s offices. They also hire thousands of lobbyists to influence politicians in the direction of leniency toward drug manufacturing laws and stricter policies against frivolous drug lawsuits.

Drug companies spent $855 million in the 8-year period of 1998 to 2006 on lobbying activities. Lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies are being filed on a daily basis for drugs they produced that have serious side effects, like heart attack, stroke, paralysis and even death.

Drug making is big business, with some sad consequences at times.

No comments: