Friday, March 11, 2011
Big Pharma's Rise To Fortune And Fame
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.
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.