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  • The Constant Gardener, By Malcolm Kendrick, MD - Unethical practices of the drug industry

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Wednesday, January 13, 2010 7:49 am Email this article
    Some of you may observe the actions of the pharmaceutical industry and wonder why, from a PR perspective, it seems intent on taking dead aim somewhere between the second and third metacarpals (bones in the feet, in case you were wondering), then determinedly pulling the trigger. Not once, but time and time again. To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie The Terminator, “I use an Uzi nine millimetre.”

    (This article was written by Malcolm Kendrick, MD, author of the wonderful, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting book The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It .) Drug Company Threatens To Shutdown UK Facility When Drug Turned Down

    Glaxo threatened to shutdown their UK facility when anti-flu drug was turned down by British authorities

    It is almost impossible to think of an industry that displays itself in a worse light. A few years back, when British authorities turned down Relenza (anti-flu drug from GlaxoSmithKline), GSK’s then chairman, Richard Sykes, threatened to close down the entire R&D and manufacturing facility in the U.K. and move elsewhere. I am not sure, but I think he achieved the world record for hurling the greatest number of toys out of his pram at the same time. He definitely got the distance record.


    Drug Companies Fix Prices, Fire Whistleblowers, Bribe Politicians, Suppress Info

    Drug Companies Fix Prices, Fire Whistleblowers, Bribe Politicians and suppress info about drug dangers

    Whenever you read the press nowadays, it seems that yet another pharmaceutical company is being sued for mis-selling products to doctors, fixing prices, firing whistleblowers or bribing politicians. Or, most serious of all, suppressing information about the dangers of drugs. Vioxx being the best current example.


    Medical Journals Make Money When Drug Companies Buy Reprints

    Medical journals feel pressure to publish positive drug articles to make money on reprint fees

    Much of what goes on, of course, never even breaks surface. A few years ago, a friend was telling me of an interesting experience. He works for the New Zealand company Adis International, a group that is quite academic and produces a number of scientific papers and journals, one of which is called Drugs. This is a semi-autonomous publication, distributed to doctors, which provides in-depth information on new drugs. Whether or not anyone ever reads it is a moot point.

    Despite the fact that Adis publishes Drugs without sponsorship, the reality is that it covers its costs, plus profit, by getting pharmaceutical companies to purchase hundreds of thousands of reprints to dish out at international conferences and suchlike. So Adis, like most medical publishers now, can come under considerable pressure to present drugs in a favourable light. Lest they lose the lucrative reprint fee.


    Bayer Threatened to Cancel Reprint Order if Negative Article Published about Baycol

    Bayer threatened to cancel reprint order if negative article published about Baycol

    Sorry about the long preamble, but this story makes no sense without it. Anyway, Adis did a Drugs edition on Baycol (cerivastatin), which mentioned that if you gave Baycol in conjunction with a fibrate (another cholesterol-lowering drug), there was a greatly increased risk of causing rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown, sometimes fatal).

    Bayer, the manufacturers of Baycol, did not want this information published. The company felt it may have an impact on sales, and threatened to cancel its reprint order — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Adis, to its credit, did not back down, and lost a lot of money, although Bayer did take up its original order.


    Bayer Used Article About Baycol In It’s Defense

    Bayer used article about Baycol in it’s defense when the drug was removed due to risks

    In a supreme irony, as often happens, Baycol was withdrawn from the market (due to the fact that it killed lots of people through rhabdomyolsis). However, as part of its defence, Bayer then waved the Drugs issue about, making the point that it had always been up front about the risks of rhabdomyolysis, and were thus a highly ethical company. One never knows whether to laugh or cry at such effortless hypocrisy — or should that be sheer effrontery.


    Drug Industry Responsible for It’s Image

    Drug industry never admits it is responsible for it’s image

    Despite hundreds of such examples (perhaps you would enjoy being regaled with a few more), if you read the pharmaceutical industry press — as I do — you will never see the slightest recognition that perhaps, just perhaps, the industry may possibly be the teensiest weensiest bit responsible for its image. In the industry’s eyes, its tarnished reputation is all the fault of deranged, anti-capitalist, anti-globalization, lefty, pseudo-communist-quasi-anarchists. (They must be talking about me.)


    Drug Industry Driven By Profits

    Drug industry driven by profits above all else

    But why do they act as they do? I believe that the driving force behind their actions is that pharmaceutical companies have become the darlings of the stock market and feel that they should act accordingly. I read somewhere that U.S.-listed pharmaceutical companies make more pure profit than any other industry in the Fortune 500. They are the big hitters, the ROI (return on investment) kings, the steroid-pumped über-capitalists.


    Drug Industry CEO’s Chosen to Increase Stock Price

    Drug industry CEO’s are chosen to increase stock price and maximize profit above all else

    In this world, a failure to achieve double-digit growth year after year is seen as wimpy. In this world, CEOs are chosen for their ability to wring the last drop of profit out of every drug launched. They, in turn, are utterly share-price-driven, and this attitude infects the entire workforce.

    Squeezed by the pressure to reinforce financial success, the industry has become a treadmill where everyone, from the CEO to the most junior sales representative, has to run faster and faster to satisfy the voracious appetite of the shareholders (people like you and me).


    A Built-In Problem of Capitalism

    Exploitation of workers, government and legal system are a built-in problem with capitalism

    This is a built-in problem with capitalism recognized, in part, by Karl Marx, no less.

    “For as long as a capitalist intends to stay in business, he must exploit his workers to the legal limit. Whether wracked by guilt or not, the capitalist must act as a ruthless exploiter. Similarly the worker must take the best job on offer; there is simply no other sane option. But by doing this we reinforce the very structures that oppress us.”
    —Karl Marx

    I would add to that statement…

    “For as long as a capitalist intends to stay in business he must exploit his worker … and the Government, the legal system — and any other factor that impacts upon his business. Whether wracked by guilt or not, the capitalist must act as a ruthless exploiter.”
    —Malcolm Kendrick


    If Drug CEO’s Put Ethics Above Profits, They Would Be Fired

    If drug company CEO’s put ethics above profits, they would be fired

    I don’t suppose too many CEOs are wracked by guilt about their actions. But even if they were, how could they act in any other way? If they were to put ethics above profit, profit would inevitably fall, and they would be gone — cast aside by brute desires of the stock market.


    Drug Companies Dodgy Practices

    Drug companies carry out dodgy drug trials in Africa, suppress info, become buddies with FDA, pay friends

    They must exploit every situation to its full advantage. Whether it be carrying out dodgy drug trials in Africa, subtly (or not so subtly) suppressing information, becoming buddies with the FDA or providing significant financial rewards to various “friends,” this is all part of how winners, win.

    In most industries, when winners win and competitors are crushed, the fallout is not that serious. Maybe we all drive an inferior car, or end up with VHS rather than Betamax, or Microsoft rather than all the other operating systems in the world that are far better. However, when pharmaceutical companies win, the fallout can be deadly. As we have seen.


    Inherent Problem With Capitalism

    If you put profits above all else, profits is what you will get

    But, as I have said before, and will continue to say, the problem does not lie with individual actions, or individual companies. The problem is inherent to capitalism, the unfettered free market. In the end, if you put profit before anything else, then profit is what you will get. And you cannot expect individual pharmaceutical companies to take the moral high ground. They can’t afford to, even if they might like to.

    Capitalism, like any other ism from socialism to environmentalism to animal rights(ism), has good bits and bad bits. And like any other ism, when uncontrolled, it becomes extremism, and extremism is always a disaster for humanity.

    End of sermon.



    Article Previous Published on THINCS.org

    This article was previously published on THINCS.org

    This article was previously published on THINCS.org (The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics).

    I republished the article here with Dr. Kendrick’s permission.


    Malcolm Kendrick’s Contact Info

    Malcolm Kendrick’s Email Address—.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Dr. Malcolm Kendrick can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Malcolm Kendrick, MD is the author of the wonderful, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting book book The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It .)


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