Sunday, November 29, 2009

By Stuart Chaifetz

There’s been a lot in the news recently regarding Pharmaceutical companies and related issues, so, instead of focusing on one specific story, this time I am going to hit a few at a time.
I’ve written a lot about Big Pharma and their business practices. In this story from the NY Times, November 15, “Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform” we see how Big Pharma is preparing for health care reform by socking consumers with major hikes in prices.
“In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.”
With hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake, it is not hard to see why Big Pharma has so much power. What’s really interesting, however, is that they blame the high cost of research for the rise in prices. Now we know that 9 out of 10 drugs tested on animals fail in human clinical trials, that means that all those millions of dollars spent using animals was pointless. So not only are animal tests are cruel and poor indicators for how drugs will effect humans, but they’re bad for business as well.
Speaking of that “9 out of 10” quote, here’s the page where I first found it, on the FDA’s own site. The first thing you’ll note is that the page doesn’t exist anymore. I guess it’s a good thing I saved it way back when. Here it is on the ARISE website, where it is remains for posterity:
Now back to the news.
“Swiss-based Roche Holding quietly pulled its blockbuster drug Accutane off the market in June amid early signs that the drug may be linked to inflammatory bowel disease. And last week, a study was released that quantified those risks, finding that users of the medication have almost twice the odds of developing a serious bowel disorder as nonusers.”

“In its tumultuous 27-year history, the drug, also known as isotretinoin, has been found to cause serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy and to possibly increase the risk of depression, including suicidal behavior. Women who take it must register with the government, sign a consent form saying that they understand the medication's risks, use two forms of birth control, and submit to monthly pregnancy tests.”
Of course the drug was approved for safety by using animals.
Here’s some important info for those getting flu shots. ACAAI: Egg Allergy No Excuse for Skipping Flu Shot. While the story is meant to ease concerns for those allergic to eggs, it instead presents an ethical question for those vegans amongst us.
Finally, another in our series of Big Pharma gone bad: “Pfizer Broke the Law by Promoting Drugs for Unapproved Uses.”
“Prosecutor Michael Loucks remembers clearly when lawyers for Pfizer inc. the world’s largest drug company, looked across the table and promised it wouldn’t break the law again.”
“What Loucks, who’s now acting U.S. attorney in Boston, didn’t know until years later was that Pfizer managers were breaking that pledge not to practice so-called off-label marketing even before the ink was dry on their plea.”

And that says it all.

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