Big Pharma can legitimately claim to have produced scores of “life saving drugs.”
I wouldn’t want to live in a world without safe and effective medicines.
The big companies are facing increasing problems caused by a slowdown in the development of new “blockbuster” drugs.
The pressure for profits is relentless and, it seems, that some in the industry are willing to cut corners, and more, to keep the stock price up.
Here is a summary of the legal news surrounding one company during one week last month (H/T Martha Rosenberg): Pfizer…
1) agreed to pull its 10-year-old leukemia drug Mylotarg from the market because it caused more, not less patient deaths
2) Suspended pediatric trials of Geodon two months after the FDA said children were being overdosed
3) Suspended trials of tanezumab, an osteoarthritis pain drug, because patients got worse not better, some needing joint replacements (pattern, anyone?)
4) Was investigated by the House for off-label marketing of kidney transplant drug Rapamune and targeting African-Americans
5) Saw a researcher who helped established its Bextra, Celebrex and Lyrica as effective pain meds, Scott S Reuben, MD, trotted off to prison for research fraud
6) was sued by Blue Cross Blue Shield to recoup money it overpaid for Bextra and other drugs
7) received a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) requesting its whistleblower policy.
8) had its appeal to end lawsuits by Nigerian families who accuse it of illegal trials of the antibiotic Trovan in which 11 children died, rejected by the Supreme Court.
This pattern suggests that the problems facing the company are systemic in nature.
Nor, do I think they will improve.
The 20th Century was the century of the innovative medical molecule. The 21st Century is the century of the innovative medical system. The irony here lies in the fact that hundreds of profound and effective medical system innovations languish while giant mega-corporations hunt for the next mega-molecule.