Monday, March 26, 2012

Testing Behind the Drugs

In The Truth about the Drug Companies, Marcia Angell presents some very frightening information about pharmaceutical companies.  The parts about the marketing are not that surprising to me, especially considering how we just read about the medicalization of society.  However, what shocked me was the actual make-up of these drugs, and the process they undergo before entering the market.  First of all, most of the new drugs that enter the market each year aren’t that different from already existing drugs.  These variation drugs are referred to as me-too drugs, and are marketed as being better than the old ones, when in fact they aren’t that different.  However, most of the time when these drugs are tested, the study is biased to turn results in their favor.  For example, the me-too drugs aren’t compared to the existing drug during clinical trials so it is unknown if the me-too is better.  In fact, it is usually just compared to a placebo so it looks like it is better just because it is effective. 
The process of testing behind the drugs, and the fact that most of them are just variations, shocks me because I think this is the information that most people are completely unaware of.  People are exposed everyday to the marketing of the drugs.  While some people are persuaded by these commercials and turn to their doctors asking for these drugs, others realize the marketing tactics behind them.  However, I think it is even a smaller group that truly knows the science behind the drugs, or lack thereof.  With all the money that goes into the industry, I don’t understand how new drugs can’t be made to address all the diseases we still need medication and even cures for.  Angell answers this question, and yet again it has to do with money.  Companies will make drugs based on their market, which has to consist of paying customers.  As a result time, research, and money will not be spent on treating diseases that affect non-paying customers (such as malaria pg 84).  I think this is where the problem lies. 
On another note, in class autism was mentioned and how some mothers believe it is due to vaccinations.  As a result, some people refuse to vaccinate their child or delay the process.  Angell writes, “Perhaps the worst shortages are of childhood vaccines” (pg92).  While this is frightening for those who want to receive the vaccines, I wonder if it is connected with the increasing rate of autism and skepticism of vaccines.  

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