Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Licit Drug Trade In America, Part I

In his book, "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating A Nation", Charles Barber goes on to say:
"In the 1970s and 1980, the profitability of Fortune 500 drug companies was double the median for all industries in the Fortune 500. In the 1990s, the drug industry's profitability grew to almost four times the median. By the early 2000s, it had increased to almost eight times the median."
And ...
"Psychiatric drugs are the number-one therapeutic category among the world's top two hundred prescription medicines."

"In 2006, 227 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in the United States, more than any other class of medication."
This last point surprised me, as it looks like it might for those who took a stab at the answer in the question in my last post. If so many people are taking these drugs, why don't we know about it? Is this a subject that's still swept under the carpet?

Drug companies are falling over themselves in profits from mood-altering drugs, and apparently throwing ethics and science to the wind to protect those profits:
"The excesses and ethical lapses have become so blatant that even mainstream bastions of free enterprise such as Forbes have labeled the drug companies as corporate "pill pushers" and accused them of abandoning science for sales."

Promoting The Positive, Obscuring The Negative

This next part is unsettling. It's one way drug companies are protecting those profits:
"It is a dirty little secret that a good percentage of "scientific" articles in even the top journals are now "ghostwritten". ... written-to-order for drug companies, often by writers for medical communications companies, who appear to be acting as intermediaries to distance drug companies from the articles."
He gives an example:
"A Georgetown University medical professor, Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, has documented how she was contacted by RxComms, a British medical communications company, to author a review of interactions between herbs and a generic anticoagulant called warfarin. "Months later I received a completed 2,848-word draft, with an abstract, references, and a table, ready for submission to a journal, with my name on it. A note asked me to return it with any changes within seven days." Dr. Fugh-Berman declined, but no matter, another "author" was quickly found. RxComms appeared to have been hired by Astrazeneca who was preparing to release a drug to compete with warfarin."
He likens the practice of ghostwriting to money laundering.

I was shaking my head and telling myself that the big, mainstream, peer-reviewed journals must have standards that filter out ghostwritten articles:
"A 1998 review of articles published in leading journals such as The Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine found that 11 percent were ghostwritten."

e.g. "For all the articles published on Zoloft for the years 1998,1999, and 2000 ... ghostwritten articles outnumbered authentically authored articles by fifty-five to forty-one."
There's a lot more. I'll stop here for now. It's depressing.

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