In the early years of drug research, the government gave scientists funding to develop and discover new drugs. When discoveries were made, pharmaceutical companies would swoop in, manufacture the drug, secure the patent and reap the benefits of the newest drug on the market.
A Changing Industry
A lot has changed since then, and according to the Washington Post, the changes may not be for the better. Pharmaceutical companies are funding their own research now, and in doing so, can circumvent the built-in checks and balances that existed when outside agencies did the funding and separate scientists did the research.
When a pharmaceutical company funds the study, conducts the study and publishes the results, you can only hope that it has the end-users' needs in mind. Sadly, this is not always the case. Pharmaceutical companies have been known to rush defective drugs to the market.
For example, when GlaxoSmithKline introduced the diabetic drug Avandia into the market, it did so with a 17-page article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), touting Avandia as the best drug, and claiming its competitors paled in comparison. Medical professionals believed GlaxoSmithKline, and Avandia quickly became the go-to drug for diabetes treatment.
Four years later, however, the drug had not only fallen out of favor; it had ceased to exist. The drug was taken off the market after it was found that it dramatically increased the risk of heart attacks. Avandia was directly connected to more than 83,000 heart attacks that resulted in deaths.
Could these deaths have been prevented if pharmaceutical companies were not allowed to control the entire research and development process?
Research Shows Troubling Signs in the Industry
GlaxoSmithKline is not the only Big Pharma company who is pulling all the strings. According to a review conducted by the Washington Post, the NEJM published 73 articles about original studies for new drugs, drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2000, and experimental drugs between September 2011 and August 2012. Of the studies reviewed:
- 60 were funded by pharmaceutical companies
- 50 were coauthored by drug company employees
- A lead author in 37 of the studies had previously accepted compensation from the sponsoring drug company
When you consider that Big Pharma provides more funding research than the federal government — according to the Washington Post, pharmaceutical companies spent $39 billion to the National Institute of Health's $31 billion — it's not hard to figure out how Big Pharma owns the industry. Until some checks and balances are restored, problems will continue to occur. For now, we will continue to hold pharmaceutical companies liable for creating bad drugs through pharmaceutical litigation.