Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Big Pharma is Watching You

Daniel Carlat, a professor at Tufts Medical School, wrote a brave op-ed in today's NYT, exposing that Big Pharma is paying physicians to write bad articles on perfectly good drugs. For those of you not aware of the tactics that Big Pharma uses to block generic drugs, market "me too" drugs directly to consumers, fail to report negative clinical trial results, or ghost write articles promoting their drugs, you need to take a look at :

(1) Marcia Angell's The Truth about the Drug Companies.
(2) David Healy's Let Them Eat Prozac
(3) Fran Hawthorne's The Merck Juggernaut.

Carlat's focuses specifically on how Big Pharma is paying physicians to write bad articles about Trazodone, an effective and cheap sleep aid (10 cents a pill), in order to push the newer and more expensive Lunesta and Ambien CR ($3+ a pill). The market for sleeping pills is now huge: 42 million prescriptions written a day. Big Pharma wants to make sure to capitalize on that market with unfair tactics.

While I could write this whole post on the social implications of a huge insomina drug market (can we say OVERWORKED), I will focus on how this sort of corporate thievery should be exactly the kind of issues that the Dems should be focusing on in the 2008 elections. While Health Care is becoming a phenomenal crisis, the Republicans gave huge handouts to the Pharmaceutical Industry with Medicare D. And, with Big Pharma writing smear articles on perfectly safe, effective and cheap generic drugs, it ensures that our tax dollars will further line their pockets. The amount of money that Americans spend on Pharmaceutical drugs is pathetic, and usually because of lots of politicking in the background: deals made between insurance companies' formularies and Big Pharma. The consumer is screwed in the process, usually for drugs that really treat the ailments of a ridiculous American work ethic, rather than preventive care. What gets pushed on TV? Drugs that make us more effective and productive workers: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, insomnia drugs, allergy medications, and pain killers. Perhaps what we need more than all of these artificially inflated medications is time.

How about making the Dems the "take back your time" party.