Yesterday the New York Times reported that a drug named ‘Acthar’, which is used to treat Infantile spasms, used to cost $50 but is now priced at $28,000. Despite questions over its efficacy and drug trials which were suspended, aggressive marketing by Questcor Pharmaceuticals and the support of a ‘Dr. Thrower’ (who also happens to be a paid speaker for Questcor), Forbes list Questor’s Market Capital at $1.33 Billion. Considering Acthar is listed as its ‘primary product’, that’s a sizable profit made from defenseless babies. Because Acthar was approved in 1952, before the FDA required clinical trials to show that a drug is effective, it seems that Questcor has carte blanche to market this drug for whatever condition it chooses, without the added burden of large trials to prove efficacy.
Does the targeting of children sound unbelievable to you? The pharmaceutical industry has a history of targeting the most vulnerable of society, not least with unapproved ‘mind altering’ drugs for depression, which can and have had tragic consequences. So just how much money can a pharmaceutical company squeeze out of a parent with a sick baby? Do you think I’m being a bit skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry, or maybe just a little bitter? Remember Pfizer’s illegal drug trial on Nigerian children. Eleven children died and 189 other children were left injured, some blind, paralysed or brain-damaged. Yet the billion dollar Pfizer spent years fighting the parents of these children before finally settling the case, for some.
It may come as no surprise that Lundbeck are also guilty of the practice of using infants for profit. When Lundbeck acquired the rights to Indocin IV, a drug used for a certain heart defect in premature babies, their vice president had this to say: “We can price these almost anywhere we want given the product profiles.” Lundbeck then raised the price by 1,300 percent.
This year GlaxoSmithKline were fined for, among other things, actively promoting dangerous drugs for use in children. So where will it end? Will the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry enter your head when you take that pill recommended by your family doctor? The ‘med of the moment’ seems to be statins. Doctors are pushing these drugs on healthy individuals in order to cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Professor Rory Collins of Oxford University, says “Statins should be given to all over-50s, regardless of their health history, because they dramatically cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life.” He lists his conflicts of interests as “engaged in research activities for Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca.” My cynicism is showing I fear!
Giving statins to healthy people seems ridiculous considering that there are a number of serious adverse effects which can occur with these drugs, including Depression, aggression and Sexual Dysfunction. Ben Goldacre in his new book ‘Bad Pharma’ says: “The MHRA (UK Medicines Regulator) has previously stated ‘Patients should be made aware that treatment with any statin may sometimes be associated with depression, sleep disturbances, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.’ The agency also planned a new warning that – very rarely-statin therapy might be associated with interstitial lung disease, a serious medical condition.” There are further concerns that these drugs can cause diabetes; so why would a healthy person take a drug which could make them sick? Never underestimate the marketing power of the pharma industry.
So it begs the question; If a person (taking a statin) presented to his/her doctor with symptoms of depression, would the doctor relate the depression symptoms to the statin? OR would the friendly doctor just prescribe an antidepressant which may come with similar adverse effects adding to the ones caused by the statin?
How many deaths, as a result of taking medication that was never needed, are attributed to a drug induced death? How many ‘natural deaths’ are actually caused by the pharmaceutical industry? Where will it all end?
Marcia Angell: “The combined profits for the top ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together.”
Reuters: Pfizer settles Nigerian case.
NY Times: Questor finds profit at $28,000 a vial.
Litigation & Trial: We can price these almost anywhere we want given the product profiles
Mail Online: GSK fined $3billion
Mail Online: Give statins to all over-50s
Marcia Angell: The Truth About Drug Companies.
Ben Goldacre: Bad Pharma
- Mayo behind drug that went from $50 to $28,000 overnight (bizjournals.com)