Deeper Problems to Pharmaceutical Sales

There was a particular line in Carl Elliot’s “The Drug Pushers” that stood out above all else to me. The line read, “reps must persuade doctors to prescribe drugs that are marginally effective, exorbitantly expensive, difficult to administer or even dangerously toxic.” For an article that is questioning the ethics of pharmaceutical sales reps and their relationship to physicians, they seem to glaze over a seemingly bigger ethical question. Perhaps the question should not be focused on whether or not the “dressing up” of pharmaceutical sales is ethical or not, but on the ethics of the pharmaceuticals they are promoting themselves. Before medication is sold on a larger scale, I am assuming that it must first be approved by some regulating body. How is it then that even “dangerously toxic” pharmaceuticals are being promoted from office to office? I’m not sure, but I have a sneaking, perhaps ridiculous suspicion, that the people who are responsible for approving these harmful pharmaceuticals may also be being wined and dined by the manufacturing companies. Rather than worrying about whether the bribing of these physicians is ethical or not, I truly believe that we should be more worried about the pharmaceuticals we are allowing on the market. If they are dangerous and sold solely for profit, they should not be passed by the regulating body. The fact that they are points to what I think is a deeper problem with the standards by which pharmaceuticals are passed.

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One Response to Deeper Problems to Pharmaceutical Sales

  1. shitangshuroy says:

    Completely agree that asking how some drugs that are (putatively) “toxic” get approved in the first place is the right question to ask. I was just checking the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) website, and here’s what they say about their drug approval process:

    “Drug companies seeking to sell a drug in the United States must first test it. The company then sends CDER (the FDA’s specific branch for drug investigations) the evidence from these tests to prove the drug is safe and effective for its intended use. A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists reviews the company’s data and proposed labeling. If this independent and unbiased review establishes that a drug’s health benefits outweigh its known risks, the drug is approved for sale. The center doesn’t actually test drugs itself, although it does conduct limited research in the areas of drug quality, safety, and effectiveness standards” (FDA website; see link below).

    From this, it sound like most of the data used to approve pharmaceutical drugs comes from the drug companies themselves! Admittedly, money might be a factor since drug testing is probably very expensive, but I for one was always under the impression that the FDA`s reputed “independent and unbiased review” meant they did their OWN tests and got their OWN data, with the drug companies’ data basically thrown out of the window.

    The info is from here: http://www.fda.gov/drugs/developmentapprovalprocess/default.htm

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