Busting Myths About Big Pharma

The pharmaceutical industry has been under attack from the left. After all, drug companies have vastly improved the quality of our lives and they make a profit: those two things can’t go together! One can’t respond to every attack, but sometimes the smears are too big to ignore.

Case in point: this op-ed by Ben Goldacre, a physician, accusing Big Pharma of systemically hiding data related to failed clinical trials of drugs. It’s all a conspiracy, according to Goldacre — indeed, the US drug companies have cleverly conspired to spend $60 billion on drug development a year. The scoundrels!

Fortunately, my friends at the Manhattan Institute’s Medical Progress Today blog have demolished Goldacre’s paranoid thesis. In an excellent, succinct piece, Paul Howard and Josh Bloom describe Goldacre’s misrepresentations and explain that the ”the flaws in the clinical-trials system result from a labyrinth of regulatory standards and an abysmally high failure rate in drug discovery—not a conspiracy of evildoers.” Read the whole thing here.

  1. Valiuth

    As a scientist I know perfectly well the bias to only publish positive results. Yet, negative results can also be useful. Knowing that some one else has failed with a particular compound might save other researchers time and effort. I wonder how often pharma companies repeat trials of the same compounds independently? 

  2. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Thank you for posting this sir.  A much needed dose of reality for fevered leftists.

  3. Minnesota Nice

    I fear that this is all part of a growing attempt to ban the off-label use of drugs under some guise within Obamacare.

  4. Fricosis Guy

    “Conspiracy of evildoers” is not required to explain these results. However, regulatory capture and better knowledge of the regs than the regulators isn’t innocence either.

    Many of the problems you describe — a labyrinth of regulatory standards and an abysmally high failure rate in drug discovery — are to be expected in an industry that used regulations to erect high barriers to entry and has extracted nice rents from the rest of us for years.

    Sadly, if anything, Obamacare will help perpetuate the status quo.

  5. Brian Clendinen

    Check out Econ Talks podcast with Marcia Angellon this.

    I would say the truth is actually between the two view points. I don’t buy the Manhattan Intuitions excuses for why you don’t publish conflicting data for anyone to see. It is one thing not to publish conflicting data on compounds that are never approved. Set aside the scientific value of others being able to see failed results and not repeat or see if they figured out a way around some issues.

    However not publishing all clinical data on approved drugs, their are  no valid excuss’s.  

     Manhattan fails to mention that all the data regulators get to see the Doctors and the Public often are not allowed to see. The failed studies just happen to be the ones witheld from public consumtion. Twenty or Thirty years ago this did not happen.

     

     

    Ben Goldacre is a hack but Big Pharm are not some innocent players who only care about human well being. They are driven by profit and suppressing conflicting data or data that makes the answer more complex than it is beneficial to their marketing and they push for regulatory capture just like other heavy regulated industry.  

  6. Brian Clendinen

    Cont.

     

    I am really just talking about Medical Drugs.

     I have yet to see any really good evidence that other than for serious major mental illnesses, Psychiatry drugs actually having a net positive effect.

    Study after study shows talk therapy is just as effective as drugs but talk does not have the huge medical side effects and possible long term damage to your brain that  drugs do.

    Add into the fact the American Psychiatric Association’s keep taking more and more bad behavior or behavior and feellings that are just really consequences of bad decisions and say they are mental illnesses.So instead of felling crappy about yourself because you made a major mistake, now it is oh you did it because your mentally sick and here is a drug to make the emotional consequences go away and fix your behavior.

     So we have a bunch of medicated narcissistic self righteous people who instead of changing their behavior get to live in their the world revolves around me universe and a pill takes away all their problems. They now don’t have to change, they can still be self centered little brats.

  7. flownover

    What came first ,the lawyer or the egg ?

  8. Rob Long
    C
    Pilli

    Elizabeth Van Horn: What always surprised me is that people seem to forget that the drug company employees, scientists, management and stock holders all have families too.  They are just as vulnerable to fraud and bad science as the rest of the population, so it makes no sense for them to willfully disregard a drug’s safety for short-term profits.  · 0 minutes ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    I don’t know…

    I have seen a lot of Hollywood movies where the guy running the lab (or production line or construction crew or whatever) was perfectly willing to cut corners endangering millions if not billions of people.  Luckily, there was always a do-gooder to stop them somehow.

    And Hollywood doesn’t lie just ask Rob. · 8 hours ago

    We’re incapable of lying.  

  9. Ontheleftcoast

    I see lots of handwaving from Howard and Bloom but no real refutation of Goldacre’s point about buried data and massive violations of the regulations that he called”fake fixes.” 

  10. Elizabeth Van Horn

    Thank you Adam, excellent post.

    When my sons were teenagers, they participated in a BSA Venture Crew that was sponsored by Eli Lilly Research.  This was a co-ed group of teens who met with research scientists at the Lilly research labs each month, to learn about drug research, methodology, FDA approval procedures, and more.  Along with fun and interesting science, the Venture teens learned how hard it is to get a drug through the tests, trials, and regulations.   I, and several other parents, often accompanied our children, so heard first hand from the research teams, and after that experience I marvel that any drugs make it to the public. 

    What always surprised me is that people seem to forget that the drug company employees, scientists, management and stock holders all have families too.  They are just as vulnerable to fraud and bad science as the rest of the population, so it makes no sense for them to willfully disregard a drug’s safety for short-term profits. 

  11. Pilli
    Elizabeth Van Horn: What always surprised me is that people seem to forget that the drug company employees, scientists, management and stock holders all have families too.  They are just as vulnerable to fraud and bad science as the rest of the population, so it makes no sense for them to willfully disregard a drug’s safety for short-term profits.  · 0 minutes ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    I don’t know…

    I have seen a lot of Hollywood movies where the guy running the lab (or production line or construction crew or whatever) was perfectly willing to cut corners endangering millions if not billions of people.  Luckily, there was always a do-gooder to stop them somehow.

    And Hollywood doesn’t lie just ask Rob.

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