Little Innovation by the Pharmaceutical Drug Industry
Medicines from the pharmaceutical drug industry are expensive, but that shows just how valuable they are. So quit whining and pay up.
So says Big Pharma who routinely raises the cost of the most expensive drugs several times per year and in far greater amounts than the cost of living increases for any given year.
Marcia Angell, an MD and former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine reveals some interesting facts about the pharmaceutical drug industry in a Sept. 2004 AARP Bulletin. She has written a book on the same subject.
"The industry's best kept secret is they are not very innovative at all."
In 2002 the FDA approved 78 drugs. Of these only 7 were innovative. This meant some new materials were used in their manufacture. And they might be better treatment than older drugs for the same symptoms.
None of the 7 were made by American drug manufacturers. They were all made by biotechnology firms or European drug companies.
Of all the drugs approved in the last 6 years (prior to 2004) 78% would likely not be an improvement over existing drugs. These the author classified as me-too drugs.
The pharmaceutical drug industry spends a lot of money developing drugs that do the same thing as a competitors me-too drugs. This same information was also relayed to me by an East Texas cardiologist.
They then promote these drugs as better.
But better than what? They don't test their me-too drugs against a competitors drugs. They don't try to find out if one drug is better than another in equivalent doses. They don't try to find out if their drug is better than another that didn't work in some people.
One or two of these me-too drugs may be helpful in some cases, but certainly not 4, 6, or 8 which is the case many times
Enormous Profits – Spent for What?
The drug industry keeps its affairs secret. So it is difficult to know exactly how much is spent. But as pointed out by the author they spend enormous amounts of money, perhaps twice as much, on things unrelated to research and development.
A lot of money goes to lobby for their specific good. They have more lobbyists than members of Congress. And they give heavily to those who are up for re-election.
So Congress, whose primary concern is probably getting re-elected dutifully votes for what the industry demands.
They spend a lot of time and money currying physicians favor through detail persons so they will prescribe their line of drugs rather than a competitors.
Pharmaceutical Industry Claims
Innovative expensive prescription drugs lengthen life, enhance its quality, and avert more expensive care further down the road.
That simply is not true on two accounts. Every one of their drugs has side effects some of which are worse than the original symptoms.
Have you noticed TV ads that say 'don't take this if you have certain symptoms'?
Since direct advertising by the drug industry has been allowed sales have boomed. They know physicians will prescribe their drugs since medical education is controlled by the pharmaceutical drug industry.
And so far the American public is gullible enough to demand the newest, or most expensive, or whatever is being advertised at the moment.
At the rate they are raising drug prices one wonders if they care if we have to choose between drugs and food or other essentials.
The second reason deals with the fact that the pharmaceutical drug industry is a global market. Five of the top ten drug companies are in countries that regulate drug prices. They all raise their prices in the US because they know they can get away with it.
Pharmaceutical Drugs and Normal Body Compounds
Pharmaceutical drugs are foreign to the body. This should be obvious because of the side reactions they cause in humans or animals. Does it make sense to choose foreign drug intervention if other options are available?
Drugs target one of the many enzymes that carry on the functions of the body. Prescription drugs and normal body enzyme substrates show very little structural compatibility.
Pharmaceutical drugs all have side reactions that can be dangerously toxic.
Pharmaceutical drugs are designed only for symptomatic relief. Many times the underlying cause of bodily distress is missed completely.
Addressing symptoms only may cause other problems. An example is given below.
Normal compounds made in the body do not have toxic side reactions.
Since drugs cause side reactions physicians may prescribe other drugs to take care of the side reactions. These drugs will also cause side reactions.
Those who are saddled with 5 or 6 of these drugs they cannot afford, are probably getting worse rather than better. Many suddenly get better because somebody took away all these drugs.
A retired pharmacist looked at the drug intake of seniors who had limited income, and prescriptions for several expensive drugs. He reduced the burden to the patient by recommending one inexpensive generic drug with far less side effects for the 5 or 6 expensive drugs. This also helped the senior's financial bottom line.
AstraZeneca's patent on Prilosec (the "healing purple pill" for heartburn) was coming to an end. The company then poured millions into advertising trying to get users to switch to Nexium, which was really a me-too pill, and the next 'healing purple pill'.
Nexium now has years of patent life ahead, and is more expensive to boot.
Have you noticed TV ads that give their pitch for the drug they are pushing. After telling what the drug will do to eliminate their symptoms they acknowledge there are side effects.
They tell you to report to your physician if you develop certain symptoms some of which may be serious. Then immediately the pitch is made to ask your doctor if such a drug is right for you.
In the case of Nexium they add the warning that certain serious stomach conditions may still exist.
What they don't say is some of the serious stomach conditions could be caused by the 'healing purple pill'.
Pharmaceutical Drugs or Inexpensive Non-Toxic Natural Compounds
Numerous older research studies have pointed out that some inexpensive, non-toxic (no side effects), natural compounds used normally in the body are nutrients necessary for life.
Since they couldn't be patented, other choices, the treatments of choice, were preferred by mainstream medicine even though the natural compounds were deemed much better.
Over and over again, despite pleas that these essential nutrients be given a fair trial, these pleas were ignored.
A paper, written in 1991 deplores the 42 year stonewall of vitamin C or ascorbic acid. This stonewall continues today.
Ascorbic acid and Coenzyme Q10, natural body compounds, are essential nutrients necessary for life. And yet mainstream medicine ignores them, says they are not necessary, or are toxic at levels necessary to demonstrate their effectiveness.
How can nutrients made in the body and essential for life be toxic? Such statements make no sense.
But these arguments have been used in more than one case by Big Pharma, mainstream physicians, and the federal government.
One well known medical clinic designed a study to test the effectiveness of one of these essential nutrients, vitamin C or ascorbic acid. However doses of ascorbic acid used in the study were less than indicated as necessary by previous researchers.
They did not make known this deviation to clinicians and the general public. The result of course was that this essential nutrient was "ineffective".
Do Drug Companies Need Big Profits?
Drug companies argue they need high prices because they are research oriented. Lower prices would mean the development of new innovative drugs would be curtailed. Or so they say.
Canada is one of many countries that regulate drug prices. Pharmacies in Canada devised a way to support the legal sale of drugs at their prices to Americans. The operation was even debated in Congress. Spurious arguments on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry were made by members of US Congress.
No bill emerged from Congress allowing cheaper drug prices to US citizens from Canada.
Do you wonder why? Congress was bought out by the drug industry.
The drug companies even fought to shut down those pharmacies that supplied drugs at Canadian prices to US citizens.
Some New England states tried to bargain with American drug companies for cheaper prices for their drugs. The companies not only refused to negotiate but threatened to block all sales of their drugs to these states. This also is recent history.
A lot of drug research takes place in the NIH and/or a University grant funded with tax payer money. Because of laws passed by Congress, the NIH has the right to transfer exclusive rights to a drug developed with taxpayer dollars to a drug company with the provision that the drug(s) developed by this research be made available to the public at a reasonable price.
These agreements are often ignored to the drug company's benefits.
Taxol, a cancer drug was such an example. Is $10,000 to $20,000 a year a reasonable price for a person to pay for a cancer drug?
This was the price Bristol-Meyers Squibb put on the drug after being given exclusive rights to Taxol. The drug was developed by taxpayer funded research at NIH at a cost of 183 million dollars.
After sales of 9 billion dollars for the drug Bristol-Meyers Squibb had only paid 35 million dollars in royalties to the NIH.
The evidence available from very credible resources does not speak well of the pharmaceutical industry.
They don't need huge profit margins because their products are suspect, they spend enormous amounts on things other than research and development, and they have clout to do what they want anyway.
Read about some possible substitutes for pharmaceutical drug industry medicines in the treatment of cancer.
To read about the stonewall of ascorbic acid that continues today click here.
For more information about the efficacy of ascorbic acid click here.
Nutritional Diseases are defined on the Home Page.