During her two decades at The New England Journal of Medicine , Dr. Marcia Angell had a front-row seat on the appalling spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies stray from their original mission of discovering and manufacturing useful drugs and instead become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes. She saw them gain nearly limitless influence over medical research, education, and how doctors do their jobs. She sympathized as the American public, particularly the elderly, struggled and increasingly failed to meet spiraling prescription drug prices. Now, in this bold, hard-hitting new book, Dr. Angell exposes the shocking truth of what the pharmaceutical industry has become–and argues for essential, long-overdue change.
Currently Americans spend a staggering $200 billion each year on prescription drugs. As Dr. Angell powerfully demonstrates, claims that high drug prices are necessary to fund research and development are unfounded: The truth is that drug companies funnel the bulk of their resources into the marketing of products of dubious benefit. Meanwhile, as profits soar, the companies brazenly use their wealth and power to push their agenda through Congress, the FDA, and academic medical centers.
Zeroing in on hugely successful drugs like AZT (the first drug to treat HIV/AIDS), Taxol (the best-selling cancer drug in history), and the blockbuster allergy drug Claritin, Dr. Angell demonstrates exactly how new products are brought to market. Drug companies, she shows, routinely rely on publicly funded institutions for their basic research; they rig clinical trials to make their products look better than they are; and they use their legions of lawyers to stretch out government-granted exclusive marketing rights for years. They also flood the market with copycat drugs that cost a lot more than the drugs they mimic but are no more effective.
The American pharmaceutical industry needs to be saved, mainly from itself, and Dr. Angell proposes a program of vital reforms, which includes restoring impartiality to clinical research and severing the ties between drug companies and medical education. Written with fierce passion and substantiated with in-depth research, The Truth About the Drug Companies is a searing indictment of an industry that has spun out of control.
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|Title of eBook: The Truth About the Drug Companies|
|Release Date: 08-24-2004|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Truth About the Drug Companies
The $200 Billion Colossus
What does the eight-hundred-pound gorilla do?
Anything it wants to.
What’s true of the eight-hundred-pound gorilla is true of the colossus that is the pharmaceutical industry. It is used to doing pretty much what it wants to do. The watershed year was 1980. Before then, it was a good business, but afterward, it was a stupendous one. From 1960 to 1980, prescription drug sales were fairly static as a percent of U.S. gross domestic product, but from 1980 to 2000, they tripled. They now stand at more than $200 billion a year. Furthermore, since the early 1980s, this industry has consistently ranked as the most profitable in the United States—by a long shot. (Only in 2003 did it fall from that position to rank third among the forty-seven industries listed in the Fortune 500.) Of the many events that contributed to their sudden great and good fortune, none had to do with the quality of the drugs the companies were selling.
In this chapter I’ll give you an overview of the pharmaceutical industry—its meteoric rise and the recent, early signs of either a coming fall or an overhaul. I will not go into much detail here, I’ll leave that to later chapters. What I want to do now is provide a quick look at what’s under this rock when it’s lifted. It’s not a pretty sight.
Before I begin, a few words about the facts and figures I will use throughout the book. In most cases, I use data from the year 2001, because it is the most recent year for which information is reasonably complete for all the aspects of the industry I will consider. If I stick with one yea