Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Prescription Games: Money, Ego, and Power Inside the Global Pharmaceutical Industry

business pharmaceutical corruption drugs healthcare medicine books

The major pharmaceutical companies, according to John le Carré – who has based his novel The Constant Gardener on their depredations – “are engaged in the systematic corruption of the medical profession, country by country.” Jeffrey Robinson can back up that charge.

In Prescription Games, Jeffrey Robinson exposes the yawning abyss between the claims to altruism made by pharmaceutical companies and the harsh reality of their everyday practice. When the industry claims that the enormous markup they charge for new drugs pays the cost of developing new ones, they don’t say that as much as 80 per cent of R&D money is actually directed at developing drugs designed to compete with existing brands, or at creating variations on drugs whose patents are about to expire – expenditures only the industry itself (and its shareholders) will benefit from.

Within the industry, there are “blockbuster” drugs that create vast wealth for the companies that manufacture them. Most are designed to treat conditions that are endemic among prosperous, western populations that can afford them. But there are no blockbuster drugs to treat diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, and malaria that ravage the Third World, because Third World countries can’t afford the prices. People in Africa and Asia die from new strains of tuberculosis while people in Europe and North America are offered expensive treatments for obesity, hair loss, and sexual dysfunction.

In this hard-hitting exposé, Robinson also examines the extension of patent protection, the end of generic drug competition in Canada, the Nancy Olivieri scandal (how a drug manufacturer fought to conceal research findings that would damage sales of its product), the illicit drug trade, and espionage among drug manufacturers.

“The branded drug companies hate us. They have private investigators on us all the time,” Mr Sherman told Robinson in the book. 
“The thought once came to my mind: why didn’t they just hire someone to knock me off? For a thousand bucks paid to the right person, you can probably get someone killed. Perhaps I’m surprised that hasn’t happened.”

And in The Sunday Times:
“He was absolutely hated,” Robinson told The Times. “Nobody liked Barry Sherman. He was so frigging litigious. He was constantly at war with everybody. In business he was a prick, so there might have been people who would like to have done it.”

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