How Far Will Drug Companies Go?

The mega-drug companies spend a portion of the $16 billion they budget annually to influence physicians in ways that go far beyond paperweights, pens and free lunches. Think slanted studies -- ghostwritten by marketing experts employed by the mega-pharmaceuticals -- that are routinely submitted to medical journals.

Although these practices violate "guidelines" of Billy Tauzin's powerful Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) one editor says her medical journal receives as many as four manuscripts each month -- typically reviews of previous research that offer no new insights about a specific drug -- that are especially glowing about a given drug or excessively critical of its competitors.

This topflight piece in this morning's USA Today goes into greater detail about one Georgetown University professor who was asked to write an article demonstrating how the blood thinner warfarin interacts with herbs. After receiving a one-sided draft under her name, the professor declined any interest.

Fact is, that same manuscript was eventually pitched under a different byline to the Journal of General Internal Medicine who then sent it to the same Georgetown professor for her review. Thank goodness, the manuscript -- touting the debatable efficacy of AstraZeneca's Exanta -- was rejected (the drug was also spiked by the FDA).

Of course, other than the public embarrassment, AstraZeneca wasn't punished in any way. Just another reason I believe so strongly in my vision to replace the existing health care paradigm -- that values drugs far too often as superficial quick-fix cure -- with a strategy that emphasizes natural, safer treatments that get to the real cause of the problem.

USA Today May 31, 2005

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