jueves, 12 de septiembre de 2013
Richard Smith: Is the pharmaceutical industry like the mafia?
Many of those who read this book (Peter Gøtzsche/Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare) will ask if Peter has over-reached himself in suggesting that the activities of the drug industry amount to organised crime. The characteristics of organised crime, racketeering, is defined in US law as the act of engaging repeatedly in certain types of offence, including extortion, fraud, federal drug offences, bribery, embezzlement, obstruction of justice, obstruction of law enforcement, tampering with witnesses, and political corruption. Peter produces evidence, most of it detailed, to support his case that pharmaceutical companies are guilty of most of these offences.
And he is not the first to compare the industry with the Mafia or mob. He quotes a former vice-president of Pfizer, who has said:
“It is scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and deaths, and the side effects are the same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry …”
Falling foul of the US Department of Justice
The industry has certainly fallen foul of the US Department of Justice many times in cases where companies have been fined billions. Peter describes the top 10 cases in detail, but there are many more. It’s also true that they have offended repeatedly, calculating perhaps that there are large profits to be made by flouting the law and paying the fines. The fines can be thought of as “the cost of doing business” like having to pay for heat, light, and rent.
Many people are killed by the industry, many more than are killed by the mob. Indeed, hundreds of thousands are killed every year by prescription drugs. Many will see this as almost inevitable because the drugs are being used to treat diseases that themselves kill. But a counter-argument is that the benefits of drugs are exaggerated, often because of serious distortions of the evidence behind the drugs, a “crime” that can be attributed confidently to the industry.
The great doctor William Osler famously said that it would be good for humankind and bad for the fishes if all the drugs were thrown into the sea. He was speaking before the therapeutic revolution in the middle of the 20th century that led to penicillin, other antibiotics, and many other effective drugs, but Peter comes close to agreeing with him and does speculate that we would be better off without most psychoactive drugs, where the benefits are small, the harms considerable, and the level of prescribing massive. (Más)