News of the Day ... in Perspective4/10/2005
British House of Commons releases critical report on pharmaceutical company influence
The House of Commons Health Committee recently released a report detailing a number of areas in which pharmaceutical industry influence was believed to be excessive and contrary to the public good.
According to the report, 90% of clinical drug trials and 70% of trials reported in major medical journals are conducted or commissioned by the pharmaceutical ndustry.
More money is being invested in research into the prevention of disease, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, than into its treatment. This “serves to divert investment away from the sick towards the well, away from the old towards the young and away from the poor towards the rich.”
Consent forms may fail to disclose risk adequately. They do not inform subjects that raw data may be maintained by industry but not made available to the general public or even reviewed by regulatory agencies.
Medical journals are also subject to pharmaceutical companies’ influence, stated the report. Many articles are ghost-written. Also, “key opinion leaders” may lend their name to an article for a substantial fee. Publication is biased toward articles that show drugs in a favorable light.
Both companies and regulators rely overwhelmingly on prelicensure data, based on industry-sponsored trials in selected patients in highly controlled settings, according to the report. Post-marketing surveillance data are generally regarded as “anecdotal.”
A major and recurring issue in the report is the “medicalisation” of society, the “pill for every problem.” One example is the promotion of over-the-counter statins for all men over the age of 55.