Same old duet: drug companies and psychiatry

Here’s more this month from investigative journalist Alison Bass, author of the book Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial:

“The same drug giants paying millions of dollars to settle claims that they engaged in illegal and improper marketing of anti-psychotic drugs in the U.S. are even now looking for new worlds to conquer. Consider the study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It surveyed more than 60,000 adults in 11 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America and concludes that the treatment needs for people with bipolar disorder are “often unmet, particularly in low-income countries.”

“That may indeed be true. But I’d find this result a lot more believable if the study were not funded in large part by the same pharmaceutical companies who make the atypical anti-psychotics used to treat bipolar disorder: Eli Lilly (which makes Zyprexa), Janssen (the unit of Johnson & Johnson that brought us Risperdal), Pfizer (Geodon), Bristol Myers Squibb (Abilify), GlaxoSmithKline (Lamictal), and Novartis (Fanapt).  Continue reading

Does the medical profession need to wean itself from its “pervasive dependence” on Big Pharma money?

Judges do not hear cases in which they have a financial interest. Reporters do not write stories about companies in which they have a financial interest. By the same token, doctors should not have a financial interest in treatments they are evaluating, or accept gifts from the makers of drugs they prescribe.” 

That’s what Dr. Marcia Angell says, and she ought to know.  She spent over 20 years as editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. She wrote these words last January in a letter to Dr. Nada Stotland, president of the American Psychiatric Association in response to Stotland’s criticisms of her essay in the New York Review of Books.

Back then, the editorial board at the New York Times had decreed:

“The medical profession needs to wean itself almost entirely from its pervasive dependence on industry money.”

Dr. Angell agreed with the Times, adding:

“Pervasive conflicts of interest corrupt the medical profession, not in a criminal sense, but in the sense of undermining the impartiality that is essential both to medical research and clinical practice.” 

Dr. Angell disagreed strongly with psychiatrist Dr. Stotland’s assertion that very few drugs of any kind have been tested on children. Not so, claims Dr. Angell.  Continue reading

“Pay for Delay”- how off-patent brand name drugs fight off generics

Drug companies are acutely aware of what’s called the ‘patent cliff’, when their expensive brand name medications lose their patent protection, thus opening up the market for cheaper, identical generic competition. This is good news for consumers, but very bad news for Big Pharma. Lipitor*, for example, Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol medication, is set to fall off the patent cliff in 2011.

But even last year’s sales of the biggest selling drug on the planet already showed declines due to growing competition from other cholesterol drug manufacturers.  See also: Is Big Pharma Onboard the Titanic? Continue reading