Are we about to see first cracks in the iron-firm grip of
pharmaceutical companies on how the medicine is practiced in
this country? A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to
require drug companies to disclose anything of value -
consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses and packages, etc. -
that they advance to physicians. It could also include
disclosure of grants that drug companies use to influence
medical colleges, educational and research institutions.
In the nutshell, it is the old quid pro quo scheme.
Individuals on the receiving end need to contribute to promotion
of the cause, or business, of drug companies, otherwise -
they don't get the spoils. Obviously, individual doctors and
institutions are targeted highly selectively. For instance, as reported in 2002,
in The New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 90% of those creating
practical guidelines for U.S. physicians are, in some way,
It is reasonable to assume that it is not much different with
those deciding what kind of medical training doctors-to-be get
in the college. What about society's (government) oversight? No
problem there either. The business has worked it out. The government
agency in question, Federal Drug Administration (FDA), is for
a long time now sort of revolving door for drug industry
employees, who go through their FDA "mandate" just to swing back
to better positions in pharmaceutical industry.
In addition to it, the FDA - and the government itself -
are very aware of its financing being very much dependant on the
fees paid to it directly by pharmaceutical industry.
Is it wonder then that the face of medicine we see has
"DRUGS" written all over it? Of course not. And it is not just
depriving you from the alternatives to drug treatments and
surgery - not seldom safer and more effective - it literally
puts you at a great risk of being harmed. Yes, it is a known fact that
side effects of
kill over 100,000
people in U.S. hospitals alone.
Good part of the problem is that the safety monitoring of
drugs is compromised by the pharmaceutical industry acquiring so much of a hidden, illegitimate control over
market and medical practice. They can't help but chase the profits, which often has
user's safety concern belittled. Drug companies regularly get
away with it, the worst scenario being agreeing to a limited
compensation when they really mess up
(read: cause too many deaths) and it becomes wildly
They still make the money, and there is nothing in the
realm of the market and its oversight to make them prioritize
user safety over their profits. As a result, many get hurt.
Of course, this new legislation, even if it passes as
intended, won't make this problem go away. After all, it is not
about banning drug industry from making giveaways, from
selectively paying hefty "consultation fees", or directing their
grants or other forms of financial assistance. What the
legislation would do is merely make this exposed to the public,
and insomuch put constraint on how far they can go.
It may not do a lot, but would surely be better than without
it. We've seen how great is the power of public awareness. Up to
a few short years back, pharmaceutical industry had the power to
use government's agencies to harass doctors practicing
alternative cancer treatments - to the point of raids, arrests,
or taking their doctor's license - even if they were having
better results than conventional (drug/surgery)
Sadly, not a few people were left to die as a direct
consequence of being deprived help of such practitioners.
But this kind of terror started to generate negative
publicity, and the Big Pharma had to back off. Alternative
treatments were growing in importance ever since, simple because
they work. Pharmaceutical industry still grossly dominates the
market, but the exposure to public knowledge has set the limit
to how far they - and their servant/partner, the conventional
medicine - can go in suppressing the competition and taking
away your right to decide about choosing your own treatment.
Similar - relatively minor - effect can be expected from the
new legislature, introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa and
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin.
For improving drug safety situation, much deeper cut is
necessary. On one side, it would require
making FDA finances
independent of the fees charged to pharmaceutical industry.
On the other, making
those in the prescription drug industry that knowingly expose
the users to
undeclared serious health risks criminally responsible.
Granted, it is a long shot from where we stand now. But the
news of the Grassley/Kohl initiative is a good thing to start
the day with.