The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy that precludes employees from accepting trips paid for by companies the agency regulates is easily side-stepped. Alexander Cohen reports that non-profit groups that "draw their members, their boards and even some of their funding from medical and pharmaceutical-related companies" paid for roughly one-third of the 3,600 sponsored trips received by hundreds of FDA employees since 1999.
Four years ago, almost no one had heard of Herceptin. Today, the drug is a household name, and British women with early-stage breast cancer are going to court for the right to get it, even though it is not actually licensed for use in early-stage cancer, and clinical tests have yet to prove it will ever save lives.
In late January a comedian hosting the UK Pharmaceutical Marketing Society's Annual Advertising Awards ceremony joked that "twenty years ago it was all lap dancing and champagne for the doctors. These days you're lucky if you can give them a three-star hotel and a f***ing biro." Not so, it seems.
When Citizens Against Unfair Health Care Taxes called Californians warning that a proposed state tax on Botox might lead to new taxes on other drugs, the group failed to disclose that it had been created by a PR firm working for Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox, according to the Sacramento Bee.
A study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, which concluded that taking painkillers could protect against oral cancer, has been exposed as being based entirely on fabricated data. "He faked everything: names, diagnosis, gender, weight, age, drug use. There is no real data whatsoever, just figures he made up himself. Every patient in this paper is a fake," Stein Vaaler, the director of strategy at the hospital, told the Guardian.
"A Congressional investigation of the money that drug companies give as supposed educational grants has found that the payments are growing rapidly and are sometimes steered by marketing executives to doctors and groups who push unapproved uses of drugs." In 2004, 23 drug companies spent $1.47 billion on educational grants, a 20 percent increase from 2003. The U.S.
Bringing "together politicians and academics on different ends of the political spectrum to participate in forums on health policy," with the goal of reforming "the nation's healthcare system" sounds like a good idea. But the organizer is the drug company Pfizer, through its public affairs agency, Spectrum Science Communications.
"Susan Finston of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a conservative research group based in Texas, is just the sort of opinion maker coveted by the drug industry," writes Philip Shenon. "In an opinion article in The Financial Times on Oct. 25, she called for patent protection in poor countries for drugs and biotechnology products.