[Ip-health] The Withering of Big Pharma? (innovators or rentiers?)
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Fri Nov 8 06:54:48 PST 2013
Weekend Edition November 8-10, 2013
Yawn. Another Drug Marketing Scandal
The Withering of Big Pharma?
by MARTHA ROSENBERG
It used to be when a drug company settled illegal marketing charges that
millions took its drugs under false pretenses, the news would be
released on a Friday afternoon when no one would notice. That was then.
Now almost all the drug companies have joined the Off label/Kickback
club and the public doesn't seem to notice or care.
On the surface, Johnson & Johnson's $2.2 billion settlement this week
for illegally marketing drugs to the elderly, children and the mentally
disabled looks like a victory. J&J's subsidiary, Janssen
Pharmaceuticals, will plead guilty to illegally promoting the
antipsychotic Risperdal for "controlling aggression and anxiety in
elderly dementia patients and treating behavioral disturbances in
children and in individuals with disabilities," reports Reuters. The
promotions included a brazen kickback scheme to Omnicare Inc, a pharmacy
supplying nursing homes, exposed by a whistleblower.
/At least 15,000 elderly people in nursing homes die a year /from drugs
like Risperdal said FDA drug reviewer David Graham in Congressional
testimony a few years ago. Eli Lilly who makes the similar drug Zyprexa
and AstraZeneca who makes Seroquel have also settled charges that they
churned the elderly drug market at the price of Grandma and Grandpa's lives.
But it is not a victory. J&J made /$24.2 billion off Risperdal from 2003
to 2010 /and shareholders won't even notice this week's nano loss. J&J
milked Risperdal for all it was worth and the patent had already run out
by the time it was charged with illegal schemes. Other drug giants
charged with illegal marketing schemes--Abbott for Depakote, Pfizer for
Bextra, Eli Lilly for Zyprexa, AstraZeneca for Seroquel,
GlaxoSmithKline for Paxil and Merck for Vioxx--also got their money's
worth before the trivial nuisance of suit. Many, like Pfizer who
illegally marketed its seizure drug Neurontin while /under/ /probation
for illegal Lipitor activitie/s--are brazen and shameless repeat offenders.
Many say the only justice that will get Big Pharma's attention is frog
marching the CEOs off to prison and/or cutting them off from their
lucrative public trough of Medicare, Medicaid and military health programs.
Still, Big Pharma's audacious business plan of /asking forgiveness not
permission /is winding down. Not because Pharma, prescribers, consumers,
regulators and health officials have seen the light but because there
are no more big drugs to pimp. An estimated 100,000 workers will be
losing their jobs at Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca
and Merck reported Yahoo finance last month.
Only two new drug campaigns seem to be brewing and they require a major
suspension of reality on the part of doctors and patients. One tries to
convince people with low back pain they actually suffer from ankylosing
spondylitis an arthritis-like condition that causes chronic inflammation
of the spine. If your spine is stiff when you wake up in the morning
you can take an immune suppressor like Humira which puts you at risk of
tuberculosis and lethal viral, fungal and bacterial infections while
costing you $12,000 to $17,000 a year. Line forms to the left.
The other, even more brazen campaign, tries to convince people with
insomnia, tiredness during the day, moodiness and relationship problems
that they actually suffer from /Non-24-Hour Sleep--Wake Disorder/, a
disorder that affects mostly blind people. You don't have to be blind to
have the disorder, says the new Pharma message /even though there have
been fewer than 100 cases of sighted people with non-24 reported in the
scientific literature. /It sounds like a stretch but so did convincing
people with job, money and marriage problems they really/had depression
or bipolar disorder./
Still it is obvious the bloom has fallen off the Big Pharma rose and it
is now paying the piper for the high-flying party with drug settlements
like Johnson & Johnson's this week. But that doesn't mean shady
marketing, hidden risks, kickbacks and outrageous prices are gone from
the medical field. They have just moved to the Medical Device industry.
/*Martha Rosenberg* is an investigative health reporter. She is the
author of Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks
Pimp The Public Health
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