Overdosed America

Dr. John Abramson is the author of the book Overdosed America which investigates the relationship between the medical community and the US pharmaceutical industry. He believes a shift of priorities has taken place in America—more emphasis on profitability and less on patient care. Here's an excerpt from his book:

What I found over the next two and a half years of "researching the research" is a scandal in medical science that is at least the equivalent of any of the recent corporate scandals that have shaken Americans' confidence in the integrity of the corporate and financial worlds. Rigging medical studies, misrepresenting research results published in even the most influential medical journals, and withholding the findings of whole studies that don't come out in a sponsor's favor have all become the accepted norm in commercially sponsored medical research. To keep the lid sealed on this corruption of medical science—and to ensure its translation into medical practice—there is a complex web of corporate influence that includes disempowered regulatory agencies, commercially sponsored medical education, brilliant advertising, expensive public relations campaigns, and manipulations of free media coverage. And last, but not least, are the financial ties between many of the most trusted medical experts and medical industry.
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Susan - April 7, 2006 5:12 PM

How profitable is it ultimately all going to be when people go bankrupt from their medical bills and the US government or state governments go bankrupt covering people who can't afford insurance?

I honestly don't understand why insurance companies are willing to spend huge sums of money on bariatric surgery (and allowing overweight patients to eat their way up to obesity in order to "qualify" for the surgery) than in spending the money on preventative education and monitoring the patient. I have been naively assuming that insurance companies profit by collecting premiums paying as few claims as possible. Why aren't they motivated to educate those they cover and prevent the claims from arising?

Sounds like an interesting book - maybe it will answer my question.

anet - April 9, 2006 10:49 AM

About a decade ago friend that works in the pharmaceutical industry was very upset about something he witnessed at his employer--early phase human clinical trial studies that weren't stopped as soon as they were pretty sure their drug was causing problems (blindness). My friend was convinced that the individuals in his company that made these decisions were just too vested in the results to act morally and didn't have enough oversight.
I sincerely hoped this is atypical but when I read Overdosed America, I came away with more cynacism about BigPharma.
I hope you don't mind if I post these links (some folks just can't bear to read a whole book but they can listen to an podcast or watch video on computer)

This link is about how the journals articles (so called scientific "research") becoming marketing instruments
http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/transcripts_080604_malpractice.html

And here's a Frontline on how the FDA really isn't equipped to exercise proper oversight:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/prescription/

Just look in the news...concern about the welfare of patients is NOT a deciding factor in ANY PHASE of drug development --its suspected that despite the vast numbers of people in Africa who suffer with malaria- these drugs/vaccines aren't developed because they just wouldn't be the money makers that a drug for such dreaded and life-threatening illnesses as say...impotence and hay fever... will bring in!!
After my own little 'health crisis' I realized my BEST investment would be to take care of my OWN health, because there are NO pharmaceutical solutions to long-in-the-making chronic illness. They all come with a cost.

anet - April 9, 2006 11:38 AM

Susan,
The scenario you portray (insurance companies SAVING money by covering preventative measures) is certainly logical.
While I can't pretend to know much about the real workings of it..I do know that there are..."political aspects" in healthcare policy-I mean politics as "strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles" (definition from google lookup)
Remember, a lot of profit is made in the field of disease management.
At this writing, the portion of the S&P500 consisting of "health" stocks is around 13% -- these aren't just insurance companies, but pharmaceteuical companies, for-profit hospitals, medical imaging centers, etc.
To many of these industries, CONSUMERS are COMMODITIES.
The more $$ spent on medications and procedures..the more the stock value goes up.
"Politics" (as defined above) also plays a part in what drugs/procedures get reimbursed.

Probably, you have heard Eisenhower's farewell address to the Nation (1961) cited before, here it is... [...In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence...by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists ....]

There are some analogies that can be made with the MEDICAL-industrial complex.

Sarah - April 9, 2006 3:49 PM

Having worked in "BigPharma" research for 9 years, and still working with them as a private consultant, there are a lot of pros and cons to this industry. What Dr. Abramson says in the quote above is correct, although the industry is trying to self-regulate these issues before the government forces them to.

While I get upset at how may companies disregard preventive measures because they know that many people will simply end up as "chronic" users of their meds (cholesterol meds are a great example), I can't forget the times when I or a loved one was saved by medication. I don't care what they say about cranberry juice - when I got a raging urinary tract infection last month, I was VERY glad for antibiotics!

So I guess the reason I posted is to say that we should not bash the whole industry indiscrimately - be objective and praise what's good about it, and try to change what's bad. Personally, I am going to start giving lectures on the vegan diet in my community. I believe that 20 years from now, this diet will be widely known, accepted and respected. Let's all be proactive in trying to change things, rather than getting mad and pointing fingers. :)

anet - April 17, 2006 3:11 PM

and yet another paper "points fingers" where some pointing is long overdue...

See this weeks Boston Phoenix:
http://www.thephoenix.com/article_ektid8920.aspx

anet - April 20, 2006 7:45 PM

What...another shocker!! (Just heard this tonight.)

"A new study states that every psychiatric expert involved in writing the standard diagnostic criteria for mood and psychotic disorders had financial ties to drug companies that sell medications for those illnesses. Helen Palmer reports."
copy/paste this link to hear the story...
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2006/04/20/PM200604205.html

anet - May 7, 2006 1:10 PM
Shirl - May 15, 2006 2:19 AM

Just had to include this fascinating lead I found this week for you. In the area of Internet Protocol, IP Addresses are assigned in groups according to priority. Of course, most of the top "A" category addresses are defense-related. Edison electric has a low-number special address also. Why then are many of these highly important addresses assigned to Drug Companies?

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