Monday, June 30, 2008
Book Review via BusinessWeek
Making the case that Big Pharma is obsessed with sales—even at the risk of patients' health
Our Daily Meds:
How the Pharmaceutical Companies
Transformed Themselves into
Slick Marketing Machines and
Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs
By Melody Petersen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 432 pp.; $26
Once upon a time, there was a drug executive who actually thought helping patients was more important than the bottom line. "We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits," said George W. Merck, president of the company that bears his father's name, in 1950. Merck (MRK) even gave away his company's patents for streptomycin in 1946 to make the lifesaving antibiotic more affordable.
Such public-spiritedness now seems like a fairy tale, as former New York Times reporter Melody Petersen documents in her compelling, if sometimes one-sided, new book, Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs. While there still are plenty of industry executives and scientists who want what's best for patients, drug companies have largely flipped Merck's dictum, as Petersen shows using industry memos, transcripts of meetings, and other sources. Petersen writes that drug companies push medicines they know don't work. They invent "diseases," such as overactive bladder or compulsive shopping disorder, to wring high profits out of marginal medicines. They obfuscate the science by controlling the publication of clinical trial results and writing bogus journal articles. And they shovel millions of dollars to doctors to boost prescriptions. "Selling prescription drugs—rather than discovering them—has become the pharmaceutical industry's obsession," Petersen writes.
Read more here.