Last year, the pharmaceutical industry had sales in excess of $300 billion. Clearly, we all pay in one way or another — whether by buying drugs directly or through taxation. But it is less clear if we are getting value for our money.
Author Jacky Law shows how a small number of corporations have come to dominate the global healthcare agenda. She reveals a system in which the relentless pursuit of profit is crowding out the public good. Effective regulators are under intense pressure from corporate lobbies, and companies spend more money on marketing than they spend on research and development. Meanwhile, the cost of new drugs rises relentlessly, while the number of original new products declines.
All is not well with modern medicine. In what is both a diagnosis and a recommended course of treatment, Big Pharma reveals a world where market considerations, not medical need, are determining the research agenda. The author points to a future where the public and the medical profession once again have a voice in the kind of healthcare we want — and the healthcare we pay for.
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Jacky Law has written about healthcare for 25 years. For seven years she worked as an editor at Script magazine, a monthly international pharmaceutical title. She left in 2004 to write Big Pharma.From Publishers Weekly:
The drug business is the most profitable in all of capitalism, journalist Law notes in this scattershot indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, but what do consumers get for the money shoveled into it? A dwindling stream of exorbitantly expensive new drugs, she contends, most of them "me-too" competitors, patent-prolonging reformulations of existing products or marginally effective nostrums for diffuse complaints; vast marketing budgets to cajole consumers into demanding-and doctors into prescribing-unnecessary medications; biased scientific studies and corrupted or intimidated researchers; a regulatory system lobbied and suborned into allowing unsafe and ineffective drugs on the market; and a society that automatically pops a pill for every discontent, real or imagined. Law offers a comprehensive, if disorganized, rehash of a now familiar but still timely portrait of drug companies' perfidy and greed, studded with case studies of firestorms like the Vioxx scandal and the controversy over the possibly deadly side-effects of anti-depressants. She's on shakier ground when she dilates her case into a brief against conventional medicine and in favor of a murky "holistic" regimen of "complementary"-i.e. alternative-therapies that harmonize with "the body's natural intelligence" and exploit the "untapped healing power" of the placebo effect. Law's flirtations with fringe conceits weaken an otherwise serviceable science-based critique of the drug industry.
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