Doctors unsure of Big Pharma following $11bn record fines
The pharmaceutical industry is starting to lose the confidence of its delivery system – the doctors – after it was revealed it has paid out record fines of $11bn for criminal wrongdoing in the last three years.
Doctors are becoming sceptical about ‘scientific trials’ that demonstrate the effectiveness of drugs because vital – and sometimes inconvenient – data is left out, researchers have found.
This could mean that doctors stop prescribing new drugs, say researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – and with it would dry up the major source of profits for the pharmaceutical industry.
In one example, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) promised to make available the safety data on its diabetes drug, Avandia, but the final version still has “disturbing exceptions”, says Boston University’s Kevin Outterson.
GSK was handed out the largest fine – of $3bn – for criminal behaviour, and was one of 26 drug companies fined by US regulators for dishonest conduct. Close behind GSK was Pfizer, which was fined $2.3bn and Abbott Laboratories was fined $1.5bn for promoting its Depakote drug with “inadequate evidence of its effectiveness”.
Despite the size of the fines, drug companies view them as collateral damage when conducting business as they represent a tiny fraction of their annual sales, said Mr Outterson.
(Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, 2012; 367: 1082-5, and 1119-27).