August 26th 2008, 11:00
Aspirin seems to have reclaimed the mantle of 'wonder drug' over the last couple of days with new research that recommends all healthy men and women who are 50 years and older should take one a day to prevent heart attack and stroke.
It's not the first time that aspirin has been promoted as the ultimate prophylactic that needs to be part of everyone's daily health regime. The abilities of the painkiller to ward off heart attack and stroke were first noted in 1953, and its standing as the greatest of all drugs reached its zenith in 2005 when a major study confirmed its effectiveness.
August 18th 2008, 15:28
Drug companies enjoy a very privileged position among the industrial sectors. They are granted extraordinarily high levels of privacy and protection, non-drug competitors are not allowed to bring alternatives to market, especially in the area of cancer care, their relationship with doctors is protected by the Advertising Standards Authority and by the media, and their executives sit on many boards that control editorial output. If this were not enough, the pharmaceuticals also sponsor the largest network of lobby groups in the world that influence the thinking of governments everywhere.
Drug companies are not subject to the usual market forces, and can pretty much charge what they like for their drugs, especially if the drugs are new and still in patent. As the pay of their senior executives is shaped by the share price, and as the share price is, in part, determined by the profit line, it's not in anybody's interests to put a 'fair' price on a new drug.