BIG PHARMA IN TROUBLE?
In the past few months, headlines and news storieshave seemed to predominantly feature pharmaceuticals.Perhaps it is only because I look for such reports,but it certainly seems as if there are many more articlesthan usual. Many of these stories are negative, asthey focus on the adverse effects of drugs, removal ofdrugs from the market, misconduct in clinical trials, or miscommunicationbetween companies and the FDA. Oftenthese reports appear to cast a negative light on pharma companies.They seem to suggest that sales pressures cause decisionsto be made that favor company profits over consumersafety. Accepted practices of the industry such as direct-to-consumeradvertising have come under siege. Clearly theremay have been misbehavior by some pharma companies,but I think most company executives have tried to makebalanced decisions. Hindsight always makes it easier to criticizedecisions because the right choice now seems obvious.When the initial decision was made, however, the choicewas not as clear. All drugs can do some harm, but many doa lot of good. Perhaps it is not profit driving the decision,but a desire to help that drives the decision.
Many colleagues I worked with, students I taught, and peerswhom I respect work for pharma companies. I am unwilling tobelieve that the majority of these people whom I admiredwould lose their ethics because of the source of their paycheck.Could it be that when you join the pharmaceutical industryyou gain a different perspective and more information thatends up leading to different decisions being made? Thus, theissue is not unethical behavior, but that more information anddifferent perspectives lead to different decisions. Most of theissues getting headlines today require decision making withoutcomplete information. The decision only becomes black andwhite in hindsight. Let us work together to change policywhere appropriate, but we do not want to destroy pharmacompanies because of wrong accusations being made about theethical behavior of pharma employees.