Unethical practices - drug industry

Dyan Campbell dyan at iconz.co.nz
Thu Aug 10 21:48:22 EST 1995

If you want to read about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, then
you should read 'For Health or Profit: Medicine, the Pharmaceutical
Industry and the State in New Zealand' (Oxford University Press).
Cumbersome title, but a fascinating book

It's a collection of essays edited by Peter Davis, who's a senior lecturer
at the Auckland school of medicine. The writers are quite a diverse bunch:
epidemiologists, sociologists, a consumer advocate, the head of the Health
Research Council in Wellington and so on. Most of them are senior
lecturers at various medical schools, though. 

The gist of the book is basically this: it's not just corrupt, but
downright sinister. There's one instance where an asthma drug (fenoterol)
which was already proven to be unsafe, but was successfully marketed to NZ
doctors. A couple of researchers here tried to publish a paper
demonstrating the danger of this drug (it can cause heart failure in
cyanotic paients - not a good thing in an asthma drug) and the company
that makes the drug slapped the researchers with a lawsuit, and prevented
them from publishing. Didn't dispute their findings, their methods or
their protocol, mind you,  just prevented them from publishing. There's an
interesting graph in the book, showing the use of fenoterol and deaths
from asthma, and they're virtually identical - the deaths shot up at
precisely the same rate as use of the drug. But this is only one example -
there are all sorts of chilling bits of information in this book. 

The New Zealand population is ideal for unethical companies to test or
dump their dangerous products (not just pharmaceuticals) because it's
virtually impossible to sue, because of a truly insane piece of
legislation. The ACC, Accident Compensation Coorperation is supposed to
take the place of lawsuits, but it's beyond woefully inadequate, it's
positively nuts.  I'd give you some examples, but you wouldn't believe me. 



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