Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Holding pharmaceuticals responsible

A vaccine against smoking is on the way. It could be years before the public get access to it because of safety plans – just as well really, as the idea of vaccinating someone against the pleasure experienced by a smoker is a serious misuse of medical science in my book.

It might be less serious if there were not an active campaign to denormalise smoking. At least then we would be more clear that people were attempting to quit for their own reasons rather than as a result of official bullying. On the other hand, if there were no campaign of denormalisation, there would be less money thrown at anti-smoking research and this hare-brained idea might never have taken root.

The problem is that manufacturers of drugs can do absolutely no wrong. No doubt motivated by the loftiest of ideals, the whole train gets diverted on to a branch line dedicated to the pursuit of profit, rather than the saving of life. GlaxoSmithKlein has this week been found guilty of 'off-label marketing' (encouraging the use of drugs in cases they were not designed to treat), and also:
The company also conceded charges that it held back data and made unsupported safety claims over its diabetes drug Avandia.
This is fraudulent: dangerous activity, calculated deception of its customers in the medical profession that might have endangered lives. It is known that prescribed drug use causes thousands of fatalities every year. Some of these deaths are a result of bad combinations of drugs, and it is unknown how many deaths result from drugs with a hidden adverse safety record.

GSK (which manufactures smoking cessation drug Zyban) has had to pay $3 billion dollars in settlement. 
GSK said in a statement it would pay the fines through existing cash resources.
Not really a struggle then? A slap on the wrist and a few staff kicked out? Other parts of the world do things differently: China, for instance, where a senior executive of a pharmaceutical company was sentenced to life imprisonment, commuted from the death sentence. This reflects the seriousness of the crime both by a commensurate penalty, and its target – the top executive, not someone on the company's payroll. 

GSK will pay this from petty cash. I wouldn't take that anti-smoking jag if I were a smoker, nor would I be happy to see it recommended for use in children.

1 comment:

George Speller said...

It wouldn't be quite so sinister if you didn't just know they'll bundle it with mmr and effectively make your kids have it.