Tricks of the Pharmaceutical Trade

A story in the current Guardian Weekly points to more business-ethics troubles in the pharmaceutical industry: Report reveals tricks of pharmaceutical trade, by Sarah Boseley

The Consumers International report says drug companies use unscrupulous and unethical marketing tactics not only to influence doctors to prescribe their products but also subtly to persuade consumers that they need them….

The report examines the marketing practices of 20 of the world’s biggest drug companies. It alleges that:

– Drug companies are promoting their products through patients groups, students and internet chatrooms to bypass the ban on advertising except to doctors.

– They offer information to the public on “modern” lifestyle diseases, such as stress, to encourage people to ask their doctors for medicines.

– They make inaccurate claims about the safety and efficacy of their drugs.

– Doctors are offered incentives to prescribe and promote drugs including kickbacks, gifts, free samples and consulting agreements.

– Many companies have been implicated in anti-competitive strategies, including cartels and price hikes.

Violations of industry-wide drug promotion codes occur with regular frequency, says the report. The 20 companies were involved in 972 breaches of the ABPI’s rules on ethical drug practices between 2002 and 2005. More than 35% of those breaches, the largest category, had to do with misleading drug information.

I’ve asked it before, I’ll ask it again: just how did pharmaceutical companies — companies supposedly dedicated to improving human life — end up in roughly the same moral category as tobacco companies, oil conglomerates and arms dealers? Depressing.

Relevant Links:
Branding the Cure: A consumer perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility, Drug Promotion and the Pharmaceutical Industry

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