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They Said What?!

July 2010

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.

There seems to be no end to the lack of self-consciousness of the pharmaceutical industry in the way it describes some of the venal things it is doing. For example, in an article recently published in Bioethical Inquiry, based on inside documents from drug companies, the following internal memos were revealed:

“The larger issue is how we face the outside world when they begin to criticize us for suppressing data…” (AstraZeneca publications manager in internal e-mail Dec. 6, 1999)

“We will select tactics for each strategy that offer us best chance of success and execute the *%#&*! out of them.” (Eli Lilly drug representative training for managing physician concerns about weight gain and diabetes from the company’s antipsychotic drug olanzapine [Zyprexa])

A recent note in a publication called Next Generation Pharmaceutical had this to say about the growth potential for big sales of pharmaceuticals in rapidly developing, “under-exploited” countries:

….seven countries ― Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey ― along with other currently under-exploited areas of the world represent a huge opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, pressure at home from patent cliffs [expiration of patents on drugs and the availability of much lower-priced generic versions] and dry pipelines [few important innovations in process] has even the big players looking for new ways to increase their bottom lines while at the same time bringing new treatments to previously unserved populations. It seems like a win-win situation.

More people are now learning about “inside” talk in the pharmaceutical industry such as concerns about the public finding out that companies are suppressing data and about industry plans to “ push” pharmaceuticals in rapidly developing “under-exploited “ countries. All of these revelations are leading to the industry being viewed by the public in a much more accurate perspective than its expensive, often misleading advertising campaigns have tried to accomplish.

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