Innovation we could live without

flickr photo / not persephone

It’s not just the “innovative” and “exotic” creations of a deregulated Wall Street that harm the public. Big Pharma is just as guilty of creating monsters.

Opponents of a national health care system for all U.S. citizens argue that such a system would cripple the privatized system’s ability to “innovate,” thus stifling the creation of new drugs.

But Stephanie Saul’s article, “Experts Conclude Pfizer Manipulated Studies,” in today’s New York Times shows that innovation at Pfizer sometimes has less to do with research than finding innovative ways to sell drugs – like, for example innovatively fudging the research so it looks like the epilepsy medicine Neurontin can treat conditions like bipolar disorder and migraine headaches, even when it can’t. So doctors prescribe it – and Pfizer makes nearly $3 billion selling the drug.

Apparently, this is not a one-time problem; nobody should be surprised to find greed to be a systemic issue in the pharmaceutical industry. The article reads:

The expert reports … add to accusations that the pharmaceutical industry has controlled the flow of clinical research data, blurring the lines between science and marketing.

In April, for example, a group of academic doctors questioned the validity of drug industry research after finding that Merck had hired ghostwriters to produce scientific articles about Vioxx, then recruited prestigious doctors to serve as their official authors. Vioxx, a painkiller, was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after research indicated it could cause strokes and heart attacks.

Of course, there’s nothing at all new about selling snake oil.

So maybe prioritizing patients over profits is actually the novel idea that’s worth getting behind – not because it’s “innovative,” but because it’s fair, just and possible.