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Medical Marketing Bribery

Medical marketing is the art of promoting and pandering pharmaceutical drugs to doctors. The so-called “licit” drug sector spends more money doing this than researching its products. This may explain, in part, why relatively little money is devoted to following up on the countless harmful side effects associated with “modern” drug and device usage.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group (PCHRG) recently testified on the scope of the problem before a U.S. Senate hearing. In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Labor Resources Committee hearing on drug advertising and promotion, Dr. Wolfe stated:

… the current criminal, unethical and immoral marketing practices of many drug companies seriously undermine(s) .… FDA regulatory activity .… With few exceptions, the prosecution of drug companies or doctors for this health- endangering type of white collar crime is in its infancy at best.

PCHRG gathers evidence of drug- industry criminality through a hotline. Among the “outrages” reported in the January issue of PCHRG’s Health Letter were:

WYETH-AYERST – Frequent prescriber = free-flying doctor: The firm settled with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office for $197,000 in this case which involved offering doctors frequent-flier bonus travel miles in exchange for prescribing their drugs. Nevertheless, WYETH still insists that this was research and not bribery.

SANDOZ – “$100 bribe to pressure doctors into using a toxic drug for an unapproved indication”: This program encouraged doctors to use a highly toxic drug, SANDIMMUNE (cyclosporine A), for unapproved uses (a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violation). The matter was forwarded to the FDA for prosecution. However, “… it has been over 20 years since the FDA criminally prosecuted a drug company for violating the laws or regulations concerning the promotion of prescription drugs.”

PHYSICIANS COMPUTER NETWORK (PCN) – “Free $35,000 doctor’s office computer system: PCN is a front organization for 10 Drug Companies including Lilly, Searle, Roache, Roerig (PFIZER), Smith, Kline, Beckman, Squibb, Bristol Myers, Rorer, Stuart (ICI) and Syntex.” This slick operation allows the drug companies to monitor the doctors’ prescribing habits while inputting promotional messages to doctors. This one is currently under investigation by the Office of Health and Human Services Inspector General.

Pocketlining in the Philippines

UPJOHN : In the Philippines, Upjohn’s abortifacient drug Depo Provera was removed from the store shelves two years ago after an investigation by Senator Joey Lima and an expose in the Manila Standard . The company had not obtained the necessary Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) permit for marketing and distributing the drug. After decades of experimenting on Third-World women, Upjohn still has no evidence that Depo Provera is safe. The U.S. F.D.A. has rejected it three times as unsafe for use in the United States. No one questions its effect: it kills babies and it results in birth defects.

The Upjohn case was sent to the Drug Bureau’s legal office but it hasn’t been forwarded to the public prosecutor and it probably never will be. The drug companies and their buddies at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Health Organization are just too tough for the local BFAD.

Philippine financial assistance is tied to how well the country plays ball with the international population control folks. The controllers wield power and economic reprisals from the board rooms of international banking, chemical, and drug firms.

Playing along with the power game, the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) describes abortifacient drugs and devices as “only contraceptives” — bypassing the Constitution, which prohibits abortion. The DOH calls the population control program a “health” program. Hardly. IUD’s, which are in widespread use here, are no longer available in the U.S. — over 600,000 lawsuits for damages took them out of the American marketplace. Injectable abortifacients, similar to Depo Provera, are being employed.

Filipina women are the guinea pigs of the drug industry. They are not given informed consent regarding the deadly drugs and devices- they are told to use. What we have is product dumping at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and Filipino health. The big winners are the drug companies who enjoy a free ride.

Max-Ricketts is a Philippine journalist and regular columnist for the Mabuhay Times. This article is reprinted with the permission of the Mabuhay Times.

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