Why does big pharmacy hate you? Stu Burguiere took a look at the myth that pharmaceutical corporations are stealing your money and giving you snake oil.
To create a drug, companies go through years of research and development with no timeline for success. After investing in R&D, companies may create a product that helps people, but they still aren’t anywhere close to market. A new drug product needs to go through years of red tape before getting FDA approval to be sold to consumers. Finally, even if a product makes it through the gauntlet, only a small number of consumers will actually purchase the drug.
The pharmaceutical company’s troubles don’t end there. Once a drug is available, some lawsuits are inevitable as well as accusations that consumers are being ripped off. Stu explained:
“When a product finally gets on the market, they are flooded both with complaints that they should be giving it away for free and with lawsuits claiming they never should have made it in the first place.”
To give an example of fraudulent lawsuits that companies sometimes face, Stu broke down the infamous fen-phen weight-loss drug case. In the 1990s, doctors wrote millions of prescriptions for a fenflurmine-phentermine drug combination that purportedly helped people lose weight.
When a doctor found a link between fen-phen and heart valve deterioration in 24 of her patients, the discovery unleashed a host of lawsuits that were more about making money than helping people. In one fraudulent case, Texas resident Cheryl Yvonne Barnett sued, alleging that fen-phen had hurt her health even though the medication had never been prescribed to her.
Litigation cost the company $1 billion, with profits from fen-phen sales totaling about 1 percent of that. Stu reminded the audience that for the most part, pharmaceutical companies are trying to help people and that having a profit incentive is a good thing. “Stop discouraging the people who want to make Grandma’s tumor go away,” he said.