The January edition of the New York Review of Books has an excellent article on the pharmaceutical industry and the corruption of medical ethics that summarises the recent revelations of fraud, undisclosed payments, data burying and off-label promotion that pervade the industry.
The piece is by Marcia Angell, who spent 20 years as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and is now a senior lecturer in Harvard Medical School.
Rather disappointingly, although not particularly surprisingly, is the fact that psychiatry holds pride of place in the drug company corruption and unethical dealings stakes, with the large part of the article focusing on the marketing of major psychiatric drugs.
Marketing in the pharmaceutical industry not only relates to advertising and payments to doctors – in the form of money or gifts – but also to the published research which is often specifically designed to show the drug in the best possible light, or is deliberately buried if it doesn’t.
One person who has been instrumental in uncovering some of the most recent revelations is US Senator Charles Grassley who has spent the last year digging into payments to doctors and has uncovered large undisclosed sums paid to the biggest names in psychiatry.
The New York Review of Books article is a fantastic potted guide to the whole sordid business and is well worth a read if you want an update on the latest techniques used to market psychiatric drugs.
Link to NYRB piece ‘Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption’.