The Darker Side of Pharmaceutical Industry

During the past few years, there have been major advances in the field of medicines and pharmaceuticals. As good as these advances may seem in tackling health issues they are not as clean and safe as they sound.

The drug Lisinopril was a giant leap in the history of health care in helping us combat one of the most lethal silent killers, hypertension. It's rather ironic to note that this wonder drug was derived from the venom of Brazilian pit vipers, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. While, we make successful strides in extracting life forces from deadly venom on one side, and a more damaging poison envelops the pharmaceutical and health industry. 

Apart from the shocking tales of the west that primarily concern with the financial loot of several sorts, there are several upsetting tales from the east and the middle east, especially from developing countries where the violations escalate to concerns over human rights and even life, safety and primary health. Some of the many scandalous cases concerning pharmaceuticals are listed below:

1. Johnson and Johnson company and their products 

With multiple allegations on strife, J&J's iconic line of baby products is facing complaints from all sides. From losing cases, punitive payments up to 300 million dollars and removal of batches of their products, the company faces a tough time based on the alleged accusations that their products contain harmful components like formaldehyde and are carcinogenic in some cases. In India, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has taken action against the allegations. 

2. Vicks vapoRub

Vicks had one of the most beautifully crafted market strategies in recent years. The touch of care was widely received and garnered positive feedbacks. But Vicks too has a story of careless touch. According to a study by Boyse et al. published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic dermatology Vicks vapoRub is associated with chemical leukoderma.

3. Turing Pharmaceuticals 
One of the greatest scandals in the pharmaceutical industry was uncovered in 2015 when Turing pharmaceuticals hiked the price of drugs to combat HIV quite unreasonably.

4. Aspirin

Years after Bayer’s aspirin was declared to be one of the vital medicines by WHO, it remained patented and monopolized by the company for a few more years until the twenty-year term was terminated. 

Thriving grounds

Market and demand

One of the greatest issues about pharmaceutical companies is the multinational market. These companies have potential customers not just in individual retails and governments of third world nations, but also to private tycoons within the health care industry and doctors.

Poor budget 

Diarrhoea, respiratory infections, and infectious diseases (e.g., diphtheria, measles, and whooping cough) are some of the major threats to health, especially that of children in the third world and developing countries. The governments of these nations spend a lot of money in procuring treatments for these while not investing properly in cheaper and more effective prevention strategies.

Weaknesses of legislation 

The loopholes in legal systems are another thriving ground for the malpractice of distributing poor quality medicines. In such a scenario, for instance, those medicines that are banned in the United States are easily be sold to other nations as theUS Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which does not allow the exportation of drugs that are banned in the US, is easily violated without much-pronounced consequences as these are not applicable to Foreign laws.

What can be done?

Prevention is better than cure

Focusing more on preventive measures is not only advantageous from a health perspective, but also a financially efficient way to combat health and lifestyle issues.

Rejuvenation of ethnic health practices
Ayurveda and natural medicine have a rich, scientific tradition in India. Revitalizing this tradition may provide us with a strong chance in reducing the usage of and dependence on chemical drugs.

Promotion of indigenous research

Indigenous research shall enable countries and communities to focus on the health problems that ate specific to the local population and devise more concrete measures to tackle them.

Drug development and autonomy in drug production

In an interview Bernard Munos, founder of the InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation said: “Companies of different sizes face different economics and vary in their ability to innovate, No matter how large or small an organization is, he says, its ability to innovate repeatedly generally is unproven”. Thus, ensuring autonomy and innovation in drug production continues to be a challenge.

Improvement in basic health care facilities like ensuring nourishment and sanitation

The above is a general concern and steps have always been taken in this direction, from midday meal schemes to ‘Swach Bharat’ such interventions have been there all along. But the question is how the general public, governments and private agencies are acting upon it in unison.

No matter what, narcotics are dirty business and we must be very careful in dealing with drugs. Health care and medicine is a sector that devotes to service and betterment of the quality of life. Healthy citizens are the foundation for a robust nation and its steady growth. Thus it's high time for consumers to think well while big pharma offers a choice between the red and the blue pills. Sometimes, we don't need a pill at all!

- Ananda Krishnan

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The Darker Side of Pharmaceutical Industry The Darker Side of Pharmaceutical Industry Reviewed by EMN on July 07, 2019 Rating: 5

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