Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Problem With Big Pharma Conspiracies

A while back, Orac introduced me to this cartoon. A generic pharmaceutical company tests a drug on rats and find no effects whatsoever, wasting the eight million dollars spent on research and development. So the marketing department sells it as an altie med product. I think that cartoon pretty well describes the medicine versus quackery battle just so well.

Pharmaceuticals have to do a very extensive song and dance to get approval from institutions like the FDA in the US, and analogous institutions overseas. They have to test on models, animals, and eventually, with even greater scrutiny and regulation, humans. These regulations exist because of scientific and ethical necessity. Those who understand the principles science and have a desire to help people demand watchdogs to keep an eye on the procedure.

In contrast, woos typically demand (and get) special exemptions from this oversight, often claiming that they're too poor and decrepit to actually bother testing their products before unleashing them on the public, therefore, they should have the right to haphazardly experiment directly on their consumers and cherrypick testimonials for marketing purposes. Of course, the only prep work they typically have to do for this consists of having an idea pop into their head. Then they can directly proceed to unregulated human experimentation. And being an altie means never having to say you're sorry.

So, given that state of the world, why would pharmaceutical companies bother with spending potential profits on the whole experimental phase that often ends in failure or recalls from unforeseen effects? If they were only after money, the altie situation would be much better. Take a look at homeopathy: Water, alcohol, or sugar pills and profit margin for nothing.

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