In spite of what some people would have you believe, I’m not actually the biggest fan of pharmaceutical companies. None of them are champions in my book. These companies only care about one thing – making money. And they will do whatever they think they can get away with to make that happen.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t need and use their products, because I do, but I harbour no false illusions about who it is I’m in bed with.
And while I do believe that pharmaceutical companies have cleaned up their act a lot in terms of incentivising prescriptions of medication and I think doctors have done a lot to reject drug company incentives, let’s face it, drug companies will still market any way they can because that’s their job – to sell product.
And when drug companies step out of line, illegally market their drugs and fail to report proper safety data, I want their hand slapped – hard. And $3 billion dollars just isn’t going to do it.
GlaxoSmithKline Fined $3 Billion
As it happens, $3 billion is actually a record fine for a pharmaceutical company – which should tell you why pharmaceutical companies don’t care about fines. In 2009, GlaxoSmithKline made $4.7 billion dollars on Advair Diskus alone so a fine that doesn’t even cover what the manufacturer makes from one drug in one year hardly seems like a hand slap to me.
(GlaxoSmithKline’s charges mostly revolve around paroxetine (antidepressant, Paxil), bupropion (antidepressant, Wellbutrin) and rosiglitazone maleate (for diabetes, Avandia.)
It’s very simple; $3 billion sounds like a lot of money to the average person, but then, the average person doesn’t have revenue of $42.4 billion. And what’s more, the $3 billion is supposed to cover criminal activities involving multiple drugs over a 10-year period. So, you take $3 billion over ten years and suddenly that’s only $300 million dollars per year! That’s less than the company makes from one of the drugs in question in a year.
Does that sound reasonable? Fair? I don’t think so.
And, of course, no executive was ever charged with wrongdoing so no human being is even held accountable for wrongly marketing drugs for prescription to children, among other things,
GlaxoSmithKline and the Cost of Doing Business
And so these types of fines – even if they are the biggest ever – are just the cost of doing business to a pharmaceutical company. In fact, GlaxoSmithKline’s stock went up upon news of the fine. No one cares except possibly their press-release writer.
Protect Yourself Against Pharmaceutical Company’s Bull Marketing
I’m not going to tell you not to use medication because medication is appropriate in many cases, but what I will say is that you need to educate yourself about the medication you take because the last thing you need is to fall into a marketing trap where some crummy doctor prescribes something because a drug rep has convinced them to, and not because it’s the best drug for you.
(And for godsake don’t listen to direct-to-consumer drug marketing. The US is one of only two counties that allow that poppycock. Don’t get me started.)
Image provided by Wikipedia: the headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline Japan