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Drug industry accused of complicity


The global pharmaceutical industry is little more than a “market for lemons” that dupes doctors and patients about the effectiveness of its products, a report has said.

Professor Donald Light made a series of controversial allegations against so-called “Big Pharma” in his report, “Pharmaceuticals: A Two-Tier Market for Producing ‘Lemons’ and Serious Harm”, in which he accused pharmaceutical companies of downplaying the side effects of drugs while over-promoting their benefits.

The industry enjoys the safety of the specialist knowledge that goes into producing drugs and exploits it to its advantage, making it simply a “market for lemons”, he said.

Prof Light, a professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, said: “Sometimes drug companies hide or downplay information about serious side effects of new drugs and overstate the drugs’ benefits.

“Then, they spend two to three times more on marketing than on research to persuade doctors to prescribe these new drugs. Doctors may get misleading information and then misinform patients about the risks of a new drug. It’s really a two-tier market for lemons.”

The author made the accusations at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, during which he also accused “Big Pharma” of owning independent drug testing companies and hiding behind legal “firewalls” that protect them from questions over the effectiveness of their products.

He said 85% of new drugs pose more harm than good to patients, adding that the “relatively low bar” for effectiveness means that drug companies can push through drugs for approval too easily.

Copyright Press Association 2010

American Sociological Association

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