I’m going to try not to make this blog into a nonstop attack on the prescription drug industry. But it’ll be hard, because Big Pharma is just so relentless and wily in coming up with new ways to rip off geezers.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the continuing use of high-cost patented drugs for hypertension, large numbers of which are used by seniors. This is despite a major study, known as Allhat, which showed that cheaper generic alternatives work just as well or better for a majority of patients.
The findings, from one of the biggest clinical trials ever organized by the federal government, promised to save the nation billions of dollars in treating the tens of millions of Americans with hypertension — even if the conclusions did seem to threaten pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer that were making big money on blockbuster hypertension drugs. Six years later, though, the use of the inexpensive pills, called diuretics, is far smaller than some of the trial’s organizers had hoped.
The article goes on to describe the strategies the drug-makers use to ward off any findings that threaten their profits, regardless of scientific merit:
Pharmaceutical companies responded by heavily marketing their own expensive hypertension drugs and, in some cases, paying speakers to publicly interpret the Allhat results in ways that made their products look better.
“The pharmaceutical industry ganged up and attacked, discredited the findings,” Dr. [Curt] Furberg said. He eventually resigned in frustration as chairman of the study’s steering committee, the expert group that continues to oversee analysis of data from the trial. One member of that committee received more than $200,000 from Pfizer, largely in speaking fees, the year after the Allhat results were released.
The article appears as part of the Times‘s “Evidence Gap” series, which also examines the shortcomings of cholesterol drugs, artificial joints, and other things that should be of interest to geezers.
This is just the latest news underlining the need for the government to take a firm hand in regulating drug prices, testing, and information, as well as the conflicts of interest that come of doctors receiving payments or perks from the drug companies.