Talk about no rest for the wicked!
Fresh off a historic $2.7 billion in fines and penalties tied to illegal drug marketing, Pfizer is showing no signs of slowing down.
This time, the company is accused of playing shell games with research on the epilepsy drug Neurontin – hiding negative results and shifting the goals of their studies after the fact to highlight the positive.
These baloneyfied studies were then published and used to push the drug for off-label uses – like migraine headaches. Experts think that most of the drug's sales ultimately came from those off-label uses.
Researchers looked at 20 company-sponsored studies. Eight of them were swept under the rug. They never even made it to publication! I guess sometimes, baloney only gets you so far – especially when it comes to a med with side effects that include suicidal tendencies and depression.
Of the remaining 12 studies in the analysis, eight used the old research bait-and-switch. That's when they change the primary outcome – the question researchers set out to answer at the beginning of the study – after the research is done, usually because they didn't like the answer.
And in every case, these changes made the drug look better. Color me surprised.
Pfizer is issuing its usual denials, but the report in the New England Journal of Medicine is a real eye-opener.
Big Pharma loves off-label uses for their meds. They get to sell the same drug to more people without having to spend any extra money going through the approvals process – especially if they don't really have the data to back up their med when it comes to those uses.
But there's just one catch: They're not allowed to market those other uses. They are, however, allowed to give doctors copies of their tainted journal articles on them.
Doctors read the article and prescribe the meds. They don't know the research is bunk – but maybe from now on, they should just assume it is... especially if Big Pharma had a hand in the study.
To these companies, the goal of research isn't science or healing – they're just looking for more ways to make even more money.
Who cares if they have to lie and cheat to get there – they don't even care if they get caught. The penalties are just another line in an accountant's ledger. In 2004, Pfizer paid $430 million in fines to settle charges that it improperly marketed this very same med.
Sounds like a lot of money, right?
Not when you consider that Neurontin did $2.7 billion in sales that year.
It's chump change – and once again, we're the chumps.