Big Pharma uses multiple tactics to try to release billion-dollar drugs- driving profits at the expense of patient safety. Pharmaceutical companies engage in underhanded marketing schemes, kickbacks to doctors, collusive agreements with pharmacy benefits managers and competitors, and trying to get the FDA to approve the drugs for broader uses. These tactics might lead the companies to earn billions of dollars, but they often put the safety of patients at risk.
Research and Approval
Big Pharma claims that the prices of drugs are high because the companies need the money to fund future research. However, most of the research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, using taxpayer dollars. Pharmaceutical companies actually spend a very small percentage of their revenues on research and development.
Drugs that are developed take an average of six years to be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. When they are approved, they may only be approved to treat rare diseases. Because a drug might not have broad applicability, companies often engage in shady tactics to try to gain broader approval so they can earn substantial profits.
Tactics Used by Big Pharma
Drug companies that are trying to expand the uses of a drug may conduct broad investigations so that drugs may be marketed for off-label uses that haven’t been approved by the FDA. These investigations often reveal a lot of information about side effects. While the companies are supposed to report all of these side effects to consumers, many fail to do so. This may result in harm to patients who take the drugs and products liability litigation.
Other tactics that Big Pharma uses include lobbying Congress, offering physician incentives, and even paying to halt the competition. Although it is illegal for companies to pay a physician to write prescriptions for specific drugs, Big Pharma often gives incentives to doctors to prescribe their medications. They also pay doctors to give presentations at medical conferences. These companies might also enter into collusive agreements with pharmacy benefits companies and with their competitors. Sometimes, competitors are paid to not market their own drugs. Finally, the companies may work to undercut generics. All of these tactics may lead to patient injuries or deaths.