Pharmaceutical industry

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.

Pharmaceutical industry. According to IMS Health, a company which provides market intelligence to the pharmaceutical and health care industries; the estimated worldwide sales for prescription pharmaceuticals was about $400 billion in 2002. Americans spent roughly 200 billion dollars on prescription drugs in 2002, accounting for approximately half of all sales world wide. Yet, as of 2006, the U.S. infant mortality rate ranked at 21st in the world (under Greece and South Korea and slightly higher than Poland). U.S. life expectancy ranked at number 17. [1] By 2008, IMS Health reported that sales for U.S. prescription drugs had reached $291 billion dollars a year. [2]

History of pharmaceutical interests

Author & ex-drug rep Gwen Olson speaks out. - - 2007

In the early half of the 20th century, petrochemical giants organized a coup on the medical research facilities, hospitals and universities. The Rockefeller family sponsored research and donated sums to universities and medical schools which had drug based research. They further extended this policy to foreign universities and medical schools where research was drug based through their "International Education Board". Establishments and research which were were not drug based were refused funding and soon dissolved in favor of the lucrative pharmaceutical industry. In 1939 a "Drug Trust" alliance was formed by the Rockefeller empire and the German chemical company I.G. Farben (Bayer). After World War II, I.G. Farben was dismantled but later emerged as separate corporations within the alliance. Well known companies included General Mills, Kellogg, Nestle, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Procter and Gamble, Roche and Hoechst (Sanofi-Aventis). The Rockefeller empire, in tandem with Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase), owns over half of the pharmaceutical interests in the United States. It is the largest drug manufacturing combine in the world. Since WWII, the pharmaceutical industry has steadily netted increasing profits to become the world's second largest manufacturing industry; [3], [4] after the arms industry.

The Rockefeller Foundation was originally set up in 1904 as the General Education Fund. The RF was later formed in 1910 and issued a charter on May 14, 1913 with the help of Rockefeller millions. Subsequently, the foundation placed it's own "nominees" in federal health agencies and set the stage for the "reeducation" of the public. A compilation of magazine advertising reveals that as far back as 1948, larger American drug companies spent a total sum of $1,104,224,374 for advertising. Of this sum, Rockefeller-Morgan interests (which went entirely to Rockefeller after Morgan's death) controlled about 80%. [5] See also AMA.

IG Farben & Auschwitz

Auschwitz was the largest mass extermination factory in human history. However, few people are aware that Auschwitz was a 100% subsidiary of IG Farben. On April 14, 1941, in Ludwigshafen, Otto Armbrust, the IG Farben board member responsible for the Auschwitz project, stated to board colleagues:

"our new friendship with the SS is a blessing. We have determined all measures integrating the concentration camps to benefit our company."

Thousands of prisoners died during human experiments, drug and vaccine testing. Before longtime Bayer employee and SS Auschwitz doctor Helmut Vetter was executed for administering fatal infections, he wrote to his bosses at Bayer headquarters:

"I have thrown myself into my work wholeheartedly. Especially as I have the opportunity to test our new preparations. I feel like I am in paradise."

After WWII, IG Farben attempted to shake its abominable image through corporate restructuring and renaming. So great has been their success that the public has no idea that it many of the men responsible for such atrocities, were able to carry on their work even after the collapse of the Nazi regime. Namely a medical paradigm that relies almost exclusively highly toxic drugs. Such men were in control of the large chemical and pharmaceutical companies, both well before and after Hitler. The Nuremberg Tribunal convicted 24 IG Farben board members and executives on the basis of mass murder, slavery and other crimes. Incredibly, most of them had been released by 1951 and continued to consult with German corporations. The Nuremberg Tribunal dissolved IG Farben into Bayer, Hoechst, and BASF, each company 20 times as large as IG Farben in 1944. For almost three decades after WWII, BASF, Bayer and Hoechst (Aventis) filled their highest position, chairman of the board, with former members of the Nazi regime. Bayer has been sued by survivors of medical experiments such as Eva Kor who, along with her sister, survived experiments at the hands of Dr. Josef Mengele. [6] See also Bayer.

Deploying doctors

Drug companies have new top salesmen: doctors. According to a mid-July 2005 report by the Wall Street Journal, hiring a doctor to speak about drug therapies to other doctors has proven to be a "highly effective" way for the pharmaceutical industry to market its drugs.

"An internal study done by Merck & Co. several years ago calculated the "return on investment" from doctor-led discussion groups was almost double the return on meetings led by the company's own sales force. According to the document, doctors who attended a lecture by another doctor wrote an additional $623.55 worth of prescriptions for the painkiller Vioxx over a 12-month period compared with doctors who didn't attend. Doctors who participated in the more intimate discussions wrote an additional $717.53 worth of prescriptions for Vioxx, which Merck pulled from the market last year over concerns about cardiovascular side effects. That compared to an increase of only $165.87 in Vioxx prescriptions by doctors who attended a meeting with a salesperson." [7]

In 1996, researcher Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University studied nearly 800 scientific papers in prominent biology and medical journals. In one third of all cases, the author had financial interests in the company sponsoring the research. This information was not disclosed to readers in most cases. In a 1996 Stanford University study by Mildred Cho, a senior research scholar at the Center for Biomedical Ethics; found that 98% of university studies funded by drug companies reported new therapies to be more effective than standard ones. By comparison, only 79% of non-industry financed studies found new drugs to be more effective. [8]

Short term research & long term side effects

Prescription for Disaster with Gary Null, PhD. - 2006

Conventional medicine has consistently insisted that its methods are verified by science. However, medical history has shown a pattern of discovery and application of drug treatments. Initially, there is great excitement over a drug and research has seemingly proven safety and efficacy. However, over time minor concerns about drug side effects emerge, until further research and clinical practice reveal more serious concerns about its side effects. Eventually, it is generally acknowledged that the drug does not work as well as assumed along with recognition of increasing, serious side effects. However, these problems are not really problems as a new drug emerges with short term research indicating that it is superior to the previous one. Like the fashion industry, the drug industry profits on the newer drugs rather than on the older ones. [9]

According to a January 2006 Consumer Reports, twelve types of drugs sold in 140 prescription medications had "rare but serious side effects" that went unnoticed prior to their market approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [10]The report contends that FDA scientists faced tight deadlines and pressure from superiors to approve drugs without thorough review; even when they had reservations about side effects. [11]

Medicine, drugs, vaccines & animal testing

A landmark article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on April 15, 1998 entitled, "Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients", evaluated serious and fatal adverse drug reactions (ADR)s in U.S. hospitals. The study revealed that in 1994, ADRs accounted for 2,216,000 serious events and 106,000 hospital deaths. [12] According to a 2003 comprehensive study of medical peer-review journals and government health statistics, there are an additional 199,000 fatal ADR outpatient deaths in the U.S. annually. [13], [14] According to the study, there are approximately 783,936 iatrogenic (medically induced) deaths every year in the U.S. Furthermore, the actual figure is estimated to be much higher, as only a fraction (between 5% and 20%) of iatrogenic acts are ever reported.[15]

Researchers from Harvard and Boston Universities concluded that medical measures (drugs and vaccines) accounted for between 1 and 3.5% of the total decline in mortality rate since 1900. Scores of animals were killed in the quest to find cures for tuberculosis, scarlet fever, small pox and diphtheria. Dr. Edward Kass of Harvard Medical School asserts that the primary credit for the virtual eradication of these diseases must go to improvements in public health, sanitation and general standard of living. [16] Additionally, 88% of doctors queried agreed that animal experiments can be misleading because of anatomical and physiological differences between animals and humans. [17]

Thousands of rats, mice, rabbits, dogs, and primates are killed in "pre-clinical" tests for new drugs (including all ingredients and even minor differences in formulas). Following an extensive battery of animal testing, drugs generally undergo three phases of clinical trials. The fact that months or years of human studies are also required suggests health authorities do not trust the results. [18] In 2004, the FDA reported that 92 out of every 100 drugs that successfully pass animal trials, subsequently fail human trials. [19], [20] See also animal testing, sections 1 through 3.

Placebo effect

In 2003, a senior executive for GlaxoSmithKline announced that the vast majority of drugs, more than 90%; only work in 30 to 50% of the people. Dr. Allen Roses, an academic geneticist from Duke University spoke at a scientific meeting in London:

"Drugs for Alzheimer's disease work in fewer than one in three patients, whereas those for cancer are only effective in a quarter of patients. Drugs for migraines, for osteoporosis, and arthritis work in about half the patients. Most drugs work in fewer than one in two patients mainly because the recipients carry genes that interfere in some way with the medicine." [21]

30 to 70% is considered to be placebo effect.[22] Vivisectors often claim undue credit for advances in medicine and public health which have no relation to or were even impeded by animal testing, simply due to the fact that animal testing was used (often an unavoidable legal requirement.) Frequently, they will cite animal experiments without disclosing the pioneering previous non-animal discovery.

The cancer industry

See also War on Cancer.

The AIDS industry

See also AIDS industry.


Gwen Olsen spent 15 years working for major drug firms.- - 2008

According to a USA Today data analysis by the non-partisan groups Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and Political Money Line, 49 senators who voted against drug importation received approximately five million dollars from industry executives and political action committees since 2001. This amount comprises almost three quarters of all industry donations to current Senate members. [23]

FDA funding fees

Regulators don't negotiate their budgets with industries they oversea, with the exception of the FDA. In the early 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry began paying the FDA millions of dollars in user fees in order to speed up the drug approval process. These fees "now fund more than half the agency's critical drug-review process." Industry groups and the FDA renegotiate the fees and how they're used every five years, giving drug makers "considerable input into which programs receive funding." In 2006 the FDA negotiated an agreement with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Biotechnology Industry Organization. Industry groups pushed for even faster decisions on labeling and other "conditions" of new drugs and the FDA negotiated more funding to monitor drug safety following approval. [24]

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

Drug manufacturers

Brand name drugs

Abilify, Alli, Ambien, Avandia, Avastin, Baycol, Byetta, Exubera, Forteo, Gardasil, Herceptin, MimyX, Neurontin, Premarin, Prexige, Retrovir, Tamiflu, Trasylol, Vioxx, Viramune (Nevirapine), Vytorin, Xenical, Zyprexa

Contract Research Organizations

Laboratory animal breeding/importing facilities

Pharmaceutical lobbies & front groups

Medical research groups

Drug industry watchdog groups & projects

Case studies

General health & medical

Critical websites

Drug industry opinion polls


  1. Marcia Angell The Truth About Drug Companies, The New York Review of Books, Volume 51, Number 12, August 2005
  2. Gary Gatyas IMS Health Reports U.S. Prescription Sales Grew 1.3 Percent in 2008 to $291 Billion, IMS Health, News Releases, March 2009
  3. Ivan Fraser, Mark Beeston The Pharmaceutical Racket, Biblioteca Plaeyades, accessed April 2010
  4. A Short Curriculum Vitae of I.G. Farben, Biblioteca Plaeyades, accessed October 2009
  5. Hans Reusch The Truth About the Rockefeller Drug Empire: The Drug Story, CIVIS Foundation Report number 15, Fall-Winter 1993
  6. Mark Sircus Pharmaceutical Terrorism: The Backbone of Modern Medicine,, accessed March 2010
  7. Scott Hensley, Barbara Martinez To Sell Their Drugs, Companies Increasingly Rely on Doctors: For $750 and Up, Physicians Tell Peers About Products; Talks Called Educational, The Wall Street Journal, July 2005
  8. Mark Clayton Corporate Cash and Campus Labs, Christian Science Monitor, June 2001
  9. Dana Ullman How Scientific is Modern Medicine?,, December 2007
  10. Prescription for trouble: Common drugs, hidden dangers. Tens of millions of people at risk, Consumer Reports, January 2006
  11. Consumer Reports Questions FDA Prescription Drug Approval Process, Kaiser Family Foundation, December 2005
  12. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies, Journal of the American Medical Association, April 15, 1998
  13. Starfield B. Is US health really the best in the world?, JAMA, July 2000, 284(4):483-5, Starfield B. Deficiencies in US medical care JAMA, November 2000; 284(17):2184-5.
  14. Weingart SN, McL Wilson R, Gibberd RW, Harrison B. Epidemiology of medical error, Western Journal of Medicine, June 2000; 172(6):390-3.
  15. Gary Null, PhD, Carolyn Dean, MD, Martin Feldman, MD, Debora Rasio, MD, Dorothy Smith, PhD Death by Medicine, 2003
  16. Frequently Asked Questions: What about all the breakthroughs we've gained through animal research?, In Defense of Animals, accessed November 18, 2008
  17. Tony Page Vivisection Unveiled: An Expose of the Medical Futility of Animal Experimentation, pg. 106, John Carpenter Books, April 1997
  18. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  19. Harding, A. More compounds failing phase I. FDA chief warns that high drug attrition rate is pushing up the cost of drug development. The Scientist, August 6th 2004
  20. NHP Study: Evidence from Europeans for Medical Progress and Antidote-Europe, Safer Medicines Campaign, pg 1, accessed February 2009
  21. Steve Connor GlaxoSmithKline Chief: Our Drugs Do Not Work On Most Patients, The Independent Science, December 2003
  22. Darrel Crain, DC Placebos: Accept no substitutes, Planet, May 2006
  23. Ken Dilanian, Senators Who Weakened Drug Bill Got Millions from Industry, USA Today, May 2007
  24. Anna Wilde Matthews Drug Firms Use Financial Clout To Push Industry Agenda at FDA, Wall Street Journal, September 2006

External external articles, resources & books

See also Pharmaceutical industry external links.