Pharmaceutical

Do drug companies protect profits by unethical means?

Sometimes it is hard to know whom you can trust. But trust is of the utmost importance when it involves human life. Unfortunately, drug companies are apparently demonstrating they are more interested in profits than in protecting the consumers who use their products.

One troubling example is the antidepressant Paxil. The drug is in a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which are among the most prescribed medications in the United States. The drug was listed as a Category C pregnancy medication, meaning there was no evidence to show whether the drug was dangerous to developing fetuses and that it was otherwise presumed to be safe.

However, women were already beginning to complain to Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) about serious birth defects experienced after using the antidepressant. It wasn’t until 2005 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerted the public that studies had just surfaced linking Paxil use during pregnancy to birth defects, in particular heart defects, and that it was reclassifying Paxil as a Category D pregnancy drug, indicating that studies prove that using the medication during pregnancy may cause birth defects. A slew of lawsuits from women who said they were not properly warned by GSK ensued.

Similar complaints are now being waged against other SSRIs, such as Zoloft and Lexapro, which are still classified as Category C pregnancy drugs and generally considered “safe” to use during pregnancy.

Why would drug companies keep important data from consumers? Discovery in products liability litigations over the years has shown that pharmaceutical companies will go to great lengths to market and protect drugs that generate millions – even billions – in profits.

According to Lawyers USA, drug companies have engaged in a practice known as medical ghostwriting, or guest writing, with various drugs that later turned out to be dangerous, including Neurontin, Paxil, Fen-phen, and Vioxx. The practice involves paying doctors to lend their names as the author of slanted medical journal articles written by marketing departments of drug companies pushing off-label use or countering negative data about a drug. The articles are then used by drug companies’ sales forces to market the drugs to treating physicians.

Attorneys are beginning the challenge the practice of medical ghostwriting, so that doctors and the public are better informed about the drugs they are prescribed and the true source of product recommendations.

PAXIL and PAXIL CR are registered trademarks of GlaxoSmithKline. ZOLOFT is a registered trademark of Pfizer Inc. Lexapro® is a registered trademark of Forest Labs.

Sources:
Lawyers USA
FDA