Their business is making profitable drugs that will be widely prescribed by doctors and used by as many consumers as possible. As business people, their primary loyalty is to their shareholders.
All decisions on which compounds to develop into drugs and which to bring to market are driven by profit, the competitive landscape, and speed to market.
There are several key therapeutic areas that are dependable money makers and have the potential to produce possible blockbusters:
Many of the diseases that these drugs treat are lifestyle related illnesses.
If many of these symptom sufferers led a healthy lifestyle, they could reverse and/or prevent many of these diseases. But Pharma is not in the disease prevention business. They are in the disease treatment business.
Doctors are not taught to promote
wellness and prevent disease, they are taught to treat disease. So,
prescriptions are dispensed as first line therapy for most symptoms.
But by not changing their lifestyle, they are just masking the symptoms.
For example, in the case of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes, by not choosing a healthier diet and by retaining extra weight (especially abdominal body fat), patients remain prone to other diseases and will subsequently require more medications.
Patients who take daily medication are also unknowingly taxing their organs incrementally.
It is in Pharma's best interest that you not make lifestyle changes, but instead choose to take their drugs to treat your symptoms. Your disease may stabilize, but it will not reverse. If you will not change your disease-causing lifestyle, you will become dependent on the drug to manage your symptoms.
Any side effects of the drug will lead to more drugs to treat those symptoms.
It's a vicious cycle that keeps Big Pharma profitable.
So, how do pharmaceutical companies choose which drugs to develop?
They look at what have been blockbusters (big sellers) in the past and make more of those. Hypertension is great example of a blockbuster gateway drug. The Framingham Heart Study, under the direction of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), began studying cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 1948.
After each study, they report their findings.
In 1967, the Framingham Heart Study reported:
Yet physicians were not trained to recommend increased physical activity to their hypertensive patients.
They were trained to prescribe drugs to
treat hypertension (HT). Guidelines were set as to what constituted
HT and at what number doctors should prescribe medication to reduce
blood pressure. 2
As a result of the published data, doctors and prescribing nurses were trained to prescribe HT medicines to people with lower diastolic and systolic numbers than they had prior to the published study. More patients on more meds.
Nowhere are patients taught that
hypertension can be lowered immediately with a 20 minute walk.
Even more compelling, major media via magazine advertisements and promotional news spots on television called video news releases (VNRs) were used to reinforce the consumer messaging. All medical communications and consumer information is produced by Pharma's ad agency.
The SPRINT trial (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial) was designed with the outcome in mind. As soon as they reached their desired conclusion, the study was stopped to deliver the "good news" to the public and to change the protocol for what determines HT.
Now, doctors were prescribing HT meds earlier to patients who might not be at risk in the interest of protecting their vasculature from possible future heart disease.
These names are not pulled out of the air. They are carefully crafted by expert marketers who know how to prep and sell the target market on the concept they endeavor to get adopted by program, protocol, and product advocates.
The advocates are Thought Leaders in CVD
who are already talking about the trial before it has even been
completed, thus influencing lower-tier prescribers all the way down
the chain to your own General Practitioner.
The SPRINT trial was funded by the NHLBI and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Those organizations received their grant money from the pharmaceutical industry, most notably from the company whose drug was planned to launch upon the release of the new data.
In summary, I'll quote J. Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who flat out admitted on April 13, 2016 that his first responsibility is to the shareholders, not to the furthering of healthcare outcomes and the consumers of their drug products.
Instead of investing in new breakthroughs, Valeant relies on lucrative drug acquisitions and price hikes.
More and more, it is only the wealthy who can afford quality healthcare, not the average consumer with modest healthcare insurance plans.
In 2016, 56 of Valeant's drugs increased in price by 66 percent.
Their latest drug acquisition prompted a 550 percent price increase.
Stock prices for Valeant rose 1,000 percent since Pearson became CEO. 5
With that message coming from the top, it's easy to see how patients are the ones who will suffer from Pharma's greed.
Pharmaceuticals continue to make choices
based on how much money they will make, not on how many patients
they can help.