A major pharmaceutical company has been fined £10.2m by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK. Reckitt Benckiser make Gaviscon, among other drugs. They withdrew the cheapest version of Gaviscon from the NHS register of drugs, so that doctors who entered ‘gaviscon’ into the data-base automatically came up with a more expensive version of the drug.
Drug companies use methods like this to ensure that they keep making money on their products. They also use more ‘above board’ methods. When a scientist comes up with a new medicine or drug, they can patent it, meaning no one else can produce it without their permission. This allows them to profit from their own research – fair enough, you might say. The patents are limited in length, so after a certain amount of time, anyone can use that research, make the same drug, and sell it for a profit. This is why you can buy unbranded paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen much more cheaply than other drugs. Good for competition, which means good for customers. Bad for pharmaceutical companies…..
Drug companies are not charities. They do not have your best interests at heart. They are businesses. They have shareholders. They sell products. Their purpose is not curing illness, but making a profit. There are many, many useful and helpful, even essential drugs out there, but it’s much more profitable to have more and more people use more and more medicines.
What causes addiction? Is it like cancer? Pneumonia? TB? Can you catch it? Is there a blood test or a scan that shows it up? Emotional, psychological, and social factors are responsible for addiction (see ‘rat park’ for more info) – so why are we treating it medically? Why are people prescribed Valium or Xanax when they are anxious? Why don’t we look at what’s making them anxious? Why are people prescribed methadone to stop them using heroin? Why don’t we look at what they’re getting out of heroin use and address that?
Pharmaceutical companies can afford big fines. They’re not going to stop making new medicines, and sometimes new diseases and disorders to go with them. It’s up to us to decide whether another drug is what we need, or whether we can manage our discomfort in other ways. What do you think? What other methods do pharmaceutical companies use to keep doctors prescribing and people using their products?
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