Pharmaceutical Companies

I can't help but think of big pharma as being the true face of Capitalism, but they don't seem to get discussed a lot here. Despite hating them so much, i know very little about their actual misdeeds. Can we have a thread theorizing their current business practices, and listing off what they have done to the working class?
Here's a conspiracy theory i came up with; note– it is just a theory.
Your thoughts on my theory, Holla Forums? Reminder to post your own knowledge of big pharma too ITT.

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There is no such thing as "alternative medicine", it's just an euphemism for medicine that isn't actually proved to work. It is understandable that people would seek alternatives to pharmaceutical companies considering the latter's policies, but the fact that pseudo-scientific new age bullshit (which is a lucrative business in itself) fills in the void is terribly concerning. Don't conflate big pharma with evidence-based medicine.

Also, please avoid coming up with unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. The issues we're faced with under capitalism are first and foremost a result of internal contradictions, not of evil people plotting to do bad things.


Why not both? Why haven't you taken the RED pill yet, bluepilled man?


Before we get going, we need to establish one thing beyond any doubt: industry-funded trials are more likely to produce a positive, flattering result than independently funded trials. This is our core premise, and you’re about to read a very short chapter, because this is one of the most well-documented phenomena in the growing field of “research about research”. It has also become much easier to study in recent years, because the rules on declaring industry funding have become a little clearer.

We can begin with some recent work: in 2010, three researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug—antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on—then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found over five hundred trials in total: 85 per cent of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50 per cent of the government funded trials were. That’s a very significant difference.

In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefit of a statin. These are cholesterol lowering drugs which reduce your risk of having a heart attack, they are prescribed in very large quantities, and they will loom large in this book. This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. Once the researchers controlled for other factors (we’ll delve into what this means later), they found that industry-funded trials were twenty times more likely to give results favoring the test drug. Again, that’s a very big difference.

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We are now a good 30 years down the road, and the situation is as follows. In the world’s most widely used handbook, the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), there has been a spectacular rise in the number of disorders in each new edition: 180 in the second edition, 292 in the third, and 365 in the fourth, while the latest, DSM-5, gives a diagnosis for many normal human emotions and behaviours. The number of people labelled with mental disorders has risen equally spectacularly during the period in question. Medically speaking, these labels have little significance, with most of the diagnoses being made on the basis of simple checklists. The presumed neurobiological origin of such disorders owes more to pharmaceutical advertising slogans than to scientific fact. Official statistics show an exponential rise in the use of pharmaceuticals, and the aim of psychotherapy is rapidly shifting towards forcing patients to adapt to social norms — you might even say, disciplining them.

[…] People frequently enter consulting rooms fresh from a Google search, with a ready-made diagnosis under their arm. After telling you what’s wrong (‘My child has odd’, ‘I’m suffering from depression’), they often demand to be prescribed a particular drug. (‘According to the internet, medicine X is the preferred treatment.’) No less remarkable is the fact that the vast majority of young clinicians and even their professors are convinced that these disorders are of proven neurobiological and genetic origin, just as they suppose DSM labelling to be largely reliable.

[…] A curious shift is taking place in the way that the illness model is applied in psychiatry: symptoms — for example, attention deficit and hyperactivity — are being classified as diseases. The use of snappy acronyms camouflages this to an extent, but the trend is now so well established that it takes some effort to see that it only produces pseudoexplanations. Using this model, a man with high fever (HF) and excessive sweating (ES) would be diagnosed as suffering from HFES. The conclusion would then be that this poor man is feverish and sweaty because he suffers from HFES. Which is just like saying that a woman has attention deficit (ad) and is hyperactive (ha) because she suffers from ADHD. To put it another way: in the current version of the illness model, we constantly run up against circular arguments that only provide the illusion of a scientific explanation. Pronouncements such as ‘adhd is causing attention deficit in classrooms’, or ‘A bipolar disorder causes severe mood swings’ are examples of this. The description is presented as the cause of what is being described, and the use of abbreviations means we don’t see through the trick.

A final example to round off: someone who experiences sporadic outbursts of uncontrollable rage is said to suffer from IED. IED stands for ‘Intermittent Explosive Disorder’. In other words, someone has attacks of rage from time to time because he or she suffers from periodic rage attacks.

Such criticism is easily parried with the claim that only lay people talk like this, and that medical language is both more correct and founded on sound research. To establish whether this is really true, we need to ask two questions. One has to do with observation and diagnosis, and concerns the reliability of grouping certain symptoms or behaviours under the heading of a single disorder. Does everyone agree with this grouping, and can every clinician use it to reach the same diagnosis in the case of the same patient? The other has to do with causes. What evidence is there for the presumed underlying neurobiological processes and genetic causality of a specific grouping of symptoms?

To answer the first question: the way in which combinations of symptoms or behaviours are selected and classified as presumed disorders is largely arbitrary and thus highly debatable. The spectacular rise in the number of disorders in each new dsm edition alone indicates this. A more detailed look at this issue goes beyond the scope of this book, but I refer the curious reader to Shyness: how normal behavior became a sickness, by Christopher Lane. Lane was the first researcher to obtain access to the full archive of DSM compilers, along with their correspondence. His findings are shocking: the question of whether to include a disorder in the handbook and if so, in what form, has more to do with interest groups than scientific research. In the run-up to the publication of the fifth edition of the DSM, debate between such groups flared up in professional journals, as each tried to impose their own preference.

Things look even worse when you compare the DSM with its competitor, the ICD (International Classification of Diseases), published by the World Health Organisation. A diagnosis based on the DSM produces twice as many children with ADHD compared to a diagnosis based on the icd, purely because the ICD groups symptoms differently. The ICD requires children to exhibit both impaired attention and hyperactivity; for the DSM, one of the two is sufficient. So the decision to use a particular handbook will determine whether or not your child has a disorder and — don’t forget — whether he or she needs medication. Scientifically speaking, this is bizarre, to put it mildly. Moreover, the criteria change every now and then, invariably being expanded, so that the category in question becomes increasingly blurred, and more and more people are prescribed medication. Autism is the clearest example of this kind of blurring.

[…] Nowadays, there is a conviction that the cause of a disorder must lie in bodily — that is, genetic and neurological — processes. Knowing now how difficult it is to group symptoms reliably, I find myself pondering the following question. If we don’t know whether those arbitrary groups of symptoms can only be grouped in a specific way to constitute a specific disorder, how can we then trace their underlying neurobiological processes and genetic cause? Again and again, huge individual differences emerge among, say, a group of children diagnosed with ADHD, so that to study them as if they were a homogenous group is highly dubious from an academic point of view. No wonder that no convincing evidence has been found for the presumed underlying bodily cause.

And, yes, there are findings, of course — a whole host of them — but almost every finding can be contradicted by another. The explanation is fairly simple. Every group that is studied contains different people with different problems, all more or less arbitrarily lumped into a group that is not a true group. Picture what would happen if we collected together everyone who suffered from HF (high fever) and ES (excessive sweating), and then studied them as if they were a single homogenous group suffering from a single condition.

[…] The current dominant paradigm in psychiatry is the illness model. This also ties in seamlessly with the reduction of science to scientism: all results must be generalisable, based on objective and value-free research using accepted methods, independent of context. I shall confine myself to two observations. The selection of certain symptoms — increasingly, of certain behaviour — as indicators of mental illness is far from value-free; rather, the reverse. And the majority of research findings may be, as we know, refuted by other findings, but this is ignored by the dominant paradigm. The psychological explanation for this is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’. As far as the DSM is concerned: with the best will in the world, the scientific underpinning for its approach is extremely weak.

The reason that so little attention is paid to the failure of current psychiatric diagnostics is thus fairly straightforward: the dominant paradigm allows no other viewpoint. The reason that labelling is such a success takes a bit more untangling. It has to do with the prevailing conviction that everyone can (and must) make a success of their lives, and that everyone is responsible for their own success or failure. For parents, this constitutes an extra burden, because on top of their own duty to succeed, they must also take on the success or failure of their children. If your child does badly at school, that’s not just a problem in itself; it also means you’ve failed. No wonder that any pseudo-medical label is gratefully accepted: it’s a disease, so I can’t do anything about it. However, internal doubt continues to gnaw — hence the aggression when someone dares to doubt the validity of those labels. And that brings us to another paradigm: disorders as social problems.

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Into the trash it goes.

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Uuuhh… No shit? Did it really require a study to find out dependent on corporate funding research is, well, not independent?

Anyway, this doesn't address my point. Doesn't change the fact that "alternative medicine" is not medicine.


But these have scientific evidence.

But they are considered alternative medicine, i.e. outside the norm of the medical community.

Good posts. Glad you actually contributed.

Check out the invaluable work the Cochrane institute is doing:

Acupuncture hasn't been studied thoroughly enough yet for anyone to make any sort definitive comment on its efficacy or lack thereof, but it is likely commonly claimed virtues are mostly a result of the placebo effect.

What do you mean by "natural" remedy? There is no intrinsic value in something being "organic", you know…

How is this "alternative" medicine? That's like saying blowing your nose to clear it of mucus congestion when you have the cold lies "outside the norm of the medical community"…

It's not unfair to remark that "alternative medicine" is unproven but the tone of your comment implies that why you mean is ineffective. It's worth bearing in mind that quite a few therapeutic chemicals including viagra came from folk remedies.

That's what "alternative" actually does mean — unproven; that does not hold under scrutiny. Otherwise, their promoters would take no issue with it being called simply medicine. Let's not beat around the bush.

A lot of the purported "effectiveness" associated with alternative medicine is caused by deceitful phenomenons (such as the placebo effect) well understood by proper medical science. Alternative therapies never achieve anything that established medicine can't do better.

A lot of actual medicine comes from what were once folk remedies. That doesn't mean the latter are reliable as a whole. They're a pre-scientific tradition and there was no way a the time to understand and document complex phenomenons — which often led to very wrong decisions. So-called traditional Chinese medicine often contains a shit ton of lead in toxic doses, for instance.

No, unproven; that which has yet to be confirmed as certain. A theory may be unproven while not simultaneously being untrue.

You'll find we have strict rules about what may be called medicine in advanced society, Those rules were specifically constructed to exclude the remedies under discussion.

Which was not something I disputed.

Yes, but we're not discussing homeopathy here. There is useful and practical knowledge there even if there are flaws alongside. It's also worth noting that the scientific tradition isn't free from cooking up outright quackery on occassion, either. Orgone box, anyone?

They knowingly held conferences where they played down the addictive nature (and played up the medical usefulness) of opioids. They manufactured stronger and stronger opioids - which become more addictive but less practically effective at reducing pain - and then oversold them to doctors. A few executives and shareholders effectively created the opioid epidemic which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Since I don't have much time, here's a really neat more recent, small example of the kind of shit they do:

John Kapoor, Insys's CEO was caught bribing people to sell more of his opioid drugs. They'd been selling less due to the crisis, and this was hurting his profits. It's this bad - this is the stuff they do that they can be charged with readily. Most of what these companies are doing is 'above the law' stuff. That needs to change.

Guy here is running for congress on life in prison for these kinds drug execs. is a decent read from The New Yorker about the jewish Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma.

As for conspiracy theories, I think it's much more likely that companies like Purdue and Pfizer pay rappers and record labels to promote their drugs.

I concede I should have used the word "disproved", which is what most of alternative medicine is by now. It's only "unproven" when it's not been investigated thoroughly enough yet and no definitive statement can be made either in support or in dismissal (like with acupuncture).

To exclude that which is not evidence-based, indeed.

Of course, I don't believe any medical scientist would disagree with this statement.

Just because science is imperfect doesn't mean pseudoscience is valid. Science has evolved and gradually eliminated that which was unsound through much more rigorous research and practice — something pseudosciences never did and never will do.

Orgone theory was never considered scientifically sound by anyone who wasn't mentally deranged.

That which does not meet a certain specificity and strength of evidence. We could as easily eat chinese herbs as blue pills to induce priapism. We do not because of those evidential standards.

Just because empiricism is less perfect than science does not mean empiricism lacks use.

Which is to the credit of science, but a base of empirical observation is still required asa foundation for that research.

You'll note I mentioned homeopathy, too. Dianetics seems to have attracted a small collection of followers enamoured of tripe.

Here's one of the foremost Lacanians comparing different kinds of psycho-therapeutic groups based on theory/praxis.