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Friday 28th October 2016

Drugs companies dig their own graves

25th March 2008

This week pharmaceutical companies have been faced with more problems, showing that the study about antidepressants' lack of effects - released by the University of Hull - was just the first sign that drugs companies face a troubled future.


This week GlaxoSmithKline were criticised by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency for their failure to quickly share study knowledge that Seroxat "exacerbates a risk of suicide in teenagers."

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo also pledged new laws to make pharmaceutical companies publish data which could affect public health.

It was also claimed this week that Reckitt Benckiser had acted in a "highly dubious" way so its indigestion remedy, Gaviscon, could dominate the market.

Once its patent on the drug had finished, the company is said to have drawn out the release of a less costly, "generic version" of Gaviscon by legal action and safety concerns. Other firms have also been alleged to have played the patent system.

In the first month of 2008, the European Commission raided the offices of the globe's three largest pharmaceutical companies to investigate "possible anti-competitive behaviour". In 2005, AstraZeneca had to pay a £40m fine - imposed by the EU - for manipulating the patent system to hinder the release of other products by its competitors.

While these contrived delays are not in the same vein as the non-release of study data, they do show how the pharmaceutical companies do not always have the same intentions or desires as the health service and the general public.

The government has to reduce expenditure and save money in the health service. The NHS spends 11% of its budget on drugs and this area is the one most likely to be targeted in a cost-cutting drive. This reduction in expenditure may have contributed to the Health Minister's vow to make companies release data.

While pharmaceutical companies should be able to make money from drugs they invent, they should not stop trial information from being released if it endangers public safety. These companies have caused their own problems by giving the government "a fireproof justification for legislating."

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