Monday, December 08, 2003

An article in the British paper The Independent carried a startling admission. A senior executive of GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's largest pharamaceutical giants, has admitted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them.

Dr. Allen Roses noted The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people. I wouldn't say that most drugs don't work. I would say that most drugs work in 30 to 50 per cent of people. Drugs out there on the market work, but they don't work in everybody.

Most pharmaceutical giants defend their huge price increases, which go up much, much faster than the rate of inflation, by saying they saying they need to recoup the cost of research and development (even though they reportedly spend far more on advertising). This is also the same reason big pharmaceuticals oppose the development of reasonably priced generic AIDS drugs to fight the greatest scourge of humanity. Sadly, Dr. Roses' admission may bolster domestic African critics who say AIDS drugs do more harm than good or that they're a waste of money.

So this begs the question, if most drugs don't work on 50-70 percent of the people, then how effective is this R&D? And why are the prices so high for something that's so ineffective?


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