According to recent reports, the US Justice Department accused Forest of wrongly pushing their product onto pediatricians with inducements like spa visits, fishing trips and tickets to sporting events and Broadway shows. Neither Celexa nor Lexapro had been approved for kids until Lexapro won the FDA’s nod on Friday. The federal complaint also includes allegations of Forest pushing aside a study showing Celexa as inneffective for pediatric use, and having their sales staff promote another favorable study instead.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise to regular readers of this blog. I’ve reported similar stories on GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil, another popular antidepressant, who may have hid evidence of suicide risk in their product. I’ve also reported on studies showing antidepressants to be no more effective than taking a sugar pill.
Why would the makers of these most widely sold drugs have to hide important data and woo doctors to push their products? Easy–it’s big time money. Not your simple inordinate-bonuses-for-executives-during-tough-economic-times greed as we’re seeing today. It’s much, much bigger than that. We are talking long-term-hook-a-generation-on-useless-and-dangerous-drugs to “treat” a difficult, yet normal, human condition called depression. It’s an outrage.
I’m going to step out on a limb and speak the truth here: The pharmaceutical industry, particularly the makers of antidepressant drugs, is amoral. The only factor important to this outfit is profiteering. I do not make these claims lightly. I am a strong believer in the capitalist system, and believe that economic markets help drive human progress. But I also believe that commerce should be attached to products and services that help people, not just opportunities to make money at any cost. So when companies exhibit a disregard for the betterment of their customer base, I think they should be considered criminal. In other words, I feel no sorrow for the Chinese businessmen sentenced to death for putting the toxic chemical, melamine, into milk products to pass the necessary protein requirements in their watered down product. Perhaps if the same punishment was held over the heads of greedy pharmaceutical execs, we’d see a lot less shenanigans going on in that industry.