How Big Pharma Chooses Which Drugs To Develop

Big pharma article originally published on Collective Evolution

May 14, 2016 | Laurie Powell

There are several key therapeutic areas that are dependable money makers and have the potential to produce possible blockbusters: drugs to treat cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and central nervous system disorders. Many of the diseases that these drugs treat are lifestyle related illnesses. If many of these symptom sufferers led a healthy lifestyle, they could reverse and/or prevent many of these diseases. But Big Pharma is not in the disease prevention business. They are in the disease treatment business. Doctors are not taught to promote wellness and prevent disease, they are taught to treat disease. So, prescriptions are dispensed as first line therapy for most symptoms.

When consumers feel they can control their symptoms and ultimately, their health, by just popping a pill, they mistakenly believe that they are also overcoming their disease. But by not changing their lifestyle, they are just masking the symptoms. For example, in the case of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes, by not choosing a healthier diet and by retaining extra weight (especially abdominal body fat), patients remain prone to other diseases and will subsequently require more medications. Patients who take daily medication are also unknowingly taxing their organs incrementally. It is in Pharma’s best interest that you not make lifestyle changes, but instead choose to take their drugs to treat your symptoms. Your disease may stabilize, but it will not reverse. If you will not change your disease-causing lifestyle, you will become dependent on the drug to manage your symptoms. Any side effects of the drug will lead to more drugs to treat those symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps Big Pharma profitable.

“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

–Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard Professor of Medicine and Former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are businesses, not healthcare companies. Their business is making profitable drugs that will be widely prescribed by doctors and used by as many consumers as possible. As business people, their primary loyalty is to their shareholders. All decisions on which compounds to develop into drugs and which to bring to market are driven by profit, the competitive landscape, and speed to market.

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet

So how do pharmaceutical companies choose which drugs to develop? They look at what have been blockbusters (big sellers) in the past and make more of those. Hypertension is great example of a blockbuster gateway drug. The Framingham Heart Study, under the direction of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), began studying cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 1948. After each study, they report their findings. In 1967, the Framingham Heart Study reported: “Physical activity found to reduce the risk of heart disease, and obesity to increase the risk of heart disease.”1 Yet physicians were not trained to recommend increased physical activity to their hypertensive patients. They were trained to prescribe drugs to treat hypertension (HT). Guidelines were set as to what constituted HT and at what number doctors should prescribe medication to reduce blood pressure.2

How Big Pharma Chooses Which Drugs To Develop


Shelley Tzorfas

This is a well written article that can introduce many people to the important topic of what is going on in the pharmaceutical industry-the push for pills over health or safety. I would like to add that when a patent is about to expire, they come up with creative ways to renew it. For example, let’s say that a 5mg and 10mg ABC pill is soon to expire. They simply create a 7mg pill which is new to the market and protected for many years to come. Then there is the push for Generic meds. The customers seem to think that it is done to save them money.. I have read a hidden reason. If the patient becomes ill from the pill, he or she might be able to sue. If the patient becomes ill from the generic..he or she loses the right to sue. This is Business.

Fullon Theheel

Interesting how policy makers blindside efforts to promote healthy practices in favour of drug driven healthcare. Moreover, the intention of most voices of dissent today are negotiable. Business rules and money power is supreme.


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