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It was another year of fighting black boxes, sweet talking juries and burying incriminating clinical data for Big Pharma.
But before its reputation is completely gone–How many pharmaceutical salesmen does it take to change a light bulb? It doesn’t need to be changed; it just needs a new name and formulation before the patent runs out–Big Pharma could make the following New Year’s resolutions.
1.We will instruct our reps not to waltz into doctors’ offices ahead of patients many of whom are–hello!–not feeling well and have been waiting a long time. We will admonish them to stop high fiving after a sale and using verbs like "aced " and "got over big time." They will never call the doctor "dude."
2.We will stop pushing schizophrenic drugs like Seroquel and Zyprexa to the depressed, anxious, moody, confused, aged and people we can convince are bipolar through alarmist ad campaigns. ("Are you sure you don’t have racing thoughts?") We will admit they are dangerous drugs with serious weight gain, hyperglycemia and diabetes side effects that we tried to bury until the New York Times outed us.
3.We will stop selling depression to people with simple life problems–"Tired of your commute? Weather got you down? You might be depressed!"– to boost SSRI sales. We will admit they are dangerous drugs that can cause–not prevent–suicide in all age groups except the old who we have on Seroquel and Zyprexa, anyway. (see above)
4.We will stop trying to resuscitate HRT—"it’s good for women between 49 and 49 1/2 with intact uteruses and no history of heart disease or bringing lawsuits"–and admit we perpetrated a 40 year lethal hoax and should be keeping Bernie, Skilling and Fastow company at Club Fed. We will acknowledge the other "females" HRT harmed and release mares and their foals from Premarin farms immediately.
5. We will stop trying to replace the HRT market by conducting osteoporosis scare campaigns starring Sally Field and Cheryl Ladd and admit bisphosphonates by stopping bone remodeling can cause–not prevent–fractures (see SSRIs, HRT) We will further admit bisphosphonates can cause jaw death, a painful and deadly side effect we weren’t going to mention until loudmouth dentists spoke out. (Thanks a lot, buddies.)
6.We will stop marketing the newer sleeping pills like Ambien as "safe" and "nonaddictive" and admit they are the club drug of choice across the nation and a leading cause of traffic accidents and air travelers who don’t know which side of the ocean they’re on. We will withdraw our application to start selling Ambien to children and ask ourselves what were we THINKING?
7.We’ll stop relying on agricultural antibiotics for the bulk of our revenues and admit they are causing antibiotic resistance in our own pills and focusing attention on our failure to create new antibiotics in the last decade. We will further admit they enable factory farming conditions so sickening you don’t want to look at them before eating.
8.We will stop exploiting childhood behavior problem with antidepressants, antipsychotics, "mood stabilizers" and other pediatric straightjackets. Despite the fact that our demographic data tell us "get them at 5 keep ‘em for life," we admit we are creating a generation that will be ready for rehab by middle school. ("Remember when were straight– in the second grade?")
9.We will stop financially inducing doctors to attach their names to journal articles we have written which promote our drugs, bash our competitors and just happen to address the main areas of concerns prescribers have. Not only does it fool no one, we’ve been busted twice by JAMA.
10.We will stop paying the FDA to fast track our drugs. Even though early approval means a quick killing in sales, the lack of follow-up clinical data can produce other "quick killings" we don’t need. After all, Vioxx didn’t cause heart attacks in monkeys.
11.We will replace our salesmen, psychologists and integrative marketers with biologists and chemists. Sure they cost more– but instead of coming up with new drug names when a patent is running out and new diseases to sell Americans from their TV sets ("Hey Doc do you think I have this?") they can come up with new drugs. What a concept!
MARTHA ROSENBERG is a Staff Cartoonist at the Evanston Roundtable. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal. Arizona Republic, New Orleans Times-Picayune and other newspapers. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org