Now this might be a question you’ve never considered, but where exactly was the pharmaceutical that you are taking every day, tested? You’re probably assuming that some well-paid volunteers in a leafy suburb of Chicago stepped up to test your drug, because in order for a drug to be approved by the FDA as safe and effective for Americans, it has to be clinically tested. That takes a lot of money, and as we know, drug companies want to spend as little as possible to make the biggest profits they can. After all, we forget that drug companies are not creating drugs for the good of humanity, they’re in a profit game. So did you know that one of the easiest ways to keep the cost of bringing a drug to market down is to cut your costs on the clinical trials?
Well, once upon a time you were right – Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles and Miami were all involved in drug trials. In fact all drugs were only tested in the United States or Europe. But no more. Recent research into the facts of clinical studies in 2008 discovered that 80% of applications for new drugs were tested outside of the United States. Now you may be thinking that it doesn’t really matter, but does someone who is malnourished and living in abject poverty in Africa metabolize a drug the same way you would? Even prevalent diseases such as malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis can be undiagnosed and skew test results. Also, most people that are in these studies are not taking any other drugs, whereas most Americans are taking at least three drugs concurrently. Many people that have taken part in these clinical trials are even illiterate meaning they cannot even confirm that they are the same person each time they check in.
But the biggest reason this is happening is that the FDA regulations state that if a study in the United States ends up showing that a drug has no benefit, the pharmaceutical manufacturer can instead use foreign trials to get approval. Well, if it didn’t work in the U.S., then why approve it for the U.S. population? Often drugs will even be tested on children as young as 6 months, for whom a fee is paid to the parents and the person conducting the trial, despite the fact that the results on children will obviously be very different from the results on an adult.
Some researchers have even forged their results to get money, such as the huge Ketek scandal by Aventis Pharmaceuticals. This can happen simply because there is no oversight at any level of a clinical trial. Many phases of testing are contracted out to independent contractors in many countries, many of whom are simply wage-earning technicians, not independent scientists. They are paid to gather data from “volunteers” to the tune of $20 billion dollars every year.
And your physician is not an objective bystander. The drug that your physician insists is safe for you to use may be collecting many bonuses from the drug manufacturer. One study found that 17,o00 doctors across the U.S. had collected consulting fees, speaking fees and bonuses from drug companies. And nowhere does the FDA look for conflicts of interest, failing to act even when they did find any.
So the long and the short of it is … do your own research. Don’t just take the prescription your physician offers. Ask why this particular drug, what are the side effects, are there any other drugs to consider? In other countries it is the pharmacist or “chemist” that determines what medication should be given in light of the physician’s diagnosis. But here, we leave everything in the hands of our doctors, hoping they have read all the recent research on every new drug coming to market, generally after they’ve put in a 10 hour day and written all their patient notes. Are we asking too much?