I am very reluctant to talk about personal matters openly in such a public forum. I have in the past written about some of my personal experiences with regards to the drug thalidomide and a big scandal where a certain drug company profiteered by getting a drug that was manufactured in the 50s licensed for the use of treating myeloma in such a way that with the acquiescence of licensing authorities, they manage to be able to be the sole provider of drug to the NHS even though it was available widely from other sources, at 6 times the price on flimsy basis and the NHS had to fork up the difference. The original research on myeloma and thalidomide was done by many in the field using generic thalidomide manufactured in many labs around the world for very small cost. The bad days of pharma entertaining doctors lavishly are gone but through collusion with the system, they still manage to bribe through providing ‘Educational support’ for the conference circuits, and that helps governments pretend that this is pure education and continuing professional education, which is mandated to continue with your profession, by not providing adequate funding for this activity through official channels. A few years ago government funding for research has also been slowly privatised in such a way that basic scientific research was discouraged, at the expense of what is called ‘translational research’ often in collaboration with industry, targeting research in areas that is suitable for quick realisation of the commercial potential for such research.
But my attitude is that this is unfortunately the world we live in. There is often no need for conspiracies from big Pharma. They can do what they like and often can produce good medicines and occasionally produce major flops and cock ups. But to target one aspect of the whole world we live in, and to tar professions such as medicine and science with the conspiracy brush is not constructive. Many people have to work within the constraints of the system.
I of course admire Ben Goldacre’s work and his two books, but why I said what I did is that it does not begin and end there. In fact if you look at his recent tweets on covid-19, they are a bit restrained to put it mildly.
This may also give you a flavour of what happened with thalidomide.