2.27.2005

Remember Vioxx?

ADVERTISING and COMPETITION in the FREE MARKET

Remember Vioxx? The pain medication for arthritis that was taken off the market because it significantly increased the risk of heart attacks? It's back! The FDA seems to think it's all fine and dandy. It voted in a'resoundingly' approval with a 17 to 15 decision in favour of the drug.

Why should this drug even exist? this decision shows capitalism at its frenzied and irrational best. The board voted 31-1 in favour of approving Celebrex for the same purposes. This means, there's already a drug that does the SAME THING, but DOESN'T KILL YOU. Any sensible, state-run economy would choose the one that doesn't kill you and stock the shelves, but capitalism seems to uphold competition as a good in itself. Companies need a fair chance to convince you with million dollar ad campaigns and free samples for your doctor to buy their amazing, fantastic, life-changing product [might cause headaches, sniffles, irritated eyes (ok I think they stopped paying attention) death, diarhea or upset stomache].

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to see a state-run economy, or, god-forbid a classless society. I understand what the benefits of competition are, however, I would like to observe that paid advertising virtually eliminates these benefits from the capitalist system. It's true that in a free market the best product would win out and the consumers would benefit from competition. Unfortunately the invisible hand of the market has been arm-wrestled into submission by the distracting, scantily-clad, neon-green, monster hand of advertising.

Competition between products no longer occurs based on their relative merits, it is conducted almost entirely in terms of advertising. If drug companies weren't allowed to promote their products to doctors, or advertise to consumers, no one would buy the product that kills you, Celebrex would be rewarded for producing a safe and effective product and, yes, the consumer would benefit from competition.

Unfortunately in the real world, this isn't how capitalism works anymore. People are going to see ads for Vioxx on tv, they're going to remember it because it's the pretty purple pill or something and they're going to ask for it. Their doctor is going to give it to them because he has to see eight more patients before lunch and he doesn't have time to argue with them.

the FDA and the BIG PHARM

I hear my quick-witted readers thinking, "Von Mustard, you make a good point; but is this really a sign of the apocalypse?"

Don't worry, it gets worse.

Ordinarily, I am not one to get caught up in conspiracy theories. This might be surprising -- after all I am more than one hundred years old, I drink constantly and I'm an eccentric occultist -- who keeps the conspiracy theorists in business if it's not me? Admittedly, I know things about various esoteric sects and the subtleties of divine influence that might sound like conspiracy theories to some; but I don't believe in any of the mundane theories that are pushed around by so many leftists. I don't believe the last US election was rigged. I don't believe C.E.O.s are secretly evil. And I don't believe either the World Bank or the I.M.F. have any hidden intentions.

The only over-the-counter, garden-variety conspiracy I believe in is the monetary lubrication of scientists and government officials in the United States by the big drug companies. The Vioxx case is a perfect example.

I read in the New York Times that ten of the members of the panel had previously received funding from the pharmaceutical companies whose drugs were being reviewed. The members of the board who had never received funding from, or had close ties with, any of the companies under review voted 14-8 AGAINST VIOXX and those who had received funding voted 9-1 IN FAVOUR OF VIOXX.

The result is that a drug, which has a less-lethal competitor, is being put on the market in the name of competition, even though 14 of 22 scientists who haven't been paid by the manufacturer think it is too dangerous to be worth taking.

Keep in mind that this is the same FDA that won't approve the importing of generic drugs from Canada "because of safety concerns."

___ _ ____ _ ____ _ ____ _ ____ _ ____
Oh, wait, this just in, perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps Vioxx serves some terrorist-fighting purpose that I am unaware of. The following is a REAL quotation from a related article in the New York Times about the same drugs.

"Dr. Christopher Grubb, a captain in the Army Medical Corps, said soldiers in the 82nd Airborne were required to carry a cox-2 [such as Vioxx] drug in the event of a battlefield injury. Dr . Grubb said the drugs had allowed many soldiers who otherwise would have been sidelined by pain to be deployed overseas.

The drugs, he said, ''are essential for our global war on terrorism.'' The comment prompted loud laughter in the meeting."

32 Comments:

Blogger justin said...

As a member of that most scantily-clad profession, advertising, I feel compelled to comment on this last post:

Yeehaa! Score one for the bad guys! *fires six shooters into the air, dances*

10:36 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be careful, my dear Matteus, in classifying Celebrex as completely harmless. Both Vioxx and Celebrex belong to a class of drugs known as selective Cox-2 inhibitors, which were until recently considered a thrilling pharmaceutical breakthrough.

Just last year our freshman baby doc minds were inundated with glory glory hallelujah praise of Cox-2 inhibitors and all the shining new versions that keep coming out. This year, there's a slightly more cautious tone...

Anyway, in 10 minutes of internet research I uncovered several conflicting studies on Celebrex and its affect on rates of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular illness. I suspect it's only time before the shit hits the fan on Celebrex the way it has on Vioxx and Big Pharma is forced to really do something about this whole class of drug.

By then there might just be another anti-inflammatory "breakthrough" to push, Cox enzyme-related or otherwise. This type of drug (falling under the NSAID category more broadly) covers a huge spectrum of treatment, from pain relief to cancer to arthritis and other inflammatory disease. There's an enormous amount of money at play and a hell of a lot to be gained by the makers of the next big NSAID. It's worth keeping an eye on if you're taking your apocalytic clues from the pharmaceutical industry. They do scummy and corrupt really really well.

11:26 a.m.  
Blogger Matthew Lie - Paehlke said...

Yes, I realize that Celebrex isn't entirely safe. That's why i described it as 'less-lethal.' But your comments are appreciated, they will help to remind people that this is a site to learn about the apocalypse, not good health habits.

There were three drugs being reviewed all of them were cox-2 drugs. Two of them were approved mostly by the big pharm stooges and celebrex seemed to be approved by everyone. So my point was that of these three similar drugs, one of them was way safer (although still not safe), and yet we still feel this need to have all three so they can compete.

11:38 a.m.  
Blogger guacamole said...

i agree that the fda is corrupt, von mustard, but i have faith in doctors. some are evil, but most of them are ok and won't give their patients death-drugs.

and to combat upset stomach caused by advertising, 4 out of 5 guacamoles recommend: bus-shelter-ad defacing. permanent black marker, 3am...it won't stop capitalism, but it's fun.

9:35 p.m.  
Blogger Matthew Lie - Paehlke said...

oh, i don't think doctors are evil. just overworked, and unable to give quality person-to-person treatment.

as far as your suggestion that we engage in grafitto go, that is just the type of hooliganism that is disenfranchising the left without any productive result...

1:03 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly not evil, but the problem IMO lies in being 1) busy and tired to the point of often not being able to do a sufficient amount of independent review on recent drug studies; and 2) allowing drug reps into their offices and drug ads into their professional journals (which surprised the hell out of me when I first saw it) which then take the place of independent review in the interests of time and energy.

Although I would argue there is a certain amount of evil in the total complancency that allows this to continue virtually unchallenged.

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