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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Science contemporary style

This link to an article written by someone who ought to know the inside story of drug-development research should send shivers down many spines. Do read it slowly and mindfully right through.

My reflections:

1.      I know a little more about this than the man on the street, yet it gave me fresh nightmares.
2.      This is one reason why I steer clear of doctors and hospitals as far as I can, and never regret that I did not become a doctor myself.
3.      This is also why I have a (I believe healthy) disrespect for so-called science: meaning that I don’t swallow every kind of rubbish which is claimed to be the product of the ‘latest scientific research’.
4.      If this is the case in the USA, one can only imagine what the situation in India is like, where loyalties can be bought, and facts can be twisted to suit opinions convenient to the rich and powerful, so much more easily…

I shall be glad if, after reading the article through, some people want to engage in serious discussion on this issue – something that affects not just a few big business interests but all of us, in a very immediate and indispensable way.

P.S.: I have found that 'real' scientists are either quite ignorant of or disdainful of the subject called sociology of science.


Harman said...

There is absolutely no question that pharmaceutical companies yield an enormous influence, not only on practice patterns of physicians but also on published research. In most cases, R/D only accounts for 5-10 percent of a companies expenditure, whereas advertising/promotion can account for upto 40-50 percent!

At least in medical schools in the US, epidemiology and statistics are an integral part of the curriculum, so that physicians can better evaluate published clinical data.

That being said, I am sure that there are many physicians who are either too gullible or too greedy to look past the facts.

There are a few bad apples in every basket, and physicians are no exception to this.

By the same token, I think a majority of the physicians strive to do right by their patients. There are a lot of easier ways to earn a free trip to hawaii, than undergoing over a decade of intensive medical training in the hope of expecting a freebie from the pharmaceutical companies.

It is my belief that a majority of the physicians are in this profession for the right reasons: to take care of the patient and do no harm.

Sunup said...


The link is indeed an eye opener to anyone who have no idea on how these companies work. People who have read Robin Cook may have some idea on this rot.
Pharma companies, like any other corporate venture, have only their profit margins in mind and not the welfare of mankind. Most of the costly life saving medicines that we see around can be manufactured and sold at almost half of their market price, without affecting profit margins. But the greed to make mega bucks stops them from doing so and they engineer and re-engineer the same drugs to bring out so-called super drugs at exorbitant prices. And naturally, doctors are their best agents. Any desperate patient would buy what his/her doctor recommends.

Like Harman said, there would invariably be rotten apples in every basket, and the doctor and scientific community are equally affected. Just like in other professions too -- factory workers (mostly government issues) loitering the whole day and showing activity just after their official work hours to claim overtime benefits; teachers skipping their school/college classes to conduct private tuition classes at home; software professionals doing less of coding and more of 'Facebook-ing' and 'Twittering'; policemen and bureaucrats taking bribes; the list goes on.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Most of my 'bright' old boys have gone on to study some branch of science in college and university, so I guess most of my readers are scientifically educated. Which therefore raises a laugh when I see that only two of them have found anything to say on a scientific issue... and that, too, one of such universal significance!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

In this context, I'd like my readers to read John le Carre's book The Constant Gardener. Or watch the movie. It's very well made.

Among other things, I couldn't but feel amazed to see how well Ralph Fiennes has played a very gentle role. The same actor who's played Voldemort in Harry Potter. Kudos to him!

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

As someone who has suffered a lot because of the negligence of doctors and hospitals I have developed a virulent dislike for all hospitals. The article quite simply freaked me out because it seems to me (as it would to any lay person) that the whole point of medicine and the practice of it is to keep this delicate machine called the human body in good working order. Doctors forget that simple but vital point. There is apathy everywhere. Pharmaceutical companies may play hardball but it is up to the medical world isn't it? To keep their integrity intact and to remember why they become doctors in the first place? To heal where they can and to do so to the best of their abilities?

This is just one aspect of the big problem. Recently there was a fire at a city government hospital (The KMC). The ICU was almost burnt out. The health care industry is ever present. Even at CTS the largest vertical was devoted to health care companies. There are that many. From personal experience I know that even major hospitals like Apollo are capable of making horrendous mistakes with their patients; one can only wonder how the government hospitals will be. Our health ministry should realize that it has to do more for health care in this country than just put up a smoking ban and do anti smoking propaganda. Yay! for that but what next? The government run hospitals should actually serve to be examples of quality health care; well equipped, qualified, caring doctors and so on. Instead they are the butt of jokes.