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Anemia Drug Does Little, Harms Much…But Was Worth Billions

There seems to be a drug for everything these days.  Indeed, there is a new drug on the market called Egrifta. Its goal? To treat excess belly fat in persons with HIV. While drugs serve an obviously important purpose, do not forget the pofit motive behind them. The Washington Post recently reported on a trio of anemia drugs (Epogen, Procrit & Aranep) that have been on the market for two decades that while earning their makers multi-billions in profit help very little, and potentially harm some patients. The article is here:

A growing body of research has shown that the benefits of the drugs “were wildly overstated, and potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked.” Worse, the companies encouraged health care providers to prescribe larger and larger doses of the drug by incentivizing them with money. How? Simple. They allowed doctors to make the drugs a profit center: They could directly purchase the drugs. The more the doctor bought, the more the pharma companies lowered the cost. The patient, however, could be charged the same regardless of the cost, allowing the health care provider to profit on the “spread.” The article quotes the following amazing statement: “An oncologist could make anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 a year from this alone.”

It gets worse. According to the article, when the FDA got wind of what was occurring and tried to crack down on the ever-increasing dosages, the pharmaceutical companies sent in their lobbyists, getting powerful senators and representatives to tell the FDA to back down.

The pharmaceutical companies have moved on to the next “big thing.” As for the families of the people who died, the article states it succinctly: “What killed their loved ones – the disease or the drugs they took to treat it?”