Truth In Media: Big Pharma’s Influence Over The FDA

Part 1 of 4, Truth In Media: Big Pharma, The FDA & Health Propaganda

The Truth In Media Project has released the first segment of its latest Truth In Media episode: Big Pharma, The FDA & Health Propaganda. The first segment of this episode, Big Pharma’s Influence Over The FDA, examines how the pharmaceutical industry exerts heavy influence over the FDA as well as the media and the medical community.

In this segment, Ben discusses the multi-million dollar lawsuit launched earlier this year by eight plaintiffs against Johnson & Johnson, former FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg and her husband, Peter F. Brown. The plaintiffs claim that Hamburg was the “instrumentality” in covering up the harmful, and sometimes fatal, side effects of the once-popular blockbuster antibiotic Levaquin to maintain a high number of the drug’s sales, as well as to secure and protect private financial interests.

This segment also illustrates the consequences of demanding faster drug approval from the FDA. Doug Bremner, a physician and professor of Psychiatry at Emory University, tells Swann that Congress has reduced funding of the FDA’s budget while also ordering the agency to expedite its approval of drugs. “The number of people working on new drug approval has been increasing at the expense of those who are supposed to be watching drugs after they come out on the market,” says Bremner.

Swann also examines the problems that arise when FDA regulators, who are tasked with maintaining oversight of the pharmaceutical industry, are wooed by these companies. Laurie Powell, a former medical brand strategist, says that a career in the pharmaceutical industry is much more lucrative than a lower-paying government job, and that pharmaceutical companies regularly approach FDA regulators hoping to attract them to serve on the industries’ regulatory committees.

According to Powell, working for the FDA is sometimes merely a “jumping off point” for some employees before moving on to work in the pharmaceutical industry, which leads to the question: should FDA employees be able to work for the very industries they were once in charge of scrutinizing?