Tuesday, September 05, 2006

We haven't even learnt to manage the old sciences well

The latest reflection on our inability to manage the "old sciences and technologies" well is found at:

"Before pharma-giant Glaxosmithkline (GSK) was sued by the state of New York in June 2004, over two million children and adolescents in the United States were popping Paxil to treat their depression. Doctors comfortably prescribed the drug because published clinical trials – while showing mixed effects on children – did not reveal anything overwhelmingly negative. It was the best information they had, and it turned out to be completely misleading."

In fact, studies had already showed that taking Paxil might actually increase the risk of suicide, according to New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer.

The Novopress story features, among other such gems, an internal memo that instructed the company to manage the release of the data “to minimize any potential negative commercial impact”.

Apparently, pharma companies don't publish the results of all the tests they run. Nor are all the tests run in an objective way. And the pharma industry sponsors around seven out of every ten scientific studies quoted in the top four major medical journals – Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Pharma in its modern form has certainly brought enormous benefit to humanity. If it were publicly financed, with IP being licenced by society to efficient producers in exchange for a reasonable profit, with proper monitoring of the results and consequent amendments to the system, pharma could benefit humanity many times more than it does.

In spite of being able to organise "old" pharma in the most efficient and least harmful way, we continue to rush headlong into the newest sciences and technologies even though that we will need to be even more careful if we want them to do good rather than harm. Sphere: Related Content

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