John LaMattina (ex-head of Pfizer's global R&D) has a new book out about the industry, called Devalued and Distrusted. He tells Pharmalot that he got the idea to write a sequel to his earlier book, Drug Truths, when he appeared on the "Dr. Oz" show:
. . .and out of the blue last year, I got a call from The Dr. Oz show and they had a guest who wrote a book that was about America being overdosed. And when I got there, I saw a banner that says ‘four secrets drug companies don’t want you to know.’ I realized that never thought to ask the title of the show. . .It was a pretty long half hour and there were pretty much the standard attacks on industry – inventing diseases, prescribing drugs you don’t need. When I left, I clearly got the impression that the message needs to get out more. I was the only one from industry and there were all sorts of attacks. And everybody takes for granted that everything they say is absolutely right. So I decided to write a balanced book that deals with some of these issues.
Good luck to it, to him, and to us. I hope it reaches some of the people who need to hear it (which is one reason I'm highlighting it here), but I think that the ignorance out there (some of which is willful) is thick, deep, and dense. People feel differently about their health (and their health care) than they do about most other things in their lives, and there are always people ready to exploit that difference. Drug companies do so, with what I continue to think are net positive results, although there are entries on both sides of that ledger. And the people who go on about Evil Pharma. . .well, in many cases, they too have something to sell. A book or newsletter of their own, their services as a consultant or a guest on the next TV show, ads from their web site, a line of nutritional supplements and herbal wonder pills, what have you.
It's human nature to enjoy having enemies, too - something to define yourself against. It would be good to have the drug companies serve that role less often, though, and the best way to do that, I think, is still to try to help people to understand what it's like to actually discover and develop a drug. (LaMattina's been trying to get that across, too). But not everyone wants to hear about that, or will believe it when they do. There's some part of the population that believes (sometimes quite correctly) that there's something wrong with their health, and moreover, some of them believe (sometimes quite incorrectly) that this must be someone else's fault. Likely as not, some of these people will tell you, it was Big Pharma, who either made them sick in the first place, made them sicker once they took their drugs, or is to blame for not providing any drugs for them to take at all.