In Defence of the Pharmaceuticals Industry

The pharmaceuticals industry has always attracted criticism for putting profits over the health of individuals. It has often been the case that those making the critique have little knowledge or experience in this industry, and are basing their opinions on a set of oft-repeated myths that have little substance in reality. People can now expect to live much longer than previously, and this is largely due to recent developments in the modern pharmaceuticals industry. The roots of this industry lie in the early 19th and 20th centuries, with the invention of penicillin and insulin, and the mass-marketing these of drugs in the 1920’s have prevented many deaths from infections, as well as making once fatal diseases such as diabetes controllable.

People such as Wes Wheeler, who have track records of success in the pharmaceutical industry, are keen to point out that modern medicine has to be tested extensively against placebo drugs in double-blind tests in order to be licensed for use. These drugs have to show a consistent performance in trials, after which they are subject to further surveillance when in use to ascertain whether they are continuing to be effective and safe. Whilst mistakes have been made in the past with medications that have subsequently turned out to have side-effects or dependency issues, it is this which has led to the regulatory framework that has promoted responsible pharmaceutical development, and produced cleaner drugs with fewer side-effects, as well as driving research into previously incurable or un-treatable conditions. For instance, criticisms of tranquilizer drugs have resulted in research onto conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, which have led to the development of modern, safe and effective anti-depressants. Whilst the anti-pharmaceuticals lobby often paints a picture of an industry where profits are easy, the industry carries a great deal of inherent risk for investors. The amount of research and development to which drugs are subject makes the cost of initial investment high. Added to this, the industry is highly competitive, and the stringent standards make the chance of failure high. People such as Wes Wheeler are also faced with competition from companies dealing in herbal remedies, which are subject to very little regulation.

These companies will often market herbal remedies that have not been proved to be effective, and in some cases these remedies can actually be harmful. There is a prevailing myth that anything herbal is beneficial, however, deadly nightshade could easily be described as a herb. As many of these remedies are sold in shops without a prescription being necessary, unscrupulous dealers can push these remedies without recommending that a person first visit their doctor. This can have serious consequences, as serious medical conditions can be left untreated. On the other hand, the vast majority of drugs developed by the pharmaceuticals industry will require a visit to a GP before being dispensed.

It is unfortunately the case that the achievements of people such as Wes Wheeler often go unsung due to the ignorance of people who have little medical knowledge and little insight into an industry that has been instrumental in helping people live longer and healthier lives.

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