The pharmaceutical industry stands as the main force in modern healthcare. They are responsible for developing life-saving medications that enhance our lives. However, with their immense power and influence comes an equally significant responsibility. The responsibility of prioritizing patient safety and ethical practices.
Sadly, many pharmaceutical companies do not meet the level of trust and honor that we wish they maintained. According to a poll by AXIOS, only 6% of the population has a ‘great deal’ of trust in pharmaceuticals. Even when looking at the
‘fair amount’ of trust category, that percentage rose only to 35%.
In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has faced mounting scrutiny and criticism related to allegations of negligence in various forms.
Today, we will explore how pharmaceuticals have managed to prosper despite their bad reputation and track record of negligence.
The Complex Legal Framework Suits Them Well
The legal landscape surrounding pharmaceutical companies and their accountability is undeniably intricate. Pharmaceutical companies have a deep understanding of aspects of product liability and regulatory compliance.
Such complexity can present a barrier for plaintiffs, individuals, and regulatory bodies that seek to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.
Moreover, they are experts at handling settlements and having people sign non-disclosure agreements. In many instances, these companies push for settlements rather than prolonged court proceedings.
Settlements can include non-disclosure agreements that prevent plaintiffs from discussing the case publicly, thus shielding the company from negative publicity.
A Lack of Impactful Consequences
The confidentiality of settlements can hinder public awareness and accountability, as well as limit the potential for legal precedents. Just look at the current Bard Power Port lawsuit situation. It’s a tale as old as time.
Here, a pharmaceutical company is accused of creating a product that can potentially cause harm to patients. In this context, ‘Bard PowerPort’ is a catheter that is allegedly prone to fracturing inside the patient.
TorHoerman Law states that there have so far been 50 consolidated cases against the manufacturer, Becton, Dickinson, and Company. Those seeking damages claim the catheter led to severe injuries, including necrosis, myocardial infarction, deep vein thrombosis, and more.
How will this legal battle play out? Will they get away with paying what amounts to pocket change? Or will there be actual consequences? Only time will tell, but we aren’t holding our breath.
As mentioned earlier, pharmaceutical companies will often settle with individuals out of court to prevent larger penalties. Most of the time, victims will accept the settlement due to how attractive they can be. Unfortunately, this means the company escapes any consequences once again.
Even if the company goes to court and loses, it is still not as big of a hit. Pharmaceutical companies have been known to pay fines in the billions and still continue their operations as usual. This brings us to our next point.
The Near Infinite Resources of Pharmaceutical Companies
It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies are among the most profitable businesses globally. They generate billions of dollars in revenue through the sale of prescription and over-the-counter medications, vaccines, and medical equipment. Novartis, a leading Swiss pharmaceutical company raked in $50.5 billion in total revenue in 2020.
They price many prescription medications exceptionally high, especially specialty drugs and those where alternatives don’t yet exist. Once they come up with a drug, patents grant them exclusive rights for a specific period of time. This allows them to set their own prices and recoup their R&D expenses.
While R&D is expensive, the costs are typically incurred upfront. Once a drug is developed, the ongoing manufacturing costs are relatively low compared to the selling price. In some cases, pharmaceutical companies have a monopoly over their drugs, enabling them to achieve ridiculously high margins.
All these factors make it so that pharmaceutical companies have enough resources to operate with impunity.
What Can Be Done to Hold Them Accountable?
We know that the direct route rarely has the impact intended. Pharmaceutical companies are akin to tanks that can handle a lot of incoming fire. Instead of targeting them head-on, more consumer awareness of drug pricing, alternatives, and the efficacy of medications is needed.
Public shaming can also be effective. Social action groups could employ compelling narratives and techniques to humanize the issue and make it relatable to the public. The main thing to remember is that sustained pressure is critical. Effective campaigns need to hold public interest and keep the issue in the spotlight.
While many politicians are often in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies, with enough outcry, it won’t matter. Regulatory agencies or government bodies may be forced to launch investigations into the pharmaceutical company’s practices.
If the evidence is damning, there’s a chance that the company’s license could be suspended or revoked.
It is natural to feel angry at powerful pharmaceutical companies. They are often aware when a product can be dangerous but decide to release it anyway. It takes a particular kind of wickedness to accept human suffering if it’s at an acceptable margin.
We need to pay extra attention to the actions of those with power who can hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. Public representatives care about their seats more than you would imagine. The impact of sending an email explaining why they aren’t getting your vote is massive.
Remember, the more society rises up, the more we stop allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of.