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Big Pharma’s free speech claims

Big Pharma is people, too

What’s better than making billions off a hit drug?

Finding another application for the drug and doubling up on profits, of course!

Of course, the FDA doesn’t allow Big Pharma to promote off-label use of drugs–the use of a particular drug for something other than its FDA-approved application.

But those clever drug companies aren’t going to let a little thing like an FDA regulation bring them down! No siree, they’re hard at work finding a way to circumvent the restriction. And their ingenious plan is to make it all about preserving their precious freedom of speech.

In the past, drug giants such as Pfizer and Eli Lilly have been forced to defend themselves, sometimes in criminal trials, against charges of off-label promotion. But now they’re switching sides of the courtroom as they challenge the FDA’s rules. They want to say whatever they want in their advertising, and by golly, they’ll fight for that right!

Of course, there’s a reason drug companies aren’t allowed to rattle off any claims they want in their advertising. The FDA is far from perfect, and they let A LOT get by them, but they’ve got it right with this regulation–they don’t want, in the words of their director of Drug Marketing, “pharmaceutical companies promoting something as safe and effective when that hasn’t been proven.”

Seems like pretty solid reasoning to me. It makes sense, right? But then, I’m not a Big Pharma exec.

The truth is the only “sense” the drug companies stance makes has to do with “cents.” As in “dollars and.” While, in this case at least, the FDA is thinking safety Big Pharma is thinking revenue. It costs big money to go through the FDA’s drug approval process for a second use for a drug that’s already been approved–money they just don’t want to spend.

So they’re instead investing the money on a longer-term strategy…fighting for their “freedom.”

But remember, this isn’t the first time we’ve run into this ridiculousness. Back in July, Big Pharma got a free-speech boost when the Supreme Court ruled that a Vermont law against drug record data mining interferes with the right to free speech–for drug companies.

You see, the drug companies were in a tizzy because Vermont was barring access to records they wanted to use to create targeted marketing campaigns. And we just can’t have that!

At that time, Justice Kennedy claimed that, “Speech in aid of pharmaceutical marketing…is a form of expression protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

That’s right–because pharmaceutical corporations are “people,” they can apparently do whatever they like with detailed prescription drug records, all in the name of marketing…uh, I mean, free speech.

Sources:
“Pharma Claims Free Speech to Push Double-Duty Drugs,” ABC News (abcnews.go.com)