Neurontin for Everything
How does a drug company take an unproven, worthless, and potentially dangerous drug like Neurontin, and turn it into a billion dollar blockbuster? Through deceit, lies, and bribery reports New York Times health writer and author Melody Peterson.
Peterson, in her book "Our Daily Meds," reveals the chicanery, pseudoscience and greed behind the marketing of many of today's well-known drugs.
The history of one drug in particular, Neurontin, shows just how deceitful, ruthless, and cold-hearted some drug executives can be. The original clinical studies evaluating the efficiency of Neurontin for treating epilepsy were less than impressive.
The studies not only showed that the drug was ineffective, and potentially dangerous, but that in 5-10% of patients it actually increased the frequency and severity of the epileptic seizures.
The FDA found the drug be worthless and had grave concerns over its potential dangers. But historically they cave in to pressure, and allowed Neurontin to be marketed as a second line drug. This meant that it was to be used only after other epilepsy drugs had first been tried and failed.
No problem- drug executives were determined to make Neurontin into a million dollar blockbusting drug and a little thing like science was not going to stop them. It did not matter that legitimate research had demonstrated that Neurontin was ineffective in the 10 conditions it was being promoted for, including attention deficit disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, mood disorders, migraines, and bi-polar disorder.
Worried the scientific truth may interfere with their plans for establishing Neurontin as a block buster, Pfizer bought to cover-up these studies including the one showing Neurontin was no better than a placebo in reducing diabetic nerve pain- "I think we can limit the potential down sides of the study by delaying the publication for as long a possible … it will be more important to how we write up the study. "
Realizing that new studies would be expensive and most likely negative, they aggressively hatched a plan to ignore science, clinical trials, and morals, and began to market Neurontin for an assortment of chronic illnesses. John Ford a senior marketing executive had this to say at one sales meeting, "Neurontin for pain, Neurontin for monotherapy, Neurontin for bi-polar, Neurontin for everything." Not to be done done Phil Magistro a senior level sales executive left a voice message for his sales force saying, "When we get out there, we want to kick some ass. and everything we can talk about. That's what we want to do. "
And that's exactly what the sales reps did; they drank the "purple Kool-Aid" and hyped the snake oil for every illness they could think of. And it worked; date 90% of the 2.7 billion dollars in Neurontin sales came from off label use- 90% of the prescriptions were for unproven uses.
So how does a drug company take an unproven, potentially dangerous drug and successfully market it to doctors? Easy, deceive then bribe them. The company …