And people wonder why I’m suspicious about every prescription they hand me:
For years, a trio of anemia drugs known as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp ranked among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States, generating more than $8 billion a year for two companies, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. But a Washington Post investigation shows that the benefits of the drugs — including “life satisfaction and happiness,” according to the FDA-approved label — had to be retracted and that potentially lethal side effects, such as cancer and strokes, were overlooked. Millions of patients were subjected to dangerous doses that might have had little advantage.
The multibillion-dollar rise and fall of the anemia drugs illustrates how the economic incentives embedded in U.S. health care can make the system not only inefficient, but potentially deadly. Through a well-funded research and lobbying campaign, the drugmakers won far-reaching approvals from the FDA. Doses tripled in size. The pharmaceutical companies conducted trials that missed the dangers and touted benefits that years later would be deemed unproven. The companies took more than a decade to fulfill their research commitments. And when bureaucrats tried to rein in the largest doses, a high-powered lobbying effort began until Congress forced the regulators to let the drugs flow.