A 'wonder pill?': Photo: GETTY IMAGES via Telegraph.co.uk A New Jersey doctor, sociologist, and professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry and Princeton University, presented a paper to the American Sociological Association (ASA) yesterday, in which he claimed that pharmaceutical companies had created a 'market for lemons' where they know far more of the truth about their pharmaceuticals than their buyers.
Almost as if it were a conspiracy by Big Pharma, Prof. Donald Light said the pharmaceutical market was the "most dangerous market for lemons in modern society." He said that when the toxic side effects of most drugs were taken into account, plus their misuse, they can become "a significant cause of death," rather than helping patients.
He raised the issue of the popular statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs that he says are sold as "wonder drugs" to prevent heart attacks, despite the evidence that they could do more harm than good. Light said "Sometimes drug companies hide or downplay information about
serious side-effects of new drugs and overstate the drugs' benefits. Then, they spend two to three times more on marketing than on research
to persuade doctors to prescribe these new drugs."
"Doctors may get misleading information and then misinform patients about
the risks of a new drug. It's really a two-tier market for lemons."
Dr. Light cited two major trials of statin drugs that found very little evidence that they reduce the risk of heart disease and another 'meta-analysis' that found that statins did not reduce death from any cause.
How do drugs get approved? The professor targeted the drug companies again, saying that they swamped the drug regulators with loads of "incomplete, partial, substandard clinical trial" data. Prof. Light elaborates on his findings in the book The Risk of Prescription Drugs.