Can you trust the “corporate citizens” who produce our drugs?

November 6, 2009

google drug co and words

Corporate citizen!  There’s a concept so loaded with double-speak it could serve as the poster child for public relations spin.  I stumbled the term when Jane Burgermeister posted an brief entry about Novartis profiting from swine flu jab while the government pays for advertising and distribution costs and I found this little gem in the comments section:

“To improve patient health and well-being, Novartis medicines must have the complete confidence of those who prescribe and use them. As a corporate citizen, we are committed to this goal.”

http://www.novartis.com/about-novartis/corporate-citizenship/patien…

When the ache in my side had subsided I took a look at the site.  It is beautifully produced.  Someone has obviously been very well paid to elucidate the “four pillars of corporate citizenship”, espousing their attention to patient safety, people and communities, human rights, ethical marketing practices and environmental care.

It was all very reassuring.  Even with my die-hard cynicism about the pharmaceutical industry I momentarily found myself wondering if this was some sort of anomaly and I’d happened to stumbled upon the world’s first ethical pharmaceutical company. Thankfully an internal warning system flashes caution alarms should I entertain such naive thoughts.  It directed me to a google search instead.

Trying typing “novartis sued” into the search engine.

 Oh dear!  56,500 hits! 

  novartis sued

So we have cases involving:

  • the erection that wouldn’t end
  • a personal injury lawsuit
  • a biochemist suing over royalties
  • allegations of withholding research information
  • Ritalin fraud
  • and a mother suing over children’s cough medicines

And that’s just the first page!  It appears my little bubble of hope has well and truly burst.

But I’m being unfair singling out Novartis as they are in good company.  Google the word “profit”, “sued”, “controversy”, or “scandal” together with the name of any of the other swine flu vaccine suppliers and you are guaranteed to come up with some interesting discoveries:

Here are some of the names I’ve managed to piece together from press reports, The WHO and Pharmamanufacturing.com:  

  • AstraZeneca
  • Baxter
  • CSL Limited
  • GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals
  • Green Cross
  • Hualan Biological
  • Inovio Biomedical
  • MedImmune (Astrazeneca)
  • Microge
  • Nobilon International
  • Novartis
  • Omninvest Vaccines
  • Pasteur
  • Sanofi-Adventis
  • Sinovac
  • Solvay
  • Vivaldi

Try it.  In fact why not try it with any of  your medicines.  Go on, open a browser and do a quick search.

Tell me how they fared in their “corporate citizenship” ?  Do you still trust them to hold your health as a priority? 

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