The global pharmaceutical market is worth over three hundred billion dollars a year, making it ripe for corruption and exploitation by companies and individuals looking to illegally benefit from the healthcare industry (“Borison- Diamond: Systemic Failure”). There are rules and regulations governing the industry which prohibits conflicts of interest. However, these are often ignored or not enforced for the pursuit of quick FDA approval and economic profit. A conflict of interest is not only a situation where the goals of two parties are different, or someone can benefit financially from their position. Drug testing should be conducted by neutral and unbiased researchers who are not motivated by the development of groundbreaking and beneficial medicine and not personal profit. However, market incentives are what drive expensive and innovative research that save lives, and drug companies have the resources to conduct large scale clinical trials that the public sector is not able to afford. Public drug testing would require increased taxes or reallocation of public funds. The best system would be more stringent and effective governmental oversight with large corporate investment in drug research and trials.
Richard Borison and Bruce Diamond are good examples of what happens when greed gets in the way of good medicine. The two clinical researchers embezzled over ten million dollars conducting drug trials of new mental-health drugs. They were both sentenced to prison in 1997, and the story is about more than just a conflict of interest. Diamond was not even a licensed doctor, he had a PHD in psychiatry. Their head of research was a recent college graduate, who was not qualified for the position. The studies focused on treatments for patients with major psychological illnesses, but the two researcher were only motivated by money, and not by helping anyone become healthy. There was virtually not governmental or agency oversight, they simply did whatever was necessary to maximize their personal profits.
What is wrong with pharmaceutical companies paying for their own clinical trials? The tests are much more likely to be approved, even if the drug is harmful to patients. Drug companies do not make money by researching and developing a drug and then not selling it to the public. There are other problems. Instead of the best treatments, the industry might look for the most profitable medications, which have more side effects or are more expensive to the consumer. They can hide research that negatively effects them or suggest alternative treatments. More than a financial conflict of interest, there is an ethical conflict, because doctors should first “do no harm” and there biased research can hurt the public. Instead of looking for a cure for cancer or AIDS, it may be more lucrative to invest a new kind of Botox or erectile dysfunction medication, which does not serve the best interests of society.
The problem is money. The government and tax payers are unable or unwilling to invest in research that may take decades to come to fruition, so the companies pay for it, and eventually recoup their investments. They must balance profitability with public health. When the results are good, the money flows, into the hands of researchers. Sometimes these individuals are not ethical, and there is corruption. Private companies will continue to invest in clinical trials, and it is the responsibility of the government to provide much more strict oversight. Instead of paying for the trials, the FDA needs to simply regulate them, and continue to punish corrupt doctors like Diamond and Borison. Even patients looking for a cure will push for faster research and more experimental use of drugs, which can only be conducted by private companies. Unfortunately, human greed may be the most powerful force for effective drug development, but it must be harnessed and used for the benefit of the consumers and their health. Government regulators may be corrupt as well, so multiple layers of security would be necessary to reduce fraud. Ultimately, the rules and regulations need to be enforced, but the market driven capitalistic economic forces are what drives innovative medical research.
"Borison- Diamond: Systemic Failure, No Checks & Balances_WSJ/ CBS/ Psych Times." Alliance for Human Resource Protection. N.p., n.d. Web.