Friday, July 13, 2007

Big Pharma Save Lives

In Michael Moore's "Sicko," pharmaceutical companies are again demonized on the big screen.

During the past century the lifespan of Americans increased by 30 years (from 44 to 77 years, see chart above, which also shows projected future increases in life expectancy), and almost all of that increase was due to one class of medical products: vaccines.

Children today receive 14 different vaccines by the time they are two years old. Although most people don't know it, nine of those 14 vaccines -- which save about eight million lives a year -- were made by one man. And that man, Maurice Hilleman, spent much of his career at Merck. If he hadn't -- if he'd stayed in academia -- he would never have been able to convert his dedication and brilliance into the products that save our lives. When Michael Moore talked about better health, it would have been nice to have seen Hilleman's image on the screen.

"Sick Propaganda" by Dr. Paul Offit in
today's WSJ

MP: Note that Merck alone spent $4 billion on health care R&D in 2004, Pfizer spent almost $8 billion, and Johnson and Johnson spent $5.2 billion, see the list of
Big Pharma here and their R&D epxenditures.


At 7/13/2007 9:51 PM, Blogger Marcia said...

It seems highly unlikely that vaccines alone are responsible for most of the increase in life expectancy in the US since 1900.

There are a myriad of other things that were important: public health programs, regulation of standards for food and other products, regulation of safety for workers, cleaner water, MRI's, cat scans, antibiotics, bypass surgery, safer anesthesiology, improved care for pregnancy and childbirth, and so on and on.

Much of the research that has improved health in the US is done by university students and professors.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies spend about as much on advertising and taking doctors out for lunch and prodding them to use their new drugs as it does on research.

Moore is certainly correct that far too many psychoactive drugs are given to too many people, and the pharma companies now directly sell them to the public with the "Ask your Doctor" message.


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