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Pharmaceuticals: A market for producing 'lemons' and serious harm
Date:8/17/2010

ATLANTA The pharmaceutical industry is a "market for lemons," a market in which the seller knows much more than the buyer about the product and can profit from selling products less effective and less safe than consumers are led to believe, according to an analysis that will be presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"Sometimes drug companies hide or downplay information about serious side effects of new drugs and overstate the drugs' benefits," said Donald Light, the sociologist who authored the study and who is a professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. "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."

Three reasons why the pharmaceutical market produces "lemons" are: Having companies in charge of testing new drugs, providing firewalls of legal protection behind which information about harms or effectiveness can be hidden, and the relatively low bar set for drug efficacy in order for a new drug to be approved, Light said.

According to his study, independent reviewers found that about 85 percent of new drugs offer few if any new benefits. Yet, toxic side effects or misuse of prescription drugs now make prescription drugs a significant cause of death in the United States.

Light's paper, "Pharmaceuticals: A Two-Tier Market for Producing 'Lemons' and Serious Harm," is an institutional analysis of the pharmaceutical industry and how it works based on a range of independent sources and studies, including the Canadian Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, the Food and Drug Administration, and Prescrire International.

The foundation for the paper is the work Light did for a forthcoming book he edited, titled The Risk
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Contact: Daniel Fowler
fowler@asanet.org
202-527-7885
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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