Pharmaceutical Industry: Friend or Foe?

With our current pandemic, it has shown a spotlight on the pharmaceutical industry. Some have cast it has altruistic and others have shown it has a money hungry industry. Which one is it?

As always, I want to hear if your opinion has changed about the industry. You can either read what I wrote or just skip down and say what is on your mind 🙂

On a hot summer day in August of 2012, I was riding my back. My route was almost entirely on a bike path hidden from the main road so I thought it would be safe to ride my bike without a helmet. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

In a freak turn of events, a bolt fell off and the next thing I knew I was flying head first over my handle bars. I suffered trauma induced amnesia and couldn’t remember several hours before the accident and was in and out of consciousness the next few days.

I was only in Intensive Care for 3 days before they released me. At this time, I couldn’t walk without falling over. My head was throbbing. (A new meaning to splitting headache.) I couldn’t read or look at a screen because it would give me an even worse headache. However, the doctor sent me on my way with 100 pills of oxycodone.

Since then, I have researched more and more about the heroin epidemic and how this was a common treatment for all pain.

I thought of the pharmaceutical industry as this giant monster handing out addictive pills to people to make a profit.

It wasn’t until I took a class in college called Chemistry and Society that I was able to revisit the role that pharmaceutical companies play in our society. This was when I came across information that started to shift my thinking.

One topic that stood out to me was on whether or not something was natural. Our society labels items Organic and Natural without having any clear definition of what that means. The scientific definition of organic is: An organic compound; or any substance containing carbon-based compounds, especially produced by or derived from living organisms.

Just because it is synthesized doesn’t mean it is more or less harmful than any unsynthesized organic compound.

For instance, Aspirin is derived from willow bark. It was used in the mid 19th century but it would cause holes to develop in the stomach. We were able to synthesize it and take away the harmful effects to make it what it is today. Now, we are pleased to report people can take Aspirin and not destroy the lining of our stomach.

Now that I thought about medicine differently, I started changing my thoughts about the industry once I started working in a biomanufacturing lab.

I worked at a blood bank which is heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Every action is accounted for and followed in a work instruction manual. Even the smallest deviation in action outside of the work instruction is documented and corrected. Every drop of blood is accounted for. If even the slightest chance of anything being contaminated, then there are SERIOUS consequences.

The manufacturing of medicine is heavily regulated. Any issue that could potentially affect the Safety, Quality, Identity, Purity, or Potency (SQUIPP) of the product can be traced down to an individual action and corrected.

With this regulation comes a high price. It can take decades to develop the research into a novel medicine. Once it is made then the manufacturing process and Quality Control of it is highly expensive. However, that is the price we pay for the security that we know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and whether or not it is safe.

There is a LOT of money to be made in the industry. However, just because they make a LOT of money doesn’t mean that they are inherently evil. As for friend or foe, I would say that more often than not they are friend. There have been amazing strides in medicine.

We have decoded the entire human genome. HIV patients can now live a long and nearly normal life thanks to retrovirals. We have been able to cure several cancers through medicine. I think that the work takes a lot of time and dedication.

It may be expensive but it is worth it to have quality experts conducting research and ensuring that the products are safe.


What is your opinion? Has it changed at all? Comment below!

Published by Matthew O'Connell

An English grad trying to find his way in life.

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