Big Pharma – friend or foe? A GP gives his verdict

latexAfter 30 plus years as a village GP, it’s my experience that most ailments can be fixed with a couple of aspirin or a colourful placebo. Often simple lifestyle changes help, such as ditching the car and walking down to the Tescos to buy one’s wine and fags. But increasingly there is a media emphasis on ‘wonder drugs’ produced by multinational pharmaceutical companies, the so-called ‘Big Pharma’. Do these wonder drugs live up to the hype? Does Big Pharma put profit before people? I decided to do some research.

First stop was the GlaxoSmithKline golf day. Fellow GPs and I had the pleasure of being briefed on new drugs while playing a round of golf with legends such as Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie. Colin was in my foursome and I learnt heaps. Who knew that Tiger Woods was a woman trapped in a man’s body? Colin did and he happily shared all the details, including drawing a diagram on a napkin. The discoveries didn’t end there – as the whisky flowed in the clubhouse Nick Faldo let slip that Greg Norman had an unusually small ‘front club’.

Next stop on the research trail was the Pfizer tent at the Monaco Grand Prix. Us Docs partied like it was 1999 and we kept it up till 2014. 15 years of finest Champagne in one weekend equals the headache to end all headaches. The hosts give us a couple of pills and the fog miraculously disappeared so it’s thumbs up for Pfizer.

My research into Big Pharma was completed at the Roche Mystery weekend. Turned out the surprise destination was the charming city of Zurich. An amazing two days was crowned when our kind hosts at Roche took us on a tour of Switzerland’s oldest bank and surprised us by unveiling individual safety deposit boxes named in our honour.

So what’s the verdict on Big Pharma? Well I give them the big tick – these drugs really do enrich the lives of GPs, I mean patients, and I have the glossy drug company pamphlets to prove it.

I know there will still be a lot of doubters out there, but laypeople need to release that a quick scan of the internet is no substitute for in-depth medical research. And as a doctor I’m committed to staying informed on these issues so I’m already booked into the Merck tent at Wimbledon and the Bayer new product update in the Maldives.


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