[Marxism] International Socialist Review on Pharmaceutical

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Sun Apr 26 09:07:25 MDT 2009


Greg,
     I am really disappointed in seeing a Marxist (thus a scientist) as you
failing to disentangle two very different issues:

At 11:40 26/04/09 +0000, you wrote:
>
>Below is an older report from ISO on the political economy of the
pharmaceutical companies

Yes, that is a very valid issue: the influence of the profit motive
(capitalism) on medical practice and even on medical research (which
therefore corrupts the advance of medical science, at least in some cases).
And it is totally valid for the ISO (or other marxists including yourself)
to publish articles such as this one. I think this particular article was
written by someone who I wouldn't trust and the ISO was mistaken in
choosing that particular article. But in principle the issues discussed are
valid criticisms of capitalism. As you say:

>The article demonstrates  clearly how market forces dictate shaky science.
Yes, exactly. None of us have a problem with this sort of inquiry. And I
would also endorse your statement:

>I would urge developing countries to continue 
>fighting for their own generic production of needed 
>drugs which can be sold more cheaply.

Sure, though I note that you have changed the subject as this is no longer
about science but technology/production/intellectual property. But what you
say is absolutely valid and of critical importance.

But here comes the problem:

>And it is also quite clear that the issue of quackery is used to silence
critics of this death mill.  

I do not believe this occurs at all, and you have NOT shown it! No one
could accuse the ISO of "quackery" because (as far as I know) they do not
advocate any of the so-called "alternative" treatments, most of which do
amount to quackery (or to be generous, an expensive placebo, in at least
some cases). It is only YOU who see a connection between medical research
which may be corrupted by the profit motive (yes, leading to death and
negative health consequences) and denouncing quackery.

I strongly believe that exposing quackery saves lives! And I do not believe
that charges of quackery are (hardly) ever laid against valid medical
treatments because such a charge could be easily refuted by pointing to the
scientific basis for that medical practice. (Note that this is different
from whether the treatment is actually safe and effective, that is, whether
the scientific result may have been mistaken).

It is only medical practices which DO NOT base themselves (at least
theoretically) on scientifically produced knowledge which are open to the
charge of "quackery." In other words, if you (or any advocate of
"alternative medicine") wanted to, you could (eventually) find researchers
who would want to become famous by contradicting the conventional wisdom
and prove a scientific basis for the efficacy of these treatments. The
inability and unwillingness of these practices to meet that challenge
speaks volumes. (Yes, I do know that many of them do set up their own
"research studies" with a scientific veneer. That alone means nothing.
Scientific results have to be reproducible. And again, if there were
something of interest to reproduce, some ACTUAL scientist would even be
proud to be among those confirming a scientific result of such importance.)

The sad thing is that while you have no trouble identifying the corrupt
influence of the profit motive on corporate research, you don't even think
about the relatively HUGE personal wealth involved in the promotion of
quackery! Yes, it's on a much smaller scale than the major pharmaceutical
companies. But the amount of profits PER PERSON can be MUCH greater! That
should be clear from the prices that are typically charged for any of these
treatments and the relatively small number of practitioners. OF COURSE the
profit motive (on a smaller scale) influences their ideology and practice!
They have to produce "scientific results" which, if negative, would ruin
their chosen career. Compare that to the amount of corrupting influence
that could be applied to a scientific researcher working for a university,
national lab, or even a pharmaceutical company: they are paid salaries that
have nothing to do with the specific results obtained.

I think that articles promoting (what I consider to be) quackery, are not
only off the topic of this list (which doesn't bother me) but are offensive
to those of us who really do believe in science and medical efficacy. I am
infuriated every time I read something of that sort (in any publication)
realizing that because of the misinformation propagated by these quacks
there will be innocent people robbed of their money and NOT receiving
treatments which may have saved their lives or health. :-(

- Jeff




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