New Internationalist

Pressure points

Issue 362

How Big Pharma reacts when a drug scandal breaks


Side-effects and unforeseen deaths are part of the deal when you’re pushing drugs. It’s when the media and the activists start snooping around that the problems start.

Fightback strategies

• Deny everything.

• Take the high road. Accuse the media of sensationalism.

• Attack the accuracy of their reporting.


As evidence mounts that problems are serious, politicians get in on the act, mouthing off to the media and threatening to call in the regulators.

Fightback strategies

• Boycott the media and starve the rat pack.

• Claim there’s a conspiracy – rival companies, lefty journos and other vested interests are out to get you.


What a pain! Here come the regulators, poking and prying.

Fightback strategy

• Call in the high-priced lawyers to search for an escape route.


Things are getting a bit too hot – there are stiffs all around and the threat of ‘incontrovertible evidence’ looms. The regulators are recalling the drug.

Fightback strategies

• Find a fall guy – preferably some old fogey in R&D who oversees trials and tests and is about to retire anyway.

• Pay them to take the rap and then say it was all their fault.


With the fall guy behind bars, the company escapes unscathed and it’s back to business as usual. Except for those pesky victims’ families and their lawsuits.

Fightback strategy

• Settle – offer big bucks as compensation, but only if they agree there was no malpractice.

Now everything’s running smoothly again, put it down to experience and move on – there’s money to be made.

Based on a scenario in Jeffrey Robinson’s Prescription Games (Simon & Schuster 2001).

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This article was originally published in issue 362

New Internationalist Magazine issue 362
Issue 362

More articles from this issue

  • Epidemic, what epidemic?

    November 1, 2003

    Treatment for a deadly disease or a depilatory cream: Big Pharma knows which is more important. Spring Gombe explains.

  • Patients versus patents

    November 1, 2003

    The pursuit of profit is proving fatal in Thailand. Teena Amrit Gill reports.

  • Pressure Points

    November 1, 2003

    How the drug biz reacts to scandal.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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