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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Hanging From a Tree in a Forest In Belgrade

You hear about pharmaceutical companies bribing doctors, promoting off-label use of their drugs, cherry picking clinical trial data, ghost writing scientific papers, and all sorts of bad behavior. You rarely hear about the people who do this work for a living. When they get caught the Corporation steps up to the plate and takes the hit. The corporation loses lots of money. The public furls its brow and says, "Bad corporation!". Who are the people who do these bad things? Do they go on to more prosperous positions? Are they ultimately rewarded for their dedication to profits? Or do they succumb to ridicule and ostracism from an honest industry such as biotech/big pharma?

One such person, Nenad Borojevic, a former director of the Serbian Institute of Oncology and Radiology, was found hanging from a tree in a forest in Belgrade. He was charged with supplying drugmakers with information on the amount of cytostatic drugs needed and on public procurement plans. Nenad Borojevic and representatives from several pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and Roche, were indited on suspicion of accepting and giving bribes totaling about $1.4 million.

Who were the employees at AstraZeneca and Roche who worked with Nedad? According to reports, police also arrested the director of Roche pharmaceuticals office in Belgrade, Vojislav Petrović. Other suspects detained include Director of PharmaSwiss Oncology Sector Andrej Soretić and Predrag Marinković of AstraZeneca bio-pharmaceutical company. Who were their superiors?

How does this relate to a Cargo Cult? The drugs are already approved thus the cargo arrived. I tend to believe however that the drugs are of little interest scientifically to a certain sector of the industry. The drugs are merely widgets that generate profit. With a little help, those profits can go up considerably. The execs with the right credentials, who talk pretty are tasked with making the most money possible from the pills. They have to convince the world of medicine that they need to prescribe the pills. They have to educate. In the process they tend to stretch the truth. And the truth is what we are all about here.

The truth about the pills, in this case, was stretched to the point of criminal activity. One of these leaders was found hanging from a tree in a forest in Belgrade. How can an industry that relies on science employ leaders who have cumulatively created such a corrupt corporate culture? How can such leaders understand how scientific research is conducted? It is fairly easy to deceive ourselves and our fellow human beings. To do so purposely seems to be the skill that the leaders have in spades. Such leaders thrive in Cargo Cults. Sometimes they get caught.

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