Alert
Close

AARP holds senators accountable for key bipartisan Medicare vote. Learn more

Highlights

Open
Military and Veterans Discount

Contests and
Sweeps

You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation!

Hawaii, the Grand Canyon or an Alaskan Cruise! No purchase necessary. Ends May 31. See official rules.

 

Free AARP E-Books

Protecting Yourself Online for Dummies

Here's the mini guide you need to steer through the hazards with confidence.

Learn More

You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation

FREE FUN!

AARP Games - Play Now!

             

AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy

News & Politics Forums

Share your opinions on news and current events that matter most to you.

Join the discussion »

AARP Auto Buying Program

MOST POPULAR

Viewed

The Author Speaks

Interview With Harriet A. Washington on 'Deadly Monopolies'

The corporate takeover of our medical future

Q. Does the spate of drug approvals that have been withdrawn recently suggest there is a problem with the Food and Drug Administration?

A. There is. A lot of these drugs were fast-tracked originally. The larger problem is commercial. Where does the FDA get money to evaluate these drugs? Forty percent is from makers of drugs, which I see as a conflict of interest. A lot of these drugs should never have been approved in the first place. FDA evaluators often warned from the very beginning that the drug was harmful, and they have been ignored.

Q. Are you saying the FDA is a corrupt agency?

A. I didn't say that, but somebody could easily infer that from the book.

Q. There are a lot of villains in Deadly Monopolies. Who are some of the heroes?

A. One of the heroes is U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley [R-Iowa] — a very impressive person. I spoke to him last year, and the whole time, I kept thinking of that movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. There have been quite a few medical research abuses that he has pointed out.

Q. For example?

A. When Northfield Laboratories tested their blood substitute, PolyHeme, Grassley became very concerned about the law that said that Americans can be enrolled in medical research without their knowledge and consent in the case of trauma. He has had much better success in going after people who've taken money from corporations, then lied about it.

Q. Other heroes?

A. Bill Gates and the Bill Gates Foundation. They are focusing on the development of medical miracles to benefit people in the developing world — and, more to the point, inspiring other people to do the same.

Q. Why should we care about biocolonialism?

A. Biocolonialism is the exploitation of people and living things in the developing world solely to meet the needs of affluent people in the Western world. First of all, we should care about this because they're human beings. We should also care about this because of medical interdependence. The spread of HIV should have taught us that no catastrophe that strikes part of us leaves the rest of us unaffected.

Q. It seems extraordinary that Western companies have been able to patent — and control access to — substances already in use elsewhere.

A. Amazing, isn't it? I call it the theft of the intellectual property of the developing world.

Q. Are there efforts to address any of these issues legislatively?

A. Xavier Becerra [D-Calif.] and Dave Weldon [R-Fla.], two congressmen, introduced a bill to ban gene patenting. It didn't make it out of the House. Pharmaceutical companies are going to fight it tooth and nail.

Q. What other measures do you favor?

A. We should repeal the Bayh-Dole Act. It has proven to be deleterious for health care. The profit motive has supplanted the university research culture, with the result that our medications are for more trivial illnesses and are more expensive.

Q. What can readers do?

A. There are many points of action: The law that allows medical research with trauma patients needs to be rolled back. So, in my opinion, do laws that allow tissues and organs to be taken after death without consent. Support the organizations that are working to address some of these problems.

Q. For instance?

A. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, which coordinated the legal challenge to BRCA genes; American College of Medical Genetics; the Association for Molecular Pathology; the College of American Pathologists; the American Society of Clinical Pathology; Breast Cancer Action; the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. California congressman Xavier Becerra introduced anti-patent legislation in the past and is considering doing so again. He should hear from people who are concerned about the marketing of life, no matter what state you live in.

Julia M. Klein is a cultural reporter and critic in Philadelphia and a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait
Advertisement

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Advertisement

Today's News

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.