As much as the pharmaceutical companies might argue for greater self regulation as a way to streamline the approvals process and reduce the expense to the consumer (while creating greater profits as well) certain unsettling reports about the industry as a whole should raise serious questions about the industry's ability to self regulate.
Most notoriously of recent months is the oxycontin settlement, where executives in the company were found guilty of misleading doctors and the general public about the dependency risk of oxycontin, and just last night on CNN was another report about troubling drug company practices.
Apparently, there are massive quantities of medications sold throughout the country everyday that have not yet been approved by the FDA as safe, and some of these drugs have been on the market, consumed and available for some time.
How can this happen?
Through the FDA drug approval process, when drugs apply to begin testing for approval, they are issued a 10 digit tracking number. Problematically, this same 10 digit number is used by pharmacists selling the drug, whether or not they have been approved. What has happened is that doctors and pharmacists mistakenly believe that since the drug has the FDA number and is available for sale, that it has passed FDA testing as safe; when this is too often not the case.
A knowing disregard of the law
But although doctors and pharmacists may claim legitimate ignorance, obviously the manufacturers of the drugs are well aware of the status of each and every drug they market, and well aware that they are selling what is reported to be over 65 million filled prescriptions worth of these illegal drugs each year. Obviously this is not the FDA's finest moment either, but the fact that pharmaceutical companies are knowingly exploiting a previous lack in enforcement on the sale of unapproved drugs for profit is shameless, and seriously damages their credibility as a self regulating industry.
Prescription drugs currently contribute to a massive abuse and addiction problem, and we may need to tighten regulation and control ever further on the production and sale of drugs, and obviously those in a position to profit from the sale of these drugs cannot be relied on to act ethically, or with the best interests of the public in mind. The money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry is enormous, and while the vast majority in the industry are likely conscientious and moral people, there are obviously enough that will engage in questionable practices--risking the safety of consumers--that the industry as a whole cannot be trusted to act with integrity.