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HMS Professors Win Polk Journalism Award

A probing report on unscrupulous practices in the pharmaceutical industry has won two Harvard Medical School professors the prestigious George Polk Award in Journalism.

Professor of Medicine Emeritus Arnold S. Relman and Senior Lecturer on Social Medicine Marcia Angell published their 14-page story in the Dec. 16 issue of The New Republic.

Relman said that he and Angell, who are former editors-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, were pleased when they heard they had won.

“You don’t think about what your chances are for being selected for an honor like that,” said Relman. “We were obviously delighted. Surprised and delighted.”

The article, titled “America’s Other Drug Problem,” shows how the pharmaceutical industry is driven by profits, sometimes at the expense of patients.

Moreover, the pharmaceutical industry is “more important than ever” due to its influence on medical practice and research, Angell said.

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The article contends that “Americans need good new drugs at reasonable prices.”

It also discusses the financial habits of drug companies, and says that it is economically feasible for companies to lower their prices.

The authors contend that reduced drug prices would not hinder the development of new drugs.

“Research and development (R&D;) constitutes a relatively small part of the budgets of the large drug companies,” Relman and Angell write. “Prices…could be lowered substantially without coming close to threatening the R&D; budgets of drug companies.”

The article suggests reforming patent laws to curtail exclusive marketing rights for drugs and banning advertisements that market perscription drugs directly to patients.

Relman and Angell will receive their awards on Apr. 10 in New York City.

The Polk Award is administered by Long Island University, which established the awards in memory of George Polk, a CBS journalist killed while reporting in Greece in 1948.

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