The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Hack - What is Big Pharma Hiding From You?

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Hack - What is Big Pharma Hiding From You?
During the summer of last year, there was a growing controversy surrounding the FDA’s request to hackers to expose holes in medical devices security, such as insulin devices and other wireless and computer connected home and hospital devices. Understandably, many hackers and security experts were not particularly keen to attempt or test the security of these devices, for fear of incorrect perception, and potential outcry. In December last year, the FDA was itself the target of an hacking operation, in particular the system used by pharmaceutical companies to input data on drug tests, results, clinical trials, and so on. Whether this was an attack by cyber thieves, as the FDA claims, or hacktivists remains to be seen. 

Corporate Theft or Exposing the Truth?
The FDA of course, was quick to denounce the attack as a cyber theft. The information reported to have been accessed included medical trial data, marketing information and strategy, and information about drug manufacturing. While on the surface, we could very well accept that this could be a simple case of corporate espionage, it is worth remembering that any company that wants drug approval in the US has to go through the FDA first. Is running the risk of potentially alienating the very body that approves your products a strategy that a multi billion dollar pharmaceutical company would really undertake? While it can’t be rules out as a possibility, unless the hackers come forward, it does seem unlikely. It’s also important to remember that there is a large amount of controversy surrounding the pharmaceutical industry all over the world, but especially in the states. Could hacktivists have been responsible for the attack? If so, what could be the causes for such as attack? As we will see, there may be more than we might initially think.

Practice and Method - How Big Pharma Operates
In the US alone, it is estimated that around 70% of the population takes prescription drugs. Given the amount of people in the US is estimated to be over 300 million, that is a staggering number. With such a large amount of people taking these drugs, addiction rates are rising rapidly - so much so, that currently prescription addicts are more common than illegal drug addicts. It is a very real problem that continues to be skirted around by the US regulators and administration. In fact, where as knowing the signs of heroin or crack cocaine addiction were important pieces of information for people who suspected they may have an addict among friends or family, the same is now true for widely available prescription drugs, and many Americans are being encouraged to learn more about the potential causes and signs of prescription drug abuse, by drug charities and non profit institutions.
At the center of this problem lies the pharmaceutical industry. Adverts for medications are common, and standard practice for getting new drugs to market includes rigging clinical trials to get the desired results in clever ways that do not outright break the law, invasive marketing schemes on family doctors and consumers, where doctors will often be offered ‘sweeteners’ such as free lunches, travel to events, or even help building their reputation as speakers at industry funded conferences. The FDA is also, despite being an independent regulatory body, often effectively ‘bought out’ by companies looking to get drugs to market fast. There is the additional problem that all drug test data is not available for public consumption, meaning academics and doctors are unable to view results of tests or trials for themselves. This has led to a number of large law suits in the US, and around the world, as well as in extreme cases, deaths directly related to withheld side affects of new drugs.

Coincidence or Calculated?
We might then speculate on the nature of the accessed data once again. Bearing in mind the nature of how the industry operates, and the information that was accessed, we could quite easily draw a link between the two, and surmise that the hack may well have been the work of a hacktivist movement. Of course, there is no way to prove whether this was the case or not, but given the ambitious actions of a number of groups over the last few years, it certainly can’t be ruled out.

Disclaimer:- At perfection Team VOGH felicitate Eve Halton for sharing this luminous article with our readers. Eve is a very much passionate Fleet Street, she  has done her graduation in International Business and Journalism. Eve, this time also you have done eminent job, we love you :)


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