Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Pharmaceutical Corruption News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of pharmaceutical corruption news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
One of the most financially successful cancer drugs in the world appears to cause more fatal side effects than previously realized, a new study says. Avastin, a blockbuster drug with more than $5.5 billion in global sales, increases the rate of fatal side effects by almost 50% when added to traditional chemotherapy, compared with chemo alone. About 2.5% of cancer patients who combine Avastin and chemo die from their treatment — rather than their disease, according to an analysis of 10,217 patients in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. In comparison, 1.7% of cancer patients who received only conventional chemo died as a result of therapy. The most common causes of death were hemorrhages, the loss of infection-fighting white blood cells, and perforations in the stomach or intestines, says Shenhong Wu of Stony Brook University School of Medicine, co-author of the analysis of 10,217 patients.
Note: Sadly, most studies that reveal such results are suppressed by the pharmaceutical industry.
When people consider the connections between drugs and violence, what typically comes to mind are illegal drugs like crack cocaine. However, certain medications — most notably, some antidepressants like Prozac — have also been linked to increase risk for violent, even homicidal behavior. A new study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices published in the journal PloS One and based on data from the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System has identified 31 drugs that are disproportionately linked with reports of violent behavior towards others. Please note that this does not necessarily mean that these drugs cause violent behavior. Nonetheless, when one particular drug in a class of nonaddictive drugs used to treat the same problem stands out, that suggests caution: unless the drug is being used to treat radically different groups of people, that drug may actually be the problem. Here are the top ten offenders: * 10. Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) * 9. Venlafaxine (Effexor) * 8. Fluvoxamine (Luvox) * 7. Triazolam (Halcion) * 6. Atomoxetine (Strattera) * 5. Mefoquine (Lariam) * 4. Amphetamines: (Various) * 3. Paroxetine (Paxil) * 2. Fluoxetine (Prozac) * 1. Varenicline (Chantix)
Note: As mentioned in this article, all of these drugs are 8 to 18 times time more likely to be linked to violent acts than other drugs. For excellent reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Of all the things that you trust every day, you want to believe your prescription medicine is safe and effective. The pharmaceutical industry says that it follows the highest standards for quality. But in November, we found out just how much could go wrong at one of the world's largest drug makers. A subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to distributing adulterated drugs. Some of the medications were contaminated with bacteria, others were mislabeled, and some were too strong or not strong enough. It's likely Glaxo would have gotten away with it had it not been for a company insider: a tip from Cheryl Eckard set off a major federal investigation. Eckard worked in Glaxo quality control and over ten years she had risen to become a manager of global quality assurance. In 2002, Eckard was assigned to help lead a quality assurance team to evaluate one of Glaxo's most important plants, in Cidra, Puerto Rico. Nine hundred people worked there, making 20 drugs for patients in the U.S. But Eckard says that when she saw what was happening to some of the company's most popular drugs, she couldn't believe it. "All the systems were broken, the facility was broken, the equipment was broken, the processes were broken. It was the worst thing I had run across in my career," she [said]. As her team continued its evaluation of the plant, Eckard says ... that powerful medications were getting mixed up.
Note: For lots more on how this major pharmaceutical is endangering lives, watch the 60 Minutes video segment at the above link.
In articles, interviews, op-eds and testimony on Capitol Hill, Wendell Potter has described the dark underbelly of the health care insurance industry — unkept promises of care, canceled coverage of those who get sick and fearmongering campaigns designed to quash any change that might adversely affect profits. He should know what he is talking about. For 20 years, Mr. Potter was the head of corporate communications at two major insurers, first at Humana and then at Cigna. Now Mr. Potter has written a fascinating book that details the methods he and his colleagues used to manipulate public opinion and describes his transformation from the idealistic son of working-class parents in eastern Tennessee to top insurance company executive, to vocal critic and industry watchdog. Using little of the fiery rhetoric or lurid prose that usually marks corporate exposés or memoirs of redemption, the book, Deadly Spin ... is an evenhanded yet riveting account of the inner workings of the health care insurance industry, a cautionary tale that doctors and patients would be wise not to miss. Mr. Potter [describes] the myth-making he did, interspersing descriptions of front groups, paid spies and jiggered studies with a deft retelling of the convoluted (and usually eye-glazing) history of health care insurance policies.
Note: Mr. Potter has written a powerful condemnation of health care industry practices at this link. For other major media articles on this courageous whistleblower, click here. And for other highly informative reports on important health issues, click here.
Last year, Stanford banned its physicians from giving paid promotional talks for pharmaceutical companies. One thing it didn't do was make sure its faculty followed that rule. A ProPublica investigation ["Dollars for Docs"] found that more than a dozen of the school's doctors were paid speakers in apparent violation of Stanford policy - two of them were paid six figures since last year. Conflict-of-interest policies have become increasingly important as academic medical centers worry that promotional talks undermine the credibility not only of the physicians giving them, but also of the institutions they represent. Yet when it comes to enforcing the policies, universities have allowed permissive interpretations and relied on the honor system. That approach isn't working. Many physicians are in apparent violation, and ignorance or confusion about the rules is widespread. As a result, some faculty physicians stay on the industry lecture circuit, where they can net tens of thousands of dollars in additional income. Critics of the practice say delivering talks for drug companies is incompatible with teaching future generations of physicians. That's because drug firms typically pick the topic of the lecture, train the speakers and require them to use company-provided presentation slides.
Note: "Dollars for Docs" is an ongoing investigation into the influence of drug company marketing payments on medical providers. To search for a doctor in the database, click here.
The world's biggest pharmaceutical company hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial drug trial involving children with meningitis, according to a leaked US embassy cable. Pfizer was sued by the Nigerian state and federal authorities, who claimed that children were harmed by a new antibiotic, Trovan, during the trial, which took place in the middle of a meningitis epidemic of unprecedented scale in Kano in the north of Nigeria in 1996. But the cable suggests that the US drug giant did not want to pay out to settle the two cases – one civil and one criminal – brought by the Nigerian federal government. The cable reports a meeting between Pfizer's country manager, Enrico Liggeri, and US officials at the Abuja embassy on 9 April 2009. It states: "According to Liggeri, Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to federal attorney general Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases. He said Pfizer's investigators were passing this information to local media." The cable ... continues: "A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa's cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles."
Note: For more on this revealing case, see the New York Times article available here.
Many drug trials involve a placebo, a sham drug whose results are compared with the results of the real medication. A placebo is supposed to contain a harmless substance, such as sugar or vegetable oil, which has no significant effect on the body. In [a new] study, researchers delved into 176 studies published in reputable medical journals ... from January 2008 to December 2009 to see if placebo contents were disclosed and if so, what they were. The study authors argue that placebo ingredients may not always be as inconsequential as some may think. They write: "For instance, olive oil and corn oil have been used as the placebo in trials of cholesterol-lowering drugs. This may lead to an understatement of drug benefit: The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids of these 'placebos,' and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, can reduce lipid levels and heart disease." Certain placebos, they add, may skew results in favor of the active drug. The researchers referenced a trial for a drug used to treat anorexia linked with cancer in which a lactose placebo was used. Since lactose intolerance is common among cancer patients, the fact that some suffered stomach problems from the placebo may have made the actual drug look more beneficial. "Perfect placebo is not the aim," they write, "rather, we seek to ensure that its composition is disclosed."
Note: For key reports from major media sources on important issues related to health and medicine, click here.
The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald's and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease. In an overhaul of public health, said by [critics] to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five "responsibility deal" networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company. The food deal's sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps. The leading supermarkets are an equally strong presence. In early meetings, these commercial partners have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed. They have been assured by Lansley that he wants to explore voluntary not regulatory approaches, and to support them in removing obstacles.
About 48 of the more than 1,730 California doctors who received money from pharmaceutical companies over the past 21 months have been the subject of disciplinary action, a database compiled by the investigative news organization ProPublica found. While that represents less than 3 percent of the California doctors who take pharmaceutical money, the fact that drug companies are paying those doctors - some of whom have multiple disciplinary actions - for their expertise calls into question how closely these companies vet the physicians who serve as the spokespeople for their drugs. California doctors have received $28.6 million from top pharmaceutical companies since 2009, with at least three physicians collecting more than $200,000 and 36 others making more than $100,000 for promoting drug firm products. That cash flowing from drug companies to doctors has raised ethical concerns from some observers. "If they're getting as much money from pharmaceutical companies as they do for being a doctor, what are they really? Are they working for a pharmaceutical company, or are they being a doctor?" asked Lisa Bero, a pharmacy professor at UCSF who studies conflicts of interest in medicine and research.
Note: For a detailed analysis of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry by a highly-respected doctor, click here.
GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant â€” the latest in a growing number of whistle-blower lawsuits that drug makers have settled with multimillion-dollar fines. Altogether, GlaxoSmithKline sold 20 drugs with questionable safety that were made at a huge plant in Puerto Rico that for years was rife with contamination. Cheryl D. Eckard, the companyâ€™s quality manager, asserted in her whistle-blower suit that she had warned Glaxo of the problems but the company fired her instead of addressing them. Among the drugs affected were Paxil, an antidepressant; Bactroban, an ointment; Avandia, a troubled diabetes drug; Coreg, a heart drug; and Tagamet, an acid reflux drug. Justice Department officials announced the settlement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Boston, saying a $150 million payment to settle criminal charges was the largest such payment ever by a manufacturer of adulterated drugs. The outcome also provides $600 million in civil penalties. The share to the whistle-blower will be $96 million, one of the highest such awards in a health care fraud case.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on corporate corruption and criminality, click here.
In a rare move, the Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it had charged a former vice president and top lawyer for the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss. â€śThis is absolutely precedent-setting â€” this is really going to set peopleâ€™s hair on fire,â€ť said Douglas B. Farquhar, a Washington lawyer. â€śThis is indicative of the F.D.A. and Justice strategy to go after the very top-ranking managing officials at regulated companies.â€ť The indictment accuses the Glaxo official, Lauren C. Stevens of Durham, N.C., of lying to the Food and Drug Administration in 2003, by writing letters, as associate general counsel, denying that doctors speaking at company events had promoted Wellbutrin for uses not approved by the agency. Ms. Stevens â€śmade false statements and withheld documents she recognized as incriminating,â€ť including slides the F.D.A. had sought during its investigation, the indictment stated. The company was cooperating fully with a federal investigation into allegations of illegal sales and marketing of Wellbutrin. Last year, it set aside $400 million to resolve the case, which is still pending. Two weeks ago, in an unrelated case, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $750 million to the government to settle civil and criminal complaints that it sold tainted or ineffective products from a large manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico.
Note: Even with fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars assessed to many of the large pharmaceuticals, why isn't more being done? See what one of the top doctors in the US revealed about corruption in health care at this link.
More than 17,000 doctors and other health care providers have taken money from seven major drug companies to talk to other doctors about their products, a joint investigation by news organizations and non-profit groups found. More than 380 of the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals took in more than $100,000 in 2009 and 2010, according to the investigation. The report said far more doctors are likely to have taken such payments, but it documented these based on information from seven drugmakers. The investigation by journalism group ProPublica, Consumer Reports magazine, NPR radio and [other] publications showed doctors were sometimes urged to recommend "off-label" prescriptions of drugs, meaning using them for conditions they are not approved for. "Tens of thousands of U.S. physicians are paid to spread the word about pharma's favored pills and to advise the companies about research and marketing," the group says in its report. "This investigation begins to pull back the shroud on these activities," Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a statement. "The amount of money involved is astounding, and the ProPublica report's account of the background of some of the physicians is disturbing."
Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon delivered both a mea culpa and clear admission to [the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform] that his company let the public down through numerous recent drug recalls. He also admitted that the company secretly bought up defective drugs without informing regulators and consumers of its actions. The committee has been investigating circumstances that have led to more than half a dozen recalls this year of non-prescription cold and pain drugs such as Tylenol, Benadryl and Motrin made by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit. Weldon's [pledge] to never let this happen again was met with some skepticism. [Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY)] said [the] testimony indicates some very serious problems in "the way Johnson & Johnson viewed its responsibility to the public and its day-to-day relationship with the FDA." There is often a thin line between "working cooperatively" and having a "cozy relationship," he said. "The documents we have seen in this case indicate this line may have been crossed early and often."
If you want to understand the way prescription drugs are marketed today, have a look at the 1928 book, Propaganda, by Edward Bernays, the father of public relations in America. For Bernays, the public relations business was less about selling things than about creating the conditions for things to sell themselves. When Bernays was working as a salesman for Mozart pianos, for example, he did not simply place advertisements for pianos in newspapers. That would have been too obvious. Instead, Bernays persuaded reporters to write about a new trend: Sophisticated people were putting aside a special room in the home for playing music. Once a person had a music room, Bernays believed, he would naturally think of buying a piano. As Bernays wrote, "It will come to him as his own idea." Just as Bernays sold pianos by selling the music room, pharmaceutical marketers now sell drugs by selling the diseases that they treat. The buzzword is "disease branding." To brand a disease is to shape its public perception in order to make it more palatable to potential patients. Once a branded disease has achieved a degree of cultural legitimacy, there is no need to convince anyone that a drug to treat it is necessary. It will come to him as his own idea. It is hard to brand a disease without the help of physicians, of course. So drug companies typically recruit academic "thought leaders" to write and speak about any new conditions they are trying to introduce.
Note: This key topic is discussed in great depth in the BBC's documentary "Century of the Self" available here. And for a top doctor's analysis that the cholesterol scare was largely manufactured for profit, click here.
Allergan Inc., the maker of wrinkle-smoothing Botox, has agreed to pay $600 million to settle a yearslong federal investigation into its marketing of the top-selling, botulin-based drug. The Justice Department and the company said Wednesday in a statement it will plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of "misbranding," in which the company's marketing led physicians to use Botox for unapproved uses. Those included the treatment of headache, pain, spasticity and cerebral palsy in children. Companies are prohibited from promoting drugs for unapproved, or "off-label," uses. Allergan said it will pay $375 million in connection with the plea, which includes the forfeiture of $25 million in assets. Additionally, the company will pay $225 million in civil fines — $210 million to the federal governments and the rest to several states — related to the investigation, although the company denies liability for the civil claims. Allergan "paid kickbacks to induce [physicians] to inject Botox for off-label uses and Allergan also taught doctors how to bill for off-label uses, including coaching doctors how to miscode Botox claims leading to millions of dollars of false claims being to submitted to federal and state programs," Assistant Attorney General Tony West said.
Note: $600 million is nothing to sneeze at, yet this kind of find is becoming almost commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry. Could it be that industry chieftains are more interested in profit that public health? For more powerful information along these lines, see our two-page health summary.
Recalls of prescription and over the counter drugs are surging, raising questions about the quality of drug manufacturing in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration reported more than 1,742 recalls last year, skyrocketing from 426 in 2008, according to the Gold Sheet, a trade publication on drug quality that analyzes FDA data. One company, drug repackager Advantage Dose, accounted for more than 1,000 of those recalls. Even excluding Advantage Dose, which has shut down, recalls jumped 50% last year. "We've seen a trend where the last four years are among the top five for the most number of drug recalls since we began tallying recalls in 1988," said Bowman Cox, managing editor of the Gold Sheet. "That's a meaningful development." The fast pace of drug recalls seems to be continuing in 2010. Drug recalls totaled 296 from January through June of this year, said Cox. "If we continue at this same rate, we could get 600 or more recalls by the end of the year," he said. "That's still a very high rate of recalls." High-profile recalls of Tylenol and other products by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, have drawn attention to quality concerns in manufacturing. The spike in recalls, especially of generic and over-the-counter drugs, is being driven by manufacturing lapses, experts say. Some of the biggest culprits: the quality of raw materials, faulty labeling and packaging and contamination.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from major media sources, click here.
The Postal Service is ready to deliver lifesaving drugs to about a quarter of the residents of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the only metropolitan area in the nation where letter carriers have been trained to dispense medication after a large-scale terrorist attack involving biological weapons. Efforts are underway in six cities to train workers to deliver the drugs needed to counter anthrax or other potentially deadly agents, the White House says. The White House won't name the six cities, and Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa says she can't talk about whether more cities are interested in the voluntary program. With a model in place, the White House says it is working to expand the voluntary program to cities across the country. Minneapolis postal worker Chris Wittenburg of the National Association of Letter Carriers says setting up the program is complicated. First, letter carriers have to volunteer, undergo medical tests to make sure they can take the antibiotics, be fitted for masks (no facial hair allowed) and be trained. Routes have to be combined, and systems set up to suspend regular mail delivery in an instant, call postal workers in and send them out carrying boxes of drugs and fliers telling people what to do. About 60% of the city's letter carriers volunteered for the program, which was given a trial run in May.
Nearly two years ago, a study known as the JUPITER [Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention] trial hinted at a new era in the use of statins -- one in which the cholesterol-busting drugs could be used to stave off heart-related death in many more people than just those with high cholesterol. Now, however, researchers behind a new review that takes a second look at the findings of the landmark study say that these results are flawed -- and that they do not support the benefits initially reported. Not only did this second look turn up no evidence of the "striking decrease in coronary heart disease complications" reported by investigators behind JUPITER, but it has also called into question drug companies' involvement in such trials, according to an article in the June 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Moreover, Dr. Michel de Lorgeril of Joseph Fourier University and the National Center of Scientific Research in Grenoble, France, and coauthors argue that major discrepancies exists between the significant reductions in nonfatal stroke and heart attacks reported in the JUPITER trial and what has been found in other research. "The JUPITER data set appears biased," Lorgeril and coauthors wrote in conclusion. De Lorgeril and coauthors point out that nine of 14 authors of the JUPITER article have financial relationships with AstraZeneca, which sponsored the trial.
Note: There is intriguing evidence that much of the fear around cholesterol was fabricated to sell drugs. For more on this, see the article by one of the most respected doctors on the Internet at this link.
In the fall of 1999, the drug giant SmithKline Beecham secretly began a study to find out if its diabetes medicine, Avandia, was safer for the heart than a competing pill, Actos, made by Takeda. Avandia’s success was crucial to SmithKline, whose labs were otherwise all but barren of new products. But the study’s results, completed that same year, were disastrous. Not only was Avandia no better than Actos, but the study also provided clear signs that it was riskier to the heart. But instead of publishing the results, the company spent the next 11 years trying to cover them up, according to documents recently obtained by The New York Times. The company did not post the results on its Web site or submit them to federal drug regulators, as is required in most cases by law. The heart risks from Avandia first became public in May 2007, with a study from a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who used data the company was forced by a lawsuit to post on its own Web site. In the ensuing months, GlaxoSmithKline officials conceded that they had known of the drug’s potential heart attack risks since at least 2005. But the latest documents demonstrate that the company had data hinting at Avandia’s extensive heart problems almost as soon as the drug was introduced in 1999, and sought intensively to keep those risks from becoming public.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from major media sources, click here.
Genetic engineers, move over: the latest scheme for creating children to a parent’s specifications requires no DNA tinkering, but merely giving mom a steroid while she’s pregnant, and presto —- no chance that her daughters will be lesbians or (worse?) ‘uppity.’ Or so one might guess from the storm brewing over the prenatal use of that steroid, called dexamethasone. In February, bioethicist Alice Dreger of Northwestern University and two colleagues blew the whistle on the controversial practice of giving pregnant women dexamethasone to keep the female fetuses they are carrying from developing ambiguous genitalia. Dreger and her colleagues pluck numerous brow-raising statements from the writings of pediatric endocrinologist Maria New of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who has long promoted prenatal dexamethasone. New has indeed argued that prenatal androgens can affect a woman’s sexual orientation, her interest in becoming a mother and housewife, her interest in traditionally masculine careers, and—in childhood—whether she plays with dolls or trucks. A book that Harvard University Press will publish in September, called Brain Storm: Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, argues that studies claiming to find innate, sex-based brain differences are seriously flawed.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.