Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on pharmaceutical corruption
Antidepressants ... may be no better than dummy pills for people with mild or moderate depression, according to a study that suggests 70 percent of patients wouldn’t benefit from the drugs. In a review of six trials of antidepressants involving more than 700 patients published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers led by Jay Fournier at the University of Pennsylvania found the drugs helped only those patients with the most severe depression. Doctors, policy makers and sufferers should be made aware that there’s little evidence to show the treatments will benefit patients with less severe symptoms, the authors said. “This important feature of the evidence base is not reflected in the implicit messages present in the marketing of these medications to clinicians and the public,” they said. The researchers combined data from six trials. The drugs had a “nonexistent to negligible” effect on patients with mild, moderate and severe symptoms, compared with those who took a placebo, according to a commonly used scale used to measure the disorder. The pills had a large effect on patients with very severe symptoms, the study found.
Note: For a treasure trove of important reports on corruption regarding major health issues, click here.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was named president of Merck & Co Inc's vaccine division. Gerberding, who led the CDC from 2002 to 2009 and stepped down when President Barack Obama took office, will head up the company's $5 billion global vaccine business that includes shots to prevent chickenpox, cervical cancer and pneumonia. She had led CDC from one crisis to another, including the investigation into the anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001, the H5N1 avian influenza, the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and various outbreaks of food poisoning. She may be charged with reigniting flagging sales of Merck's Gardasil vaccine to prevent cervical cancer by protecting against human papillomavirus or HPV. After an encouraging launch Gardasil sales have been falling and were down 22 percent in the third quarter at $311 million.
Note: So the head of the CDC now is in charge of vaccines at one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Could this be considered conflict of interest? Could this possibly be payback for supporting the vaccine agenda so strongly for years? For more on the risks and dangers of vaccines, click here.
The time, money and manpower that lobbying firms devote to courting lawmakers reveals an investment inside the Beltway of staggering proportions. For every lawmaker in Congress, there are about six lobbyists pushing their health care priorities, according to a Bloomberg News investigation released today. That's about 3,300 registered health care lobbyists working Capitol Hill. A total of $263 million has been spent on health lobbying in 2009, according to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more money spent on health than any other sector this year. The list of the top 20 spenders in 2009 across all sectors includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at No. 1, spending more than $26 million, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) at No. 3, spending $13 million, and Pfizer in the No. 6 spot, spending $11 million. Also joining the ranks of the top 20 spenders this year are Blue Cross Blue Shield, AARP, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and Eli Lilly, each having doled out between $7 and $10 million this year. Wendell Potter, a 20-year health insurance veteran and former CIGNA vice president, ... spoke out about insurance companies operating behind the scenes. Potter recalled previous health care fights, saying insurers have undoubtedly tried to shape the battle. "It is usually done through the PR firms that work for them," Potter said. "They want to keep their fingerprints off stuff like that. "With this history, you can rest assured that the industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years to kill reform this year, or even better, to shape it so that it benefits insurance companies and their Wall Street investors far more than average Americans," he said.
Note: For lots more on the corrupt medical/governmental complex, click here.
A fascinating court case in Australia has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug, Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck has paid out more than Ł2bn to 44,000 people in America. The first ... thing to emerge in the Australian case is email documentation showing staff at Merck made a "hit list" of doctors who were critical of the company, or of the drug. This list contained words such as "neutralise", "neutralised" and "discredit" next to the names of various doctors. "We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," said one email, from a Merck employee. Staff are also alleged to have used other tactics, such as trying to interfere with academic appointments, and dropping hints about how funding to institutions might dry up. Worse still, is the revelation that Merck paid the publisher Elsevier to produce a publication. This time Elsevier Australia went the whole hog, giving Merck an entire publication which resembled an academic journal, although in fact it only contained reprinted articles, or summaries, of other articles.
Note: For a superb overview of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry by a leading MD and former medical journal editor, click here.
An international drug company made a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralised" or discredited because they criticised the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced. Staff at US company Merck &Co emailed each other about the list of doctors - mainly researchers and academics - who had been negative about the drug Vioxx or Merck and a recommended course of action. The email, which came out in the Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday as part of a class action against the drug company, included the words "neutralise", "neutralised" or "discredit" against some of the doctors' names. It is also alleged the company used intimidation tactics against critical researchers, including dropping hints it would stop funding to institutions and claims it interfered with academic appointments. "We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court by Julian Burnside QC, acting for the plaintiff. Merck & Co and its Australian subsidiary, Merck, Sharpe and Dohme, are being sued for compensation by more than 1000 Australians, who claim they suffered heart attacks or strokes as a result of Vioxx. The drug was launched in 1999 and at its height of popularity was used by 80 million people worldwide because it did not cause stomach problems as did traditional anti-inflammatory drugs. It was voluntarily withdrawn from sale in 2004 after concerns were raised that it caused heart attacks and strokes and a clinical trial testing these potential side affects was aborted for safety reasons. Merck last year settled thousands of lawsuits in the US over the effects of Vioxx for $US 4.85 billion, but made no admission of guilt.
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A special "vaccines court" hears cases brought by parents who claim their children have been harmed by routine vaccinations. The court buffers Wyeth and other makers of childhood-disease vaccines from ... litigation risk. The legal shield, known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, was put into place in 1986. Vaccines ... are poised to generate $21.5 billion in annual sales for their makers by 2012, according to France's Sanofi-Aventis SA, a leading producer of inoculations. Vaccines' transformation into a lucrative business has some observers questioning whether the shield law is still appropriate. Critics ... underscored the limited recourse families have in claiming injury from vaccines. "When you've got a monopoly and can dictate price in a way that you couldn't before, I'm not sure you need the liability protection," said Lars Noah, a specialist in medical technology. Kevin Conway, an attorney at Boston law firm Conway, Homer & Chin-Caplan PC, which specializes in vaccine cases and brought one of the recent autism suits, says the lack of liability for the pharmaceutical industry compromises safety. Even if they had won their cases, the families of autistic children wouldn't have been paid by the companies that make the vaccines. Instead, the government would have footed the bill, using the funds from a tax levied on inoculations.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on vaccines from reliable major media sources showing huge corruption and deception.
Most parents have never heard of him, but Joseph Biederman of Harvard may be the United States' most influential doctor when it comes to determining whether their children are normal or mentally ill. In 1996, for example, Biederman suggested that drugs like Ritalin might serve 10 percent of American kids for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. By 2004, one in nine 11-year-old boys was taking the drug. Biederman and his team also are more responsible than anyone for a child bipolar epidemic sweeping America (and no other country) that has 2-year-olds on three or four psychiatric drugs. The science of children's psychiatric medications is so primitive and Biederman's influence so great that when he merely mentions a drug during a presentation, tens of thousands of children within a year or two will end up taking that drug, or combination of drugs. This happens in the absence of a drug trial of any kind - instead, the decision is based upon word of mouth among the 7,000 child psychiatrists in America. That's why [the] recent revelation that Biederman did not declare $1.6 million in drug company consulting fees is so important, scary and tragic. American medicine, with psychiatry the most culpable, has fallen back to a time more than 100 years ago. Now once again, drug company money is corrupting medical practice and the maintenance of our country's health. Virtually all doctors who receive drug company money say they are not influenced, but every independent study examining the effects of such money says they are.
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The nation is at risk if FDA science is at risk. In recognition of this threat, in December 2006, FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, MD requested that the Science Board, which is the Advisory Board to the Commissioner, form a Subcommittee to assess whether science and technology at the FDA can support current and future regulatory needs. This report is the product of that assessment. The Subcommittee concluded that science at the FDA is in a precarious position: the Agency suffers from serious scientific deficiencies and is not positioned to meet current or emerging regulatory responsibilities. The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific base has eroded and its scientific organizational structure is weak. The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific workforce does not have sufficient capacity and capability. FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of food for the nation. The FDA science agenda lacks a structure and vision, as well as effective coordination. The FDA has an inadequate and ineffective program for scientist performance. Recommendations of excellent FDA reviews are seldom followed.
Note: The above excerpts are all taken from the chapter headings in the initial table of contents and the second page of the initial overview.
Peter Rost is worked up. The ex-Pfizer senior executive turned blogger believes he has uncovered another instance of unethical marketing by Big Pharma. Rost's blog, Question Authority With Dr. Rost, is one part mocking rant, two parts investigative chronicle. He has also published an exposé of his years in the drug industry, "The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman." Trained as a physician in his native Sweden, Rost has worked in the drug industry for most of the past 20 years. He almost certainly never will again. Rost hopes that Question Authority - named after the Fortune column in which he was once featured - will help him create a new career. Rost's many critics would love to be able to dismiss him as an embittered crank. But they can't. The blog [is] a conduit for Big Pharma whistleblowers [that once prompted] a government probe into Pfizer's marketing activities. And a dispatch on dubious sales practices led to at least one sales director's ouster. For Big Pharma, whose public image is already battered, blogs are an added nuisance. The problem, says Robert Ehrlich, CEO of DTC Perspectives, a health-care marketing consultancy, is that most pharma companies are, "medically oriented and legally oriented ... but as an industry they are not consumer-oriented." For better or worse, the drug industry is going to have to get used to Dr. Peter Rost - and others like him.
Note: Read an excellent article on Dr. Rost and other major whistleblowers from the pharmaceutical industry. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing big pharma corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The drug maker Eli Lilly has engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia, according to hundreds of internal Lilly documents and e-mail messages among top company managers. The documents ... show that Lilly executives kept important information from doctors about Zyprexa’s links to obesity and its tendency to raise blood sugar — both known risk factors for diabetes. Lilly’s own published data, which it told its sales representatives to play down in conversations with doctors, has shown that 30 percent of patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, and some patients have reported gaining 100 pounds or more. But Lilly was concerned that Zyprexa’s sales would be hurt if the company was more forthright about the fact that the drug might cause unmanageable weight gain or diabetes, according to the documents, which cover the period 1995 to 2004. Zyprexa has become by far Lilly’s best-selling product, with sales of $4.2 billion last year, when about two million people worldwide took the drug. Critics, including the American Diabetes Association, have argued that Zyprexa, introduced in 1996, is more likely to cause diabetes than other widely used schizophrenia drugs. As early as 1999, the documents show that Lilly worried that side effects from Zyprexa, whose chemical name is olanzapine, would hurt sales. “Olanzapine-associated weight gain and possible hyperglycemia is a major threat to the long-term success of this critically important molecule,” Dr. Alan Breier wrote in a November 1999 e-mail message to two-dozen Lilly employees.
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Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists [and] lining up allies in the Bush administration and Congress. Many drug company lobbyists concede that the House is likely to pass a bill intended to drive down drug prices, but they are determined to block such legislation in the Senate. If that strategy fails, they are counting on President Bush to veto any bill that passes. With 49 Republicans in the Senate next year, the industry is confident that it can round up the 34 votes normally needed to uphold a veto. They began developing strategy last week at a meeting of the board of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Billy Tauzin, president of that group [and] a former congressman...met with Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who has been trying for six years to allow drug imports from Canada. The industry vehemently opposes such legislation. The 2003 Medicare law prohibits the federal government from negotiating drug prices or establishing a list of preferred drugs. Drug makers have not set a budget for their campaign. They and their trade groups already spend some $100 million a year on lobbying in Washington. Representative Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey [said] “The 2003 Medicare law was essentially written by the drug industry.” Drug companies may be open to some changes in the Medicare drug benefit, but they say they cannot accept any form of price negotiation.
Note: For lots of verifiable information on the power of the drug industry to corrupt Congress, click here.
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu. Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million. In the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer. Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.
Dr. Marcia Angell is a former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and spent two decades on the staff of that publication. Her new book is a scorching indictment of drug companies and their research and business practices. "Despite all its excesses, this is an important industry that should be saved - mainly from itself," she writes. Dr. Angell's case is tough, persuasive and troubling. "The Truth About the Drug Companies" ... is devoted to assertions of shady, misleading corporate behavior. In the past, drug discoveries made through government research remained in the public domain. Beginning in 1980 those breakthroughs could be patented, even if their research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. As a consequence, Dr. Angell says, patent shenanigans have reshaped the drug business, as have the recent government regulations that expedite direct-to-consumer drug advertising. "Once upon a time, drug companies promoted drugs to treat diseases," Dr. Angell writes. "Now it is often the opposite. They promote diseases to fit their drugs." Why all the advertising? "If prescription drugs are so good, why do they need to be pushed so hard?" she asks. Dr. Angell is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School.
I wonder how many of the readers remember the WHO’s pandemic alert on swine ‘flu some years ago? When the WHO was proactive to announce a pandemic then without any scientific justifications I was the one who wrote that that was a business stunt! People did not believe and the British Medical Journal rejected my paper. After one long year what I had predicted came true. Council of Europe Health Committee Chairman Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg said that the declaration of a swine flu pandemic was a false alarm. “There are many signs that there is close cooperation between the WHO and pharmaceutical companies. We have to find out whether there was pressure or whether there was money given as an incentive to the WHO to have this pandemic declared,” Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg adds. To give a simple example of the swine flu drug Tamiflu when given to a million people, 45,000 will experience vomiting, 31,000 will experience headache and 11,000 will have psychiatric side-effects. These figures might be insignificant if Tamiflu cures swine flu. That is not the case. Raising the fear levels in society is the surest way of depressing their immune system! This is good for business. With people’s immune system depressed they are prone to all kinds of infections. What follows next is the usual history. Greedy drug companies will now vie with each other to produce a vaccine. Vaccination is big business. This pattern goes on and on as long as money and medicine are related.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on Big Pharma corruption from reliable major media sources.
What Americans need to understand about the race to find vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 is that in the U.S., even when companies appear to downshift from maximum greed levels – and it's not at all clear they've done this with coronavirus treatments – the production of pharmaceutical drugs is still a nearly riskless, subsidy-laden scam. Americans reacted in horror five years ago when a self-satisfied shark of an executive named Martin Shkreli, a.k.a. the "Pharma Bro," helped his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raise the price of lifesaving toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Shkreli, who smirked throughout congressional testimony ... was held up as a uniquely smug exemplar of corporate evil. Really, the whole industry is one big Shkreli, and Covid-19 – a highly contagious virus with unique properties that may require generations of vaccinations and booster shots – looms now as the ultimate cash cow for lesser-known Pharma Bros. "The power of the industry combined with fear is driving extraordinary spending," says U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who has been ... warning about pandemic profiteering. "It all suggests rosy times ahead for the pharmaceutical industry." Recent House and Senate emergency-spending bills allocate as much as $20 billion or more for vaccine development, and another $6 billion for manufacturing and distribution. "The public will pay for much research and manufacturing," says Doggett. "Only the profits will be privatized."
Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies – most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug – have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times. The sudden windfalls highlight the powerful financial incentives for company officials to generate positive headlines in the race for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, even if the drugs might never pan out. Some officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have grown concerned about whether companies are trying to inflate their stock prices by exaggerating their roles in Operation Warp Speed, the flagship federal initiative to quickly develop drugs to combat Covid-19. In some cases, company insiders ... appear to be pouncing on opportunities to cash out while their stock prices are sky high. And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before market-moving announcements about their vaccine progress. "It is inappropriate for drug company executives to cash in on a crisis," said Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients for Affordable Drugs. "Every day, Americans wake up and make sacrifices during this pandemic. Drug companies see this as a payday."
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, pleaded guilty Tuesday to three federal criminal charges related to the company's role in creating the nation's opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma board chairman Steve Miller pleaded guilty on behalf of the company during a virtual federal court hearing in front of US District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. The counts include one of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The plea deal announced in October includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture, according to a Department of Justice press release. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2018, just one year of the opioid crisis, and about 70% of those deaths were caused by prescription or illicit opioids like OxyContin. Several civil lawsuits against Purdue Pharma related to the opioid crisis are still ongoing as the company undergoes bankruptcy proceedings. The Plaintiffs' Executive Committee in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation Multi-District Litigation called Purdue Pharma's guilty plea "long overdue." "Their illegal and profit-seeking actions were egregious. It is important to note, however, that they are just one company in one part of the larger opioid supply chain," [the plaintiffs'] attorneys ... said.
Note: The company pays huge fines for the deaths of countless thousands, yet the CEO and others responsible face no legal charges. Where is the deterrent for this egregious behavior? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on Big Pharma corruption from reliable major media sources.
The percentage of national income that is absorbed by health care has grown over the past half-century, from 5% in 1960 to 18% in 2017, reducing what is available for anything else from 95% in 1960 to 82% today. The costs of health care contribute to the long-term stagnation in wages; to fewer good jobs, especially for less educated workers; and to rising income inequality. American health care is the most expensive in the world, and yet American health is among the worst among rich countries. The U.S. has lower life expectancy than the other wealthy countries but vastly higher expenditures per person. In 2017, the Swiss lived 5.1 years longer than Americans but spent 30% less per person; other countries achieved a similar length of life for still fewer health dollars. How is it possible that Americans pay so much and get so little? The money is certainly going somewhere. What is waste to a patient is income to a provider. The industry is not very good at promoting health, but it excels at promoting wealth among health care providers. Employer-based coverage is a huge barrier to reform. So is the way that the health care industry is protected in Washington by its lobbyists—five for every member of Congress. Our government is complicit in an extortion that is an important contributor to income inequality. Through pharma companies that get rich by addicting people, and through excessive costs that lower wages and eliminate good jobs, the industry that is supposed to improve our health is undermining it.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on health from reliable major media sources.
One of the first things I learned about pain was its value. I was a third-year medical student in 1976. We were ... encouraged to listen carefully to the patient’s experience of pain, the timing, the duration and any factors that made it better or worse. Forty years later, our concept of pain couldn’t be more different. Instead of learning from pain, we now regard it as an illness in and of itself. Insurance companies, health-care providers and drugmakers have all worked to increase the public’s fear of pain, leading us to see it as something to be treated, eliminated, banished — never lived with or accommodated or managed — lest it destroy us. They turned our natural fear into big business; our fee-for-service system has multiplied treatments based primarily on the financial rewards for pharmaceutical companies, doctors and hospitals. That attitude shift is perhaps the most overlooked explanation for an opioid crisis that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. A healthy fear of pain ... protects us from injury and reminds us to allow time for healing. But otherwise, the fear of pain, and the belief that a pain-free existence is optimal or even possible, has been a catastrophe for patients. Before the opioid revolution, doctors understood that pain was important to keeping us safe, to be lived with and managed. Even if this meant we bore frequent episodes of discomfort, that was better than the nationwide crisis America faces today. Life isn’t “pain free.” If we want to end the epidemic of addiction, we need to relearn that lesson.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on health from reliable major media sources.
Purdue Pharma has agreed to pay $270 million to settle a historic lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general, who accused the OxyContin maker of aggressively marketing the opioid painkiller and fueling a drug epidemic that left thousands dead in the state. The settlement comes after Purdue [sought] to delay the start of the trial, which is scheduled for May 28. Attorney General Mike Hunter said ... that $102.5 million of the settlement would be used to help establish a national addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University. The company will also provide $20 million of addiction treatment and opioid rescue medications to the center. A remaining $12.5 million from the settlement will be used directly to help cities and counties with the opioid crisis. The Sackler family, who founded and own Purdue Pharma, will also contribute $75 million over the next five years to the treatment and research center. The lawsuit was brought by Hunter against some of the nation's leading makers of opioid pain medications, alleging that deceptive marketing over the past decade fueled the epidemic in the state. Hunter has said the defendants - Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and others - deceived the public into believing that opioids were safe for extended use. The settlement was only with Purdue Pharma, and the other defendants are still scheduled to go to trial. Thirty-six states have brought cases against Purdue and other opioid drugmakers.
Note: Many doctors also profited from excessive prescribing of dangerous opioids. And according to a former DEA agent, Congress helped drug companies fuel the opioid epidemic. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing Big Pharma corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
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