Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on pharmaceutical corruption
Peter Doshi ... is one of the most influential voices in medical research today. Dr. Doshi’s renown comes not from solving the puzzles of cancer or discovering the next blockbuster drug, but from pushing the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies to open their records to outsiders. Together with a band of far-flung researchers and activists, he is trying to unearth data from clinical trials — complex studies that last for years and often involve thousands of patients across many countries — and make it public. The current system, the activists say, is one in which the meager details of clinical trials published in medical journals, often by authors with financial ties to the companies whose drugs they are writing about, is insufficient to the point of being misleading. For years, researchers have talked about the problem of publication bias, or selectively publishing results of trials. Concern about such bias gathered force in the 1990s and early 2000s, when researchers documented how, time and again, positive results were published while negative ones were not. Taken together, studies have shown that results of only about half of clinical trials make their way into medical journals. In 2009, Dr. Doshi and his colleagues set out to answer a simple question about the anti-flu drug Tamiflu: Does it work? Resolving that question has been far harder than they ever envisioned, and, four years later, there is still no definitive answer.
Note: If the public is going to be taking these drugs, shouldn't all safety studies be publicly available? What are the drug companies hiding? For more on corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The Texas Medical Center [is] a nearly 1,300-acre, 280-building complex of hospitals and related medical facilities, of which MD Anderson is the lead brand name. Medicine had obviously become a huge business. In fact, of Houston’s top 10 employers, five are hospitals, including MD Anderson with 19,000 employees. How did that happen? Where’s all that money coming from? And where is it going? I have spent the past seven months trying to find out by analyzing a variety of bills from hospitals like MD Anderson, doctors, drug companies and every other player in the American health care ecosystem. When you look behind the bills that ... patients receive, you see nothing rational — no rhyme or reason — about the costs they faced in a marketplace they enter through no choice of their own. The only constant is the sticker shock for the patients who are asked to pay. Yet those who work in the health care industry and those who argue over health care policy seem inured to the shock. Why exactly are the bills so high? What are the reasons ... that cancer means a half-million- or million-dollar tab? Why should a trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion bring a bill that can exceed the cost of a semester of college? What makes a single dose of even the most wonderful wonder drug cost thousands of dollars? Why does simple lab work done during a few days in a hospital cost more than a car? And what is so different about the medical ecosystem that causes technology advances to drive bills up instead of down?
Note: For the amazing answers to all these questions, read this detailed investigative report in its entirety at the link above. For more on corruption in the medical industry, click here.
Arguably the most prestigious medical journal in the world, the New England Journal of Medicine regularly features articles over which pharmaceutical companies and their employees can exert significant influence. Over a year-long period ending in August, NEJM published 73 articles on original studies of new drugs, encompassing drugs approved by the FDA since 2000 and experimental drugs. Of those articles, 60 were funded by a pharmaceutical company, 50 were co-written by drug company employees and 37 had a lead author, typically an academic, who had previously accepted outside compensation from the sponsoring drug company in the form of consultant pay, grants or speaker fees. The New England Journal of Medicine is not alone in featuring research sponsored in large part by drug companies — it has become a common practice that reflects the growing role of industry money in research. Years ago, the government funded a larger share of such experiments. But since about the mid-1980s, research funding by pharmaceutical firms has exceeded what the National Institutes of Health spends. Last year, the industry spent $39 billion on research in the United States while NIH spent $31 billion. When the company is footing the bill, the opportunities for bias are manifold: Company executives seeking to promote their drugs can design research that makes their products look better. They can select like-minded academics to perform the work. And they can run the statistics in ways that make their own drugs look better than they are. If troubling signs about a drug arise, they can steer clear of further exploration.
Note: To read an excellent summary of a book written by a former editor in chief of the NEJM exposing major corruption by the pharmaceuticals which poses a great threat to public health, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, click here.
The doctors prescribing ... drugs don't know they don't do what they're meant to. Nor do their patients. The manufacturers know full well, but they're not telling. Negative data goes missing, for all treatments, in all areas of science. The regulators and professional bodies we would reasonably expect to stamp out such practices have failed us. Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don't like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug's true effects. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their 40 years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works ad hoc, from sales reps, colleagues and journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies â€“ often undisclosed â€“ and the journals are, too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are owned outright by one drug company.
Note: This is an edited extract from Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, by Ben Goldacre, published next week by Fourth Estate. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on pharmaceutical corruption, click here.
The global pharmaceutical industry has racked up fines of more than $11bn in the past three years for criminal wrongdoing, including withholding safety data and promoting drugs for use beyond their licensed conditions. In all, 26 companies, including eight of the 10 top players in the global industry, have been found to be acting dishonestly. The scale of the wrongdoing, revealed for the first time, has undermined public and professional trust in the industry and is holding back clinical progress, according to two papers published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. Leading lawyers have warned that the multibillion-dollar fines are not enough to change the industry's behaviour. The 26 firms are under "corporate integrity agreements", which are imposed in the US when healthcare wrongdoing is detected, and place the companies on notice for good behaviour for up to five years. The largest fine of $3bn, imposed on the UK-based company GlaxoSmith-Kline in July after it admitted three counts of criminal behaviour in the US courts, was the largest ever. But GSK is not alone â€“ nine other companies have had fines imposed, ranging from $420m on Novartis to $2.3bn on Pfizer since 2009, totalling over $11bn. Kevin Outterson, a lawyer at Boston University, says that despite the eye watering size of the fines they amount to a small proportion of the companies' total revenues and may be regarded as a "cost of doing business".
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on pharmaceutical corruption, click here.
The U.S. health care system squanders $750 billion a year — roughly 30 cents of every medical dollar — through unneeded care, byzantine paperwork, fraud and other waste, the influential Institute of Medicine [said] in a report. President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are accusing each other of trying to slash Medicare and put seniors at risk. But the counter-intuitive finding from the report is that deep cuts are possible without rationing, and a leaner system may even produce better quality. More than 18 months in the making, the report identified six major areas of waste: unnecessary services ($210 billion annually); inefficient delivery of care ($130 billion); excess administrative costs ($190 billion); inflated prices ($105 billion); prevention failures ($55 billion), and fraud ($75 billion). Adjusting for some overlap among the categories, the panel settled on an estimate of $750 billion. The report makes ten recommendations, including payment reforms to reward quality results instead of reimbursing for each procedure, improving coordination among different kinds of service providers, leveraging technology to reinforce sound clinical decisions and educating patients to become more savvy consumers. The report’s main message for government is to accelerate payment reforms, said panel chair Dr. Mark Smith, president of the California HealthCare Foundation, a research group. For employers, it’s to move beyond cost shifts to workers and start demanding accountability from hospitals and major medical groups. For doctors, it means getting beyond the bubble of solo practice and collaborating with peers and other clinicians.
Note: The US spends far more on health care than most other developed countries which provide health care to all of their citizens. The US system is driven by profits. For more on this, click here.
A whistleblower suit against Merck, filed back in 2010 by two former employees, [accused] the drugmaker of overstating the effectiveness of its mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine. The scientists claim Merck defrauded the U.S. government by causing it to purchase an estimated four million doses of mislabeled and misbranded MMR vaccine per year for at least a decade, and helped ignite two recent mumps outbreaks that the allegedly ineffective vaccine was intended to prevent in the first place. “As the single largest purchaser of childhood vaccines (accounting for more than 50 percent of all vaccine purchasers), the United States is by far the largest financial victim of Merck’s fraud. Specifically, the suit claims Merck manipulated the results of clinical trials beginning in the late 1990s so as to be able to report that the combined mumps vaccine ... is 95 percent effective, in an effort to maintain its exclusive license to manufacture it. However, instead of reformulating the vaccine whose declining efficacy Merck itself has acknowledged, the company reportedly launched a complicated scheme to adjust its testing technique so that it would yield the desired potency results. While the Justice Department has refused to rule on the case after conducting its own two-year investigation, the allegations ... offer an extremely damaging view into the inner process of a company accused of misleading both regulators and consumers about a vital medical product.
Dr. David Healy is an internationally renowned psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, scientist, and author. He was responsible for submitting the key document that led to New York State's successful fraud action against GlaxoSmithKline. [Q.] You’ve written at your blog that “evidence-based medicine and RCTs [random controlled trials] are ... simply not the answer to determining cause and effect,” [because] they’re “quite likely to hide rather than reveal a problem like antidepressant induced suicidality.” How in fact do RCTs hide such information? [Dr. Healy:] There are ... specific problems like miscoding, where suicidality becomes “nausea” or “emotional lability” or even “treatment non-responsiveness.” There is also the problem of mislocation – patients on placebo end up being given problems they never had – and of nonexistent patients, who don’t of course have adverse events. Beyond that, there are more sophisticated tricks that companies can and do play – such as claiming that increased rates of a problem on a drug are not really evidence of an increase in rates if the data are not statistically significant. In this way, companies have hidden many more heart attacks on Vioxx and Avandia or suicidal acts on SSRIs than have been hidden by miscoding or mislocation. When it comes to adverse events, trials almost never get the right answer. The deeper problem ... is the combination of product patents, prescription-only status, and the use of clinical trials as a means of determining efficacy – in particular, when the data from those trials are not made available. This creates a perfect product ... which industry can manipulate to mean whatever they want them to mean.
Note: Dr. Healy is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and 20 books. For an excellent article going further into Dr. Healy's amazing work, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on health corruption and manipulations, click here.
A study in Finland has found that children vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus with Pandemrix were more likely to develop the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The condition causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sufferers can fall asleep suddenly and unintentionally. The researchers found that between 2002 and 2009, before the swine flu pandemic struck, the rate of narcolepsy in children under the age of 17 was 0.31 per 100,000. In 2010 this was about 17 times higher at 5.3 per 100,000 while the narcolepsy rate remained the same in adults. Markku Partinen of the Helsinki Sleep Clinic and Hanna Nohynek of the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland, also collected vaccination and childhood narcolepsy data for children born between January 1991 and December 2005. They found that in those who were vaccinated the rate of narcolepsy was nine per 100,000 compared to 0.7 per 100,000 unvaccinated children, or 13 times lower. Pandemrix was the main vaccine used in Britain against the swine flu epidemic in which six million people were vaccinated. It was formulated specifically for the swine flu pandemic virus and is no longer in use.
Note: The WHO stated "more than 12 countries reported cases of narcolepsy in children and adolescents using GlaxoSmithKline's swine flu vaccine." For powerful media reports suggesting that both the Avian Flu and Swine Flu were incredibly manipulated to promote fear and boost pharmaceutical sales, click here. For many news articles showing that vaccines are not tested adequately for safety and are at times politically and financially motivated, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on pharmaceutical corruption, 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.
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.
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.
Most pharmaceutical companies have sworn off ghostwriting, the practice of writing "research" papers for doctors and then paying them to add their names as authors even when they had little involvement or the results were trivial. Merck (MRK), Forest Labs (FRX), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have all been caught doing it. But what happens to the articles that have been disavowed by companies or discredited by lawyers? Not much, it turns out. They sit inside prestigious online archives of academic material, unretracted, where they look just like real studies with robust results. Ghostwriting doesn't look good in lawsuits, either. Pfizer (PFE) must now pay $9.5 million to a woman who claimed menopause drug Prempro gave her breast cancer; Wyeth - the company that made the drug and was later acquired by Pfizer - commissioned ghostwritten articles about the drug. So it's interesting to note that many of those pay-for-play articles are still sitting in scholarly archives such as PubMed, notching up bibliography references and footnotes, even though they shouldn't be. You can search for more ghostwritten papers here.
Note: Big Pharma giant Merck created a fake medical journal and created a list of doctors to discredit in order to popularize a dangerous drug that may have killed as many as 500,000 people before it was finally recalled. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing pharmaceutical corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Remember the warnings of 65,000 dead? Health chiefs should admit they were wrong – yet again – about a global pandemic. Let me recap. Six months ago [the] BBC was intoning nightly statistics on what "could" happen as "the deadly virus" took hold. The happy-go-lucky virologist, John Oxford, said half the population could be infected, and that his lowest estimate was 6,000 dead. The chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, bandied about any figure that came into his head, settling on "65,000 could die", peaking at 350 corpses a day. The media went berserk. The World Health Organisation declared a "six-level alert" so as to "prepare the world for an imminent attack". If anyone dared question this drivel, they were dismissed by Donaldson as "extremists". When people started reporting swine flu to be even milder than ordinary flu, he accused them of complacency and told them to "wait for next winter". He was already buying 32m masks and spending more than Ł1bn on Tamiflu and vaccines. It was pure, systematic government-induced panic – in which I accept that the media played its joyful part.
Note: For lots more on the gross profiteering and fear mongering of swine flu scare, click here.
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.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.
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.
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