Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on pharmaceutical corruption
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
The origin, evolution and astonishing scale of America’s catastrophic opioid epidemic just got a lot clearer. The drug industry - the pill manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers - found it profitable to flood some of the most vulnerable communities in America with billions of painkillers. They continued to move their product, and the medical community and government agencies failed to take effective action, even when it became apparent that these pills were fueling addiction and overdoses and were getting diverted to the streets. This has been broadly known for years, but this past week, the more precise details became public for the first time. The revelatory data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration and its Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). “This really shows a relationship between the manufacturers and the distributors: They were all in it together,” said Jim Geldhof, a retired DEA employee. “We’re seeing a lot of internal stuff that basically confirms ... that it was all about greed, and all about money.” The data shows a trend in pill distribution that, according to the lawsuit plaintiffs, can’t be passed off as reasonable therapeutic medical treatment. The industry shipped 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills across the country from 2006 through 2012, the period covered by the ARCOS data released this past week. These pills didn’t flow in a steady stream but were more like a flash flood, spiking from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on pharmaceutical industry corruption from reliable major media sources.
A team of researchers inside Pfizer made a startling find in 2015: The company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy Enbrel, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 64 percent. The results were from an analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims. Verifying that the drug would actually have that effect in people would require a costly clinical trial - and after several years of internal discussion, Pfizer opted against further investigation and chose not to make the data public, the company confirmed. Researchers in the company’s division of inflammation and immunology urged Pfizer to conduct a clinical trial on thousands of patients, which they estimated would cost $80 million ... according to an internal company document obtained by The Washington Post. Pfizer’s deliberations, which previously have not been disclosed, offer a rare window into the frustrating search for Alzheimer’s treatments inside one of the world’s largest drug companies. Pfizer did share the data privately with at least one prominent scientist, but outside researchers contacted by The Post believe Pfizer also should at least have published its data, making the findings broadly available to researchers. “Of course they should. Why not?” said Rudolph E. Tanzi, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher and professor at Harvard Medical School. “It would benefit the scientific community to have that data out there,” said Keenan Walker, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on Big Pharma corruption from reliable major media sources.
Purdue Pharma, the drug manufacturer that kickstarted the US opioid epidemic, corruptly influenced the World Health Organization in order to boost painkiller sales across the globe, according to a report by members of Congress. An investigation by Katherine Clark and Hal Rogers, who represent districts in Massachusetts and Kentucky hard hit by the US opioid epidemic, accuses Purdue of replicating its false marketing claims about the safety and effectiveness of opioids to change WHO prescribing guidelines in an attempt to expand foreign markets for its drugs. “The web of influence we uncovered paints a picture of a public health organization that has been corrupted by the opioid industry,” said Clark. “The WHO appears to be lending the opioid industry its voice and credibility, and as a result, a trusted public health organization is trafficking dangerous misinformation that could lead to a global opioid epidemic.” The report ... accuses Purdue of using pharma-funded organizations and specialists to influence the writing of WHO policy to encourage much wider prescribing of addictive high-strength opioids across the globe. It said that, as a result, “WHO guidelines are serving as marketing materials for Purdue”. [The] report alleges two WHO guidelines ... “contain dangerously misleading and, in some instances, outright false claims about the safety and efficacy of prescription opioids”. “Alarmingly, these guidelines mirror Purdue’s marketing strategies to increase prescriptions and expand sales,” the report found.
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 news articles on Big Pharma corruption from reliable major media sources.
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