Pharmaceutical Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on pharmaceutical corruption
A safeguard for Medicare beneficiaries has become a way for drugmakers to get paid billions of dollars for pricey medications at taxpayer expense. The cost of Medicare’s “catastrophic” prescription coverage jumped by 85 percent in three years, from $27.7 billion in 2013 to $51.3 billion in 2015. Out of some 2,750 drugs covered by Medicare’s Part D benefit, two pills for hepatitis C infection - Harvoni and Sovaldi - accounted for nearly $7.5 billion in catastrophic drug costs in 2015. Medicare’s catastrophic coverage was originally designed to protect seniors with multiple chronic conditions from the cumulatively high costs of taking many different pills. Beneficiaries pay 5 percent after they have spent $4,850 of their own money. With some drugs now costing more than $1,000 per pill, that threshold can be crossed quickly. Lawmakers who created Part D in 2003 also hoped added protection would entice insurers to participate in the program. Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost of drugs above a catastrophic threshold that combines spending by the beneficiary and the insurer. That means taxpayers, not insurers, bear the exposure for the most expensive patients. Catastrophic spending accounts for a fast-growing share of Medicare’s drug costs, which totaled nearly $137 billion in 2015. The catastrophic share was 37 percent, yet only about 9 percent of beneficiaries reached the threshold for such costs. Catastrophic coverage will soon cost as much as the entire prescription program did when it launched. Experts say the rapid rise in spending for pricey drugs threatens to make the popular prescription benefit financially unsustainable.
Note: Read an excellent essay by former New England Journal of Medicine editor Dr. Marcia Angell exposing The Truth About the Drug Companies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing Big Pharma profiteering news articles from reliable major media sources.
Cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time, an international group of experts has claimed. A review of research involving nearly 70,000 people found there was no link between what has traditionally been considered “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease. Published in the BMJ Open journal, the new study found that 92 percent of people with a high cholesterol level lived longer. The authors have called for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, because “the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated”. Co-author of the study Dr Malcolm Kendrick, an intermediate care GP, acknowledged the findings would cause controversy but defended them as “robust” and “thoroughly reviewed”. Vascular and endovascular surgery expert Professor Sherif Sultan from the University of Ireland, who also worked on the study, said cholesterol is one of the “most vital” molecules in the body and prevents infection, cancer, muscle pain and other conditions in elderly people. “Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources, whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life,” he said.
Note: Big Pharma was heavily involved in clinical trials of statins. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing health news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
Genentech and another drugmaker will pay $67 million to settle claims that they misled doctors into prescribing a treatment to lung cancer patients for whom the companies knew it would not work. As a result, some patients may have died earlier than they would have if they had taken more effective drugs, a lawsuit brought by a former Genentech employee and joined by federal prosecutors alleges. From 2006 to 2011 Genentech and its marketing partner OSI Pharmaceuticals promoted Tarceva to treat all patients with non-small-cell lung cancer even though studies had shown that it worked for just those who had never smoked or had a certain gene mutation known as EGFR. Epidermal growth factor receptor is a type of protein found on the surface of cells in the body. The whistle-blower lawsuit was filed in 2011 by Brian Shields, who worked as a Tarceva sales representative and then a product manager. The lawsuit said the companies ... discouraged doctors from testing patients for EGFR. The companies also promoted Tarceva ... by giving doctors illegal kickbacks disguised as fees for making speeches or serving on Genentech’s advisory boards. Sales representatives across the country were “instructed to spend lavishly” on physicians, the case said, and given “an unlimited budget to wine and dine.” Genentech also organized lunches or dinners for lung cancer patients where “patient ambassadors” were paid fees to speak about how Tarceva could be used in ways never approved by regulators, the lawsuit said.
Note: While Genentech was inaccurately describing its new drugs to doctors and patients, this company was also fiercely lobbying to prevent others from selling affordable alternatives to its costly drugs. Practices like this, along with the suppression of promising cancer research, show how Big Pharma puts profit before people.
More than a decade ago, researchers at Gilead Sciences thought they had a breakthrough: a new version of the company’s key HIV medicine that was less toxic to kidneys and bones. Clinical trials ... seemed to support their optimism. Patients needed just a fraction of the dose, creating the chance of far fewer dangerous side effects. But in 2004 ... Gilead executives stopped the research. The results of the early patient studies would go unpublished for years as the original medication - tenofovir - became one of the world’s most-prescribed drugs for HIV, with $11 billion in annual sales. In 2010, Gilead restarted those trials. A year of treatment with Gilead’s HIV medicines costs about $30,000. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates clinics and pharmacies for AIDS patients, sued Gilead, contending that it delayed the less toxic form of tenofovir to manipulate the patent system and keep prices artificially high. Animal studies showed that [tenofovir] could cause damage to the kidneys and bones. When the drug was approved in 2001, the FDA required Gilead to study whether the medicine would harm humans in the same way. [By] 2003, the company had received so many reports of patients experiencing kidney failure and other ... problems that it placed a warning on the drug’s label. Several times, U.S. regulators formally warned Gilead that it was downplaying the drug’s risks.
Note: After the FDA warned Gilead that its sales reps were illegally lying to doctors about tenofovir's safety, Gilead continued misrepresenting this drug, prompting the FDC to send the company a rare second warning letter. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing big Pharma profiteering news articles from reliable major media sources.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been a growing concern in the United States, leading to thousands of deaths each year. Doctors prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily is a big contributor to the problem, and now a new analysis of government data [has] found that an estimated 30 percent of outpatient oral antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. from 2010 to 2011 may have been unwarranted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections affect 2 million people and lead to about 23,000 deaths annually. "Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent public health threats of our time," Dr. Katherine E. Fleming-Dutra, of the CDC, told CBS News. "The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to resistance." For the study, Fleming-Dutra and her team analyzed two CDC national surveys. The results showed that about half of the antibiotics prescribed for acute respiratory infections, including the common cold, bronchitis, and viral sore throat, may have been unnecessary. Across all conditions, about 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions were inappropriate from 2010 to 2011. "This equates to about 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions written every year in the United States," Fleming-Dutra said. The strategy to improve outpatient antibiotic prescribing is twofold. Doctors need to be more cautious about prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily. Patients can play a role in stopping antibiotic misuse, too, [by expressing] their concerns about antibiotic overuse to their clinicians.
Note: Big Pharma profits handsomely from unnecessary drug prescriptions. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing health news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, an NHS cardiologist and a trustee of the King’s Fund health think tank, claims there is “a systemic lack of transparency in the information being given to doctors to prescribe medication, in terms of the benefits of drugs being grossly exaggerated and their side effects under reported in studies”. Dr Malhotra said the prevalence of pharmaceutical companies, which are “profit making businesses” being able to fund studies and drug trials causes biased information to be recorded and reported on in medical journals. This is in turn “creating an epidemic of misinformed doctors,” he said. This lack of transparency ... harms patients through the adverse side effects of drugs, Dr Malhotra said, citing an FDA report that found adverse events from prescribed medications caused 123,000 deaths in the USA in 2014 and 800,000 serious patient outcomes, which include hospitalisation or potentially causing disability. The FDA report also states that the number of adverse events from prescribed medications have tripled in the past 10 years in America. While the UK does not have the same kind of data, Peter Gotze, professor of research design at the University of Copenhagen, has evidence to suggest that prescribed drugs are the third biggest killer behind heart disease and cancer. Last year the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges launched a campaign to stop doctors from ‘over-treating’ patients.
Note: The editor of The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, recently wrote that half of all claims made in medical science journals may be untrue. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing big Pharma profiteering news articles from reliable major media sources.
Bill and Melinda Gates are facing calls for their philanthropic Foundation, through which they have donated billions worldwide, to be subject to an international investigation. The Gates Foundation is about benefiting big business, especially in agriculture and health, through its “ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation,” according to [a] report published by the campaign group Global Justice Now. The report accuses the Gates Foundation of [turning] “basic needs into commodities controlled by the market.” The report is critical of the close working relations between the Foundation and major international pharmaceutical corporations. It accuses the Gates Foundation of promoting specific priorities through agriculture grants, some of which undermine the interests of small farmers. These include promoting industrial agriculture, use of chemical fertilisers and expensive, patented seeds, and a focus on genetically modified seeds. The criticism echoes the accusations made by the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva who called the Gates Foundation the “greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.” The Foundation’s emphasis on “technological solutions” often ignores real solutions involving social and economic justice. “This cannot be given by donors in the form of a climate-resilient crop or cheaper smartphone, but must be about systemic social, economic and political change – issues not represented in the foundation’s funding priorities.”
Note: The Gates Foundation is heavily invested in GMO giants like Monsanto. It also provided $5 million to Oxitec, a company criticized for secretly releasing GM mosquitoes into the wild in 2009. Oxitec was purchased last August by biotech giant Intrexon for $160 million. By December, the Zika virus was all over the news and Intrexon was ramping up production of these GM insects to "fight Zika" in Brazil. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing corporate corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
After Martin Shkreli raised the price of anti-parasitic drug Daraprim more than 50-fold to $750 a pill last year, he said he wasn’t alone in taking big price hikes. The former drug executive was right. A survey of about 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs found that prices more than doubled for 60 and at least quadrupled for 20 since December 2014. Skyrocketing prices are getting increased scrutiny ahead of a U.S. congressional hearing this week: Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member on a committee that is probing drug pricing, said Tuesday that pricing “tactics are not limited to a few ‘bad apples,’ but are prominent throughout the industry.” The cost of many drugs [rises] at annual rates of more than 10 percent. Drugmakers raised the prices of products as wide-ranging as erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, heart treatments, dermatology medicine and even brands that long have lost their patents. While specialty companies have had the steepest hikes, giants such as Pfizer Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc kept pushing through smaller rises. About 400 formulations of brand-name drugs went up at least 9.9 percent since early December. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which in recent months has been under fire for its pricing was among the most aggressive, with 13 drugs that doubled or more since December 2014.
Note: For more excellent information on drug prices hikes, read this penetrating article in the Daily Beast. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing big pharma profiteering news articles from reliable major media sources.
Women who took antidepressants in the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Doctors saw no increase in autism rates in women who took medication for depression in the first three months of pregnancy, according to [a new] study, published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. In the U.S., about 2.2% of children ages 3 to 17 - about one in 45 - have autism, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey, conducted in 2014. Women who took a specific type of antidepressants, called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, had more than double the risk of having a child with autism. Women who took more than one medication for depression ... were four times as likely to have a child with autism. The new study is ... part of a growing body of research that suggests that the events that cause autism largely occur before birth. Studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism, for example, if they are born early or very small. Children are also at higher risk if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing health news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
In 2001, a "landmark" study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry purported to show the safety and effectiveness of using a common antidepressant to treat adolescents. The original published findings were biased and misleading. Known as Study 329, the randomised controlled trial ... was funded by SmithKline Beecham – now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – the manufacturer of paroxetine. The research has been repeatedly criticised, and there have been numerous calls for it to be retracted. To re-analyse the evidence of effectiveness and safety of paroxetine, we used documents posted online by GSK. We also had access to other publicly available documents and individual participant data. We found that paroxetine [Paxil] was no more effective than a placebo, which is the opposite of the claim in the original paper. We also found significant increases in harms with both paroxetine and imipramine, [another antidepressant]. Compared with the placebo group, the paroxetine group had more than twice as many severe adverse events, and four times as many psychiatric adverse events, including suicidal behaviours and self-harm. And the imipramine group had significantly more heart problems. Our re-analysis ... identified ten strategies used by researchers in this clinical trial to minimise apparent harms. More importantly, our findings show influential peer-reviewed research published in leading medical journals can be seriously misleading.
Note: We all know that clinical trial are skewed when they are sponsored by drug companies, but here is undeniable proof of this published in the UK's most respected medical journal. See this key study on the website of the British Medical Journal. Then don't miss that amazing documentary "Bought" available for free viewing.
A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world. Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries. Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs [and] block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments. Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.
Note: Read what a former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Health has to say about the egregious profiteering of Big Pharma. Watch an excellent, two-minute video by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on the TPP titled "The Worst Trade Deal You've Never Heard of," or read leaked draft texts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for yourself.
Leana Wen created the “Who’s My Doctor” campaign last year. The effort ... goes a step further than the federal government’s mandate requiring physicians to disclose all money they receive from drug companies. Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released data that outlined the $3.5 billion that companies paid to the nation’s doctors. The Open Payments database ... was heavily opposed by physician groups and pharmaceutical companies. “Incentives matter,” said Wen in a recent TED talk, “If you go to your doctor because of back pain, you might want to know he’s getting paid $5,000 to perform spine surgery versus $25 to refer you to see a physical therapist.” As part of the “Who’s My Doctor” effort, each physician voluntarily publishes a “Total Transparency Manifesto,” which ... flows into a searchable database that prospective patients can use. One year after starting the project, only 34 “transparent doctors” are listed on the website. There are many more who were less than pleased. “I thought some doctors would sign on and others wouldn’t, but I had no idea of the backlash that would ensue,” she said in her TED talk. The criticism quickly went beyond online comments. Soon, people were asking Wen’s employer to fire her, and sending mail to her home address with threats.
A system Congress established to speed help to Americans harmed by vaccines has instead heaped additional suffering on thousands of families. The system is not working as intended. The AP read hundreds of decisions, conducted more than 100 interviews, and analyzed a database of more than 14,500 cases filed in a special vaccine court. Among the findings: Private attorneys have been paid tens of millions of taxpayer dollars even as they clog the court. The court offers a financial incentive to over-file — unlike typical civil court cases. Prominent attorneys have enlisted expert witnesses whose own work has been widely discredited, including one who treated autism with a potent drug used to chemically castrate serial rapists. Many doctors hired by the government to defend vaccine safety in court have ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Cases are supposed to be resolved within 240 days, with options for another 150 days of extensions. Less than 7 percent of 7,876 claims not involving autism met the 240-day target. Add in autism claims, which were postponed so the court could hear all of them at once, and just 4.5 percent took fewer than 240 days. Hundreds have surpassed the decade mark. Several people died before getting any money.
Note: The secret court that shields big pharma from legal liability for selling harmful vaccines is described in this 2009 Wall Street Journal news article. 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.
The drug Tamiflu, given to tens of thousands of people during the swine flu pandemic, does nothing to halt the spread of influenza and the [UK] Government wasted nearly Ł500 million stockpiling it, a major study has found. The review, authored by Oxford University, claims that Roche, the drug’s Swiss manufacturer, gave a “false impression” of its effectiveness and accuses the company of “sloppy science”. The study found that Tamiflu, which was given to 240,000 people in the UK at a rate of 1,000 a week, has been linked to suicides of children in Japan and suggested that, far from easing flu symptoms, it could actually worsen them. Roche claimed at the time of the 2009 swine flu outbreak that trials had shown that it would reduce hospital admissions and complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis. Based on [these claims], the Department of Health bought around 40 million doses of Tamiflu at a cost of Ł424 million and prescribed it to around 240,000 people. In 2009, 0.5 per cent of the entire NHS budget was spent on the drug. However, researchers from The Cochrane Collaboration, a not-for-profit organisation which carries out reviews of health data, found that Tamiflu only cut flu-like symptoms from seven days to 6.3 days and there was no evidence of a reduction in hospital admissions. Eight children who took the drug in Japan ended up committing suicide after suffering psychotic episodes. Other side effects included kidney problems, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Many people reported feeling anxious or depressed when taking the drug.
Note: We sent out numerous messages at the time of all the fear-mongering around the avian and swine flu scares that this was wasting huge amounts of money. Of course the money wasn't just wasted, much of it went into the pockets of Donald Rumsfeld and others, as reported in this newspaper article. For the revealing news articles we compiled showing the blatant greed and corruption involved, click here.
High-dose vitamin C can boost the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy in the lab and mice, research suggests. Given by injection, it could potentially be a safe, effective and low-cost treatment for ovarian and other cancers. US scientists ... call for large-scale government clinical trials. Vitamin C has long been used as an alternative therapy for cancer. In the 1970s, chemist Linus Pauling reported that vitamin C given intravenously was effective in treating cancer. However, clinical trials of vitamin C given by mouth failed to replicate the effect, and research was abandoned. It is now known that the human body quickly excretes vitamin C when it is taken by mouth. However, scientists at the University of Kansas say that when given by injection vitamin C is absorbed into the body, and can kill cancer cells without harming normal ones. The researchers injected vitamin C into human ovarian cancer cells in the lab, into mice, and into patients with advanced ovarian cancer. They found ovarian cancer cells were sensitive to vitamin C treatment, but normal cells were unharmed. The treatment worked in tandem with standard chemotherapy drugs to slow tumour growth. "Because vitamin C has no patent potential, its development will not be supported by pharmaceutical companies," said lead researcher Qi Chen. "We believe that the time has arrived for research agencies to vigorously support thoughtful and meticulous clinical trials with intravenous vitamin C."
Note: Read more about this amazing cancer research. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on promising cancer research that has been suppressed by the medical industry.
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 – often undisclosed – 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 – 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.
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