“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent”

Apparently, patients are losing trust in doctors and scientists.

Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer has decided to make the research behind medical treatments ‘much more transparent’ amid concerns that the public increasingly believe that doctors and medical scientists are “untrustworthy”. The reasons, she claimed, were that doctors over –medicate and prescribe medicines too freely, while scientists are distrusted because of Big Pharma funding.

A BBC ‘File on Four’ documentary on Alteplase, which breaks down blood clots seems to have prompted her action. According to The Times, stroke ‘expert’, Alistair Buchan has said that researchers should publish every figure behind their claims about whether or not a new drug is useful.

But, this move to transparency may not be quite what you or I really hope for. Buchan goes on to talk about negative comments in the media “putting stroke treatment back to where we started”.

Let’s get a few things straight. Peter C. Gotzsche, head of the prestigious Nordic Cochrane Centre has published a book entitled, “Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare”. In February there was a report from the FDA stating that at least 40 per cent of clinical trials were flawed, and recently Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-chief of the top rated medical journal, The Lancet, stated that much of the published research data on drugs is unreliable and at least half is false. “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

Gotszche notes that prescription drugs are the third largest cause of death in the Western world after heart disease and cancer.

Patients are right to have concerns.

The smart public knows this – we know that Big Pharma has spent years bribing and falsifying. Fraud seems second nature to some companies. In the last couple of years Glaxo has been hit with massive fines from America to China.

The added problem is that the hierarchy in medicine has made the doctor complicit, whether he is an ‘expert’ oncologist or a local GP.

Doctors – it’s your own fault patients don’t trust you any more. ‘All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent”.

Yes, we are concerned that you over-medicate. Polypharmacy (dishing out a cocktail of drugs to patients) is the number one cause of death in the state of Florida where the average age is higher than most other places. Thirteen drugs per patient is not uncommon. When did you ever see a clinical trial featuring thirteen drugs?!

But the bigger issue is the dismissive nature of many doctors. Offered statins by his doctor, a friend of mine asked about the side-effects. “There aren’t any” came the reply. “Well what about heart and muscle problems”. “They aren’t problems – we have tests for those”.

The doctor didn’t even consider talking about increased risks of diabetes.

I listen to patients offered Taxol and told there is nothing to worry about when they ask about side-effects. Yet German research presented at the European Breast Cancer Symposium a few years ago expressed real concerns on it causing cancer spread.

Meanwhile the same doctors tell patients not to take supplements, when there is no research on conflict. It’s not just that some doctors are corrupted by Big Pharma bribery. Their advice is a mess.

So, what is the answer? Unfortunately, Dame Sally is looking at ‘a proliferation of contradictory claims in the press and scientific journals’. There’s a possible next step.

Stop the media reporting that drugs might be dodgy. Then scientists and doctors will become trustworthy again. Brilliant!

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GlaxoSmithKlein – an endemic culture of fraud?

GSK the UK pharmaceutical to deodorant company is fast making a name for itself with brand values that include bribery, fraud and corruption, plus a fair smattering of junk science thrown in for good measure.

You would think that one bribery case would be enough to force the board to review its whole business strategy worldwide – especially as getting caught in America was extremely serious. The criminal fraud case involved a variety of drugs and issues such as making false claims, ‘exaggerating’ research conclusions, telling lies and bribery. That case in America cost them $3 billion plus change. Well, it was the largest fraud case in medical history. At this point, most boards of companies would be looking at themselves and putting ‘best practice’ into place to avoid any chance of a repetition.

But it doesn’t seem quite like this at GSK. Over the past months allegations of fraud, bribing doctors and even sex scandals have emerged in the great frontier market of China. A whistleblower sent an e mail in January alleging that doctors were sent expensive gifts and even cash. They would be invited to attend conferences, which were really all-expenses-paid holidays. (Isn’t this exactly what happens in Europe and America?). And payments were allegedly channeled through a ‘travel agency’ business. Hardly dodgy at all, really.

After a Private detective, Peter Humphrey, hired by GSK to investigate a smear campaign against them, reported that he thought claims might well be true and he himself was jailed this week for buying and selling private information, the likely outcome in China looks not much better than it did in America. Chinese authorities have filed criminal charges of bribery, corruption and fraud against Mark Reilly, the former head of GSK operations in China with the Serious Fraud Squad crawling all over the company – the UK is now helping their Chinese counterparts.

Such allegations, if proven, would also bring the American Authorities back into play. The US Dept. of Justice is now looking into possible breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Britain may also investigate as it has a new ‘Bribery Act’.

But now GSK faces new corruption claims in Syria where it is alleged to have bribed doctors and officials to drive sales. Of course, there are some that would say that GSK was just being caught up in politics, given the war and views on Britain held locally. But then GlaxoSmithKlein is also being investigated for bribery in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Poland.

GSK has issued a statement saying that they are ‘committed to taking disciplinary actions’ if guilt is proven and that they have ‘zero tolerance’ of unethical behavior. One wonders quite who it is that has the ‘zero tolerance’?

And isn’t this all huff and puff? Par for the course? Peter C. Gotzsche, a Danish Medical researcher and leader of the prestigious Nordic Cochrane Centre has written a complete review of the atrocities that Big Pharma routinely get up to in his book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare (first published 2013; ISBN 9781846198847). You can guess the atrocities he talks about. Anyone with an open mind knew them long ago.

We have covered GSK in Junk Science before – that time they had been in top medical journal, BMJ, with the finding that 80% of flu vaccine research did not hold up to proper scrutiny.

We also covered this: Just a decade ago Dr. Allen Roses the worldwide Vice President of genetics and a top executive of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline stated simply that “The vast majority of drugs – more than 90% – only work in 30 to 50% of the people.”

Isn’t that the crux of the problem? If GSK made wonderful drugs that worked for the majority of people, why would doctors need to be bribed to use them? Maybe the drugs aren’t that wonderful; and/or maybe all the competitors are playing the same games too?

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