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Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime

Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime

Prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

In his latest ground-breaking book, Peter Gøtzsche exposes the pharmaceutical industries and their charade of fraudulent behavior, both in research and marketing where the morally repugnant disregard for human lives is the norm 1. He convincingly draws close comparisons with the tobacco conglomerates, revealing the extraordinary truth behind efforts to confuse and distract the public and their politicians.

The book addresses, in evidence-based detail, an extraordinary system failure caused by widespread crime, corruption, bribery and impotent drug regulation in need of radical reforms.

The author and publisher have no liability or responsibility to any entity regarding loss or damage incurred, or alleged to have incurred, directly or indirectly, by the information contained in this book.

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JCM Review

The story of thalidomide will be familiar to most of us, especially those who grew up in the 50's and 60's. The drug was first marketed in 1957 in West Germany under the name Contergan by Chemie Grünenthal. Although initially prescribed as a sedative-hypnotic, it was soon found to be effective for nausea and morning sickness in pregnant women and was aggressively marketed for this use. At this time there was little regulatory control over the use of medication during pregnancy and drugs were not routinely tested for potential harm to the foetus.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, thalidomide became one of the most successful prescription drugs in the history of medicine. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand it was marketed by The Distillers Company (Biochemicals) Ltd under the brand name Distavel as a remedy for morning sickness. The advertising literature claimed that Distavel was 'outstandingly safe' for pregnant women and nursing mothers. By the end of the 1950s, 14 pharmaceutical companies were marketing thalidomide in 46 countries under at least 37 different trade names. As a result of this drug, around 5,000 infants were born with malformation of the limbs (phocomelia) in Germany alone, and only about 40 per cent of these children survived. Throughout the world more than 10,000 cases were reported of infants with phocomelia due to thalidomide, with around 50 per cent survival rate. In addition to limb malformation the adverse effects of thalidomide included deformed eyes, hearts, alimentary and urinary tracts, blindness and deafness.

In November 1961, thalidomide was taken off the market mainly due to pressure from the press and the general public. Although most victims of thalidomide in Europe received compensation in the aftermath of this tragedy, it was not until December 2013 that a class action filed by over 100 survivors in Australia and New Zealand was settled. The thalidomide tragedy led to the development of more structured international regulations over drug use and development. Many countries, including the US, EU, Australia and Canada, introduced much more stringent rules for the testing and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs. In the US, which had never granted approval for thalidomide, President Kennedy honoured the FDA pharmacologist, Frances Kelsey, with the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service for her key role in denying Richardson- Merrell approval to market thalidomide (despite intimidation from company representatives). The well-publicised 1962 ceremony provided a powerful symbol of the resolute will of governments and their agencies to protect the general public from the profit-motivated malevolence of pharmaceutical companies.

To most people these regulatory changes, which ushered in the 'enlightened' age of evidence-based medicine, were enough to restore trust in doctors and the drugs they prescribed. However, alarming stories around such drugs as COX-2 inhibitors (e.g. Vioxx), SSRI's (e.g. Prozac), and more recently statins suggest that these tough new regulations and the institutions charged with enforcing them may not be up the task. In fact, prescription drugs are currently the third major killer after heart disease and cancer in the United States and Europe. In the introductory chapter of this text, the author notes that if this were a new type of disease - a cancer or some sort of epidemic killing people in such large numbers - there would be a great deal of media attention focused upon it, with patient groups raising money and lobbying governments to act urgently to eradicate this scourge. Why is there such silence and resigned acceptance when it comes to the widespread harms caused by pharmaceutical drugs?

In this landmark publication, researcher and physician Dr Peter Gotzsche traces the sorry history of deception, bribery and corruption that has allowed this extraordinary situation to develop. Dr Gotzsche is co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, of which he is still a director, and also founding director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. Since 2010 he has been Professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen. He has published over 50 papers in the major peer reviewed medical journals and participated in 40 meta-analyses and systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Moreover, judging by the way he writes, Dr Gotzsche is a true scientist with an innate respect, indeed love, for truth and disdain for falsehood in all its forms [for more information on Dr Gotzsche see http:// www.cochrane.dk/about/profiles/pcgprofile. htm].

As the title of the book suggests, Dr Gotzsche draws a parallel between the drug industry and the mafia. In examining the world's 10 largest drug companies he has exposed activities generally associated with organised crime such as fraud, federal drug offences, bribery, obstruction of justice, obstruction of law enforcement, tampering with witnesses and political corruption. Moreover, in their pursuit of unlimited profits, the pharmaceutical industry has also faced another annoying obstacle that the mob does not need to negotiate: scientific integrity. Dr Gøtzsche describes the lengths to which one has to go in order to retrieve scientific information from pharmaceutical companies - information which should 68 Reviews Journal of Chinese Medicine • Number 105 • June 2014 be freely accessible to both the medical profession and the public. These data remain the commercial confidential 'property' of the drug company that sponsored the clinical trial of their drug 0 data obtained with the help of medical staff and patients volunteers who believe they are contributing towards scientific advancement for the benefit of humanity. We are also shown how such trials are in most instances improperly conducted in order to minimise or hide harms and exaggerate clinical efficacy. As Dr Gøtzsche explains in a recent interview: 'There are very little high-quality published data. Neither the drug industry nor publicly employed researchers are particularly willing to share their data with others, which essentially means that science ceases to exist … Most doctors are willing to add their names to articles produced by drug companies, although they are being denied access to the data they and their patients have produced and without which the articles cannot be written.' [See http://www.anh-europe.org/ANH-Intl+ Exclusive+Interview+with+Dr+Peter+Go tzsche+author+of+Deadly+Medicines+an d+Organised+Crime]

Also unfolding within these pages is the story of the artful seduction of medical professionals by the pharmaceutical industry: how legitimate payments for representing their interests at live events and in print gradually, almost imperceptibly, morph into frank bribery. The numbers of such paid professional spokespersons for Big Pharma is both staggering and alarming.

After elaborating on these questionable activities by the drug industry, government regulators and the medical profession, together with the devastating consequences for patients (which would be largely foreseeable given free access to all the data), several of the following chapters focus on specific drugs or classes of drugs. Here we are given an in depth examination of 'popular' drugs that have very little or no effect but very real dangers (i.e. their potential harm outweigh their potential benefits), or have been marketed mainly for off label uses (which is both illegal and unscientific as there is no evidence of efficacy), or that should be used in a very restricted way but are targeted for widespread use. The drugs covered include 'slimming pills', Neurotonin, NSAID's (specifically the COX-2 inhibitors), anti-diabetic drugs, SSRI 'antidepressants', and antipsychotics.

A book of this nature would not be complete without a critique of modern psychiatry, which is tellingly described as 'the drug industry's paradise'. Nowhere are the excesses of 'disaster capitalism' (coined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism [2007]) more in evidence than within this specialty (for more on this see Horowitz, A., Wakefield, J. [2007]. The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder). This chapter is priceless – distressingly priceless. In graphically illustrates the book's main thesis with accounts of hidden suicides amongst normal people taking SSRI's (such as during drug company sponsored trials – even after being screened for both depression and suicidal ideation); it also makes a significant contribution to the ongoing debate regarding the validity of psychiatric diagnoses and efficacy of psychiatric interventions. The accounts of suicides in children and other harms caused by the application of increasingly elastic psychiatric diagnoses with the concomitant use of dangerous psychotropic drugs (the real dangers of which are hidden by drug companies), are both chilling and deeply saddening.

Because of the suppression of crucial information by drug companies (willingly supported in most cases by the regulating agencies), no one outside of these companies knows the true efficacy and potential harm associated with the use of their drugs. In regard to the SSRI's, Dr David Healy in his 2003 text Let Them Eat Prozac notes that it is obvious that these drugs may work quite effectively in one group of patients and that they may be extremely deleterious in another (leading in some instances to self-harm and homicidal behavior), while being largely ineffective in another. Unfortunately, the current situation means we will never know the defining characteristics of these three groups. Dr Gotzsche takes these observations a few steps further, showing that this is the case for most of the drugs in current use, particularly the biggest selling ones. In effect, we are seeing the undermining of Western biomedicine by those who supply its major therapeutic modality.

The evidence presented in this book is very convincing, and we may well wonder how the drug industry giants have gotten away with all of this for so long. Shouldn't the perpetrators of such crimes be brought to justice? Unfortunately so far only partial justice has been dispensed, with the imposition of relatively small fines in only a few cases, or out-of-court settlements with minimal publicity. Such a dire situation demands redress at all levels, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

This book should be mandatory reading for both students and practitioners of all healthcare modalities, especially Western medicine. For Chinese medicine practitioners it will provide much needed clarity when dealing on a daily basis with patients who have been prescribed drugs that may be ineffective and potentially dangerous, under the mantle of 'modern evidence-based medicine'.

Tony Reid

Contents

Foreword by Richard Smith • Foreword by Drummond Rennie • About the author • Introduction • Confessions from an insider • Asthma deaths were caused by asthma inhalers • Shady marketing and research • Organised crime, the business model of big pharma • Hoffman-La Roche, the biggest drug pusher • Hall of Shame for big pharma • The crimes are repetitive • It's organised crime • Very few patients benefit from the drugs they take • Clinical trials, a broken social contract with patients • Conflicts of interest at medical journals • The corruptive influence of easy money • What do thousands of doctors on industry payroll do? • Seeding trials • Rent a key opinion leader to 'give advice' • Rent a key opinion leader to 'educate' • Hard sell • Clinical trials are marketing in disguise • Ghostwriting • The marketing machine • Hard sell ad nauseam • Highly expensive drugs • Excesses in hypertension • Patient organisations • NovoSeven for bleeding soldiers • Impotent drug regulation • Conflicts of interest at drug agencies • Corruption at drug agencies • The unbearable lightness of politicians • Drug regulation builds on trust • Inadequate testing of new drugs • Too many warnings and too many drugs • Public access to data at drug agencies • Our breakthrough at the EMA in 2010 • Access to data at other drug agencies • Deadly slimming pills • Neurontin, an epilepsy drug for everything • Merck, where the patients die first • Fraudulent celecoxib trial and other lies • Marketing is harmful • Switching cheap drugs into expensive ones in the same patients • Novo Nordisk switches patients to expensive insulin • Astra-Zeneca switches patients to expensive me-again omeprazole • Blood glucose was fine but the patients died • Novo Nordisk interferes with an academic publication • Psychiatry, the drug industry's paradise • Are we all crazy or what? • Psychiatrists as drug pushers • The chemical imbalance hoax • Screening for psychiatric disorders • Unhappy pills • Prozac, a terrible Eli Lilly drug turned into a blockbuster • Exercise is a good intervention • Further lies about happy pills • Pushing children into suicide with happy pills • Glaxo study 329 • Concealing suicides and suicide attempts in clinical trials • Lundbeck's evergreening of citalopram • Antipsychotic drugs • Zyprexa, another terrible Eli Lilly drug turned into a blockbuster • The bottomline of psychotropic drugs • Intimidation and threats to protect sales • Busting the industry myths • General system failure calls for a revolution • Our drugs kill us • How much medicine do we really need and at what cost? • For-profit is the wrong model • Clinical trials • Drug regulatory agencies • Drug formulary and guideline committees • Drug marketing • Doctors and their organisations • Patients and their organisations • Medical journals • Journalists • Having the last laugh at big pharma • Money don't smell • Creating diseases • Index

Overview

AuthorPeter C Gotzsche
Publication Date21/08/2013
PublisherRadcliffe Publishing Ltd
Number Of Pages320
Book FormatSoftcover
ISBN9781846198847

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