How Big Pharma Lies To Doctors about The Medicine You are Taking
Following doctor’s orders has become synonymous with danger. In my book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, I documented that every year, FDA- approved drugs kill twice as many people as the total number of U.S. deaths from the Vietnam War. Death by medicine flourishes because deceit, not science, governs a doctor’s prescribing habits.
Working as a pharmaceutical chemist, I learned that the deceit comes in many forms. Medical ghostwriting and checkbook ‘science’ are the most prominent.
Doctors rely on peer-reviewed medical journals to learn about prescription drugs. These journals include the Lancet, British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s assumed that these professional journals offer the hard science behind any given drug. This assumption is wrong. Thanks to medical ghost-writing, medical journals can’t be trusted.
Medical ghostwriting is the practice of hiring Ph.D.s to crank out drug reports that hype benefits while hiding negative side effects. Once complete, drug companies recruit doctors to put their name on the report as the authors. These reports are then published in the above mentioned medical journals. The carrot for this deceitful practice is money and prestige. Ghostwriters can receive up to $20,000 per report. Doctors receive prestige from having been published.
As deplorable as medical ghostwriting sounds, it is more common than you think. Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor for the New England Journal of Medicine, insists that he cannot find drug review authors who do not have financial ties to drug companies. Dr. David Healy, of the University of Wales, predicts that 50% of the journals drug review articles are written by ghostwriters hired by Big Pharma.
The editor of the British Journal of Medicine has acknowledged that medical ghostwriting has become a serious problem for his publication: “We are being hoodwinked by the drug companies. The articles come in with doctors’ names on them and we often find some of them have little or no idea about what they have written.”
Consider the testimony from deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association: “This [journal articles] is all about bypassing science. Medicine is becoming a sort of Cloud Cuckoo Land, where doctors don’t know what papers they can trust in the journals, and the public doesn’t want to believe.”
Confessions of Ghostwriters
Ex-medical ghostwriter Susanna Rees stated:
“Medical writing agencies go to great lengths to disguise the fact that the papers they ghostwrite and submit to journals and conferences are ghostwritten on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and not by the named authors,’ she wrote. ‘There is a relatively high success rate for ghostwritten submissions ─ not outstanding, but consistent.”4
Other ghostwriters have come forward privately:
“I agreed to do two reviews for a supplement to appear under the names of respected ‘authors.’ I was given an outline, references, and a list of drug-company approved phrases. I was asked to sign an agreement stating that I would not disclose anything about the project. I was pressured to rework my drafts to position the product more favorably.”
“I was told exactly what the drug company expected and given explicit instructions about what to play up and what to play down.”
NSAID Popularity Courtesy of Ghostwriting not Science
To illustrate the negative impact of medical ghostwriting, we can look to commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Between 1990 and 1997, all clinical trials performed on NSAIDS such as Vioxx, Aleve, Aspirin, Motrin, and Ibuprofen, were sponsored by the drug manufacturers. The result was that 100% of the studies showed the sponsored drug to have equal or superior efficacy when compared to other drugs. Thus, according to studies done from 1990-1997, every NSAID drug tested during this time was superior to every other NSAID product… all at the same time!
The fallacies behind medical ghost writing on NSAIDS are exposed through injuries and deaths among users. Approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized every year for NSAID-related gastrointestinal complications. Vioxx alone injured 100,000 during its rein as king of pain killers.
The risk of miscarriage for women who take the NSAID aspirin is 60 percent higher than for those who do not. At least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients. This figure is comparable to the number of deaths from the so-called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In fact, NSAIDS contribute to as many deaths as multiple myeloma, asthma, and cervical cancer combined.
These statistics do not account for over-the-counter use of NSAIDS, only for arthritis patients. We can be confident that there are considerably more deaths caused by the use of NSAIDS that go unreported. And because few medical doctors are unaware of these statistics, NSAIDS can rightfully be considered a silent killer. This is especially true when “experts” are paid by Big Pharma to write favorable reviews while hiding dangerous side effects.
Buying Results, Professors and Government
Other weapons of mass deception exist ─ ‘checkbook science.’ As defined by Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., checkbook science is research intended not to expand knowledge or to benefit humanity but instead to sell products [drugs]. It has stolen the very soul of University research, scientific method, and the patients who serve as human subjects.
Checkbook science explains why deadly drugs are approved. Leveraging their financial power, drug companies structure the protocol designed to study whether or not a drug is safe. They choose the investigators (from academics and government institutions) and in many instances are involved in the collation, interpretation and reporting of data. Akin to medical ghostwriting, this practice allows drug companies to hide the dangers associated with drugs while highlighting benefits.5
As with medical ghostwriting, checkbook science is more common than you think. A third of academic professors have personal financial ties to drug makers. Government institutions are guilty, too.
Called the “Stealth Merger” by The LA Times, top scientists at the National Institutes of Health also collect paychecks and stock options from the drug industry.6 Once considered “an island of objective and pristine research, untainted by the influences of commercialization,” the National Institutes of Health has become corrupted by checkbook science. To substantiate, we look to the following statistics from the LA Times:
Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases collected between $476,369 and $616, 365 in fees over a ten-year period.
From 1997-2002, Dr. John I. Gallin, director of the NIH’s Clinical Center, received between $145,000 and $322,000 in fees and stock proceeds from the drug industry.
Dr. Richard C. Eastman is the NIH’s top diabetes researcher. As a consultant to the drug manufacturers in 1997, he wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defending a product without disclosing his conflict of interest. His letter stated that the risk of liver failure from the given drug was “very minimal.” Six months later, a patient taking the drug in an NIH study that Eastman oversaw, Audrey LaRue Jones, suffered sudden liver failure and died. An autopsy, along with liver experts, found that the drug had caused the liver failure.
Dr. Ronald N. Germain, deputy director of a major laboratory at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, amassed more than $1.4 million od Big Pharma money in “consulting fees” from 1993 to 2003, plus stock options.
Jeffrey Schlom, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, received $331,500 in company fees over 10 years.
Jeffrey M. Trent, who became scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in 1993, reported between $50,608 and $163,000 in industry consulting fees. He left the government in 2002.
NIH officials now allow more than 95% of the agency’s top-paid employees to keep these “consulting” fees confidential. In fact, when it comes to disclosing financial conflicts of interest the NIH is the most secretive agency in the U.S. government.
Lying to Doctors is Legal
Checkbook science has been going on for more than 20 years. Known as the Bayh-Dole Act, U.S patent law was amended in 1980 to allow for these flagrant conflicts of interest.
Heart drugs introduced in the 1970‘s serve as an excellent example of how checkbook science damages the public’s health. By 1990, they were estimated to kill more Americans than the 58,000 killed in the Vietnam War.
This disaster could have been avoided. Early research suggesting that these drugs were lethal would have saved thousands of lives. Putting checkbook science to work, these risky research findings went unpublished by the pharmaceutical company that funded the research.
Children suffer, too, from checkbook science. Checkbooks science was responsible for motivating doctors to push antidepressants on this vulnerable population.
Checkbook Science Gets Antidepressant Approved for Kids!
Published research paid for by drug manufacturers showed antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to be safe and effective for children. These drugs include Paxil and Prozac. Conversely, when unpublished results were finally obtained it was discovered that depressed children taking antidepressants were twice as likely to become suicidal as children taking a placebo. Acknowledging the deceit, the Lancet stated: “The story of research into SSRI use in childhood depression is one of confusion, manipulation, and institutional failure.”7
Drug Advertising Gets You Hooked
Hopefully the line at the pharmaceutical trough will grow shorter as the medical ghostwriting and checkbook science scandal becomes public. Yet drug makers have an insurance policy for this ─ Direct-to-Consumer advertising. The oft repeated “ask your doctor” ensures that the herd instinctively embraces drugs, drugs, and more drugs.
Doctors Only See Positive, Not Negative, You Suffer
Understanding medical ghost-writing and checkbook science explains why medical doctors have been hypnotized into drug worship ─ they only see the positive. It also explains why modern medicine is more deadly and lucrative than war ─ the danger has been silenced with the pen and money. In sum, these methods of deceit ensure that doctors are not keen to the dangers of prescription drugs.
Drug companies do not take responsibility for the wanton prescription drug deceit. Instead, victims have been made invisible – dehumanized. They are not recognized as children or as men with a significant contribution to society. Instead their deaths are attributed to them being sick or just too damn old.
Those who profit from prescription drugs should hold some sort of record for demonstrating the most reckless disregard for human life. If the deceit continues the prescription drug leviathan will silently kill more people than Napalm dropped on Vietnamese villages.
Learn the drug alternatives that will save your life in Over-The-Counter Natural Cures
About the Author
My name is Shane “The People’s Chemist” Ellison. I hold a master’s degree in organic chemistry and am the author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded Edition (SourceBooks). I’ve been quoted by USA Today, Shape, Woman’s World, US News and World Report, as well as Women’s Health and appeared on Fox and NBC as a medicine and health expert. Start protecting yourself and loved ones with my FREE report, 3 Worst Meds.