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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Big Pharma Spins the Science

Doctor Mark Hyman's latest blog concerns a hefty topic: How science is disappearing from our major--and still trusted--journals. He reports how French scientists selected the very best double-blind studies in the leading journals over the past year and independently verified if their conclusions were indeed correct. They found that 40% of these studies lied about the conclusions. Here, Dr Hyman writes:

In plain language, 40 percent of the studies we count on to make medical decisions are authored by scientists who act as "spin doctors" distorting medical research to suit personal needs or corporate economic interests. "Spin" can be defined as specific reporting that could distort the interpretation of results and mislead readers. If the conclusions in 40 percent of the papers published in medical journals are being spun toward independent interests, how can we consider the medicine we are practicing "evidence based?"

Big Pharma not only influences doctors' drug prescribing with their handouts of pens and sticky notes and lunches, but they directly effect what doctor's read in the medical journals by spinning the data to allow for better conclusions for their drugs. The media plays a role here too. They will often simply read the conclusions (wrong about half the time) and report on that with a nice juicy headline, rather than fully investigate. Follow the money? Not in today's media.

Is it any wonder that some state governments have had enough? (Vermont has outlawed pharmacy rep lunches and the handouts; the routine sampling by companies, which again results in huge profits, will come next.)

Another problem is the ease with which people with pharma ties go on to government positions. Here, Dr Hyman writes about the National Institute of Health:

Another example: In 2004, the National Institute of Health's National Cholesterol Education Program, dramatically lowered the ideal "bad" or LDL cholesterol level. This led to guidelines that expanded the number of Americans who "should" take statin drugs from 13 million to 36 million. There was only one problem. Eight of the nine panel members who established these new guidelines had industry ties. An independent group of over 30 scientists in a letter to the National Institutes of Health publicly opposed these recommendations.

Dr Hyman writes that 47,000 people died unnecessarily as a result of Glaxo's failure
to adhere to guidelines for posting data to the FDA. Finally, after being forced to do so on a public website, the companies data was independently analyzed and the drug came up for review. Still, the company's money trail still allowed the drug to stay on the market though under restrictive use.

So we have proof of a drug company allowing people to die so that profits can be made on a drug known to cause heart attacks. A drug company!

We have, in this country, drug companies actively killing patients for the sake of profit. We have insurance companies actively killing patients, again for profit. Yet the United States still remains convinced that private, for-profit care is the best model.

We have to one day wake up and stop trusting these corporations. They are mindless, and evil, no matter how nice and fuzzy those commercials are.