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Rosenberg writes: "The drug companies have outsourced all their operations from drug development and testing to clinical trials to scientific and academic writing so that they have become nothing but marketing organizations at their core."

David Healy works to raise awareness of how pharmaceutical companies have turned into marketing organizations. (photo: ShockMD.com)
David Healy works to raise awareness of how pharmaceutical companies have turned into marketing organizations. (photo: ShockMD.com)



Pharmageddon: The Drug Industry's Grip on Our Health and Lives

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet

24 June 12

 

An interview with David Healy, an expert witness in homicide, suicide and birth defect legal actions involving psychotropic drugs.

avid Healy is a Professor of Psychiatry at Bangor University. He is a former Secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and author of over 175 peer reviewed articles, 200 other pieces and 20 books, including The Antidepressant Era, and The Creation of Psychopharmacology from Harvard University Press,The Psychopharmacologists Volumes 1-3, Let Them Eat Prozac, Mania, & Pharmageddon. He has been involved as an expert witness in homicide, suicide and birth defect legal actions involving psychotropic drugs, and in bringing problems with these drugs to the attention of American and British regulators, as well raising awareness of how pharmaceutical companies sell drugs by marketing diseases and co-opting academic opinion-leaders, ghostwriting their articles.

Rosenberg: Your new book, Pharmageddon, gives a bleak picture of the doctored data, skewed drug trials and rigged treatment guidelines that characterize today's pharmaceutical industry. Many people will be shocked to learn the abuses are not limited to the US, where direct-to-consumer advertising is legal, but found in Europe.

Healy: The situation is identical. Pharma actually finds socialized health care systems easier to exploit. And despite direct-to-consumer advertising, more money is spent on marketing to doctors who are the real consumers. They are also pressured by the treatment guidelines process which is based on "evidence" that Pharma makes sure to keep secret so they are really in the dark, though they may not realize it.

Rosenberg: One example you give of Pharma's reach and power is the eerie symmetry between the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), conceptualized and funded by US Pharma, and Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Healy: Despite their public/private differences, both organizations recommend the use of branded antipsychotics like Risperdal, Zyprexa and Seroquel before the use of older, affordable antipsychotics which of course enriches Pharma. One of the otherissues is this-there is a new bill aimed at speeding up the FDA approval process yet again-and also getting regulators to take into account the jobs that come with a strong pharmaceutical sector. Both America and Europe have been keen to keep their companies happy and have turned a blind eye to the outsourcing of clinical trials to Asia and Eastern Europe.

Rosenberg: In Pharmageddon, you chronicle how clinical trial oversight has gone from a hospital and university-based system to a for-profit system run by clinical research organizations or CROs.

Healy: The drug companies have outsourced all their operations from drug development and testing to clinical trials to scientific and academic writing so that they have become nothing but marketing organizations at their core. At each juncture where they have spun off a traditional responsibility, no one has objected and so it continues.

Rosenberg: There have been reports of risks to human subjects in overseas trials as well as bribes and protocol irregularities. Who oversees the ethics of outsourced trials and the quality of their data?

Healy: Clinical trials are overseen by private Institutional Review Boards, which are funded by the organizations they regulate-

Rosenberg: Like Moody's and Standard & Poor's are funded by their clients?

Healy: Yes. A recent large trial for the antipsychotic Abilify demonstrates the danger with outsourced clinical trials. On the basis of about 28 trials in the US, Abilify did not prophylactically stabilize mood as the manufacturer wants to claim. But when data from just two trials from Mexico were mixed in, it did.

Rosenberg: Most of Pharma's power to mislead and harm comes from such opaque and distorted data, you charge in Pharmageddon.

Healy: Without access to the raw drug data, medical professionals cannot practice responsible medicine and guidelines cannot be written. Yet Pharma, with very few exceptions, refuses to publish the data and share them with practitioners. This result is guidelines that are fictions and doctors who lack critical information they need to prescribe and treat.

Rosenberg: Pharma's stonewalling of data and use of ghostwriters has resulted in articles in major medical journals that made Vioxx, hormone therapy and Neurontin look safe when they weren't. Another example you give is a paper in the Journal of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in which GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has made the antidepressant Paxil look safe by hiding raw data. Then editor, Mina Dulcan, says about the missing data, which hid Paxil's suicidal side effect in children, "I can't control the authors. No, I don't have regrets."

Healy: If we were getting our drug information from the New York Times instead of medical journals, we would all be a lot safer. When theTimes reporter Jayson Blair was found to have fabricated stories, he was history. But the editors and writers involved with journal fraud still have their jobs and the articles are not even retracted. In fact, Liz Wager, the chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is herself Pharma linked.

[Ed note. The COPE site says, "Liz provides writing, editing, training and consultancy services for various pharmaceutical companies (most recently Astra Zeneca, Cephalon, Cordis, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Merck Serono, Mundipharma, Norgine, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi Pasteur and Vifor). ]

Rosenberg: Many conflicts of interest in your book, including COPE's leadership, are structural and create a closed loop of misinformation, especially because of the money that Pharma wields. How can sunlight and transparency ever break through?

Healy: Some colleagues and I are in the process of fine-tuning a free web site that offers FDA MedWatch data with other crucial dug information but gets people affected by treatment to report in detail for perhaps the first time. The site, called RxISK.org, also helps patients file an adverse event report to US and Canadian authorities, with other countries to follow. For too long, patients, doctors and pharmacists have been isolated from each other when they encounter adverse drug events and only Pharma's messages get out. This will help them communicate directly.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

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+26 # paulrevere 2012-06-24 10:55
no morals...no ethics...just profits AND lots and lost of sociopathic malfeasance.

Sociopath - from the OxfordOnLine -"a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience." aka no ability to feel guilt about their actions, even when presented to them aka "Then editor, Mina Dulcan, says about the missing data, which hid Paxil's suicidal side effect in children, "I can't control the authors. No, I don't have regrets."

...and to realize that the ENTIRE drug/disease control system is staffed and administered by this daft, irresponsible to its mandate type of psychology is just mind numbing.
 
 
+20 # Adoregon 2012-06-24 14:11
Lets carry this is a bit further...
"The drug companies have outsourced all their operations from drug development and testing to clinical trials to scientific and academic writing so that they have become nothing but marketing organizations at their core."

Marketing organizations?? ? Let's use the correct term... PUSHERS.
 
 
+9 # paulrevere 2012-06-24 18:17
`whew...pushers it is!!
 
 
+2 # Michael_K 2012-06-25 17:34
you guys do realise, don't you, that far from reforming healthcare, which would require gutting "Big Pharma" and rein it into compliance with stringent regulations and laws, the "Obama Health Reform" addresses none of this and, instead, ensures that insurers will continue to lavishly fund campaigns.

Disgusting hypocrisy! Why do you bother to pretend to care?
 
 
+7 # ronnewmexico 2012-06-24 11:08
I don't know.

One of his fundamental issues stated early on in the article is that socialized medical systems are easier than non socialized to exploit.....if that be so....... why for years and years have any US citizens who could ,obtained products from Canada. A socialized medical system as they are far far cheaper and equal in safety.

How can I take the rest of the article at face value with misstatements such as that obvious.

Here is the quote..."Pharma actually finds socialized health care systems easier to exploit. "

....seems not true to me. The US citizens pays far far more comparatively to any other nation for these things near as I can tell. It some select nations the quality is not as good(China for instance) but in many other such as the UK and canada it is exactly equal.
 
 
+7 # cakeeater 2012-06-24 12:21
"Pharma actually finds socialized health care systems easier to exploit. "

This is not a comment on the cost of drugs. Healy is pointing out that, in countries with socialized medicine, BigPharma markets directly to doctors, who then prescribe their products. In either case, pharmaceuticals refuse to share raw data on drug testing, deliberately skews results. Cost of the drugs is not part of the argument. These are dangerous drugs that are marketed without objective testing.
 
 
+4 # thomachuck 2012-06-24 18:04
I like you find the thinking here "reverse polarity." Pharma has intrinsically a better exploitable system here in the U.S. where government has made it possible for them to charge far more for drugs here than people do abroad. And what about Medicare D which specifically prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating best and cheapest drug prices with the manufacturers? The frame of reference here could be much better established and explained.
 
 
+2 # Michael_K 2012-06-25 17:38
In fact, the US Government tries to protect Big Pharma from US Citizens purchasing their medications from countries where pricing is regulated against unconscionable profiteering.
 
 
+2 # Michael_K 2012-06-25 17:35
Of course it isn't true, but the mainstream media delights in circulating falsehoods about socialized health systems. no doubt they are well paid to do so.
 
 
+25 # CoyoteMan50 2012-06-24 11:20
These people and their scams would make Organized Crime blush.
Disgusting bunch just like their masters on Wall ST.
 
 
+21 # dickmail 2012-06-24 11:23
The drug cartel owns a share of Washington DC and organizaitons like AARP. The cartel is a criminal mafia that is ruining lives as this is written.
 
 
+18 # midwestgirl 2012-06-24 11:39
Big Pharma has corrupted the medical profession in the same way money has corrupted politics in both the US and Britain. While many physicians try to be ethical and informed, too often they place their trust in the wrong places because they are busy and its convenient. They don't do the research they should re legitimate data they can access on many new and established drugs. They are also loathe to believe their patients about side effects much less report them. I think some of this also has to do with a lack of trust in their patients' ability to know their own bodies better than the doctor they may only see a few times a year. I blame the practice of heuristics that feed egoism rather than teaching listening skills. Not every patient
who complains is a hypochondriac and not all info got off the web is bad or not able to be understood by "non professionals". I hope you website helps more of these side effects be reported so data can be more effectively gathered, both to help get bad drugs off the market and prove the necessity of stopping this rush to market mentality that is being driven by profit not need.
 
 
+21 # Vardoz 2012-06-24 11:39
When big corporations are in charge, no matter who they are, we are all put at risk. Big corporations do not care about the well being of people, our environemnt or the planet. They will poison, kill, exploit and destroy all for profits. Any crumb of principles or ethics are out the window. They are waging war on us and we are being assaulted from all sides because corporations are now in charge of everything. Whether it is big Pharma, Monsanto, Big oil, chemical companies, the food industry, the military contractors, Wall St, Banks, the prison system, tax laws, jobs, health insurance companies or the NRC, we are all victims of their abuse.

There was recently an article in a Harvard medical report that said Psychotropic drugs actually shrink the brain. The company that makes Valproic acid is being sued for using it to treat Schizophrenia. Big pharma makes medications that have more harmful side effects then benefits- they are garbage. They are not interested in cures of any kind. People are getting all kinds cancers, heart disease you name it from the tens of thousands of toxic substances in our environment and chemical companies are permitted to pollute with total immunity. Connect the dots and we are in trouble.
 
 
+6 # kitlofroos 2012-06-24 12:24
I will now go eat some hasish and smoke some herb. better for me.
 
 
+7 # Majikman 2012-06-24 14:04
I've believed for years that they are all corrupt and do not trust my health to them, but rely on educating myself to the healing properties of herbs, food and other alternatives. At 70, my only complaint is arthritis which is controlled through diet. (My younger siblings have heart disease and diabetes and take scads of meds)
 
 
+6 # ronnewmexico 2012-06-24 14:45
As I get older I guess I get more cynical.

Throw in a real statement on corrupt big pharma with a untrue statement on perceived deficit to a socialized medical system..you end up with perhaps a final thing that integrates a known thing with a now considered known thing. The second being untrue but now considered true by assimilation as was the unconscious considerastion of Saddam Hussein with 9/11 in the american publics eye prior to the invasion.
Or the republicans fighting ardently to bring down obamacare and us on the left finding the opposition then thinking of course....such fighting against it must be a thing worth fighting for...
Or the perceived battle not that long ago over public broadcasting,.. ...knowing as I did... that for every one article against the war in Iraq there were a hundred or so supporting it...examining then that thing.....findi ng almost all public funding on a federal level was removed during the 80's budget battle.....aski ng then...what exactly is this flag I am rallying around...
I cynically ask myself is this all but propaganda of differing sorts? Truths here I'm certain, and in all things.... but how do you find them from the nonsense combined?
All appears hidden agenda.
I was told years ago the CIA employs such tactics in media in their efforts of propaganda in many considered third world countries to push things as they want them.
Is this not similar? Is it all theater?
.
 
 
+2 # paulrevere 2012-06-24 18:45
It is ALL...theater.
 
 
+4 # brenda 2012-06-24 17:51
"Healy: The drug companies have outsourced all their operations from drug development and testing to clinical trials to scientific and academic writing so that they have become nothing but marketing organizations at their core. At each juncture where they have spun off a traditional responsibility, no one has objected and so it continues."

Here's something to think about. Many of these foreign drug manufacturers in the third world countries have little or no responsibility to make their product under the FDA's strict requirements and day to day testing of those drugs to be within those guidelines. This means that the percentage of active ingredients in each pill can be much less than it's American made counterpart. The drug chemistry or organic ingredient has the potential to be tampered with my the manufacturer so as to make more money on the manufacture of that drug. Currently many large drugstores here can only check the manufacturers process once or twice a year for it's contents. I don't know about you, but I want to be assured that the medicine that I take when I'm ill is the real thing and not some watered down version. According to NAFTA and GATT those manufacturers have free reign and no fear of FDA reprisals.
 
 
+2 # paulrevere 2012-06-24 18:47
AND... the patent owner drug company does ZERO quality assurance in order to assuage YOUR justified fears.....HERE OR THERE!!
 

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