It’s not a good time to be a drug company employee. Increasingly, those at the top of Establishment medicine are joining the ranks of whistleblowers like us calling for medicine to be decoupled from the pharmaceutical industry.
One of the biggest canaries at the moment is Peter Gøtzsche, none other than the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, the Scandanavian arm of the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent research and information centre committed to preparing, maintaining, and disseminating reviews of the various treatments of mainstream medicine and examining whether they have adequate evidence of safety and effectiveness. Cochrane was the first group of individuals to champion the notion of‘evidence-based’ medicine – that is, medicine shouldn’t be used unless there’s evidence that the stuff works.
Gøtzsche is a guy after my own heart. When asked to speak at a Danish Society for Rheumatology event, called ‘Collaboration with the drug industry. Is it THAT harmful?’ Peter’s opening gambit was to highlight the fact that Pfizer, one of the meeting’s sponsors, had been fined $2.3 billion in the US for promoting off-label use of four drugs, while Merck, the sponsor the year before, had been responsible for the deaths of thousands due to deceptive information about its arthritis drug.
Gøtzsche’s latest book, entitled Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare’ (Radcliffe Publishing Ltd) pulls even fewer punches. The book essentially makes the point that the drugs industry uses virtually every tactic used by the mob to sell its products.
He even quotes a former vice-president of Pfizer as saying, ‘It is scary how many similarities there are between his industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and deaths, and the sides effects are the same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry.’
Perhaps even more extraordinary than the careful case made by this blunt soothsayer is the fact that Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal, agreed to write the book’s foreword. In the book, Smith points out, the characteristics of organized crime include extortion, fraud, federal drug offences, bribery, embezzlement, obstruction of justice obstruction of law enforcement, tampering with witnesses and political corruption.
“Peter produces evidence, most of it detailed, to support his case that pharmaceutical companies are guilty of most of these offenses,” says Smith. Indeed, most of the billions paid out as fines by the drugs industry for flouting the law as thought of as ‘the cost of doing business.’
“As an epidemiologist with very high numerical literacy and a passion for details, so that he is a world leader in critiquing clinical studies, Peter is here on very solid ground,” says Smith. “He shows too how the industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organizations, university departments, journalists, regulators and politicians. These are the methods of the mob.”
This is only the latest canary from among Establishment medicine to blow the whistle on Big Pharma. Marcia Ancell, the editor for two decades at the new England Journal of Medicine, recently published her own book: The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.
All of the major medical journals, from the BMJ and the Lancet, to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New Eng Journal, have revealed the scale of the problem – that correctly prescribed drugs are the fourth leading cause of death, that drug companies massage and make up data.
Medicine should be a gift to us all rather than a money-making scheme for the pharmaceutical industry, as it now largely is.
With that in mind, we suggest that the following be implemented.
- An independent funding body should be created to finance all medical trials, whether of drugs, other forms of therapy or alternatives
- Doctors should be required to spend one year of their five-year training learning about nutrition, alternative modalities and new possibilities
- Drug-company influence should be entirely excluded from medicine, from training colleges and from trips abroad
- Doctors should be rewarded for adopting non-drug therapies, thus saving the nation at least one small part of the £160 billion spent every year on drugs by the NHS.
But most of all, we need to open up the entire field of cancer—our understanding of what it is, what causes it and how it could be treated—while taking on board new understandings of the body and the impact upon it of the environment, stress and emotions. As a researcher once commented when asked whether research into alternative healing should continue, “We can’t find the answers if we don’t keep asking the questions.”
We will shortly announce our campaign for freeing medicine from the pharmaceutical industry, so that doctors and patients alike are free to use an entire toolkit of modalities to get and stay well.