Watch out for big pharma’s three dirty tricks

I recently came across a great book about big pharma called Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Health Care.

Written by Peter C. Gotzsche, the book explains how a once-“miracle” industry has turned into a health hazard…with the complicity and help of the federal government.

Of course, Dr. Gotzsche is a former big pharma insider. But he left the industry and co-founded the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration in 1993. I often reference findings from the Cochrane Collaboration and studies published in the Cochrane Reviews, a leading journal that looks at the scientific evidence behind medical practices and treatments.

According to Gotzsche, one of the biggest problems in U.S. health care is that the federal government allows big pharma to test its own drugs. This policy gives Big Pharma the right to act as its own judge and jury. Plus, we don’t have open access to all big pharma’s research data. So big pharma can manipulate or even suppress its drug trial results.

Gotzsche points out three tricks typically used by big pharma to manipulate data…

First, they test new drugs against placebo. (Instead of against other effective drugs or non-drug treatments.) And if the drugs show even a small percentage of benefit over and above the effects of placebo, it can be enough to gain approval.

Plus, the FDA approves these new drugs, even when they’re inferior to the older drugs. Of course, this continuous stream of new drugs keeps the money train rolling in when the patents expire on their older drugs.

My colleague Donald Light performed an interesting analysis about these new drugs. He found only 10 percent of newly approved drugs over the past three decades are more effective than older, less expensive drug treatments. But fully 50 percent are less safe.

Big pharma’s second trick?

Drug companies purposely exclude certain patients from their studies. Often, they exclude the patients who are most likely to suffer adverse side effects. So, the patients most vulnerable to dangerous side effects only start taking the drugs after they’ve been FDA approved! That’s why over the past three decades we discover huge safety problems with drugs only AFTER the FDA approves the drug.

The third trick?

The FDA accepts–and even relies–on funds from drug companies. Of course, they call the funds “user fees.” Gotzsche calls it outright bribery. And this practice compromises the FDA’s independence and decision-making process.

We hear a lot about how much money so-called “research-based” drug companies spend on research. But many drug companies spend only 1 to 2 percent of their total revenue on discovering truly new chemical molecules for innovative drug treatments.

It’s no surprise, then, when new drugs vary only slightly from older drugs. And they rarely provide true “therapeutic breakthroughs” anymore. We saw more true breakthroughs during the mid-20th century, when drug revenues and profits were vastly lower.

Big pharma spends most of its money on promoting itself. In fact, many drug companies spend up to 50 percent of their revenues on promotion. And on “market research,” rather than scientific research.

The next logical question is…who funds the real scientific research in this country?

The U.S. taxpayer, of course.

The overwhelming majority of research today is conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And at NIH-funded academic medical centers around the country.

Unfortunately, this government-funded research isn’t really improving our understanding of how cancer cells grow. Nor is it furthering our understanding of the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.  At least not to the point of having effective prevention or cures.

And it’s most certainly not improving our understanding of nutrition and natural healing. (Those areas of research barely receive any funding at all. Then experts wonder–as in the case with vitamin D earlier this week–why we don’t have even more data on diet and nutrition.)

The bulk of government funds go toward the kind of basic or applied research that results in more drug treatments, tests, and medical procedures.

In addition, the government channels a great deal of taxpayer money to media groups that support drug company interests.

For example, the Obama Administration gave WebMD a $4.8 million “contract” to promote the Affordable Care Act. So, WebMD presents itself as an “independent” source of health information. But it takes money from the Obama Administration. Plus, it’s financially dependent on the drug industry, like most of the print medical publications.

In 2010, WebMD created a depression screening test for visitors to its website. On this “test,” 100 percent of readers were told they have a “high likelihood of major depression.” They were then asked if they would like to learn about available drug treatments. Under the guise of educating consumers, WebMD was channeling them to take dangerous and often ineffective prescription SSRI antidepressant drugs.

Perhaps the biggest offense of our health care system is the over-dependence on dangerous and costly drugs. Like SSRIs. And now you see how it happens.

Fortunately, we have so many proven natural and nutritional approaches to health and healing. You may never learn about them on WebMD. Not if big pharma has anything to do with it. But keep reading my Daily Dispatch and I will continue to bring you news of important, natural approaches to health and healing. And in an upcoming Daily Dispatch, I’ll tell you about more shocking problems with SSRIs.



1. “Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare,” 2013; Peter Gotzsche: Radcliffe