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9 Important Articles That Expose Some of Big Pharma's Highly Questionable Practices

Posted Sep 14 2008 5:15pm

HONEST MEDICINE is constantly on the lookout for interesting articles about the Medical and Pharmaceutical Systems. This is the first in what promises to be an ongoing "Best of" Series. For LINKS to many other -- sometimes controversial -- articles, as well as to fascinating websites, book and magazine recommendations, and online audio and video programs, please see the LINKS on the left side of this website.

And if you find an article, website, book, audio or video you think I should know about, please contact me.

#1: Groups Question Doctors' Ties to Drug Firms: Federal cholesterol guidelines promoted by physicians paid by private companies prompt conflict concerns. Here, in this 2004 article, the Associated Press exposes the fact that several of the "famous doctors [who] advised the government recently on new cholesterol guidelines for the public" didn't reveal their financial ties to pharmaceutical companies: "Eight of the nine were making money from the very companies whose cholesterol-lowering drugs they were urging upon millions more Americans. Two own stock in them." And -- unfortunately -- there's much more. A fascinating article.

#2: Spin Doctored: How Drug Companies Keep Tabs on Physicians. Published by Slate.com, this article describes the pharmaceutical industry's "semi-secret weapon": Prescriber Reports, which are weekly lists of every prescription written by each of the 600,000 doctors in the United States. This article will tell you HOW the drug companies use these reports to their advantage (and in many cases, to our disadvantage ).

#3: The FDA and Drug Safety: A Proposal for Sweeping Changes. This 2006 article was published in The Archives of Internal Medicine. Because the Archives is a by-subscription-only professional publication, whose articles are not open to the public, I am linking to it as it appeared on Vera Sharav's wonderful site, The Alliance for Human Research Protection.

#4: What Can We Learn from Medical Whistleblowers?: Their Experiences Paint a Troubling Picture of American Medicine's Ties With the Pharmaceutical Industry. This very important and disturbing article details "top secret" pharmaceutical company information that was revealed in a 2005 meeting in Washington, DC, where five pharmaceutical company "whistleblowers" were brought together to tell their stories and suggest ways to restore objectivity to medicine and medical research. Published by PLOS (Public Library of Science) Medicine, an outstanding peer-reviewed, open-access journal, which is definitely worth knowing about.

#5: Cancer Docs Profit From Chemotherapy Drugs. Situation Begs the Ethical Question: Are They Overprescribing? This September, 2006 MSNBC article exposes one of the Cancer Industry's "dirty little secrets": Cancer doctors are allowed to profit from the sale of chemotherapy drugs. One oncologist is quoted here as saying, "So the pressure is frankly on to make money by selling medications."

#6: Despite Vow, Drug Makers Still Withhold Data. This 2005 New York Times article points out that "when the drug industry came under fire last summer for failing to disclose poor results from studies of antidepressants, many major drug makers promised to provide more information about their research on new medicines. But nearly a year later, crucial facts about many clinical trials remain hidden, scientists independent of the company say." Alas.

#7: Rent-a-Researcher: Did a British University Sell Out to Procter & Gamble? This Slate.com article tells a shocking true story of scientific misconduct. Sheffield (England) University medical/pharmaceutical research scientist, Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn, was commissioned by Procter and Gamble to test their osteoporosis drug, Actonel. However, he says he was denied access to key data, and that P & G then proceeded to ghostwrite "his" analysis of it. When he complained, the company tried to silence him. He wouldn't be silenced, so he lost his job. Dr. Blumsohn has a very fine blog/website, The Scientific Misconduct Blog. It is one of my favorites.

#8: Is Academic Medicine for Sale? In this article, published in 2000 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, MD, former editor of the publication, writes about the conflicts of interest that abound between the author/physicians who conduct pharmaceutical studies and the companies themselves. An excellent article. Four years later, Dr. Angell wrote the controversial book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.

#9: Editorial: Missing Drug Data. This disturbing Washington Post editorial asks the questions: " Should pharmaceutical companies have to reveal the results of clinical trials they conduct on their drugs, even when the results show the drugs to be ineffective? That's the issue behind a discussion that has begun among the editors of the nation's medical journals. Concerned that drug companies may be sending them only partial results from their clinical trials, they now want to set up a national registry of clinical trials." This would be a wonderful first step.

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