When it comes to our health, taking one person’s word as doctrine might not be the best idea, whether they are a doctor or not. What one person truly believes to be the best course of action in treating an illness may be the last thing someone else recommends, depending on a complex range of factors, including where and how they were educated, and, in particular, who funded that education. Indeed, many concerns have been raised about the use of industry-accepted pharmaceuticals, often by the very doctors who were told to use them. We now have, moreover, an overwhelming amount of evidence to corroborate what many of these professionals have been trying to tell us for decades:
The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.
– Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard Professor of Medicine and Former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal
There is a reason why the most widely accessed article in the history of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) is entitled, Why Most Published Research Is False. In the report, researchers stated that most current published research findings are false, and this was more than 10 years.
Dr. Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration (the world’s most foremost body in assessing medical evidence), hopes to make clear this very problem. He is currently working to inform the world about the dangers associated with several pharmaceutical grade drugs. Based on his research, he estimates that 100,000 people in the United States alone die each year from the side-effects of correctly used prescription drugs, noting that “it’s remarkable that nobody raises an eyebrow when we kill so many of our own citizens with drugs.” He published a paper last year in the Lancet arguing that our use of antidepressants is causing more harm than good, and taking into consideration the recent leaks regarding antidepressant drugs, it seems he is correct.
The most recent example of this kind of corruption in relation to antidepressants comes from a study that was published last week in the British Medical Journal by researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen. The study showed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials:
[This study] confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported. They are not reported in the published literature, we know that – and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and from the basis of decisions about licensing.
Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported. These are the reports sent to major health authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Tamang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and lead author of the study, said:
We found that a lot of the appendices were often only available upon request to the authorities, and the authorities had never requested them. I’m actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if we had the complete data.
This is not the first time that pharmaceutical companies have been caught manipulating science in order to get antidepressants onto the shelves. It was only a couple of months ago that an independent review found that the commonly prescribed antidepressant drug Paxil (paroxetine) is not safe for teenagers, even though a large amount of literature had already suggested this previously. The 2001 drug trial that took place, funded by GlaxoSmithKline, found that these drugs were completely safe, and used that ‘science’ to market Paxil as safe for teenagers.
Gotzche’s two main areas of focus are antidepressants and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory” painkillers like ibuprofen, tylenol, celecoxib, and diclofenac. Another is Vioxx, which was actually withdrawn after it was discovered that it caused more than 100,000 cases of serious heart disease in the United States during the five years that it was on the market.
According to Gotzche, these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the failure of the drug regulatory process to protect patients:
These terms for our drugs are invented by the drug industry. They had a huge financial interest in calling these things anti-inflammatory. It lured doctors into believing that these drugs somehow also had an effect on the disease process and reduced the joint damage.
In his paper he also notes that antidepressants have replaced drugs that were found to be harmful, like Valium and Xanax, but are just as addictive and their side effects just as dangerous.
According to Professor Gotzsche, here’s a list of things you want to avoid:
- Antidepressants for all, because they probably don’t work for severe cases of depression
- All brain-active drugs in children
- Anti-psychotics and other brain-active drugs for the elderly. Psychotropic drugs should be used as little as possible and mostly in very acute situations, as they are very harmful when used long term
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for arthritis, muscle pain and headaches, including over-the-counter, low dose ibuprofen. These drugs should be used as little as possible
- Mammography screening, as it doesn’t prolong life whereas it makes many healthy women ill through over diagnosis and leads to the premature death for some because radiotherapy and chemotherapy increases mortality when used for harmless cancers detected at screening.
- Drugs for urinary incontinence, as they very likely don’t work