Anyone who heard to this morning’s Today programme on the $3 billion fine imposed on GlaxoSmithKline for manipulating the results of trials to hype up the success rate of their drugs and conceal dodgy side effects, may not be particularly surprised – but may be somewhat horrified by the extent of what can only be called corruption.
I did not catch the names of either interviewee but the gent from the pharmaceutical industry was, unsurprisingly, assuring us that this was all in the past, that GSK in particular, but most other companies as well, are now whiter than white and make all their researches, good or bad, available to whoever wishes to look at them. The other interviewee was not convinced, suggesting that even seriously influential bodies such as NICE who actually sign off on these drugs for general use, may not see all the relevant data. Even if this is not the case (as claimed by the pharma man) many questions remain about how the trials are set up (in such a way as to influence the outcome) and how the drugs are subsequently marketed to health care professionals (with the help of 5 star trips to ‘conferences’ in exotic locations etc etc).
If you want chapter and verse on some of this, read our report of the BSEM conference, A tablet a day keep the patient at bay, last year. The conference focused mainly on vaccinations but there is a fascinating piece by Dr Jayne Donegan, who often acts at an expert witness in vaccine damage cases, on how to alert your critical faculties when reading a supposedly independent, reliable report of a medical/drug trial, and an equally fascinating exposé by Professor Michel de Lorgeril’s on some of the statin trials.