Friday, November 09, 2012

Big Bad Pharma contd.

Ben Goldacre argues: “Medicine is broken; malpractise rife”

Pharmaceutical companies have been involved in some of the bigger corporate scandals over the last decade, as whistleblowers at giants like GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly and Pfizer have drawn attention to a culture of malpractice and deception across the industry.

With so many high profile cases, it would be assumed that companies would attempt to clean up their acts, but according to one doctor and science journalist, big pharma companies are still misleading the public about many of their practices.

Ben Goldacre, the British author of Bad Pharma, says that “medicine is broken”, and that the malpractice extends across the industry, from firms hiding negative results from clinical trials to regulators not picking them up on the problems, and medical journals failing to rigorously check the reports they publish. All this leads to an industry failing to provide doctors with the necessary information about what they are prescribing to patients.

According to Goldacre, whose previous book Bad Science brilliantly exposed the alternative medicine industry, pharmaceutical companies need to be pulled up on their misleading approach to marketing their drugs. In an interview with the London Metro, Goldacre said: “Large numbers of people suffer and die unnecessarily due to distortions in medical science…I think a lot of doctors know there’s dodgy marketing behaviour by drug companies and that sometimes drug companies do badly designed trials that are flawed in such a way that it’s an advantage to them.

“What appalled me most was when I put it together in one place and realised what an incredibly destructive picture it was.”

In the book he highlights a number of companies hiding the results of clinical trials that would have led to drugs being withdrawn from the market. One particularly shocking case includes GlaxoSmithKline failing to report that trials had shown their anti-depressant Paroxetine could potentially increase the risk of suicide in children.

With the industry failing to address their behaviour even after so many whistleblower scandals have exposed them, books like Goldacre’s are hugely important in holding big pharmaceutical firms to account.

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