Big Pharma is America’s New Mafia


Dr. Daniela Drake,
February 21, 2015

By now you have probably seen John Oliver’s comic take on the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on doctors’ prescribing habits. Media outlets from Mother Jones to the Wall Street Journal commented admiringly, and even the American Medical Association felt compelled to declare they were “committed to transparency” around drug company payments to doctors.

But satire will do very little to focus on the real problem if we’re distracted by the humor inherent in self-important doctors being bought off by a steak. What’s not funny is that America is the most medicated nation on earth, with some 70 percent of Americans taking prescription drugs—yet we have worse health outcomes than other industrialized countries. Part of the problem may be the drugs themselves. As Slate’s devastating expose on the fraud in clinical drug trials shows us: We don’t know much about the drugs we prescribe.

But as physicians, we have very little good information to go on. Even our most prestigious journals publish research based on falsified studies, according to Charles Seife, a journalism professor whose class spent a semester trying to figure out why the data don’t get corrected once research fraud comes to light. “As a result,” Seife writes, “nobody ever finds out which data is bogus, which experiments are tainted, and which drugs might be on the market under false pretenses.”

If no one knows which data is bogus, we obviously have a big problem in conventional medicine. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so focused on marketing shenanigans, and more concerned about the original study data before something becomes standard of care. Standard of care, of course, is driven by “research” that is incorporated into academic guidelines and is the basis of customer demand.

Understanding consumer demand takes very little study—just turn on the TV. Every year pharmaceutical companies spend over $3 billion on direct-to-consumer ads. These ads work: a patient who requests a specific drug will get it most of the time. (We are, by the way, the only country besides New Zealand that allows this.) But the question of how something becomes part of a recommended guideline is less obvious—and has a lot to do with pharmaceutical money paid to academic physicians in research and consulting fees.

Many of these physicians “leaders” then get to influence prescribing practices—since researchers and consultants are, well, experts. Consider the 2004 Cholesterol guidelines that resulted in an explosion in the use of statin drugs—eight out of nine of the doctors who wrote those guidelines were in receipt of money from statin manufacturers. The Harvard psychiatrist credited with hyping the use of stimulant drugs for ADHD—that has resulted in nearly 15 percent of our youth being medicated—received $1.6 million from producers of stimulant drugs. Prestigious medical journals—the ones that often define medical guidelines—allow physicians consulting for pharmaceutical companies or paid medical writers to extol the virtues of the drugs they are selling.

I hate to ruin the fun, but practicing physicians are influenced far more by guidelines, esteemed academic physicians, and opinion pieces in prestigious journals than we are by a deli platter and a smiling drug rep. We look to the world of academic medicine because, well, where else can we turn? Pharmaceutical companies know this and have worked hard to sway the leadership. Now the question comes up if we can trust the data that the leadership relies on. One wonders how deep the deception goes. In fact, the heavy influence of pharmaceutical dollars inspired the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, to conclude, “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.”

That’s why so many practicing physicians and patients alike were relieved that Obamacare would force pharmaceutical companies to come clean about how much money they’re throwing at some doctors. Sure, it’s fun to ridicule a middle-aged doctor ogling the drug rep’s cleavage while stuffing pens in his pocket or wolfing down a falafel sandwich—but this guy isn’t really the problem and everybody knows it. While $90 million went to drug-company sponsored meals in 2013, according to the Open Payments database, at least $1.4 Billion went to research. If we can believe that doctors can be bought with a slice of pizza pie, then we cannot underrate the influence of research monies.

And by the way, that $1.4 billion is probably a fraction of what is spent on researchers. Obamacare allows a four-year delay in the reporting of research grants for reasons that really don’t make any sense. An explanation from Medscape does little to satisfy: “The thinking is that if there were public transparency, it might stifle companies from getting involved in very early research…. And that’s again to specifically protect that research space.”

Whether or not the research space needs protecting is a matter of debate. Certainly we have so much research that it’s impossible for a working physician to get through it—some 800,000 articles are published annually. In response, the Cochrane Collaboration was formed in the 1990s to perform systematic reviews of the literature. Dr. Peter Gotzsche, the Director of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, has seen enough over the last two decades to sum up his findings in a book whose title says it all: Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare.

“Much of what the drug industry does fulfills the criteria for organized crime in US law,” Dr. Gotzsche said in a recent interview. “And they behave in many ways like the mafia does, they corrupt everyone they can corrupt, they have bought every type of person, even including ministers of health in some countries…The drug industry buys the professors first, then chiefs of departments, then other chief physicians and so on, they don’t buy junior doctors.”

Gotzsche isn’t the only one accusing pharmaceutical companies of wrongdoing beyond the marketing malfeasance they’re famous for. In Australia, during the Vioxx class action suit brought against Merck, company emails were released revealing that Merck employees planned to “neutralize” and “discredit” doctors who criticized the drug. “We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live,” a Merck employee wrote, according to The Australian. Apparently, uncooperative physicians were targeted to lose academic appointments and research funding for telling the truth about the negative side effects they observed.

This is troubling—but even more so in light of the fact that it’s now widely accepted that prescription drugs can be dangerous and over the years dozens have been recalled. “Our prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Our drugs kill around 200,000 people in America every year, and half of these people die while they do what their doctors told them—so they die because of the side-effects,” said Dr. Gotzsche in his recent interview. “The other half die because of errors—and it’s often the doctors that make the errors because any drug may come with 20, 30 or 40 warnings, contraindications, precautions…and then the patients die.”

This is a hard pill for any of us to swallow. We should be able to trust our doctors, who should in turn be able to trust “the science.” As amusing as Oliver’s “epic takedown” of doctors was, the trouble isn’t physicians prescribing a new drug because a drug rep brings us a platter of tacos, the problem is whether the drugs we have to choose from are truly safe and effective in the first place.

Of course pharmaceutical companies are here to stay—and on the whole that’s a good thing. But to prevent a power dynamic that may deny us fully accurate drug data, physicians, and patients need more transparency—not just about the money, but about the drugs we are putting in our bodies.

Daniela Drake, M.D., M.B.A., is a former McKinsey & Co. consultant who is now a board-certified internist in private practice in Los Angeles.


One response to “Big Pharma is America’s New Mafia

  1. My name is Dr. Stefanie Hillinger, I work in the Therapy Center of the Dayeng Foundation. The foundation was founded by Prof. Lupus Dayeng in 2001. Our therapy center successfully treats most diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, neurodermatitis, Parkinson’s disease, borreliosis, AIDS and many more diseases. I would like to publish some truths about these so-called diseases.
    Strictly speaking, these are not diseases. Nearly all of these “diseases” are a disturbed immune system. For example, AIDS is not a disease and HIV viruses do not exist. Not a single doctor or scientist has been able to identify or display an HIV virus. It is a virus infection that a weak immune system can not cope with. These so-called HIV tests do not detect any HIV virus.
    It is only demonstrated that antibodies are more active than, so to speak, normally. But this is usually very relative. In a person who has a harmless, small infection, the antibodies are of course more active, or are formed more. That is all. A test for a so-called HIV infection can not be this procedure. Or what do you mean?
    This test does not search for a virus. Why not, if this virus should exist? Many people were tested in a country with a positive result and the same people in another country negative. How can that be? The secret is simple. In the first test, people had a small, virus infection. In the second test, this virus infection was no longer present. This AIDS story is a large-scale dizziness. Not a single scientist has ever found a so-called HIV virus.
    In order to keep this vertigo upright, the supposedly positively tested humans are given drugs as soon as possible. These drugs make the immune system very weak. Understand the trick. A sick immune system deceives this invention AIDS, because it is said that AIDS is an immune deficiency disease. Yes, after these drugs are taken, it is. So-called AIDS patients who have not taken these drugs are healthy. All the people who took these deadly drugs are dead. Strange, right? Ask a doctor that he shows you such an HIV virus, of course, no computer animation, a real virus. Then you will see what the doctor used for an excuse. So once again, an HIV virus does not exist! Do not let yourself get sick of a billion-dollar industry.
    The same applies to cancer. Cancer is a reaction of a weak and disturbed immune system. The immune system interprets something wrong and it comes to a reaction. Healthy cells are seen as an enemy. What causes this malfunction of the immune system? One-sided and nutrient-poor nutrition , for example in Africa. In the industrialized countries a wrong nutrition, unclean air, chemical bombs in the form of personal care products and, of course, pharmaceuticals are responsible for the disease.
    Look at the doctor’s waiting rooms, these are always full. Many people voluntarily fetch your dose of immunodeficiency. The pharmaceutical industry has no interest in healthy people, as the profits have to rise. A gigantic system, including governments, the media, ensures that the profits are constantly rising. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, pharmacies and so on.
    Healthy people bring no profits. In order to secure profits, the pharmaceutical industry even invents diseases. So, wake up, you are made ill by a giant industry. Already the babies are vaccinated sick, so that their immune system does not work from the beginning. What’s in the vaccines? Have you ever asked this question tu a doctor? Why not? If you buy a car, then ask the seller many questions about the car before you buy it. Why do you blindly inject something into the small body of your baby without knowing what it is?
    I’ll tell you what’s in the vaccines. Aluminum (attacks the brain and the nerve cells), mercury (causes epilepsy, Parkinson’s and destroys brain cells), formaldehyde (kills cells and causes cancer) and many more chemicals. Would you drink such a cocktail? No? Why do you let this vaccinate into your baby?
    Also many other diseases are caused by the described here. Allergies, skin diseases, asthma and so on.
    Together with other scientists, Prof. L. Dayeng has researched this internationally for many years. Then Prof. Dayeng founded the Dayeng Foundation and opened a therapy center that heals these alleged diseases, including cancer. The successes are extraordinarily high. Since the year 2001 we heal patients with many symptoms. It is important to know the background of diseases. A very intensive knowledge of biology and the absolute independence from the pharmaceutical industry and the complete system of this major complication enable this healer sequence. Have you never wondered why these diseases did not exist in earlier times? Have you never wondered why people were healthier in the past, even though there was no pharmaceutical industry?
    Have you never wondered why many of these diseases are getting more and more people, although there is supposedly such a cost-intensive pharmaceutical research? Is not that a paradox? It is researched naturally, researched for new disease fantasies to further increase the profits of these disease-causing pharmaceuticals. Of course, we can also prove all this written here, the problem with many people, however, they do not want to know it. Closing your eyes is more comfortable for many, but unfortunately more lethal.
    Say goodbye to manipulation and lies. We will be pleased to help you. But you must want it. We are a foundation and therefore not interested in profits, we take the Hippocratic oath seriously. But we also want, in addition to therapy, to inform about a system that can not more be inhuman. A lot of information videos, in German and English, we also published on Youtube, here he link to the channel:
    Dr. Stefanie Hillinger
    Therapy Center of the Dayeng Foundation


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