From ‘The BMJ’, originally an older post but of increasing relevance as we see much to worry about in many areas, including this one of the “Big Pharma” industry.
The article commences as follows, merits a full read here, and suggests the book worth reading. I cannot see anything wrong with that suggestion.
The piece that follows is my foreword to a new and fascinating book by Peter Gøtzsche, the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, entitled Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare. I hope that this piece might prompt you to read the book. I was not paid for my foreword and will not receive any payment from the book.
There must be plenty of people who shudder when they hear that Peter Gøtzsche will be speaking at a meeting or see his name on the contents list of a journal. He is like the young boy who not only could see that the emperor had no clothes but also said so. Most of us either cannot see that the emperor is naked or will not announce it when we see his nakedness, which is why we badly need people like Peter. He is not a compromiser or a dissembler, and he has a taste for strong, blunt language and colourful metaphors. Some, perhaps many, people might be put off reading this book by Peter’s insistence on comparing the pharmaceutical industry to the mob, but those who turn away from the book will miss an important opportunity to understand something important about the world—and to be shocked.
An emotional debate at the Danish Society for Rheumatology
Peter ends his book with a story of how the Danish Society for Rheumatology asked him to speak to the theme “Collaboration with the drug industry. Is it THAT harmful?” The original title was “Collaboration with the drug industry. Is it harmful?” but the society thought that too strong. Peter started his talk by enumerating the “crimes” of the meeting’s sponsors. Pfizer, for instance, had been fined $2.3 billion in the United States for promoting offlabel use of four drugs, while Merck, the last sponsor, had, said Peter, been responsible for the deaths of thousands of patients with its deceptive behaviour around a drug for arthritis. After this beginning to his talk he launched into his condemnation of the industry.
You can imagine being at the meeting, with the sponsors spluttering with rage and the organisers acutely embarrassed. Peter quotes a colleague as saying that he felt “my direct approach might have pushed some people away who were undetermined.” But most of the audience were engaged and saw legitimacy in Peter’s points. In the following year all but one of the companies declined to sponsor the meeting.
Right about mammography
The many people who have enthusiastically supported routine mammography to prevent breast cancer might empathise with the sponsors—because Peter has been critical of them and published a book on his experiences around mammography. The important point for me is that Peter was one of few people criticising routine mammography when he began his investigations but—despite intense attacks on him—has been proved largely right.