[Ip-health] Australian News: Deceitful Big Pharma accused of putting Lives at Risk

Matthew Rimmer drmatthewrimmer at gmail.com
Sun Apr 7 17:19:51 PDT 2013


Patients are being deceived into taking drugs they don't need, that don't
work or may put lives at risk, according to a scathing review of the
influence big drug companies have on healthcare.

Drug companies ''masterfully influenced'' medicine, a joint review by
Australian, British and US researchers has found, describing how the
enormous profit involved in making and selling drugs gave the industry
power to influence every stage of the health system.

''As a result of these interferences, the benefits of drugs and other
products are often exaggerated and their potential harms are downplayed,''
their research, published in the *European Journal of Clinical Investigation
*, found.

A co-author of the paper, Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of
Sydney's school of public health, said it was ''entirely illogical'' to
rely on the pharmaceutical industry to fund medical research.

''The profits involved are just too large and the temptation to manipulate
the evidence is difficult to resist, even when this may lead to the loss of
lives,'' Dr Stamatakis said.

''Asking corporate sponsors to conduct pivotal trials on their own products
is like asking a painter to judge their own painting to receive an award.''

He cited as an example anti-diabetic drugs that he said increased the risk
of heart problems and were prescribed despite interventions like exercise
being more effective.

One anti-diabetic drug, rosiglitazone, is still prescribed in Australia
despite being pulled from the European and New Zealand markets after
thousands of lawsuits were filed against its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.
The company was accused of deliberately withholding evidence that the drug
caused heart attacks.

Drug companies funded, designed and controlled a large portion of the most
influential medical studies, the researchers found in an evaluation of 600
clinical trials.

Trials funded by industry were four times more likely than those sponsored
by not-for-profits to favour the sponsored drug.

The researchers also looked at the influence of drug company
representatives using flawed evidence of drugs' effectiveness to persuade
doctors to prescribe them.

Doctors were also treated to free trips to international drug conferences,
fancy dinners, research grants and drug company shares, researchers found.

''It is hardly surprising that clinical practice guidelines often are
heavily focused on new costly interventions and only loosely follow the
available evidence,'' the researchers wrote.

Medical writer and a senior research fellow with Queensland's Bond
University Ray Moynihan said Australia was behind other countries like the
US in reining in unethical behaviour by drug companies.

In the US, the Sunshine Act was introduced to allow anyone to look up which
doctors receive industry funding.

''I think transparency is key,'' he said. ''The fact that you can go to a
doctor and be prescribed a new drug, without them telling you they've
learnt all about that drug at an industry funded event or a visit from a
drug representative is outrageous, and it's unbelievable that it could
happen in 2013 in Australia.''

The chief executive of industry group Medicines Australia, Brendan Shaw,
said the industry made the medicines and vaccines people relied on.

"Industry engagement across the health sector is vital to patient outcomes
and should be encouraged,'' Dr Shaw said. "Absolutely this needs to be
co-ordinated in an ethical and transparent way, and the industry has a long
track record of doing this.''

So why would Australian doctors accept drug company money?

''The pharmaceutical largesse takes Australian doctors all over the world
on business class airfares and puts them in five-star hotels and yes, that
can be good in terms of engaging with peers, but doctors should pay for
that themselves,'' said Ken Harvey, who is part of the Medicines Australia
transparency working group. ''It becomes a seductive, symbiotic

''Prestige can be just as important as money,'' he said.

In June the group will release its final recommendations on measures and
policies to improve transparency of payments between healthcare
professionals and the drug industry.

Read more:

Dr Matthew Rimmer
Australian Research Council Future Fellow,
Associate Professor, ANU College of Law
Associate Director, the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in

Postal Address:
Fellows Road
The Australian National University
ACT Australia 0200

Telephone: (02) 61254164

Electronic Mail:
Gmail: DrMatthewRimmer at gmail.com
Email: matthew.rimmer at anu.edu.au

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