Is making profits risking your health?

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At least once per day if not more you will see on your television screen a class action lawsuit for some drug asking you to call this attorney if you have taken this drug, that drug, or used this medical product. What goes on behind the closed doors of the Big Pharmaceutical companies, the researchers, and even the medical journals is unbeknownst to the general public and in most cases, the true data of the outcome of the research is not even provided to health care providers.

Recently, the Washington Post investigated the influence of these Pharmaceutical companies over the research conducted on new medicines that lead the Food and Drug Administration to approve the drugs you have been seeing plastered on the television screen. Peter Whoriskey, journalist for the Washington Posts explained that controversy over the last ten years over the “blockbuster” drugs like Avandia, Celebrex, and Vioxx have caused an investigation into the behind the scenes of the research that allowed these drugs to be approved. The investigation was to learn just how involved the drug companies were with the research teams and if this involvement actually misled the government as well as the public on the risks that were present.

Several years ago, funds from the United States government was the larger share paying for research. However, from around the middle of the 1980’s funding from pharmaceutical companies has outreached the funds provided by the National Institutes of Health. During 2011, the drug industry paid $39 billion on research in the US while the National Institutes of Health only put in $31 billion.

Marcia Angell that worked at the New England Journal of Medicine for more than twenty years and retired in 2000 as editor in chief stated,
“It used to be that drug companies would hand their new drug over to an academic center to have it tested, and then they sat back and waited. Now they’re intimately involved in every step along the way, and they treat academic researchers more like hired hands.”

Behind the Drug Reports

Avandia

The 2006 report on the Avandia trail compared to three other diabetes drugs showed that this drug was more effective than the others in the research. However, when you look closely at where the money came from for the trial you will see that the company that manufactured the drug, GlaxoSmithKline was behind the funding. Even the authors at the New England Journal of Medicine received money from the drug giant as well as four were employees of the company and had stock in the said company. The others involved had received consultant fees from the company or grants.

Four years later, after research of 4,000 patients using Avandia, it was discovered that the investigators “missed” the warning signs that the drug raised the risk of heart attacks, which took it off the market in the United States. The drug was estimated to be linked to 83,000 heart attacks and deaths, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Vioxx

Vioxx was manufactured by Merck and was given to individuals suffering from arthritis across the United States as a safe drug. The trial was funded by Merck and the report was co-written by two researchers of the drug company. Five years after the drug was given to countless arthritis sufferers, a report came out that the authors left out negative research that included incidences of heart trouble. This drug was also pulled from shelves by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, but not before it had caused 27,000 heart attacks and cardiac related deaths.

Conclusion

For any drug to pass the trial period and be handed out to doctors across the United States to provide to their patients, the true unaltered data should be presented. If any issues arise that even hint at future issues with a drug should be researched to ensure that, the public will not have more problems from taking the drug than what the drug cures.

Drug trials should be performed by independent companies that are not having their palms greased by the pharmaceutical companies if we are to see the real results of medical trials. As stated by Harlan Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale and a leading advocate of data access, “If you have the privilege of selling a drug, in return should come the responsibility to share everything you know about the drug,” This is not about doing gotcha with industry. It’s about how to restore trust.”

References:
The Washington Post