By Kennedy Shelley
Will we return to the information dark ages?
For decades Big Pharma has hidden most studies on drug trials.
This is a huge problem when drug manufacture pays for 5 studies on a particular drug and four of the five show that the drug has no effect, but one shows it works and they only publish that one, it gives doctors and patients false hope.
Also, some studies have been around that downplay the potential negative side effects of different pharmaceuticals.
The most striking was the research on statin drugs which are supposed to lower cholesterol.
All the negative data has been kept from public and scientific review.
So, while many doctors now know that 1 in 5 patients who take statin drugs are going to have a significant life change adverse effects of taking statin drugs, most of the evidence has been hidden away in a special group based in the United Kingdom.
All the doctors who are supposed to be in charge of giving us the objective evidence have financial ties to the manufactures of the drugs.
This is a strange conflict of interest.
Pharmaceutical companies do not have an obligation to patients, but instead to their shareholders.
Turing Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Martin Shkreli said this very clearly that his company’s “responsibility is to its shareholders, not the customers who rely on his drugs to live.”
Many drugs, particularly antidepressants and related drugs have a long history of industry-driven studies that show the drugs do have positive benefits.
And there are often short-term positive effects. But long-term use tends to decrease effect.
And worse yet, long term use of some antidepressants tends to make mental health issues worse.
Yet these studies were not required to be published until 2010 when changes were made that required all drug trials to be registered publicly so people could start seeing the studies that did not produce favorable responses.
But this change may go away if the European Union courts reverse course and allow Big Pharma to hide the negative studies away again.
While Big Pharma is paying for the studies the public does have an interest in making sure drugs are safe and effective and not to rely solely on industry public relations.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been at the forefront of forcing manufacturers to release their data for scientific and public inspection.
The results have been important to patients and doctors.
For instance, it became clear once all the data was released that statins do not reduce heart attack risk by over 30% as Big Pharma claimed but actually less than 1%.
Tamiflu which is supposed to make the flu virus less problematic was much less effective than it was reported by the manufacturer.
The British Medical Journal is very concerned that if the EU reverses course and allows Big Pharma to start hiding the data again that everyone’s health could suffer.
“Pharmaceutical companies—one of the most secretive business sectors—have long fought against clinical trial transparency, harming patients. The public interest needs to prevail over narrow commercial interests.” Yannis Natsis, a patient representative on the EMA board.
What do you think?
Should Big Pharma be able to control what they pay for, or do patients’ rights need to be considered too?
Let us know in the comments below.