Some drug companies will stop at nothing to push their products on an unsuspecting public, even when they kill people.
Next time you read about glowing research on a new drug, remember this:
Merck has just been exposed for writing its own research studies for its blockbuster drug Vioxx, then getting top doctors to put their names on the studies as if they'd actually done them.
This way Merck managed to dupe prestigious medical journals into publishing their pseudo science. Next, the articles were picked up as gospel by the mainstream media and the treatment recommendation followed by unsuspecting, gullible physicians. Finally, we the public walked out of the doctor's office with a prescription for "the best and newest" anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx. How crazy is that?
I wish I could say I was shocked by this revelation, but readers of my blog are well aware that I keep telling you real and sad stories of how too many drug companies have long abandoned the public in favor of big profits. The Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency mandated to protect the public from the greed and excess of the drug companies, has instead climbed into bed with them.
Vioxx was a best-selling drug before Merck took it off the market in 2004 over evidence linking it to heart attacks (which by the way was hidden from the medical community and consumers for at least two years). Last fall, the company agreed to a $4.85 billion settlement for tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by harmed patients or their families.
The latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association contains a crucial article that addresses newly uncovered documents from the Vioxx lawsuits which provide an unprecedented look into the practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals by the pharmaceutical industry.
The article cited one draft of a Vioxx research study that was still in want of a big-name researcher, identifying the lead writer only as "External author?"
The lead author of the JAMA article, Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry's published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread.
"It almost calls into question all legitimate research that's been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician," he said.
Dr. Ross deserves much praise for bringing this scandalous state of affairs to the public's attention.
Vioxx was a financial success for Merck - and a lethal drug for patients who took it. Unfortunately the drugs massive success came through Merck's use of its financial might to overwhelm the FDA (keep them in the dark about the dangers), inundate the public with costly TV and print advertising (based on less than trustworthy research) and duping doctors into believing the value of the drug with its questionable research reports.
The Vioxx and Merck story are only an example of what happens all too often in our present drug company profits dominated environment.
There's only one way to change this sorry state of affairs - but don't expect drug companies to change their ways voluntarily.
The solution and protection must come from doctors and patients who must adopt a new attitude - one that leads to empowerment, mutual respect and honesty.
Every time a budding doctor takes the Hippocratic Oath, he/she promises to do no harm to patients. The doctors who prescribed Vioxx did harm their patients because they blindly relied upon claims made by Merck that turned out to be false. It is the doctor's responsibility to question the drug companies. I don't care where the information comes from and who sells it to me, I know one thing only: the doctor's job is to serve and protect the patient.
Many patients harmed themselves by unquestioningly taking their doctor's prescription, many because they believed the TV commercials about Vioxx represented the truth.
The Oath to do no harm should not only be taken by doctors. Each and every one of us must take our own Oath of empowerment and refusal to be intimidated and victimized. We must become our own advocates and stop accepting blindly medications or treatments handed out to us without question or consideration of the relationship we have with the doctor.
Once the doctors start serving the patients first and the patients stop allowing themselves to be intimidated and bullied, we will put an end to the greed and dishonesty that is crippling healthcare and create a safe and healthy environment for ourselves and our children.