Monday, June 1, 2015

Medical Lies and Your Wallet and Your Health

We will be resuming our discussion about science, manipulation and lies. This week we will touch lightly upon medicine. Unlike other sciences, where the information may be theoretical with little impact on everyday life, medicine affects everyone us.

Let me start by commenting on something simple, and advertisement we have all seen on TV; “Four out of Five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.”

Let us examine this commercial, because it has an impact of how medical doctors and researchers deal with us, the public. The slogan is believed to be based upon a survey of practicing dentists conducted in the EARLY 1960’s. The company is still using data from a survey, from almost 50 years ago, to peddle their gum. We know very little about the survey, because the owners of Trident Gum claim the survey is part of a proprietary nature, basically a trade secret.

The ad also appears to say that dentists recommend you chew trident, but look at the statement closely, “…for their patients who chew gum.” Many dentists do not recommend you chew gum. Chewing gum can make some fillings and other dental work become loose. It can also force sugar into the small corners of the teeth which are hard to remove. However, chewing a sugarless gum removes the factor of having sugar forced between your teeth, which then would prevent some tooth decay; this is why some dentists recommend state that if you chew gum, make it sugarless.

As I stated, it is important to remember the example above, for this is not unusual for the marketing side of a company to manipulate the scientific data for purposes of selling a product. However, the marketing side of a company can also invade the science and research of medicines themselves.

Vioxx, or Rofecoxib, was one of the most widely used drugs ever developed. It was removed from the market after concerns it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious heart disease was caused by this drug while it was on the market.

The drug was marketed by Merck & Co, which did a study showing the drug caused fewer gastrointestinal problems than other similar medicines; this study had found it increased cardiovascular risks. Dropping the heart issues from the study, it presented it findings to the FDA, which then approved the drug.

Vioxx was released in 1999, but in 2004 it “voluntarily” recalled the drug only after information was disclosed that it withheld information regarding the drug from doctors for over five years.

Vioxx is just one of the numerous drugs, which went through the entire process of being marketed to the public, then was recalled because it turned out to be hazardous to our health, or it did not cure the disease it was promised to. The issue with medicines not working, or being dangerous is based on how the research and clinical trials were done.

At one time, most research was either funded by the government, or by private groups or individuals. Today, almost 75% of all clinical trials for medicine are paid by private companies. This situation, where the scientists are being funded and paid by the pharmaceutical company, to research the medicine created by that company, causes many conflicts.

If you are a scientist and are being paid by a company, you are pressured, if not directly by a company at least indirectly. If you work for a company, you may become friends with many of the workers there. You understand that your friend has a mortgage to pay for, or their kids need braces. You also know if you reject the new drugs the company just produced, then you may lay off workers, including your friend, and even yourself.

As a research scientist, you must also look out for your own career. What if you applied for another job at a different drug manufacturer? Do you believe this new company will hire you, if they knew your previous employer spent millions of dollars developing a drug, and you conducted a clinical trial that rejected the drug’s effectiveness?

Pharmaceutical companies are that companies, big business looking for a profit. They are not looking out for your welfare; you (as a consumer) are simple a means to their end. Even if the company is severely fined, it may make a profit over time. Merck & Co, even after the Vioxx disaster, is still a major pharmaceutical company, being th 7th largest in the world.

(This is a side note from me. Companies have enjoyed the status of “being a person” since the early 1880’s, but this concept reached its peak with the “Citizen’s United” ruling.

MY point being, if companies and corporations enjoy the privileges of being a citizen of this country, perhaps it’s time they accept the responsibility of being a citizen also.

We are breathing human beings, are expected to obey the laws, and when we decide to break these laws, we are punished. Do you think a drug dealer who seals a drug on the street that kills someone will be “Fined”? No, they are imprisoned and their lives taken away when they are incarcerated.

Companies should be treated the same way; if they break the law then their companies should be destroyed also.)

These are the reasons that many clinical trials, or other medical testing end up being false. We hear on news programs numerous times about a “cure” or “treatment” for a disease, which turns out later to be false.

There is an underlying concept I am presenting. This concept is you cannot trust business with medical information. No matter how honest a scientist or the research is, eventually the corruption of the business world will creep in, and then it will affect the researchers, and afterwards the research will be tarnished.

Next Week: How to Market Your Drugs


  1. Medical research certainly does impact us all. It takes a lot of research to get a drug to market. And rightly so, because we want it to be safe and effective. Unfortunately, that also means a company may have a lot invested in it long before they can start to market it and have a strong vested interest in getting positive results. I'm not sure what the answer is - more transparency, tougher penalties, other sources of funding research? As consumers, I think we need to fight for accurate information and hold the businesses accountable as best we can.

  2. This has long been a sore point with me, not just within the medical community but also in the food industry. Whoever pays the scientist is bound to have the odds in their favour, for the exact reasons you state. If companies are going to fund research, I think the funds should go anonymously into a central pool with scientists applying to this pool for funding. That is the only way to get accurate data - it is probably also very unrealistic. If companies can't influence the results, it's doubtful they would provide the funding.

  3. Don't get me started on how companies and advertisers lie with statistics. I think consumers are part of the problem. We tend to belief any statement that involves a % sign and the statement, "In a recent study". Misrepresenting studies or quoting studies that don't follow the scientific model is out of control in the media and online. People include links to studies that have nothing to do with their topic, just to look more professional, I'm a pain in the butt-I don't just follow the link to another page giving misinformation, I check the original study. Wow let's talk discrepancies.

  4. Great point! I agree. Each company should be accountable for their misleading remarks.

  5. What really gets me is how the way doctors recommend various medications has definitely been impacted by all the advertising that is now done for drugs. Now patients go in and ask for that one drug they saw on TV, and then the doctor will come back with how they should try another one because that's what they're getting kickbacks on. And the expense is just ridiculous!

  6. Unfortunately, as the government keeps cutting back the funds for medical research, private industry is picking up the slack. Another big issue is that when a doctor prescribes a drug for you, he will rarely ask if you are taking a drug prescribed by another doctor for different disease and most patients don't think to offer the information. Taking the two together could be deadly.

  7. Is everyone else as sick of those drug commercials on TV as I am?

    In the mid-1970s, Merck CEO Henry Gadsden admitted to Fortune magazine that it had long been his dream to make drugs for healthy people so that Merck could "sell to everyone". This tells you all you need to know about the pharmaceutical industry.

    Don't be a pill-popper if you can help it. Just say NO to the overmedicated society.

  8. Research funded by the company that will benefit from selling the product is obviously not impartial research. It is just amazing that such a thing can exist and that these companies can submit the findings to the FDA which apparently doesn't require additional, unbiased studies.

  9. Have read a lot about how pharmaceutical companies operate and it's horrendous reading. They bribe doctors to prescribe drugs they know could kill patients. Stop patients in poor countries get access to drugs that could save their lives and so forth. Some American drug companies have even been protected from law suits by Congress. Nothing those companies do will surprise me.

  10. Yes! You must always look at things like who funded the study. You can find studeis that prove almost anything so you need to look at more than one study to make an educated decision.

    There was a drug in available from 1938 to 1971 that women who were pregnant took who had a history of miscarriage to help them carry the baby full term. Years later, they learned that not only was the drug ineffective, it was causing female cancers in many of the daughters that were born who were now young women. My mother was one of those daughters and she developed such a condition. She eventually died of cancer, and they've always believed that this drug her mother took played a part in her health troubles.

  11. This is the epitome of Buyer Beware. I wonder how much of the misrepresentations in the medical field are the direct result of the change in advertising which allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to consumers, instead of going through doctors, who would supposedly be better equipped to sort out the real from the "enhanced" facts?

  12. You have to be very careful with these companies. There is no telling what some of these things will do to people.

  13. I think we should say to ourselves, what are they selling? When I hear all the commercials on TV about a drug and then the side effects, why would anyone want to take them in the first place.The drug detail people that work for pharmaceutical companies have a quota to keep. They drop off samples to a doctor's office in hopes that the doctor will push the drug for them. I question everything I take, even if the doctor hands me a sample.