Pharma: Trustworthy or Worthy of Oversight?

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For anyone that reads this blog, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of big pharma.

I have a lot of emotional components to this bias, but I do my very best to source real journalistic resources or scientific documentation.

This story from the folks at CBS hopefully illustrates why I think pharma companies across the globe should become subject to a much higher level of oversight than  currently exists.

When a company like Merck uses vast resources to basically shame members of the professional medical community, we have to pause and ask not ‘why’ but ‘how soon’ do we implement tighter rules and oversight of the pharma industry.

Here’s some context:

According to The Australian, Merck emails from 1999 showed company execs complaining about doctors who disliked using Vioxx. One email said:

We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live …

The plaintiffs’ lawyer gave this assessment:

It gives you the dark side of the use of key opinion leaders and thought leaders … if (they) say things you don’t like to hear, you have to neutralise them … It does suggest a certain culture within the organisation about how to deal with your opponents and those who disagree with you.

The Australian:

The court was told that James Fries, professor of medicine at Stanford University, wrote to the then Merck head Ray Gilmartin in October 2000 to complain about the treatment of some of his researchers who had criticised the drug.”Even worse were allegations of Merck damage control by intimidation,” he wrote, … “This has happened to at least eight (clinical) investigators … I suppose I was mildly threatened myself but I never have spoken or written on these issues.”

The allegations come on the heels of revelations that Merck created a fake medical journal— the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine — in which to publish studies about Vioxx; had pop songs commissioned about Vioxx to inspire its staff, and paid ghostwriters to draft articles about the drug.

See, they are a critical component of the cost and effectiveness and if they’re resorting to the creation of fake journals, threatening those that question them and engaging in a war on truth, we must stand against them and insist that our health is more important than their profits.

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