Wednesday, 26 September 2012

the global pharmaceutical industry has been fined more than $11bn in the last three years for nothing less than criminal wrongdoing

Big Pharma's dishonesty will not be stopped by fines


The dangers of pharmaceutical drugs have been further emphasised by two recent papers in the most prestigious of all medical publications - The New England Journal of Medicine.

These reports reminded us that the global pharmaceutical industry has been fined more than $11bn in the last three years for nothing less than criminal wrongdoing.

There has been clear promotion of drugs for use beyond the conditions for which they are legally licensed. Also there was evidence of Big Pharma withholding data that queried drug safety.
Altogether 26 companies, including eight of the 10 top companies in the global pharmaceutical industry, have been found to be dishonest. The reports say that this has undermined public and professional trust in the industry and that this is holding back clinical progress.

Specialist lawyers have warned that the multibillion-dollar fines are not enough to change the industry's behaviour. Big Pharma will take them in its financial stride.

In another report, The Health and Social Care Information Centre of the NHS says that almost 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in the community (not in hospitals or other institutions) in England last year. That amounts to just about one prescription for every person. The total is 9.1% up on last year.

Glaxo Smith Klein, a major force in the UK pharmaceutical industry, were hammered for mis-marketing the antidepressants Wellbutrin and Paxil in the USA.This is a betrayal of clinical responsibility of the first order.

So called 'antidepressants' are only 20% more effective than placebo tablets that have no active ingredient whatever. However, they can cause a psychological dependency and they are dangerous and sometimes fatal in overdose.

What on earth is going on? Drugs that are largely ineffective, but habit forming and potentially dangerous, are being marketed and given away like sweets.

The problem stems from the belief that something has to be prescribed when patients say that they are stressed. That is absolutely untrue. Patients need to be heard, not pandered to and poisoned with pills.

Antidepressants will never cure, nor even alleviate, social ills. Economic pressure, unemployment, poor housing conditions, bereavement, domestic distress and all other causes of personal dis-ease cannot be resolved with drugs. Prescriptions take patients further away from being able to contribute towards resolving their troubles. Reality has to be faced at some time.

Germans describe the 'status kranken' - the sick state in which people abdicate responsibility for themselves. This is what is happening here in England.

I am very sympathetic to people who are going through difficult times. After being bankrupted and then bereaved in successive recent years, I know a lot about stress and sadness. But I do not believe that a deluge of drugs is the way to treat 'depression' at any level. There are more effective ways of treating it.

We should take physical problems to doctors. They're well trained to diagnose and treat them.
For significant emotional problems there are many skilled non-medical professionals, some already working alongside GPs, who can spend time with patients.

Far from trivialising the problem of depression, I am clearly justifiably concerned that Big Pharma cannot be trusted.

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