The title of this article might give you the impression that my aim is to frighten you. I assure you it is not. The realities of the pharmaceutical industry are admittedly difficult to swallow, but this is important information given the fact that so many people are taking anti-depressant drugs. While these details may be disturbing, especially if you or someone you know takes anti-depressant drugs, it is important to move past the fear of information and really look at what has happened with the modern day medical industry and the pharmaceutical stranglehold that plagues it today.
“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” – (source)(source) Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard Professor of Medicine and Former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal
The most recent example of this kind of corruption comes from a study that was published last week in the British Medical Journal by researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen. The study showed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials. Researchers looked at documents from 70 different double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and found that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports went unreported. These are the reports sent to major health authorities like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Tamang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and lead author of the study, said:
WE FOUND THAT A LOT OF THE APPENDICES WERE OFTEN ONLY AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST TO THE AUTHORITIES, AND THE AUTHORITIES HAD NEVER REQUESTED THEM. I’M ACTUALLY KIND OF SCARED ABOUT HOW BAD THE ACTUAL SITUATION WOULD BE IF WE HAD THE COMPLETE DATA. (SOURCE)
Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London, elaborates:
[THIS STUDY] CONFIRMS THAT THE FULL DEGREE OF HARM OF ANTIDEPRESSANTS IS NOT REPORTED. THEY ARE NOT REPORTED IN THE PUBLISHED LITERATURE, WE KNOW THAT – AND IT APPEARS THAT THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY REPORTED IN CLINICAL STUDY REPORTS THAT GO TO THE REGULATORS AND FROM THE BASIS OF DECISIONS ABOUT LICENSING. (SOURCE)
Peter Gotzsche, a clinician researcher at Cochrane and the co-author of the study, actually tried to gain access to clinical trial reports almost a decade ago for anti-obesity pills. Unfortunately, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) denied them the reports:
THEY TALKED ABOUT COMMERCIAL CONFIDENTIALITY ALTHOUGH THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THESE REPORTS THAT WAS COMMERCIALLY CONFIDENTIAL. WE EXPLAINED THAT ALL THIS SECRECY ACTUALLY COST HUMAN LIVES, BUT THEY WEREN’T INTERESTED IN THAT AT ALL. (SOURCE)
It took years of requests and complaints for this to happen and, while Gotzsche is pleased they were able to achieve this breakthrough, he reminds us that similar progress has yet to made in the United States. He went on to state that researchers need better access to data from clinical trials to conduct assessments unimpeded by industry influence:
IT’S DEEPLY UNETHICAL WHEN PATIENTS VOLUNTEER TO BENEFIT SCIENCE AND THEN WE LET DRUG COMPANIES DECIDE THAT WE CANNOT GET ACCESS TO THE RAW DATA. THE TESTING OF DRUGS SHOULD BE A PUBLIC ENTERPRISE. (SOURCE)
Moncrieff (quoted above) then goes on to express further concerns: