Saturday, November 14, 2009

Big Pharma Misrepresents Studies

A series of articles in JAMA (4.16.08)  documented how Merck misrepresented the data on the early Vioxx trials and manipulated the clinical research.  This series of articles came to light due to the litigation over the 50,000 people who died by taking Vioxx.  The authors of this series were privy to the court documents during the ongoing trials for Vioxx. 

The authors found that published, peer-reviewed studies were written by Merck employees but given first authorship to someone else(the first name reported in the final published version). The first name on the final study is supposed to go to the researcher who was intimately involved in the project.  However, Merck used ‘big name’ academicians to give the article more validity.  The problem is that these ‘big name’ academically affiliated physicians often did little or no work on the study.   Merck was using them (and paying them) for their name to give the article more merit.  The consequence of doing business this way is that these ‘evidenced-based’ articles are taken as the gospel and physicians change their prescribing habits based on these articles.  To add insult to injury, there was often no disclosure of the financial support from Merck in these articles. 

What is the consequence of this practice of hiring ‘big-name’ academic doctors to put their names as the lead authors in main stream journal articles?  In the case of Vioxx, it became a multibillion dollar drug for Merck.  Of course, in this case the downside was the deaths of 50,000 Americans who took this toxic drug.  The accompanying editorial commented, “The profession of medicine in every aspect-clinical, education, and research- has been inundated with profound influence from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.  This has occurred because physicians have allowed it to happen, and it is time to stop.”

It is time to stop.  It will only stop when the patients take control of their health care.  Patients can only do that with knowledge.   I encourage you to study the mode of action of the drugs prescribed to you and to further study the mode of action of natural therapies.   You need to make the right choices about the types of therapies you will take.  I believe once you learn about the safe and effective natural therapies that are available, the choice will be an easy one.


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