‘Cannot Be Trusted … Causing Harm’: Top Medical Journal Takes on Big Pharma
HEALTH, 23 Dec 2019
4 Dec 2019 – A leading medical journal is launching a global campaign to separate medicine from big pharma, linking industry influence to the pelvic mesh scandal that injured hundreds of women.
The BMJ says doctors are being unduly influenced by industry-sponsored education events and industry-funded trials for major drugs.
Those trials cannot be trusted, the journal’s editor and a team of global healthcare leaders write in a scathing editorial published today.
The “endemic financial entanglement with industry is distorting the production and use of healthcare evidence, causing harm to individuals and waste for health systems”, they write.
They are calling for governments to start funding independent trials of new drugs and medical devices, rather than relying on industry-funded studies. Sponsored research is more likely to find a favourable result compared to independent research, studies show.
And they want medical associations to discourage doctors from going to industry-funded education events.
But doctors have hit back, questioning who will pay for education and medical research if the pharmaceutical industry is excluded.
Assistant Professor Ray Moynihan, a Bond University researcher studying the link between money and medicine, and is one of the leaders of The BMJ’s campaign.
“When we want to decide on a medicine or a surgery, a lot of the evidence we used to inform that decision is biased,” he says.
“It cannot be trusted. Because so much of that has been produced and funded by the manufacturers of those healthcare products.”
Dr Moynihan points to the example of medical giant Johnson & Johnson, which sold pelvic mesh to thousands of Australian women. It knew the mesh could cause serious harm, but never properly warned women of the risks.
Victims of Ethicon’s faulty pelvic mesh have spoken outside court following a successful class action lawsuit.
In the US, a court found the same company deliberately played down the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids, stoking the addiction crisis that claims the lives of 130 Americans a day. The company plans to appeal in both cases.
The BMJ also wants policies in place to stop doctors receiving professional development points for attending industry-sponsored education events.
These events, critics claim, are thinly disguised sales seminars.
Between 2011 and 2015, pharma companies spent more than $286 million on events for Australian doctors, nurses, pharmacists and specialists, according to University of Sydney research.
Many received free food and beverages, and some got free flights and accommodation for an overseas conference.
Studies show doctors who attend industry-sponsored events are more likely to prescribe the company’s drugs.
But the Australian Medical Association questions how medical education and research would be funded without the involvement of the pharmaceutical industry.
“Who is going to fund all this? Is the government going to fund it?” says Dr Chris Moy, chair of the association’s ethics and medico-legal committee.
“Money makes the world go round, in simple terms. Research will not happen unless there is funding.
“Medicine is always going to need pharma companies. We cannot be too brutal on them.”
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons says it requires its members not to accept money or gifts in exchange for using certain devices or surgeries, and they must declare any conflicts of interest – for example if they are on a company’s payroll – to their patients.
Medicines Australia, which represents major pharmaceutical companies, did not return a request for comment by deadline.
The Medical Technology Association of Australia says its members are bound by a “code of practice which aims to ensure that healthcare providers are not influenced in their decision-making through financial or other inducements to choose one device over another”.
Liam Mannix is The Age and Sydney Morning Herald‘s science reporter.
Tags: Big Pharma, Capitalism, Corruption, Drug Dealers, Drugs, Economics, Health, Power, Public Health, Science and Medicine, Social justice
DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Join the discussion!
We welcome debate and dissent, but personal — ad hominem — attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), abuse and defamatory language will not be tolerated. Nor will we tolerate attempts to deliberately disrupt discussions. We aim to maintain an inviting space to focus on intelligent interactions and debates.