Clinical trials and scientific studies are held as the gold standard when it comes to health care, so how credible those trials and studies are ends up being a very important question. The truth, as it turns out, might surprise you.
The medical establishment likes to look at their studies as factual, evidence driven, and done with an impartial eye. But the truth is, the results of research studies can have multi-million or multi-billion dollar consequences for drug companies, so they can be about as biased as you can get.
It makes more sense when you understand that the drug companies with many millions or billions at stake are often funding the researchers or funding the universities for which the researchers work. And, of course, if the researchers’ studies produce the “right” results, they are more likely to continue to receive funding. Researchers who don’t get enough grant money from big pharmaceutical companies are likely to lose their university jobs. For some researchers, that can be reason enough to play along.
Playing along can mean a number of things. At its worst, playing along can result in complete fabrication or manipulation of the data and results.
It wasn’t long ago that Hwang Woo-Suk, South Korea’s once highly esteemed researcher, claimed a major breakthrough in stem cell research and his results were also published in a prestigious, peer-reviewed publication. It was later found that he fabricated the data, for which he publicly apologized. While his fraud made headlines around the world, the crime might not be as rare as you think.
In 2008, one in fifty scientists admitted they had fabricated, falsified or “doctored” a research study; that number is generally regarded as low since these researchers have an interest in keeping their frauds a secret. When these same scientists were asked if they knew a colleague who had fabricated the data or results, about one in seven said they knew someone who had done just that.
Questionable research practices fall below outright falsification of data and were found to be even more prevalent. When scientists were asked, about one in three admitting to having used questionable research practices; again, the number skyrocketed when asked if they knew a colleague who had. About seven out of every ten scientists said they knew a colleague who had used questionable research practices.
Questionable research includes practices like “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressures from a funding source” or cherry-picking the results for publication. To the FDA, the latter is even acceptable.
In fact, by FDA rules, pharmaceutical companies can conduct as many clinical trials as they want, and send only the favorable results to the FDA for review. To help you read between the lines, this means drug companies can bury the negative results of clinical drug trials so that you and your doctor Clinical Trials never know about them.
Eli Lilly was accused of hiding the risk of suicide and suicidal tendencies with their drug Prozac, a drug now accepted to increase suicidal risk. A Harvard psychiatrist alleged that during the clinical trials those with suicidal tendencies were asked to leave the study, so their results were not counted. The Harvard psychiatrist was able to produce Eli Lilly internal documents to support the accusation.
Internal documents also surfaced to support the accusation that Eli Lilly knowingly hid the risks of their drug Zyprexa. A former FDA official even testified in court that the drug giant hid the risks for the purpose of insuring profits.
Questionable research practices can also include tweaking the results to make them seem more definite than they originally were, ignoring conclusions that don’t meet the study’s needs, and concealing conflicts of interest.
Depending on whose numbers you trust, incidences of scientific fraud in the U.S., as counted by government confirmed cases, occur with one out of ten scientists at the high end, or at the low end, with one out of every hundred scientists. Either way, they’re high numbers, especially when you consider that millions of people trust this information then put unnatural chemicals inside their bodies.
Properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs have been found to kill 100,000 Americans and “seriously injure” another 2.1 million each year, and one has to wonder how much pharmaceutical and scientific manipulation and outright fraud is responsible.
To add to the dog pile, drug companies have been found to stoop to all sorts of tricks.
Merck was caught disguising in-house authors as independent researchers. To accomplish this, Merck wrote a key study used to popularize the now infamous Vioxx then paid a researcher to put his/her name on it.
In relation to Vioxx, the Wall Street Journal reported that “a prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies that claimed to show benefits from painkillers like Vioxx and Celebrex.” The studies were published in anesthesiology journals between 1996 and 2008.
Another tactic of the drug companies is to intimidate the scientists. Drug companies have been known to pressure researchers, even scientists at the federal agency that is supposed to regulate them.
Drug Overdose Pressure at the FDA to bow to the interests of their financiers, the drug companies, has gotten so out of hand that scientists at the agency recently wrote Congress and then president-elect Obama about the problems. They talked about being forced to “change their opinions and conclusions,” which is a pretty weighty accusation.
The medical world’s insistence that their drugs are both effective and safe, based on their “unbiased, evident-based” research and clinical trials, no longer sounds so reassuring, does it? Profit-driven would be a more accurate description.
- http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090824/ap_on_re_as/as_skorea_disgraced_scientist – Page no Longer Available