- Possible alternative to antibiotics developed – but skeptics remain
- Bacteria found in bees show potential as an alternative to antibiotics
- The Deep Harm of Antibiotics
- US to phase out antibiotics for fattening livestock
- Cranberries Cripple Bacteria
- Associate director at CDC: We’ve reached ‘the end of antibiotics, period’
- CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’
‘Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s supply of painkillers — more than 110 tons of pure, addictive opiates every year — as the country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic explodes.
That’s enough drugs to give every single American 64 Percocets or Vicodin. And pain pill prescriptions continue to surge, up 600 percent in ten year, thanks to doctors who are more and more willing to hand out drugs to patients who are suffering.
As more people get their hands on these potentially-dangerous drugs, more are taking them to get high. Their drug abuse leads to 14,800 deaths a year — more than from heroin and cocaine combined.’
- Unintended consequences: Why painkiller addicts turn to heroin
- States With Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Overdose Deaths
- States with medical marijuana have 25 percent fewer prescription overdose deaths
- Reversing the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
- Denver mom survives darkness of prescription drug abuse epidemic
- Painkiller prescription rates vary widely among states
- CDC: Opioids drive continued increase in drug overdose deaths
- The Cost Of Creating A New Drug Now $5 Billion, Pushing Big Pharma To Change
- Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs
- Three Unlikely Groups Hit Hard by the Prescription Drug Epidemic
- Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.
- A Glut of Antidepressants
- A Tale of Two Drugs
- Deadly Medicine
- Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us
- US veterans being pumped full of addictive opiates
- CDC: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
- CDC: Prescription Drug Use Continues to Increase
- Why do Americans consume 80% of world’s painkiller drugs?
- Maybe we should blame teenagers for our health spending problems
- Gov’t Fails to Oversee Treatment of Foster Children With Mind-Altering Drugs
- Antidepressant use in pregnancy may raise autism risk
- Why Medication Can Be Dangerous to Your Health
‘It is remarkable what very profitable drug companies—as they merge into fewer giant multinationals—continue to get away with by way of crony capitalism. Despite frequent exposure of misdeeds, the army of drug company lobbyists in Washington continues to gain political influence and rake in corporate welfare at the expense of taxpayers. The drug industry goes beyond crony capitalism when it then charges Americans the highest drug prices in the world.
Here is a short list of the honey pot produced by the lobbying muscle of the $300 billion a year pharmaceutical industry. It receives billions of dollars in tax credits for doing research and development that it should be doing anyway. Some companies reaped billions of dollars in revenues when they were granted exclusive rights to market a drug, such as Taxol, developed by the government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). These corporations turn around and gouge patients without any price controls or royalties to NIH.
The pharmaceutical industry spends far more on marketing and advertising to physicians and patients than what it spends on research and development. More drug industry funds go to influencing politicians to prevent the implementation of price restraints on its staggering markups.’
‘China has fined the British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) $488.8 million (3 billion Yuan) for a “massive bribery network” to get doctors and hospitals to use its products. Five former employees were sentenced to two to four years in jail, but ordered deported instead of imprisoned, according to state news agency Xinhua today.
The guilty verdict was delivered after a one day closed door trail in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The fine was the biggest ever imposed by a Chinese court.
The court gave Mark Reilly, former head of GSK Chinese operations, a three-year prison sentence with a four-year reprieve, which meant he is set to be deported instead of serving his time in a Chinese jail. His co-defendants received two to four years prison sentences with reprieves.’
- Royal Bank of Scotland chairman to move to GlaxoSmithKline
- Be careful what you wish for if you demand change at the top of GSK
- Bribery scandal dents Big Pharma sales in China, GSK hardest hit
- GlaxoSmithKline faces fresh drug bribery claims in Syria (and other countries)
- Investigator: Systematic bribery at GlaxoSmithKline China ‘credible’
- Glaxo’s China Scandal Exposes Big-Pharma’s Ugly Underworld
- UK drug company Glaxo ‘paid bribes to Polish doctors’
- From 2012: GlaxoSmithKline fined $3bn after bribing doctors to increase drugs sales
- From 2012: GlaxoSmithKline’s bribes are evidence that Big Pharma isn’t working
- SourceWatch: GlaxoSmithKline
‘A team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden has identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that come from the honey stomach of bees, and are found in fresh honey, that have an impressive ability to fight pathogens. The honey stomach is one of two stomachs found in bees, and it stores nectar, which worker bees later suck out and store in the hive.
Together, these live bacteria produce a number of active microbial compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, fatty acids and anaesthetics, that can kill other harmful bacteria – it’s believed that this is the formula that protects the bee colony against collapse. Unfortunately, these LAB are processed out of the honey we buy in shops, but the researchers now believe they could be used to help treat anitibiotic resistance.’
‘[…] For all its generosity and thoughtfulness, the Gates Foundation’s management of its $40 billion endowment has been a puzzling ethical blind spot. In 2007, with colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, I examined whether those investments tended generally to support the foundation’s philanthropic goals. Instead, we found that it reaped vast profits by placing billions of dollars in firms whose activities and products subverted the foundation’s good works.
For example, Gates donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in places like the Niger Delta, yet invested $423 million in the oil companies whose delta pollution literally kills the children the foundation tries to help. It had vast holdings in Big Pharma firms that priced AIDS drugs out of reach for desperate victims the foundation wanted to save. It benefited greatly from predatory lenders whose practices sparked the Great Recession and chocolate makers said by the US government to have supported child slavery in Ivory Coast.
After our investigations were published, the foundation briefly considered changing its policy of blind-eye investing, but ultimately pulled funds only from firms that provided the financial basis for genocide in Darfur. Even in that case, when the glare of adverse publicity faded, the foundation hopped back into such companies, including the Chinese construction giant NORINCO International.’
The Politics of the Ebola Serum & The History of Medical Exploitation in Africa: Interview with Harriet Washington
Editor’s Note: Harriet Washington is a medical ethicist. She is the author of “Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future” and “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present“.
‘One of the first nonhumans to be given psychopharmaceuticals as a patient (and not as a test subject) was a western lowland gorilla named Willie B., who was famous in Atlanta, Georgia. He was captured in Congo as an infant in the 1960s and sent to Zoo Atlanta, where he lived for 39 years, 27 of them alone in an indoor cage with a tire swing and a television. According to Mel Richardson, who was working as a veterinarian at Zoo Atlanta at the time, Willie broke a glass window in his enclosure in the winter of 1970–71 and had to be transferred to a much smaller cage for six months while the glass was replaced with heavy metal bars.
“He weighed around 400 pounds, and the cage was way too small for him,” said Mel. “If he stood up and stretched each arm all the way out he could almost touch both sides of the cage at once.” The vet staff decided to medicate him so that the six months would be more bearable. They put Thorazine in the Coca-Cola he drank in the morning. According to Mel, Willie responded to the drug as many institutionalized humans do: He shuffled back and forth across his cage with dulled eyes. “It was a little like watching the men in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Mel said.
Dolphins, whales, sea lions, walruses, and other marine creatures in parks like SeaWorld have also been given psychotropic drugs for what their vets see as depression, anxiety, compulsive regurgitation, flank sucking, or other distressing behaviors. Two marine mammal veterinarians who have spent decades on staff or consulting for American animal-display facilities and the military’s marine mammal program told me that antidepressants and antipsychotics are commonly used but that “no one was going to talk to [me] about it.” Even they wouldn’t speak about the subject on the record.’
- Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves (Book)
- Fish swimming in water tainted with Prozac exhibit ‘antisocial, aggressive and even homicidal behaviour’
- Pets on Prozac: The dark side of animal emotions
- Effect of psychoactive drugs on animals
Top doctor: Western drugs firms have not tried to find Ebola vaccine because virus only affects Africans
‘Britain’s leading public health doctor today blames the failure to find a vaccine against the Ebola virus on the “moral bankruptcy” of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in a disease because it has so far only affected people in Africa – despite hundreds of deaths. Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, says the West needs to treat the deadly virus as if it were taking hold in the wealthiest parts of London rather than just Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Writing in The Independent on Sunday, Professor Ashton compares the international response to Ebola to that of Aids, which was killing people in Africa for years before treatments were developed once it had spread to the US and UK in the 1980s.
He writes: “In both cases [Aids and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilise an adequately resourced international medical response. In the case of Aids, it took years for proper research funding to be put in place and it was only when so-called ‘innocent’ groups were involved (women and children, haemophiliac patients and straight men) that the media, politicians, scientific community and funding bodies stood up and took notice.”‘
- Dr. Arthur Caplan on why an Ebola drug hasn’t yet been developed
- Dr. Ben Neuman on why there isn’t an ebola vaccine
- We have the science to build an Ebola vaccine, why hasn’t it happened?
- Why No Cure Or Prevention For Ebola?
- Africans, three Ebola experts call for access to trial drug
- WHO to Debate Ethics of Using Experimental Ebola Drug in Outbreak
- Experimental drug likely saved Ebola patients
- A Potentially Life-Saving Ebola Drug Is Being Held Up By The FDA
- NIH to launch early Ebola vaccine trial in September
- 2010: Drug firms cashed in on scare over swine flu, claims Euro health chief
‘Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, Dr Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine at Yale, described a syndrome that starts to develop close to discharge from hospital. Physiological systems are impaired, reserves are depleted, and the body cannot effectively mitigate health threats. It is instructive to note that this syndrome – created by the stressful hospital environment – is a significant contributor to hospital re-admissions. It is estimated that 10-20% of patients discharged from hospital in the UK and US will be re-admitted within 30 days, often with a condition entirely unrelated to their original admission. Poor sleep and inadequate nutrition have an adverse effect on physical performance and co-ordination, cognitive function, immunity, and even cardiac risk. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to being re-admitted with falls and infection, with one study revealing that a fifth of hospitalised patients over 65 had an average nutrient intake of less than 50% of their daily requirements.
[…] A culture of over-investigation and over-treatment is now one of the greatest threats to western health. In the US it is estimated that a third of all healthcare activity brings no benefit to patients. Examples include excessive use of antibiotics, imaging for non-sinister headaches, use of surgery when watchful waiting is better and unwanted intensive care for patients at the end of life who would prefer hospice and home care. In the US, a fee-for-service model encourages high volume and expensive procedures. But we should be alert to similar possibilities here: the UK’s “payment by results” – which in reality is a payment-by-activity model – potentially incentivises “doing more” on the part of physicians. As a profession we have also been guilty – unwittingly or otherwise – of exaggerating the benefits of medications often perceived as magic pills by patients when their benefits are often modest at best. This also detracts from more meaningful lifestyle interventions by giving the public the illusion of protection.’
‘Resistance to antibiotics is a growing phenomenon and has become one of the world’s most serious public health concerns. Antibiotic resistance is a form of drug resistance where some bacteria are able to survive the administration of one or more antibiotics. This phenomenon is a consequence of misuse and overuse of antibiotics in medicine and in livestock feed. As a result of this, there is a growing presence of superbugs, as are called microorganisms -mostly bacteria- that carry several antibiotic-resistance genes.
The seriousness of the problem is underscored by the World Health Organization (WHO), which in a recent report has called this phenomenon a ‘global threat.’ The WHO report follows a 2013 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report which showed that two million people in the U.S. are infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die each year from them. Last year, Dr. Sally Davies had called the problem a “ticking time bomb” and said that it probably will become as important in the magnitude of its effects as climate change.
As a result of antibiotic resistance and the increasing number of superbugs, common infections that could be treated without major problems have become untreatable. In 2012, the WHO reported 450,000 cases of tuberculosis in 92 countries where multiple drugs used to treat them were found ineffective.’
- A Superbug Resistant to ‘Last-Resort’ Antibiotics Has Made Its Way into the Food Supply
- WHO: Antibiotic Resistance Worse Health Crisis Than AIDS
- Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are officially a global threat
- Antibiotics Are Becoming Ineffective All Over the World, Why? Interview with Martin Khor
- Outbreak Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria Linked To Lutheran General Hospital
- Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Lead to 23,000 Deaths a Year, C.D.C. Finds
- Probiotics May Protect Against Drug-Resistant Superbug, Study Finds
- A Brief History of the Antibiotic Era: Lessons Learned and Challenges for the Future
‘Britain’s fraud office has launched a formal criminal investigation into GlaxoSmithKline, posing a new challenge to the drugmaker, which already faces claims of bribery in China and four other countries. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday that its director had “opened a criminal investigation into the commercial practices of GlaxoSmithKline and its subsidiaries”, confirming an earlier brief statement from the company. “GSK is committed to operating its business to the highest ethical standards and will continue to cooperate fully with the SFO,” Britain’s biggest drugmaker said. Neither the SFO nor GSK gave any further details about the case, and a company spokesman declined to elaborate.’
‘US drugs giant Pfizer has withdrawn its £55 a share, £69bn takeover bid for UK pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. It said: “Following the AstraZeneca board’s rejection of the proposal, Pfizer announces that it does not intend to make an offer.” AstraZeneca’s chairman, Leif Johansson, said it would “continue building on the momentum we have already demonstrated as an independent company.”
AstraZeneca had fiercely resisted the bid, backed by some politicians.It rejected a final offer from Pfizer earlier this month, saying the proposal undervalued the company and its “attractive prospects”. Nevertheless, in recent weeks some AstraZeneca shareholders had said they wanted the firm to engage with Pfizer.
But Mr Johansson said: “We have attractive growth prospects and a rapidly progressing pipeline. In the coming months we anticipate positive news flow across our core therapeutic areas, which underpins our confidence in the long-term prospects of the business.”‘
- The Curious Incident of Pfizer’s ‘Final’ Offer for AstraZeneca: Inversion Transaction
- Pfizer Offers To Buy Foreign Corporation In Order To Avoid Paying More Taxes (Video)
- AstraZeneca’s share price slumps as it rejects ‘final’ £69billion takeover bid from US rival Pfizer
- Pfizer executives cashed in shares weeks before bid for AstraZeneca
- Satire: Pfizer promises to share its personal stash
- Parasites: Big Pharma, Banksters & Tax Cheats (Video)
- Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca shows that big pharma is as rotten as the banks
- Pfizer admits takeover could cost thousands of jobs ahead of chief executive’s appearance before MPs
- Given £184 million by the Treasury… but US predator Pfizer paid just £118 million in tax in three years
- Pfizer bid: David Cameron aide Sir Jeremy Heywood linked to AstraZeneca deal
- Business Secretary says current legislation is ‘too narrow’ to block £63billion deal
- Pfizer cannot use UK as tax haven, Vince Cable tells MPs
- Miliband: Cameron is a cheerleader for Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca
‘Abby Martin speaks with Thom Hartmann, host of ‘The Big Picture’ and author of ‘Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception’ about the enormous rise of diagnoses of ADHD among American children, and his research into the origin of the perceived disorder as an evolutionary adaption instead of a disorder.’ (Breaking the Set)
- A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise
- Nearly one million children in U.S. potentially misdiagnosed with ADHD, study finds
- Thom Hartmann: Are we drugging our kids into stupidity?
- The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child by Thom Hartmann
- Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms
‘Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill into law on Tuesday that is the first law in the country to authorize the arrest and incarceration of women who use drugs while pregnant. Reproductive and civil rights advocates had strongly urged Haslam to veto the legislation.
“I understand the concerns about this bill, and I will be monitoring the impact of the law through regular updates with the court system and health professionals,” Haslam said in a statement.
The new law, which goes into effect July 1, allows a woman to be prosecuted for assault if she takes a narcotic drug while pregnant and the baby is born addicted, is harmed or dies because of the drug. The woman can avoid criminal charges if she completes a state treatment program.’
It might come as a shock to EU voters to learn exactly how weak US laws are when it comes to toxic chemicals, especially when the US’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been claiming otherwise. This unprecedented “trade” agreement is primarily about regulation, and threatens to create new and additional avenues for industry and government to use their influence to stall necessary action on toxic chemicals, climate change, and other critical issues that must be addressed by the EU and global community to protect human health and the environment.
How weak are US laws for toxic chemicals? Only eleven ingredients are restricted from cosmetics in the US, versus over 1300 in the EU. Under a law dating back to 1976, US regulators have only been able to restrict the use of merely five of over 60,000 industrial chemicals that were presumed safe when the law was adopted, including asbestos. Under this law, and despite over a century of substantial evidence of serious adverse effects, US regulators were unable demonstrate sufficient “risk” to justify a ban on the use of asbestos, unlike EU counterparts. Moving ahead of the US, the EU has started to implement legislation that has the potential to systematically substitute over 1000 toxic chemicals—including those linked to cancer, interference with hormone systems, reproductive harms, and other serious adverse health effects—with safer alternatives in a wide range of everyday products. The US has no such law.
- 5 Shady Ways Big Pharma May Be Influencing Your Doctor
- Doctors Paid to Advise, Promote Drug Companies That Fund Their Research
- PhRMA elects Pfizer, Merck execs to senior roles
- Takeda and Eli Lilly in record $9bn drug judgement
- Verdict against Japan’s pharmaceutical giant Takeda raises concerns about health safety
- Drugmaker GSK investigates alleged bribery in Iraq
- US Pharmaceutical Companies Hide Drug Risks for Profit
- Chinese government cracks down on pharmaceuticals corruption
- Drug Dealing Legalized; They’re Called Pharmaceutical Companies
- Thom Hartmann: Time to Cut Back on the Anti-Depressants?
- Most Pill Poppers Turn to Doctors for Their Fix
- How Big Pharma is Killing Cancer Patients
- Study reveals some medications get far less safety testing than others
- Johnson & Johnson gave doctors kickbacks for prescribing their drugs
Today we found out that Tamiflu doesn’t work so well after all. Roche, the drug company behind it, withheld vital information on its clinical trials for half a decade, but the Cochrane Collaboration, a global not-for-profit organisation of 14,000 academics, finally obtained all the information. Putting the evidence together, it has found that Tamiflu has little or no impact on complications of flu infection, such as pneumonia.
That is a scandal because the UK government spent £0.5bn stockpiling this drug in the hope that it would help prevent serious side-effects from flu infection. But the bigger scandal is that Roche broke no law by withholding vital information on how well its drug works. In fact, the methods and results of clinical trials on the drugs we use today are still routinely and legally being withheld from doctors, researchers and patients. It is simple bad luck for Roche that Tamiflu became, arbitrarily, the poster child for the missing-data story.
And it is a great poster child. The battle over Tamiflu perfectly illustrates the need for full transparency around clinical trials, the importance of access to obscure documentation, and the failure of the regulatory system. Crucially, it is also an illustration of how science, at its best, is built on transparency and openness to criticism, because the saga of the Cochrane Tamiflu review began with a simple online comment.
- Tamiflu: Millions wasted on flu drug, claims major report
- Tamiflu: drugs given for swine flu ‘were waste of £500m’
- From 2007: Tamiflu warning in Japan after child suicides and injuries
- From 2007: Japan bans Tamiflu for teenagers
- Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It by Ben Goldacre
- Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
About half of American adults believe in at least one medical conspiracy theory, according to new survey results. Some conspiracy theories have much more traction than others, however. For example, three times as many people believe U.S. regulators prevent people from getting natural cures as believe that a U.S. spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
J. Eric Oliver, the study’s lead author from University of Chicago, said people may believe in conspiracy theories because they’re easier to understand than complex medical information… For the new study, he and his colleague used data from 1,351 adults who answered an online survey between August and September 2013. The data were then weighted to represent the U.S. population. The participants read six popular medical conspiracy theories and then indicated whether they had heard of them and whether they agreed or disagreed with them.
While US news stories occasionally mention the breathtaking cost of some medications, they almost always skirt the issue of why American drugs are so grotesquely overpriced by world standards. The pharmaceutical industry has managed to sell the story that it’s because they need all that dough to pay for the cost of finding new drugs. That account is patently false.
First, part of the story the drug industry chooses to omit is that a substantial portion of drug R&D, and the riskiest part (basic research) is heavily funded by the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. It’s hard to put all the data together, but the latest estimates I’ve seen put the total funded by the government at over 30%.
Second, Big Pharma spends more on marketing [than] on R&D. And it markets in the highest cost manner possible: in person sales calls to small business owners (doctors). The fact that it is worth it to sell in such an exceptionally high cost manner is proof of fat margins (the marginal value of a sale supports such a costly sales effort).
Third, and this is where the foreign debate over the TransPacific Partnership comes in, one of the big reasons US drugs are so costly is we allow drug companies to milk patents to a degree that is unparalleled elsewhere.
Until 2010, when the Physician Payments Sunshine Act passed, requiring doctors to disclose payments, the only thing better than working for Pharma was being a doctor wined and dined by Pharma. Pfizer jetted 5,000 doctors to Caribbean resorts where they enjoyed massages, golf and $2,000 honoraria charges to sell its painkiller Bextra (withdrawn from the market in 2005 for heart risks). GSK sent doctors to lavish resorts to promote Wellbutrin, the Justice Department charged. Johnson & Johnson bestowed trips, perks and honoraria on Texas Medicaid officials to get its drug Risperdal preferred on the formulary, a state lawsuit charged. Bristol-Myers Squibb enticed doctors to prescribe its drugs with access to the Los Angeles Lakers and luxury box suites for their games, California regulators say. In China GSK is charged with using a network of 700 middlemen and travel agencies to bribe doctors with cash and sexual favors, and Victory Pharma, an opioid drugs maker, was charged with treating doctors to strip shows. Nice.
Of course, Pharma reps did as well as the doctors. Thanks to their Barbie and Ken doll looks and the free samples, gifts and lunches they would bring medical staff, they would often waltz in to see the doctor before the sick and waiting patients. Some had their own lounges at medical offices. Since the 2010 sunshine law, part of the Affordable Care Act, went into effect in 2013, drug companies must display the doctors and groups they pay on their websites. That includes their payments to faux grassroots groups like Go Red For Women and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, which are widely seen as Pharma fronts. But will it make a difference? For years, doctors have also begun presentations with slides detailing their Pharma funding but it doesn’t seem to alter their credibility or audience cynicism.
When it comes to acknowledging the influence of gifts and money on behavior, doctors, like everyone else, suffer from self-delusion. Most say they believe it affects the other guy, not them, and many become offended at the idea that they are “for sale.” “My prescribing never changes because once a month a drug rep brings in a tray of sandwiches,” Maria Carmen Wilson told the Tampa Bay Times. (Wilson was Eli Lilly’s number-two earner in Florida in 2009, the paper reports.) It’s tempting to ask such doctors that if the largesse doesn’t affect them, when was the last time they prescribed the competitor’s pill? Would anyone believe or even read the journalism of a reporter who accepted an honorarium or speaker’s fee from the subject she reported on? Even if she claimed it didn’t influence her?
Trips to resorts and strip clubs will likely continue to diminish under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, but there are many other ways, often sneaky, that Pharma can entice doctors to prescribe its expensive, patent drugs.
Big Pharma’s hidden links to NHS policy, with senior MPs saying medical industry uses ‘wealth to influence government’
NHS bosses allowed a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms to write a draft report which could help shape future health policy. NHS England commissioned a group called the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA) to consult with patients’ groups, charities and health organisations and produce a report feeding into its future five-year strategy for commissioning £12bn of services. But the SHCA has confirmed to The Independent that it is entirely funded by commercial “members”. Its director, John Murray, is also a lobbyist whose company lists some of the world’s biggest drug and medical device firms as clients.
Mr Murray put his name on a foreword to the NHS England document along with James Palmer, the clinical director of specialised services at NHS England, with whom he admits he has had “many meetings [on] a wide range of organisations and interests”. The findings raise significant questions about links between the lobbying industry and NHS England – a quango set up to run the NHS under the Government’s health reforms.
Unlike other government departments NHS England does not register its meetings with lobbyists. It also does not routinely publicly disclose all potential conflicts of interest of those who do work for it. While the report itself makes no specific spending recommendations, it does suggest that NHS England should set out a “clear commitment” to “disinvest in interventions that have lower impact for patients” in favour of “new services or innovations”. This could ultimately provide financial benefits to an industry keen to sell the latest equipment and treatments to the NHS, even if some of the benefits might be marginal.
Health advocates were shocked by the direct and appalling statements attributed to Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers. Published in Businessweek on January 21, 2014 and written by Bloomberg reporter Ketaki Gokhale, a news story about disputes over drug patents ended with an account of the India compulsory license on the cancer drug Nexavar, and practically exploded. Dekker is quoted as saying Bayer did not intend the cancer drug to be sold to cancer patients in India, adding “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”:
Under India’s patent laws, compulsory licenses can be awarded for some products still under patent if the original isn’t available locally at a reasonable price.
Natco Pharma Ltd. (NTCPH) applied directly to India’s patents office and was awarded the nation’s first compulsory license in March 2012 to make a copy of Bayer’s Nexavar cancer drug at a 97 percent discount to the original product. In March last year, Bayer lost its bid to stop Natco from making the generic drug and is appealing the decision at the Mumbai High Court.
Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers called the compulsory license “essentially theft.”
“Is this going to have a big effect on our business model?” Dekkers said Dec. 3 at a conference in London. “No, because we did not develop this product for the Indian market, let’s be honest. We developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology product.”
Healthcare costs in the United States are spinning out of control, but never fear, there are new sources of revenue in the pipeline. ViaFree Patents Online, plans for a System for Targeting Advertisements Based on Patient Electronic Medical Record Data hint at the future:
A patient specific informational material distribution system, comprises at least one repository of informational material items associated with corresponding particular medical conditions. An interface acquires patient specific medical data associating with a specific patient.
A data processor uses the at least one repository in identifying informational items associated with the particular medical condition of the specific patient. A distribution processor distributes the identified informational items to the specific patient.
Attributes comprising at least three of, (a) Information from current and past inpatient stays, (b) patient Age, Gender, height or weight, (c) Diagnosis codes, (d) Treatments, (e) Laboratory test results, (f) Medical Assessments, (g) Allergies, (h) diet and (h) medical complaint.
The British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will no longer pay doctors to promote its products and will stop tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write, its chief executive said Monday, effectively ending two common industry practices that critics have long assailed as troublesome conflicts of interest.
The announcement appears to be a first for a major drug company — although others may be considering similar moves — and it comes at a particularly sensitive time for Glaxo. It is the subject of a bribery investigation in China, where authorities contend the company funneled illegal payments to doctors and government officials in an effort to lift drug sales.
Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview Monday that its proposed changes were unrelated to the investigation in China, and were part of a yearslong effort “to try and make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing,” he said. “We keep asking ourselves, are there different ways, more effective ways of operating than perhaps the ways we as an industry have been operating over the last 30, 40 years?”
A very refreshing report has just come out of Britain. Eleven senior doctors have presented a strong, new mandate to Prime Minister David Cameron, insisting that it’s time for diet to be placed at the forefront of health policy. Although it was research specifically into the prevention of dementia that led to this conclusion, the doctors agree that the Mediterranean diet can go a long way toward preventing many other chronic illnesses:
“The evidence base for the Mediterranean diet in preventing all of the chronic diseases that are plaguing the Western world is overwhelming,” says Dr. Richard Hoffman, one of the lead authors of the letter to Cameron. Another signatory, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, adds this common-sense statement:
“We are not going to overcome the increasing burden of chronic diseases by prescribing more pills.”
A Mediterranean-style diet is one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. Fish is eaten at least twice a week, but meat and sugar only once. Moderate consumption of wine is advised.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just published a first-of-its-kind assessment of the threat the country faces from antibiotic-resistant organisms, ranking them by the number of illnesses and deaths they cause each year and outlining urgent steps that need to be taken to roll back the trend.
The agency’s overall — and, it stressed, conservative — assessment of the problem:
- Each year, in the U.S., 2,049,442 illnesses caused by bacteria and fungi that are resistant to at least some classes of antibiotics;
- Each year, out of those illnesses, 23,000 deaths;
- Because of those illnesses and deaths, $20 billion each year in additional healthcare spending;
- And beyond the direct healthcare costs, an additional $35 billion lost to society in foregone productivity.
“If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, said in a media briefing. “And for some patients and for some microbes, we are already there.”
The report marks the first time the agency has provided hard numbers for the incidence, deaths and cost of all the major resistant organisms. (It had previously estimated illnesses and deaths from some families of organisms or types of drug resistance, but those numbers were never gathered in one place.) It also represents the first time the CDC has ranked resistant organisms by how much and how imminent a threat they pose, using seven criteria: health impact, economic impact, how common the infection is, how easily it spreads, how much further it might spread in the next 10 years, whether there are antibiotics that still work against it, and whether things other than administering antibiotics can be done to curb its spread.