In a recent post I wrote about how pharmaceutical companies are corrupting science. From the evidence I can find, this corruption appears to be not an isolated occurrence but a pattern. Today, lets consider how Big Pharma uses this corrupted data to mislead doctors.
In Overdosed America, Chapter 2: “Spinning the Evidence,” Dr. Abramson writes about a paper that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The title of the paper was, "Pravastatin Therapy and the Risk of Stroke." The conclusion of this paper was that Pravastatin resulted in a 19% reduction in the risk of stroke. When Dr. Abramson analyzed the data he found that patients who had been treated with Pravastatin actually had 21% more strokes than patients given a placebo. Women in the study had 26% more strokes than women who were given a placebo. These results, of course, were not what the readers of the New England Journal of Medicine article read. The conclusion of the article, as stated above, was that pravastatin produced a 19% reduction in strokes. If you'd like to read Dr. Abramson's fascinating account of how this pharmaceutical company rigged the study and corrupted the data, you can find it in Chapter 2.
This process of corrupting data and getting the resulting disinformation published in prestigious medical journals creates a huge problem, a nightmare really, for doctors. We were taught in medical school to trust and accept as true what we read in respected medical journals. If we can't trust that information, then how will we know what to do for our patients? How will we know how to practice medicine? The problem is so big and scary that most physicians don't seem to be able to bring themselves to believe that at least some of what is published as true in medical journals is, in fact, false. The fear could feel like what you would experience if you were driving fast at night on a winding mountain road and your headlights suddenly went out. This may be one of the reasons that many physicians continue to believe what they read in the journals.
This is not true of all physicians. Dr. Michael Wolfe is the co-author of the JAMA editorial supporting Celebrex. When he discovered the deception perpetrated by Pharmacia, he told a reporter, "I am furious.... I looked like a fool." Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis, editor of JAMA, said, "I am disheartened to hear that they had those data at the time that they submitted [the manuscript] to us.... We are functioning on a level of trust that was, perhaps, broken."
In my next post I will quote former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine on this vitally important and very scary issue. I will also make some suggestions about how to respond in a way that will help protect you and your loved ones. in the meantime, a suggestion: If you don't believe this about the corruption of science and the misleading of doctors, read Dr. Abramson's Overdosed America. If you still don't believe it, read Overdose: The Case Against the Drug Companies. The author is Jay. S. Cohen, MD. If you still don't believe it, start carrying a very large and powerful rabbit's foot.