How Flimsy, Manipulated Research Leads to more Harmful Pharmaceuticals
From headaches to heartburn, anxiety to cancer, there’s a pharmaceutical for everything these days. Few of us really bother reading the long list of side effects before popping a few pills, and we don’t question our doctors or the so-called medicine for which they make us break the bank. We assume that they all mean well. Maybe they do. Even if that were true, it’ not working.
Big Pharma Doesn’t Care About You
Pharmaceuticals are now responsible for more deaths (37,485 dead in 2009) in the United States than traffic fatalities. Nevertheless, the mainstream medical community calls alternative medicine “dangerous,” and the government is all too happy to share the profits in attempting to demonize natural foods like raw milk and their providers whilst reinforcing potentially dangerous—and often unnecessary—flu shots. Peer-reviewed research shows that the good old sunshine nutrient, vitamin D, is more effective as slashing risk of cancer, obesity, tooth decay, and the flu than popular pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration wants walnuts—which are high in omega 3 fatty acids and suspected of helping against breast cancer—to be labeled as “drugs.” According to the Alliance for Natural Health, the FDA is even looking to ban vitamin B6 supplements as we know it so Big Pharma—in this case, the company BioStratum—can patent and sell natural vitamin B sources.
Neither the industry sector nor members of our government entangled in it are interested in saving the public or any public institution money (never mind lives). They care about padding their pockets, and poor government review and regulation processes as well as plain bad science are partly to blame for making their jobs easier.
Manipulating Studies for the Bottom Line
Back in 2011, N. H. Goldberg co-authored a paper on the hoops drugmakers had to go through to get their drugs approved by the FDA between 2000 and 2010. As it turns out: not many.
According to Ben Goldacre from The Guardian, only 70 percent of the 197 drugs approved between those years were shown to be “better” than existing treatments, even after considering the drugs for conditions there was no existing treatment. Moreover, the studies pharmaceutical companies fund and use to provide what little evidence the FDA requires range from being too specific to be used for drugs later administered to an over-generalized clientele (as in the case for a Finnish study fracture-prevention drugs) or downright misleading. (There’s a reason the Mayo Clinic admitted that the last 10 years of cancer research has been made useless by evidence of widespread fraud.)
“…for FDA approval, for example, you only need trials to show your drug is better than a placebo. That’s nice, but with most medical problems, we’ve already got some kind of treatment. We’re not interested in whether your drug is better than nothing. We’re interested in whether it’s better than the best currently available option.”
Studies and statistics are kind of funny that way. They can be manipulated or framed a certain way and, voila, what was black is white, what saved lives is deadly. In the case of the Finnish study, 7,411 patients who had ever had a hip fracture were rounded up as they might have been for fracture-preventing bisphosphonate drug trials. Only 1,072 patients remained after the researchers dropped the others for being of a sex, age, and health condition other than what previous researchers would have called the desired, “freakishly ideal” patient. Are the drugs in question marketed toward women between 65 and 79 without osteoporosis after the trials? Not likely.
At the end of the day, modern medicine seems to be more often a matter of getting the desired results and short-term cost effectiveness, and less often about helping people. It’s up to us to change that.