I recently was directed to an article that Vanity Fair ran back in January of this year entitled “Deadly Medicine”. It’s a pretty good article, but the problem is that it’s quite long, which means that most people won’t invest the time to see what it actually says.
And that's a shame, because people need to know what it says.
With that thought in mind, here are some of the most telling – and in some cases the most disgusting – quotes from the article. I haven’t commented on them since they pretty much speak for themselves, however, please note that bolded passages reflect my own emphasis on items that I believe deserve a few extra moments of mental digestion:
“Prescription drugs kill some 200,000 Americans every year. Will that number go up, now that most clinical trials are conducted overseas—on sick Russians, homeless Poles, and slum-dwelling Chinese—in places where regulation is virtually nonexistent, the F.D.A. doesn’t reach, and “mistakes” can end up in pauper’s graves?”
“All of this is taking place when more drugs than ever—some 2,900 different drugs for some 4,600 different conditions—are undergoing clinical testing and vying to come to market.”
“Around the time that drugmakers began shifting clinical trials abroad, in the 1990s, they also began to contract out all phases of development and testing, putting them in the hands of for-profit companies.”
“The F.D.A. gets its information on foreign trials almost entirely from the companies themselves. It conducts little or no independent research.”
“In 2008 seven babies participating in drug testing in the province suffered what the U.S. clinical-trials community refers to as ‘an adverse event’: they died.”
“In all, at least 14 infants enrolled in clinical trials for the drug died during the testing. Their parents, some illiterate, had their children signed up without understanding that they were taking part in an experiment. Local doctors who persuaded parents to enroll their babies in the trial reportedly received $350 per child.”
“In the mid-90s, Glaxo conducted clinical trials on the antidepressant Paxil in the United States, Europe, and South America. The clinical trials showed that the drug had no beneficial effect on adolescents; some of the trials indicated that the placebo was more effective than the drug itself. But Glaxo neglected to share this information with consumers; annual sales of the drug had reached $5 billion in 2003. In an internal document obtained by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the company emphasized how important it was to “effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact.” The memo went on to warn that “it would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated.”
“It turned out, however, that AstraZeneca had been less than candid about the drug’s side effects. One of the most troubling: patients often gained weight and developed diabetes. This meant a new round of drugs to treat conditions caused by Seroquel.”
If you’d like to read the whole thing, you can find it here: Deadly Medicine, Vanity Fair Jan 2011