A drug company releases a study. This latest trial shows their drug has a profound positive effect on such-and-such a disease. Everyone celebrates… especially the drug company who’ll reap billions in profits.
The only problem? It’s complete and total B.S.
That’s right. The study that “proves” drug X solves health problem Y is all – or at least mostly – smoke and mirrors.
How can this happen? Ethics experts have been warning us for years. Heck… They’ve been warning us for decades.
But we’ve been too dazzled by the headlines to notice.
Here’s a quick-and-dirty primer on how Big Pharma has been pulling the proverbial wool over your eyes all these years.
Bias, Bias, Bias
It’s not like nobody’s been sounding the alarm bells. I’ve found dozens of articles bemoaning the situation.
Big Pharma gets better results… Big Pharma cooks the numbers… Big Pharma hides negative studies. It would be almost comical, if your health weren’t at stake.
Take, for example, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008.
The article points out…
Big Pharma had gained significant control over evaluation of drugs
Drug companies pay for most drug trials
Big Pharma often manipulates or misrepresents the research to their advantage.
The article uses the example of rofecoxib – sold under the trade name Vioxx.
The author points to how studies supposedly written by independent experts were really written by the manufacturer’s employees… or by companies directly hired by the manufacturer.
There’s also evidence the manufacturer “fudged the numbers” to make some results look more favorable than they actually were.
Vioxx was eventually pulled from the market. But that’s small comfort for those injured by its use.
This bias seems to be widespread. Even filtering into the area of cost effectiveness.
Look How Well Our Drug Works… Not!
One of the key calculations for many drugs is cost-effectiveness.
Drugs are judged on quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained through their use. The lower the QALY, the more effective the drug is considered.
Except Big Pharma appears to have been cheating here, too.
A university team from Toronto investigated 494 studies. They found industry-funded studies were far more likely to have a lower cost per QALY.
But the more strictly controlled the studies were, the less likely they reported a favorable QALY.
After reviewing all the data the team found studies were more likely to find a lower QALY if they took place outside the US and Europe… if they were less strictly controlled… and if they were sponsored by the drug company itself.
Yep. Somehow sponsorship magically made these drugs work better.
A 2010 review in the Journal of Medical Case Reports underlines this problem. The authors found reporting bias in dozens of medical trials/reports. The authors called reporting bias “widespread.”
But here’s what recently brought this all to a head for me…
Who Can You Trust? Not Big Pharma
The medical mainstream constantly rails against alternative health studies. Sample sizes are too small… studies are biased… results are skewed.
Well, these complaints are valid… but not so much for the alternative health research.
Swiss and U.K. scientists dug through 19 research databases. After combing through thousands of studies, they matched 89 herbal studies with 89 similar mainstream studies.
Based on study quality, the herbal studies were more than 4x more likely to be of high quality than the mainstream drug studies.
Their conclusion? “Our findings challenge the widely held belief that the quality of the evidence on the effectiveness of herbal medicine is generally inferior to the evidence available for conventional medicine.”
That’s right. While Big Pharma’s studies get most of the respect and headlines… There’s a good chance alternative health studies are more valid.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Angell, M, “Industry- Sponsored Clinical Research A Broken System,” JAMA. 2008; 300(9): 1069-1071.
Bell, C.M., et all, “Bias in published cost effectiveness studies: systematic review,” BMJ. 2006; 332:699.
McGauran, N., et al, “Reporting biDaiscusisnion medical research – a narrative review,” Trials. 2010; 11: 37.
Nartey, L., et al, “Matched-pair study showed higher quality of placebo-controlled trials in Western phytotherapy than conventional medicine,” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Aug 2007; 60(8): 787.e1-787.e15
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