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Behind the Veil: Conflicts of Interest and Fraud in Medical Research


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Recent reports have revealed that conflicts of interest and research fraud are rarely reported in the scientific literature or announced to the general public, which raises questions about the integrity of clinical trials and the reliability of public agencies like the FDA and CDC.

Medical conflict of interest
Medical conflicts of interest are more prevalent than we think. zest_marina/iStock/Thinkstock

In this article, I’m going to discuss two other reasons that the public mistrusts scientific research: fraud, and conflicts of interest.

Why conflicts of interest and fraud harm the public’s trust of medical research.

Fraud in Medical Research: “Out of Sight, out of Mind, and out of the Peer-Reviewed Literature”

A large part of the subtitle above comes directly from a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine, authored by Charles Seife. (1) In short, Seife discovered that clinical trial data determined to be fraudulent or mishandled by the FDA is rarely excluded from research studies published in scientific journals.

One of the FDA’s roles in the drug approval process is to inspect clinical trial sites to determine whether these sites are complying with FDA regulations. A typical inspection might involve auditing the records of the site, verifying that investigators adhered to the trial protocol, and comparing an investigator’s notes in hospital records with data reported to the study sponsor to ensure that there aren’t any discrepancies.

If there is a violation, the FDA classifies it in one of two ways: Voluntary action indicated (VAI) means the inspectors have found violations, but the problems aren’t serious enough to require sanction. Official action indicated (OAI) means that the inspectors have found violations significant enough to warrant official action.

Siefe and his assistants used the Freedom of Information Act to request information from the FDA, and supplemented that data with Google searches of the FDA database. They found 57 clinical trials that were directly linked to an OAI inspection.

The misconduct identified by the FDA in these cases included:

  • Falsification or submission of false information
  • Underreporting of adverse events
  • Failure to follow the investigational plan or other violations of protocol
  • Inadequate record keeping
  • Failure to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of patients
  • Use of experimental compounds in patients not enrolled in trials
  • Failure to supervise clinical investigations properly

The 57 trials Seife identified were in turn linked to 78 research articles published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. 96 percent of these articles failed to mention the violations identified by the FDA inspection—despite the fact that in the majority of cases the inspection was completed at least 6 months before the article was published.

Doctors, researchers, and other health professionals rely on scientific studies to establish treatment protocols and public health policies. If the data in some of these studies are fraudulent, but the doctors and researchers have no way of knowing that, the decisions they make may be unsound and even put people at unnecessary risk.

I’d like to make the significance of these omissions even more clear by sharing a couple of examples mentioned in Seife’s paper.

One case involved a researcher who falsified lab test results to hide a patient’s impaired kidney and liver function in a trial comparing two chemotherapy regimens. The first dose of the regimen proved to be fatal to this patient, and the researcher was sentenced to 71 months in prison. Despite this episode being described in both FDA and court documents, not one of the studies in the peer-reviewed literature associated with the chemotherapy trial have any mention of the falsification, fraud, or homicide.

Another case involved a clinical site in China participating in a large trial of apixaban, an anticoagulant (i.e. anti-clotting) drug. The FDA determined that this trial site had altered patient records and falsified data. If the data from this site had been excluded, the mortality benefit for the drug would have disappeared. In other words, the “proof” that this drug saved lives was dependent on this fraudulent data. Yet none of this discussion appears in the scientific literature. In fact, studies since 2011 have consistently relied on the full data set (including the fraudulent data from the China trial site), and this was even true for an article published nearly 18 months after the fraud was discovered.

How can such egregious cases of fraud and misconduct go unreported in the scientific literature and in the media? The answer is almost hard to believe. The FDA does not notify journals when a site participating in a clinical trial receives an OAI inspection, nor does it typically make any announcement which would alert the media and general public to the issues it identified.

What’s more, the documents the FDA produces about these OAI inspections are heavily redacted, which makes it extremely difficult even for researchers like Seife who’ve invoked the Freedom of Information Act to determine which published clinical trials are tainted by misconduct. The FDA redacts these documents because it considers the identity of the drug company involved in the trial to be “confidential commercial information” that it is bound to protect.

In other words, the FDA appears to believe that it’s more important to protect private, commercial interests than it is to protect public health.

Seife’s says as much in the conclusion of his paper:

However, failing to notify the medical or scientific communities about allegations of serious research misconduct in clinical trials is incompatible with the FDA’s mission to protect the public health. Such allegations are relevant to include in the peer-reviewed literature on which physicians and other medical researchers rely to help them choose treatments that they offer to patients and other research participants.

The issues highlighted here raise serious concerns not only about the trustworthiness of the data in clinical trials and published research, but the reliability and motives of the agencies tasked with protecting public health.

Which takes us to the second reason that public mistrust of scientific research is sometimes well-founded: conflicts of interest.

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Conflicts of Interest in Research Are Common—and Often Unreported

In my article about the disconnect between scientists and the public, I mentioned that two-thirds of medical research is sponsored by drug companies, and industry-sponsored trials are more likely to report favorable results for drugs because of biased reporting, biased interpretation, or both. (2) This is a well-established phenomenon, and it has been explored in both the media and the scientific literature:

Is it really a big surprise that the source of funding influences study results? After all, as Upton Sinclair famously said, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary is dependent upon him not understanding it.” The time-honored saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” also applies here.

Unfortunately, just as research misconduct and fraud is often not reported, conflicts of interest in academic research are rarely disclosed. According to a 2009 report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, very few universities make required reports to the government about the financial conflicts of interest of their researchers—and even when they are reported, the universities rarely require those researchers to eliminate or reduce these conflicts.

In fact, 90 percent of universities relied solely on the researchers themselves to decide whether to report their potential conflicts of interest, and half of universities don’t even ask their faculty to disclose the amount of money or stock they make from drug or device makers.

This isn’t likely to change anytime soon, according to Eric G. Campbell, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School that was quoted in this New York Times article covering the report. He said that “universities had no interest in putting real limits on the incomes of their star researchers for fear that those researchers would leave for institutions with fewer restrictions.”

But conflicts of interest aren’t just a problem in academia; they’re also a problem on expert advisory panels that influence public health policy. For example, back in 2008 Dr. John Briffa linked to a web page disclosing the conflicts of interest in members of the National Cholesterol Education Program, a government organization that creates the official blood cholesterol target values for the U.S..

Are you ready for this? 8 out of the 9 doctors on the panel had direct ties to statin drug manufacturers. Here’s the complete list, excerpted from a post written by Dr. Stephan Guyenet in 2008 (the companies in bold are statin manufacturers):

Dr. Grundy has received honoraria from Merck, Pfizer, Sankyo, Bayer, Merck/Schering-Plough, Kos, Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AstraZeneca; he has received research grants from Merck, Abbott, and Glaxo Smith Kline.

Dr. Cleeman has no financial relationships to disclose.

Dr. Bairey Merz has received lecture honoraria from Pfizer, Merck, and Kos; she has served as a consultant for Pfizer, Bayer, and EHC (Merck); she has received unrestricted institutional grants for Continuing Medical Education from Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging; she has received a research grant from Merck; she has stock in Boston Scientific, IVAX, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, SCIPIE Insurance, ATS Medical, and Biosite.

Dr. Brewer has received honoraria from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Lipid Sciences, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Fournier, Tularik, Esperion, and Novartis; he has served as a consultant for AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Lipid Sciences, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Fournier, Tularik, Sankyo, and Novartis.

Dr. Clark has received honoraria for educational presentations from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, and Pfizer; he has received grant/research support from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, and Pfizer.

Dr. Hunninghake has received honoraria for consulting and speakers bureau from AstraZeneca, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, and Pfizer, and for consulting from Kos; he has received research grants from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kos, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Novartis, and Pfizer.

Dr. Pasternak has served as a speaker for Pfizer, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Takeda, Kos, BMS-Sanofi, and Novartis; he has served as a consultant for Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Sanofi, Pfizer Health Solutions, Johnson & Johnson-Merck, and AstraZeneca.

Dr. Smith has received institutional research support from Merck; he has stock in Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson.

Dr. Stone has received honoraria for educational lectures from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kos, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Novartis, Pfizer, Reliant, and Sankyo; he has served as a consultant for Abbott, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Reliant.

Another 2009 report, also from the Department of Health and Human Services, revealed similar issues with expert panels that advise the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on vaccine safety. The report found that 64 percent of experts who served on advisory panels in 2007 to evaluate vaccines for flu and cervical cancer had potential conflicts of interest that were never identified or resolvedThe report also revealed that the CDC failed nearly every time to ensure that experts adequately disclosed that they were being paid by vaccine manufacturers.

Can you see how these conflicts of interest might be a problem, when the advisory committees mentioned above strongly influence the sales of both statin drugs ($30 billion a year) and vaccines ($20 billion a year)? 

Sadly, these financial relationships between experts who influence or formulate guidelines and drug companies whose drugs are being considered are not the exception, they’re the rule. A study published in JAMA shows that 59 percent of the experts participating in guideline creation have such financial ties. (3)

Another related problem is the “revolving door” between public agencies like the CDC and FDA or institutions like the U.S. Congress, and pharmaceutical companies. A year after leaving her position as the director of the CDC in 2009, Dr. Julie Gerberding took a position as president of Merck Vaccines. Another former CDC employee, Dr. Thomas Verstraeten, took a position with GlaxoSmithKline (a vaccine manufacturer) while he was still involved in completing a major study on the possible negative side effects of thimerosal (a mercury-containing compound used in some vaccines) at the CDC. Finally, over half of the lobbyists employed by the pharmaceutical industry in 2008 had worked in Congress or another branch of the federal government, and 35 had been former members of Congress. (4)

These conflicts of interest do not necessarily lead to fraud or misconduct. There are surely many honest and unbiased researchers and physicians investigating controversial topics like cholesterol targets and statin drugs, vaccines, and genetically-modified foods. However, studies have confirmed what common sense and an understanding of human nature would also suggest: conflicts of interest can and do influence both individuals and institutions. For example, the financial interests of researchers are positively associated with outcomes favorable to the sponsor in medical studies, and research institutions can be influenced by industry sponsorships such as grants, endowed chairs, and other gifts. (5, 6, 7, 8)

Concluding Thoughts

My purpose here is not to attack the credibility of scientific research as a whole, or scientists as a group. But science is a human endeavor, and like all human endeavors, it is subject to the vagaries of human ethics and behavior. There is good science, and bad science; there is honest science, and dishonest science.

If you’ve been following my work for several years, you’ll know that my blog used to be called “The Healthy Skeptic.” I called it that because I believe that skepticism is healthy when it comes to science. Yet all too often I see this skepticism being applied in a biased or inconsistent manner.

For example, I’ve noticed that some people who are indignant about conflicts of interest in government agencies responsible for bank bailouts or among experts responsible for establishing blood cholesterol targets are completely unwilling to consider how similar conflicts might affect research on, say, genetically-modified foods.

I’ve also encountered people who are skeptical of any challenge to the status quo, but don’t apply their skepticism with the same rigor to the the status quo itself. On the other side of the coin are those that accept unconventional or alternative ideas (regardless of whether there is evidence to support them), and tend to reject anything that could be remotely construed as conventional or mainstream. 

Someday, perhaps we’ll be able to extricate the financial interests of Big Pharma from the behavior of medical scientists and regulatory agencies. Until then, our responsibility—whether we are clinicians, patients, researchers, or members of the media—is to acknowledge the influence these relationships may have on scientific research, and take that influence into account when considering controversial issues—especially when large amounts of money are at stake.

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Join the conversation

  1. The new “scandal”, unbelievable in scope, is that the FDA, and the USDA condone the comprehensive spraying of American wheat with Round Up herbicide (a licensed product for this use). This is a “legal and established” practice by American wheat farmers to ensure a “mature, harvestable crop”. Of course, Round Up is made by Monsanto. This practice has been going on for about 8 years (ostensibly). Have you noticed the astronomical increases in celiac disease, “digestive issues”, and conceivably, non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? Did anyone tell the public from the FDA or the USDA that this was going on? We, as Americans have every right to know what goes in our food and what is “sprayed” on it.

    • It is not only GMO crops that are sprayed with Roundup. And wheat is only one of many such non-GMO crops. Roundup is used by many farmers as a “harvesting aid”, to desiccate the foliage and non-valuable parts of the crop to make it easier to machine harvest the desirable parts.

  2. As said many times in the comments section below, your observations and factual conclusions are excellent. The irony is that fixing the problem(s) are like fixing the government. Everyone is aware of the problems but they are so insurmountable that no sincle person or group can effectively undertake. The desire is there but the solution(s) to “right the ship” are absent.

    Basically, the human body has the ability to heal itself naturally. If you are afflicted with a malady, then read and do research on your personal issues. It is hard work but the information is available and the rewards are plentiful. You cannot expect any doctor, specialists or government official to solve your problems. They are your problems, so own them and start today to be a better and healthier person with an objective clearly focused for your future. This holds true with governmental issues also. They only show up for work 50% of the time. Add in a multitude of time off for vacations; fundraisers; campaigning; trips for research and development and you expect them to worry about you and your issues? Grow up and learn how to solve your own problems. The government can’t and won’t help you-it’s up to you and you alone!

    Make today a beginning because it is not how long you live but how you live…………

  3. Great article and sums up why I react to the statement “the science is in” as I’ve heard a million times in the last few weeks. I am so hopeful you will write that series on vaccines, I know it’s such a charged topic and it’s everywhere right now… but due to recent events so many kids are running to get boosters, etc. Would be great to see a series on testing to do beforehand (gut health, genetic markers, etc.) and immune boosters/supplements do give prior and after. For some parents they are going to vaccinate no matter what the research says (or doesn’t say) and it would be great to help elevate the level of mindfulness about this medical procedure. I know you have studied the research on vaccines extensively so I’d love to see a post on that too. In all your spare time 🙂 Thanks for all the work you are doing. You make this world a better, healthier place and I am grateful!

    • I would also love to see your take on vaccines. I know with you having a daughter yourself it has been a well researched topic. I greatly appreciate your perspective and ability to spell things out clearly. Im also very excited about your practitioner training program and anxious to hear the details.

      THank you Chris!

    • I agree. Testing before vaccination should become standard. I argued unsuccessfully with my doctor that because my family is rife with autoimmune disease and gut problems that perhaps my daughter should forego or spread out her vaccines. She developed Type 1 after a round that included the new chicken pox vaccine. The science refutes that there is a link, of course, but how can that stand in the face of so many vaccine injuries, and in the face of evidence that gut health is the seat of overall health?

    • This Movie is heartbreaking! Thank you, and thank you Chris for exposing the lies. I had worked in the Medical industry for 35 years and saw first hand what the drug Companies did with their meds, how they wooed the Dr.s and gave out millions of dollars of samples and lunches and dinners for “free”. There is so much deceit in so many areas relating to our lives now. God help us.

  4. I was very aware of the dire state of the research industry. A friend was a senior researcher at the NCI. He was forced to take his senior to court for attempts to sabotage his work. His prime witness died of a heart attack the morning the trial was due to begin. They settled out of court. My friend pretty soon left the NCI. Self-interest is endemic, I feel.

  5. Thanks for the great article Chris. Here are a few more issues. Please tell me which ones are mostly myth vs mostly true.
    1 – The gov’t science behind Keynesian
    economics is garbage.
    2 – The gov’t science behind climate warming is
    3 – The gov’t science behind the sustainability of public
    employee pensions is garbage.
    4 – The gov’t science pushing wind energy
    is garbage.
    5 – The gov’t science pushing bio fuels is garbage.
    6 – The gov’t science behind the low fat USDA food pyramid is garbage.
    7 – The gov’t science behind allowing trans fatty
    acids in our diet is garbage.
    8 – The gov’t science saying we can have Quantitative Easing without robbing savers and creating financial bubbles is garbage.
    9 – The gov’t science encouraging vaccinations is garbage.
    10 – The gov’t science encouraging statin drugs is garbage.
    Can you add to this list. Please do.

    • The government science…to the extent that the government is privately controlled by corporate interests you are dead right. It is important, however, to note that corruption of this magnitude does not occur equally in all nations and in this one at all times. Much of this corruption was warned against by multiple Americans…in government. Blaming government, per se, is playing into the playbook of those same corporatists…who are essentially anarchists. They want your help in destroying government…not in fixing it.

  6. 2/18/2015

    Thanks for the thorough article. I did not know of all of these conflicts, but the ones I was aware of was enough for me to distrust conventional meds long ago. I have been med free for 30 yrs and am not immunized. I live a very active and health life.

    This situation is actually worse when you consider:

    1. Meds namely damage the liver in someway which is good for revenue. Since the liver is instrumental in 100’s of body functions, getting on one prescription will ensure the need for other meds and specialists.

    2. Blood Lab normals (Reference Ranges) are manipulated not always considering age, gender, race of patients, as well as, manipulation of ranges from lab-to-lab, year-to-year, and country-to-country. The “norms” may not be normal for you.

    3. Disregard and/or Manipulation of the power of our minds in healing or damaging our bodies. Health care, drugs, treatments, prognosis, and diagnosis are strategically presented to lure patients and outcomes psychologically to the advantage of health care providers. Google Placebo and Nocebo Effects.

    Thanks again Chris.

    Glad we’re wise.

  7. An example that keeps coming to my mind of when the companies and “experts” tell the population how to live:
    My mother went to Haiti a few years ago, after the earthquake, and spent time in a shelter helping women learn to care for newborns. Most of these women had NO IDEA that breastmilk was the primary food for babies. They would starve themselves, saving what little money they had to buy expensive packaged formula for the newborns, instead of nourishing themselves and in turn, their children. It seems downright post-apocalyptic to us, but we could be headed down that path too if we don’t keep our corporate monsters in check.

  8. The conflicts of interest I was aware of, but the fraud I was not. Thanks for letting us know.

  9. And supplements? How does this apply to them and the practitioners that sell them? I take a handful under the advisement of a functional med practitioner. But before I had him review my labs, I was self-treating using supps from an MLM that has clinical trials to support their products. The practitioner dismissed the products outright because it was was MLM but essentially prescribed the same things. Who’s to say the products he recommends are better than what I was taking? Many people claimed to be helped on the MLM products. The main criticism was you couldn’t trust them because they were making money off these MLM products. So how is that different when a practitioner sells supplements?

    • Because the practitioner isn’t being paid by the supplement company (in the vast majority of cases) to sell the supplement, or conduct research/serve on advisory committees related to the supplement’s efficacy or safety.

      But if your point is that there is also fraud and conflicts of interest outside of conventional medicine, I would absolutely agree. You will see that in any human endeavor.

      • The practitioner isn’t being paid? I guess I just assumed a retail model wherein a practitioner is purchasing supps at a wholesale cost and selling them at retail. And if so, then the person selling me the supplements has as much interest in seeing me purchase a bunch of things from him, as does an MLM counterpart, which he dismisses. It goes to credibility, and while MLM has none in most people’s eyes, I’m not sure who to trust anymore. Not trying to be a PIA, just looking for clarity because either way it costs a lot of money.

        • I thought you were asking what the difference was between doctors on advisory panels accepting money from drug companies and practitioners who sell supplements.

          If you’re asking what the difference is from MLM supplements and others, I’d have to say that in general I find the quality of MLM products to be inferior to reputable, clinician-grade products sold by companies like Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, etc. This is a generalization and I’m sure their are exceptions, but personally I find the entire MLM business model, as well as the many documented cases of fraud with MLM companies, to render them less trustworthy overall. You are of course entitled to a different opinion.

            • Multi-level marketing. Many people consider it to be little more than a pyramid scheme, but there are probably some reputable items being sold this way as well.

          • Thank you for these thoughtful responses.Yes, I was asking what the difference was and I guess I was also asking why it’s okay to sell supplements (or not, as in MLM). Asked and answered, again thanks. I was asking because I’ve heard similar things about clinical trials in the supplement industry that skew to favor the desired results and I was wondering if you heard similarly and saw this as the same thing (which I think you don’t, if I understood correctly, since the payout isn’t there). In any case, I appreciate the clarification, from you and your readers. Keep on…

        • Molly, I’m a nutritionist who uses supplements in my practice. I do recommend specific products from practitioner-only companies, because I know they do rigorous third-party testing for quality, purity, and potency, so that my clients can be assured that what’s in the bottle is what the label *says* is in the bottle. Yes, I purchase these items at a certain cost, and then sell them for more, but the difference between that — me, having this contribute to the exceedingly modest income I make as a nutritionist — and MLM is that I do not have any sort of profit sharing or “network,” such that I get any increased amount of money/residuals by bringing other practitioners into the company to make money off *their* sales, and those of new people *those* people bring in. It’s one-on-one, me and a client, with me making the best recommendations I can for their individual needs and goals.

          And I can’t speak for other practitioners, but I always, *always* provide suggestions for similar brands/products clients can purchase more cheaply from a health food store or corner drugstore, with the caveat that I cannot ensure quality or potency, so their results might come more slowly, or not at all.

          I am very sympathetic to budget concerns and I don’t require my clients to use supplements. I inform them that they are one more tool in the toolbox to get them feeling better, and it’s up to them whether they think it’s worth a little extra money to come at things from multiple angles.

          It is almost impossible to make a living wage doing private nutrition consultations. Connecting clients with supplements that might really help them is one additional contributor, not to mention the (unpaid) time I invest in learning about the specific ingredients, drug/nutrient interactions, pharmacology, etc. And at the moment, I am extremely small potatoes in terms of practice size. I’m a one-woman operation, just trying to help people and, at some point, be able to transition from my unrelated day-job to doing this work full-time, and even so, I have no problem if a client isn’t interested in purchasing the specific items I recommend. I always provide those suggestions for more affordable and more easily accessible products. Not everyone is trying to make a fortune by exploiting consumers and clients who trust them. I don’t recommend products because they’re going to make or break me, financially. They won’t. Not even close. I recommend them because I think they’ll be effective, and *this* is how I want to grow my practice — via word of mouth from satisfied clients.

          • Thanks Amy for the detailed response. All helpful information so I can feel better about the $$ I spend on supps, even if I don’t actually feel better (yet, it has only been a month or so).

  10. Thank you for this very nuanced and thoughtful approach to this issue. Scientists and physicians are human beings. They have the same human, emotional, nonrational biases like everyone else. They need money, wish to advance their careers and like adulation like any other person. This and the fact that virtually no group successfully self-polices its own behavior, whether it is the banking industry, teacher unions, the military, lawyers, or in this case, the medical-industrial complex. The food movement in this country has come from outside mainstream dietary advice and has been catalyzed by the Internet and people’s self-empowerment. Likewise, I believe medicine and the academic science as well will be “disrupted” by forces from outside. Can we take what is best in our modern health system (acute surgical care, some vaccinations, sanitation, and appropriate antibiotic use) and combine it with what our evolutionary biology demands (natural unprocessed food, good activity, lean body mass, good sleep, social bonding, enough but not too much stress to grow mentally and physically)?

    Only if we can each acknowledge the biases through which we view the world and how that affects us and others. And finally use the scientific method to see what truly, pragmatically works for humans and our larger ecosystem.

  11. This is really a great article, Chris. You’re extremely fair in your analysis maybe to the point of ceding too much. Personally I find much of the behavior should be labeled criminal.

  12. I really like the article, but what can you as a Dr. and I as a consumer do about this. I love editorials, but love actionable things even more. What are your thoughts Dr. Kresser?

    In good health!

    • The changes will likely have to be legislated. They could include:
      — prohibiting agencies that promote medications (including vaccines) from overseeing drug/vaccine safety
      — prohibiting government officials from working for drug manufacturers
      — managing the influence of drug manufacturers on medical journals (another huge problem I didn’t go into in this article)
      — mandatory (not voluntary) disclosure of all conflicts of interest with researchers and physicians.

      • As long as gov’t has authority without accountability we cannot expect a change. As long as gov’t is large, we have no chance. We choose computers and shoes and places to eat and where to live from our own list, not the gov’t list. . We can choose our own private providers, and our own private certifying companies.

  13. Bravo. As a cancer physician, I have had a growing disgust with the mutually escalating costs and side effects (toxicities) of cancer care. I believe we all now must try to “be a Healthy Skeptic”, to the point of it becoming a mantra. No one should merely “do as they are told” by physicians, you must do your due diligence and make carefully informed decisions. Keep up the good work, Chris.

  14. Great article. I knew about this. Its frustrating though trying to convince family and friends about the influence of big pharma on medical schools and federal agencies. What is scary is that the big pharma are using their skewed data to make big profits at the expense of sick people. When corporations use the government to impose regulations, we have facsim.
    Yet, I feel there is hope with the power of the internet that allows us to communicate and pass on useful information and to petition our politicians.
    I do read several years ago that 80% of funding of most medical schools in the U.S. comes from big pharma. Also,in the New York Times a few years ago, I read that many of the young medical students at Harvard were being intimidated by big pharma and professors if they questioned the safety and effectiveness of certain drugs.

  15. Thank you for weighing in Chris. I appreciate your healthy skepticism and the humble way that you approach your knowledge. I’m so tired of hearing that vaccines are perfectly safe and effective. I am not anti-vaccine. I’m longing for a more sophisticated conversation where we can hold two distinct thoughts, that vaccines may be beneficial but also cause harm to some individuals.

    • Great article, Chris, and very insightful comments which I wholeheartedly agree with.

      Another book which takes a look at Big Pharma:
      The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, Marcia Angell, MD, Harvard Medical School lecturer and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

      Publication date was 2005, but not that much has changed in 10 years, other than more drugs have killed and injured more people. If you watch TV, surely you notice the ambulance chasing attorneys ads designed to attract people who have been killed or injured by product X. Attorneys wouldn’t be buying these expensive ads if they didn’t get results from them.

  16. Great article, Chris. Well researched and eye-opening. I think much of the slight of hand in medical research now explains some of the confounding recommendations and about-face moves we see with guidelines. It is easier to say we “now know more” or “we failed to recognize this or that”, than it is to unhook entirely from the gravy train just as long as your turn comes around soon. Right?