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How Drug Trials Hide the Truth

How Drug Trials Hide the Truth
February 02
10:44 2017

(HSIOnline) – “Money talks” may be a hackneyed expression, but it’s truer than ever — especially when it comes to drug trials.

The use of clinical trials is one of the primary ways the FDA decides if a drug is safe and effective and if it ends up on the pharmacy shelf or not.

Unfortunately for patients and their doctors, Big Pharma funds around 60 percent of all clinical trials.

And whether these studies are often manipulated to get the desired outcome or hidden away when things don’t turn out as hoped for, it all results in one common denominator: People are dying.

Eliminating the negative

There’s more than one way to fudge a drug trial.

But it all boils down to the fact that when Big Pharma’s dollars are involved in studying drugs, things seem to work out to its advantage more times than you can shake a stick at.

A new study published in The BMJ from doctors at the University of California San Francisco has found, once again, that when researchers have a monetary relationship with drugmakers, trial results are “more likely to turn up positive.”

An accompanying editorial mentioned another way this is often accomplished — something called “bias by design.” That means studies that are given “a higher chance of success” through either fiddling with the doses of alternate treatments or “coding outcomes” to change the results.

But seriously, that’s just the beginning of how numerous meds that never should have seen the light of day manage to end up on your doctor’s prescription pad.

Take, for example, the antiviral drug Tamiflu – one that’s still being heavily advertised and that sells like hotcakes during every flu season.

Several years ago, the London nonprofit Cochrane Collaboration tried to get ahold of over 30 trials that were conducted on Tamiflu. After five years, the group finally got some of the studies that had been locked away for decades.

And in those 100,000 pages of unpublished data, they found the real reason those trials were kept a deep dark secret: The benefit of taking Tamiflu isn’t worth the risk.

The drug only reduces flu symptoms by a single day — and it doesn’t prevent flu complications or keep people out of the hospital, either. It has, however, been linked to some very serious side effects including “delirium,” hallucinations,” and “abnormal behavior” that can result in “fatal outcomes.”

Those are pretty significant consequences for shortening the duration of the flu by a single day!

Along with hiding negative study results, other ways bad drugs make it to market include “publication bias,” where journals prefer to publish positive rather than negative findings, and drugmakers either reporting data that’s patently false or halting trials when they appear to be going south fast.

One of the biggest – and deadliest – examples of how trials and published articles are manipulated can be found in the case of Vioxx.

Vioxx, which ended up being stripped from pharmacy shelves after it caused thousands of heart attacks and deaths, was the subject of a Merck-funded study with glowing reviews that was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Years later, it was found that this company-sponsored research (co-authored by two Merck employees) came to “misleading” conclusions omitting some big red flags about the drug’s safety. Had such information been disclosed, it could have saved untold numbers of lives.

And it doesn’t look like things are getting any better. Big Pharma has hidden conflicts of interest where selling its drugs are concerned so frequently that JAMA Internal Medicine recently had enough material to devote an entire issue to it.

The conclusion is obvious: Taking as few Rx drugs as possible may be the only way to protect ourselves from Big Pharma’s determination to let nothing stand in the way of its products making as much money as possible.

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