The drugs don’t work: a modern medical scandal

If your doctor isn’t aware of how misleading all of pharma is you shouldn’t go to that doctor. Period. If they make excuses or say that it’s exaggerated in the media, you shouldn’t  trust that doctor. If your doctor doesn’t believe you when you tell them about an adverse-effect, or if they minimize its harm, you shouldn’t trust that doctor. Seriously, when we’re dealing with pharmaceuticals it’s often life and death…and that is just how seriously we all should take it.

Ben Goldacre the author of Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
has a fine and damning article in the Guardian. Go read the article…here’s a taste first:

The drugs don’t work: A modern medical scandal

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion….

…In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug – antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on – then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin. These cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce your risk of having a heart attack and are prescribed in very large quantities. This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.

These are frightening results, but they come from individual studies. So let’s consider systematic reviews into this area. In 2003, two were published. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results. A further review in 2007 looked at the new studies in the intervening four years: it found 20 more pieces of work, and all but two showed that industry-sponsored trials were more likely to report flattering results…

…Because researchers are free to bury any result they please, patients are exposed to harm on a staggering scale throughout the whole of medicine. Doctors can have no idea about the true effects of the treatments they give. Does this drug really work best, or have I simply been deprived of half the data? No one can tell. Is this expensive drug worth the money, or has the data simply been massaged? No one can tell. Will this drug kill patients? Is there any evidence that it’s dangerous? No one can tell. This is a bizarre situation to arise in medicine, a discipline in which everything is supposed to be based on evidence. (continue reading)

I wish I was unique in having been harmed, but I’m not. So I’ve learned after having been gravely harmed by pharmaceuticals via so called medical care, to not continue seeing an MD that doesn’t consider me a full-partner. If the doctor has too big an ego to do that, I’m out the door. See: Medical compliance? Adherence? No. My MDs are my PARTNERS

Doctors are invested in believing they can help you. But if they don’t have a healthy respect about how much they can harm you, they are dangerous. It’s that simple and sadly a good number of doctors are exactly in that boat to the point that when they do harm you they will deny it. Completely and very likely believe that they are not to blame as well. Again, that is dangerous because the entire time they’ve been treating you they were likely deluded but they sound confident because they believe their BS. All the while they hand out medicines that can seriously harm. That confidence they show leads us to trust them. But if it’s all based in arrogance that confidence is often not based in reality. The red flag is clear when they don’t listen to your experience. If they deny your experience, it doesn’t matter how nice they seemed up to that point. That is the time to find someone who will listen to you and your body. Because of their investment in believing they can help you, far too many MDs can’t cope with the reality of possibly aiding in your harm. It is at this point that many will start to blame the patient.

Given the information that Ben Goldacre shares above, it’s also clear that no one should ever assume a doctor knows the full picture about any drug they are prescribing. We need to do our own research as well as listen to our body. And again, if a doctor doesn’t understand that they most often do not have enough information to really know what they are doing with pretty much any medication, they’re not safe.

This is frightening, I know. But becoming aware of it is exactly how one finds the good doctors out there who will acknowledge this reality and then you can work together to find what is best for you given the circumstances.

Given not everyone is in a position to find and therefore choose competent doctors as they are not always available, it’s important to spread this information that more people will be educated and thus perhaps less harm can occur.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters