How Drug Companies Harm Diabetes Patients

| October 13, 2012

One of my earliest posts on Real Diabetes Truth warned of the dangers associated with anti-diabetes drugs and mentioned Avandia as an example of everything that is bad about the pharmaceutical industry. This diabetes drug, manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) was finally taken off the market in 2010 after studies showed it was linked to an increase in heart attacks.

As in every industry, mistakes happen. But this was not a case of inadequate testing or even plain incompetence on the part of GSK. A two-year investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee has revealed that GSK was well aware of the cardiovascular dangers of Avandia, over several years. The company hid trial results, wilfully misled regulators, doctors and patients, and tried to stifle concerns when they were finally raised.

According to the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), Avandia could have caused up to 100,000 heart attacks. More than 50,000 individual lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts across the US, citing GSK’s failure to inform patients about the potentially life-threatening side effects, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, bone fractures, vision loss and death, that have been linked to the drug.

In the largest ever legal settlement involving a pharmaceutical company, the US Justice Department announced in July this year that GSK will pay $3 billion in fines and plead guilty to marketing drugs for unapproved uses and failing to report drug safety information to the FDA. Shockingly, this was not an isolated case of wrongdoing on GSK’s part. The fine also covers earlier charges of the illegal marketing of the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin, two other drugs made by GSK.

GSK bribed doctors to prescribe these antidepressants for illnesses and for patient groups for which they were not licensed. The company illegally touted Paxil for depressed teenagers, when its own data showed that the drug was not only ineffective for this age group but was also associated with higher rates of suicide. As a father myself, I know how I would feel if a child of mine had become a tragic statistic in the evil game GSK played with those young lives.

An industry mired in greed and deceit

Perhaps the worst part of this harrowing tale is that GSK still insists it did nothing wrong. But are they just the bad apple in the Big Pharma bowl? Not at all, according to two books published this summer – Pharmageddon by Dr Richard Healy1 and Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre2. Dr Healy is a psychiatrist who has spent decades trying to uncover the dark secrets of the pharmaceutical industry, in particular the connection between antidepressant drugs (such as Paxil) and suicide.

I have to admit that I have not had much time for Ben Goldacre in the past. He is a self-appointed “witchfinder general” who has previously set out to prove that complementary medicine is all quackery and not based on good science. However, I have to hand it to him that he has blown the lid off much that is corrupt in the drugs industry (I was going to say “all”, but I fear that the bottom of the barrel has yet to be scraped).

What both of these books reveal is the scandalous way in which new drugs get tested, approved and marketed. Although the system is supposed to ensure their safety and effectiveness, it has become so compromised and corrupt that, in some areas of medicine, the drugs themselves are now the leading cause of death. Nobody is held to account for this, or for the staggering public cost of providing treatments that are, more often than not, ineffective.

The reason nothing is done to improve the system is because the drugs industry finances and controls everything to do with medicine: research institutions, regulatory bodies, government and European advisory committees, charities, official websites, scientific journals, clinical guidelines… the list goes on. This allows them to get away with a level of abuse of the system that is nothing short of criminal. The allegations against Big Pharma made in the two books I mention include:

  • Rigging drugs trials to give positive results;
  • Hiding results that show drugs are ineffective;
  • Hiding results that show drugs may be dangerous;
  • Inventing or falsifying data;
  • Writing or influencing “independent” reviews of drug treatments;
  • Lying to doctors about the effectiveness or side effects of a drug;
  • Paying doctors to prescribe their drugs.

For me, these shocking revelations underline the importance of doing everything possible to avoid or control diabetes in ways that don’t involve drug treatment and I have described many of these alternative approaches in my blog posts. We need to be very careful about the artificial chemicals that we willingly put into our bodies in the form of drugs. But there are some chemicals that are much more difficult to avoid and may be doing us unknown harm.

In my next blog post, I want to tell you about a growing body of research that links toxins in our environment, food and everyday household products with disrupted glucose metabolism, insulin resistance and the worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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1. Healey R. Pharmageddon. University of California Press, 2012.

2. Goldacre B. Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. Fourth Estate, 2012.

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Category: Diabetes News Views

Comments (1)

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  1. Frederica Huxley says:

    And the further horror of all this is that pharma is doing everything in its power to suppress the vitamin and supplement market. How many deaths have been attributed to supplements and vitamins? Nil.