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Pharmed Out  

U.S. Practitioners and Big Pharm Harm More Than They Heal

Notes from conference June 14-15, 2012


Marketing:   Americans spend 100 times more time exposed to drug and device ads than they spend face to face with their doctors.   Barbara Mintzes, PhD. Therapeutic Initiative, Vancouver, Canada.

Drug mortality:   Appropriately prescribed pharmaceuticals are the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S., while 2% of drugs are "life-saving." Donald Light, PhD., University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey .

Harmful procedures and treatments:  

1.    Since CT scanning was invented, Americans' exposure to radiation has increased by 50%.   There is "a complete lack of standards" in radiation exposure. Many patients are now exposed to Hiroshima levels of radiation from diagnostic tests.   Rebecca Smith-Bindman,M.D., UC San Francisco

2. Hip surgery, a $2 billion/year industry, has implanted many Johnson and Johnson artificial hips that release toxic Cobalt and Cadmium into the blood.   This practice continued for some time even after registries in other countries had identified the problem.   John Restaino,DPM, JD, MPH,   U. of S.C. School of Pharmacy

3.    Renal transplant surgeons have used a vascular clip in healthy donor patients that doesn't do the job.   The inadequacy of the product has caused a number of deaths while information on the problem was hushed up for years. Amy Friedman, M.D. SUNY Upstate Medical University

4.   Relentless marketing and misleading data are used to promote the use of newer, more expensive products when older, less risky ones are actually better.   This has been done with antibiotics John Powers, M.D., George Washington University School of Medicine and with Avandia (later recalled) which was marketed to replace metformin, an older drug that works better.   Joel Lexchin, M.D., York University, Canada

The drug and medical device industry:

1.    The industry spends astronomical amounts to develop "me-too" products while only 1.3% of revenue goes to basic research on truly new pharmaceuticals.   Forty-six percent of R&D is actually funded by taxpayers.   Donald Light, PhD., University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

2.    Drug companies use data mining to target marketing to practitioners. Meredith Jacob, JD, American University College of Law   They also use bribes and gifts to influence prescribing patterns.   Drug reps consistently push and promote off-label uses of drugs, a practice that increases profits, circumvents regulation and "is a safety issue."   Sharon Treat, JD, National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices .   Clinical trial data is kept secret, and negative outcomes are frequently ignored or hidden. Kay Dickersin, PhD, Johns Hopkins University

3.    Many Phase I clinical trials (that used to be carried out in academia) have been privatized.   Illegal immigrants, impoverished, homeless and mentally ill patients are paid a pittance to take untested drugs.   Oversight is by private organizations hired by the drug companies. Carl Elliott, MD, PhD, Univ. of Minnesota Center for Bioethics

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Dr. Deborah Schumann MD practices ophthalmology in Washington, District of Columbia.
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