Medicines and Organised Crime
big pharma has corrupted healthcare
Peter C Gøtzsche (sic)
Reviewed by Mira de Vries
Gøtzsche is not using “organised crime” as a metaphor or
allegory. He means what the title states literally: the
pharmaceutical industry is organized crime.
Most of the book is an account of all the various ways
that these offenses are committed. It differs from the
many other books written on the subject (a few of which
are reviewed on this site) in the quantity of details and
sources. It is also more thorough by dealing with drugs
directed at both somatic medicine and
psychiatry. As the stack of books exposing pharma grows
taller, the accusations grow bolder and more shocking.
The centerpiece of the US Organized Crime
Control act from 1970 is the Racketeer Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Racketeering
is the act of engaging in a certain type of offense
more than once. The list of offenses that constitute
racketeering include extortion, fraud, federal drug
offenses, bribery. embezzlement, obstruction of
justice, obstruction of law enforcement, tampering
with witnesses, and political corruption. Big pharma
does so much of this all the time that there can be
no doubt that its business model fulfils the
criteria for organised crime.
The result of these crimes is a major onslaught on our
health. “In the United States and Europe,
[prescription] drugs are the third leading cause of
death after heart disease and cancer.” He doesn’t
mention the massive pollution of our water and food
supplies by the excreted drugs.
Even if only a fraction of Gøtzsche’s claims were true, it
would still demonstrate what a danger the
medical-pharmaceutical industry poses to our health.
So what should we do about it? Like other authors,
Gøtzsche cannot resist calling for better government
regulation as though that has ever worked. He admits that
“Government efforts to regulate fail utterly” and
refers to a former FDA scientist who “spoke out about
crimes and gangster methods at the agency.” The
European FDA, called EMA, fares no better.
To his credit, Gøtzsche does offer concrete suggestions on
how to improve government regulation but the chances of
his suggestions working are slim. As he himself points
out, with so much money involved you must expect
racketeering. Besides, regulation has to be legislated and
“politicians understand so little that they usually
only make the situation worse when they act.” Anyway
his proposals will not pass because the industry “buys
influence over doctors, charities, patient groups,
journalists and politicians...”
At some places in the book he comes close to realizing
that it would be better to do away with watchdog agencies,
and, for that matter, prescription laws, leaving
regulation up to the individual. For instance, he points
out that “If we wish to buy a car or a house, we may
judge for ourselves whether it’s a good or a bad buy.”
Elsewhere he states, “The doctors cannot know about all
the dangers, but the patients can. They can read the
Gøtzsche does, however, provide some helpful tips on how
the individual today can protect his health from pharma.
His advice to “ask your doctor whether he or she
receives money or other benefits from the industry”
sounds rather useless as you can’t trust your physician to
tell you the truth. Nor is such a question likely to
improve his/her goodwill towards you.
- Demedicalize, in other words, don’t try to fix all
your problems with a pill, not even physical ones.
- Don’t participate in screening programs (or routine
health checks). “I surely have cancer, as cancer
can be demonstrated in all of us who are above 50,
if only we are investigated thoroughly enough”
he states, hinting that not every tumor requires
- Don’t take drugs to treat surrogate outcomes. That
means that people who take such drugs have improved test
results for measurable matters as blood
pressure, glucose, or cholesterol, but statistically increased
rather than decreased chance of dying. Too bad
he didn’t include HIV-inhibitors in this list.
Apparently he believes in AIDS.
- Avoid new drugs. He suggests the first seven
years they are on the market, but that sounds short to
this reviewer, as the harms of so many drugs became
known to the general public after a much longer
interval. Perhaps twenty years would be
better, though it may be difficult to find an older
drug when you need it, as the industry likes to
withdraw off-patent drugs from the market.
Gøtzsche ends by mocking himself with a cartoon of a
mobster who resents being compared to the drug industry,
which kills many more people than the mob does.
Who should read this book? Anyone who is still unconvinced
about how unreliable medical science is, how corrupt the
pharmaceutical industry is, or how harmful most drugs
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