Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime

How 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.
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.
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 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 package insert...

Gøtzsche does, however, provide some helpful tips on how the individual today can protect his health from pharma. They include:
  • 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 treatment.
  • 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.
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.

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 prescribed are. 

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