Unethical Relationships: Doctors, Medical Journals and Medical Studies

 Because the medical field is so complex, we almost instinctively defer our power to our doctors. This is much like we might behave with an attorney. The legal system is so complex that we would be foolish to try and navigate it without a lawyer. But what if the information our doctors are using to make decisions is flawed? Relying on experts is smart and it usually benefits us. Blind, unquestioning faith, however, is something very different.


Where Do Doctors Learn About Vaccines?

Most people trust their physician’s advice and do not give a second thought about where doctors learn their information.  The plaques and degrees on the walls of his or her office assure us that our doctors are well educated in medical school and that we are in good hands. Because the medical field is so complex, we almost instinctively defer our power to our doctors. This is much like we might behave with an attorney. The legal system is so complex that we would be foolish to try and navigate it without a lawyer. But what if the information our doctors are using to make decisions is flawed? Relying on experts is smart and it usually benefits us. Blind, unquestioning faith, however, is something very different.

The truth is that most doctors are taught very little about the science behind vaccines or pharmaceutical drugs in their formal studies. The average doctor is only taught the basic theory behind vaccines, and defers to published studies for any further understanding on the topic. Many of these studies come from medical schools who receive grants and medical journals which are sponsored by those who make vaccines.



Most Americans would probably be surprised to know that nearly all of the information our doctors receive, in one form or another, comes from the very businesses who have the most to gain by doctors’ promotion of their product.

It is well documented that pharmaceutical companies, along with the medical establishment, have created and shaped the curriculum taught in medical academia. In many cases, professors at some of the most prestigious medical schools are also paid consultants to multiple pharmaceutical companies. The New York Times published an article titled “Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary” in which they describe these unethical relationships. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year marketing their product directly to doctors, many times under the guise of education. It is really not difficult to see the inherent conflict of interest in this practice. If the companies and institutions providing the information were honest about their findings and their true mission was health discovery, this might not be so bad.

Unfortunately, there has been a wide array of industry insiders and whistle-blowers from the pharmaceutical and medical industries who have come out in the last decade and they are all telling us the same thing: the medical industry has been compromised from top to bottom. The medical research and the journals that publish clinical studies on pharmaceutical products are not accurate and cannot be trusted. They tell and show us how negative reactions in clinical trials are often suppressed or manipulated so that the published studies do not reflect the true risks of a pharmaceutical product. There is also overwhelming evidence that proves this to be the case. Apparently, this is common knowledge to those in the industry.

How Accurate Are the Medical Journals?

Vaccine clinical trials, published in peer reviewed medical journals, are held in the highest esteem among our medical community. This is the evidence pharmaceutical companies present to the FDA in order to have drugs approved in the US. Doctors must follow the CDC’s recommendations and they prescribe their patients medications based on the findings of these studies. We are told that there’s a mountain of published information that proves vaccines safety and efficacy, but when we probe into that mountain we find many problems. Let’s take a closer look at this research and the journals that publish it.

FDA Oversight and the Problem with Trust

Here is the abstract for an article by Charles Seife, MS, published in JAMA in April, 2015. This paper reveals huge ethical breaches found by the FDA when they inspected the sites of clinical drug trials between 2008 and 2013.  The author finds 57 published clinical trials inspected by the FDA during this period had significant evidence of:

  • Falsification or submission of false information  [22 trials, 39%]
  • Problems with adverse events reporting  [14 trials, 25%]
  • Protocol violations [42 trials, 74%]
  • Failure to protect the safety of patients and/or issues with oversight or informed consent [30 trials, 53%]
  • Inadequate or inaccurate record keeping [35 trials, 61%)

The paper notes that when these breaches occur, the FDA “has no systematic method of communicating these findings to the scientific community, leaving open the possibility that research misconduct detected by a government agency goes unremarked in the peer-reviewed literature.” Actually, this is exactly what happens: Only 4% of the research found to have significant violations mentioned any such problems when the research was published. Seife notes: “No corrections, retractions, expressions of concern, or other comments acknowledging the key issues identified by the inspection were subsequently published.”

A few key things to remember when looking at these findings:

  1. These infractions occurred in research that became published clinical trials,
  2. The FDA doesn’t inspect very many clinical trial sites.  A Vanity Fair article from 2010 revealed that in sample year 2008, the FDA inspected about 1.9% of trial sites for research conducted in the US (and less than 1%, when the research takes place outside the country).

A skeptic would be left with a number of additional questions about how much we can trust published vaccine research:

  • How many of all vaccine clinical trial sites are inspected by the FDA?
  • How many of those inspected have ethical breaches or problems with conditions or practices?
  • Did the landmark research ‘proving ‘ vaccines to be safe and effective undergo FDA inspection during the trials? If so, did they have similar breaches?
  • How representative are these findings of all clinical drug trials?
  • If clinical trials are published as valid and reliable, even after the FDA finds major issues with the research, what is the purpose of inspection? 
  • What about the 96% of published clinical trials that didn’t reveal the problems the FDA found with their research?  Is there any body or organization that requires researchers to uphold these standards or are they on the honors system?
  • What do these findings mean for the integrity of the FDA approval system?

The conclusion of this paper makes a sound case for skepticism when considering published vaccine research. The author explains the larger problem with journals: 

 “When the FDA finds significant departures from good clinical practice, those findings are seldom reflected in the peer-reviewed literature, even when there is evidence of data fabrication or other forms of research misconduct.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) addressed the gravity of this problem in an editorial printed in the same issue in which Seife’s research is published. Based on the preview available on their webpage, it looks like JAMA might share some of the same concerns we outlined above. Unfortunately, if you want to read the whole article, you will have to subscribe to the journal or pay $30 to view it for 24 hours. If you preview this editorial, you can see that they note that FDA inspections cannot even be linked to particular clinical trials. It seems strange, indeed, that an organization charged with protecting the public health would be so invested in protecting those they regulate from public scrutiny.

Major Academic Publisher Finds Fraud in 10 of Its Journals

Medical News Today aptly describes the peer review process as being central to the medical journal publication process, noting that it is “held as the best available means to help check the quality, relevance and importance of papers being submitted by medical researchers. This in turn helps to ensure that medical treatments are safe and effective for patients.” Peer reviewed medical journals have historically been considered highly credible sources because they use the peer review process to vet research before publishing it.  More and more lately, we’re finding out that authors, researchers and journal editors are manipulating the peer review process in order to get research published.  In fact, there is an organization devoted to investigating and publishing news about the retraction of published studies. You can view their website here.

Springer is one of the largest research publishers in the world, owning more than 2,500 English language journals alone.  Here is an article published in The Washington Post in August, 2015, which describes Springer’s recent retraction of 64 articles from 10 of its journals after discovering that their reviews were linked to fake e-mail addresses. A few months earlier, in March, 2015, another one of Springer’s journals retracted 43 articlesfor the same reason.  The Washington Post article also cites the practice of study authors writing reviews for their own publication and fraudulently submitting them as independent reviews.

“Peer review is supposed to be the pride of the rigorous academic publishing process. Journals get every paper reviewed and approved by experts in the field, ensuring that problematic research doesn’t make it to print. But increasingly journals are finding out that those supposedly authoritative checks are being rigged.”

Springer is certainly not the only medical research publisher to have pulled multiple articles that don’t follow peer review protocol — they just happen to be a recent example.

In case you’re wondering about retractions of vaccine research, specifically, here a few recent examples: Here you can read about the December, 2015 retraction of pertussis vaccine research in which the author failed to disclose having received grants and consultancy fees from three pharmaceutical companies that help make or sell the vaccines. You can read here about the May, 2015 retraction of malaria vaccine research in which an author manipulated images that were supposed to reflect data. Read here about a former Iowa State University researcher who pleaded guilty in January, 2015, to felony charges after faking AIDS vaccine research results.

The New England Journal of Medicine 

Dr. Marcia Angell — Former Executive Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine & Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Marcia Angell is the Former Executive Editor of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She is also the author of the book Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption. In the video above, Dr. Angell gives an excellent presentation on the incestuous relationship between the powerful pharmaceutical industry, the medical establishment and our local and federal politicians. She tells us how the pharmaceutical industry has infiltrated every part of the medical system, buying access and the hearts and minds of our physicians.

Dr. Angell’s statement is shocking:

  “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”

Dr. Angell goes on to say that drug companies portray themselves as organizations dedicated to science and health, but that is simply not true. Pharmaceutical companies are, by a large margin, among the most profitable companies in the world but they only spend a small portion of their revenue on research & development, compared to marketing and administration costs. She also points out that despite all the studies that they conduct, pharmaceutical companies are only responsible for about 15% of new innovation in their field. Instead of focusing on innovation they choose to spend their vast resources on influencing doctors and medical research to favor their predetermined outcome, regardless of the safety or efficacy of their drugs.

Pharma industry size graph


Dr. Angell points out that the pharmaceutical lobby is the largest in Washington, spending billions each year to influence legislators and policy makers and, as she puts it, “the pharmaceutical companies nearly always get what they pay for”.  Are our elected officials basing the increasingly aggressive vaccination schedule on safety concerns or could their decisions be based on the billions of dollars that pharma has fed the political machine? As Dr. Angell says, it’s useful to follow the money in this situation.

Imagine what it might do for your industry if you could spend  billions of dollars every year lobbying politicians. In 2003, when the federal prescription drug program for seniors was being created, the pharmaceutical industry spent $116 million to keep Medicare from bargaining for competitive drug prices. Their lobbying paid off because it netted them an extra $90 million a year, (on the backs of our seniors might I add), for a whopping 77,500% return on their investment. That is just one deal they made. As you will see in part three of this article, some of those lobbying dollars go to vaccine policy makers as well.

Pharma Lobby Dollars 98-2012


There are many other credible industry insiders, doctors, researchers and whistleblowers who corroborate Dr. Angell’s findings. Again and again, they are telling us that the information circulated among our healthcare experts and the public is simply not reliable, and therefore cannot be used to make informed decisions about our health. According to these insiders, most studies are directly or indirectly funded by pharmaceutical companies. Research data that support pharmaceutical products are highlighted and published, while research that finds problems with drug safety or efficacy is suppressed and never sees the light of day.

What About Other Medical Journals?

Dr. Angell is not an outlier and she is far from alone in her expert opinion, criticizing the validity and reliability of medical journals and their publishing practices. Several other editors of some of the world’s most prestigious peer reviewed medical journals have also come forward recently.  They, too, are warning us that medical research data is being manipulated and that there is an utter corruptness about what gets published in these journals.

The British Medical Journal

richard_smith_2014 (1)


Image Source

Dr. Richard Smith

Dr. Richard Smith was the editor and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group for 13 years, and worked for BMJ for a total of 25 years. He left in 2004, and in 2006 published the book: The Trouble with Medical Journals.

Smith wrote an editorial that appeared in PLOS Medicine Journal in 2005, entitled “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies” in which he asserts: “The Problem: Less to Do with Advertising, More to Do with Sponsored Trials”. This former chief executive and editor of the world renowned medical journal says:

“Peer review is a failure and, ironically, it’s more faith-based than science-based. What passes as ‘science’ today is really a cult of pet opinions pushing an agenda.”

The Lancet Medical Journal

Dr richard horton


Image Source

Dr. Richard Horton – Current Editor in Chief of The Lancet Medical Journal

In April of 2015, Dr. Horton published an editorial in The Lancet Medical Journal that corroborates the statements of his fellow editors regarding the trustworthiness of research published in medical journals. This editorial is a quick read and offers a thoughtful perspective on what Dr. Horton refers to as “one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.”

Quoting from Dr. Horton’s editorial:

 “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

 “Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry.”

Dr. Richard Horton

The Manipulation of Clinical Trials

Dr. David Healy

Dr. David Healy is an internationally respected psychiatrist, psycopharmacologist, scientist and author of many books on the medical industry, as well as more than 150 peer-reviewed articles. In 2012 he published a book entitled Pharmageddon, about how pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare. Dr. Healy is also an expert in research on the subject of clinical drug trials. He is affiliated with Rxisk.org, which maintains a clearinghouse of patient-reported side effects of all types of prescription drugs.

According to Dr. Healy, the medical industry is at a crisis point now, due to a lack of integrity. He compares its situation to that of the Catholic Church during the child abuse scandal several years ago.

Dr. Healy compares drug companies’ manipulation of published research to that of the science used by the tobacco industry to show evidence in defense of smoking and notes that the only difference is that the manipulation in the medical field is far more sophisticated. In this presentation, Dr. Healy walks us through the process and shows exactly how the data from one particular published medical study were manipulated to make unfavorable data look positive.

From the Rxisk.org site:

 “….most data on prescription drugs is owned by the multinational pharmaceutical companies who run almost all clinical drug trials (60% of which are never reported). They simply are not sharing data that may affect their bottom lines.”

Paroxetine: A Case Study

Dr. Healy uses as an example, a well-known controlled study about the use of the anti-depressant Paroxetine to treat children.  GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) performed studies regarding the drug and concluded it was ineffective. GSK then cherry picked the good data from the previous study and assigned authorship of the new publication using a who’s who of some of the most well-known and respected doctors in the childhood psychiatric field. But as Dr. Healy learned, they were not the true authors, as the published study was in fact ghost written.

Dr. Healy states that the clinical data published in medical journals may be a small fraction of the data that is accessible through the FDA. Dr. Healy points out that the Paroxetine case study highlights just one example and is not a rare case. This behavior is not unique to anti-depressants, but applies to all drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.

Below are two charts depicting clinical trials of the same exact drugs. The first chart reflects the data that was used to gain FDA approval and represents the published clinical data in medical journals. The second chart contains all the clinical trials conducted for the drugs, including those that were never published. The white boxes above the red line represent what’s put forth as “positive” studies, or the cherry picked data, and below the red line are the black boxes which represent the negative studies. If you look at the second chart you will see that there are fewer white boxes (positive results) because a full 30% of the ‘positive’ studies published in the medical journal should actually have been considered to be negative. There are also more black boxes due to new trials and studies that were never published. You could only understand that this was a dangerous drug when looking at all the data. The only place all the data was available was in FDA records, not in the published studies.

Journal View

DH journal view
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Data appearing in published journal article

FDA View

DH FDA view


All the data available to FDA

Dr. Healy noted that 100% of the published studies at the time were actually ghostwritten. The published literature showed these drugs to be safe and effective and we now know that in every single case that was wrong. Once all the data was considered together, it painted a much different picture. The published literature was in direct conflict with the data from all available research. 

Later in his presentation, Dr. Healy shows us a clinical trial where the author uses mis-coding to make it appear as if a patient committed suicide on the placebo when, in fact, it happened after using their drug. Mis-coding is a common practice, used to hide unfavorable data and manipulate the trial results, according to Dr. Healy.

Dr. Healy goes on to say that this is a larger problem than manipulation of clinical trials by the pharmaceutical industry. This is a system-wide institutional problem with evidence based medicine. Dr. Healy also tells us that independent research groups with excellent reputations and no financial ties to drug makers are sometimes fooled by these manipulated results and subsequently end up as a marketing tool for pharmaceutical companies. 

In another example, The Cochrane Review Group, comprised of independent researchers, only had access to the published information from the journals. When they finished their research they concluded that the drug Sertraline (Zoloft) was the best of all the anti-depressants listed. Once all the data was revealed, however, it turned out to be the worst one. The industry practice of publishing only the research that supports product safety and effectiveness means that sometimes, data can lie. This is how even unbiased, highly ethical researchers can be fooled in their quest for truth.

Dr. Healy Makes it a point to mention several times in his presentation that this is not an isolated incident and that it applies to all pharmaceutical products.

Dr. Tom Jefferson

Dr. Tom Jefferson is the head of the aforementioned Cochrane Collaboration Review Groupand is an expert researcher in the field of medicine. Dr. Jefferson has declared that the Cochrane Group will no longer rely on published medical studies to form their conclusions. Not only was Dr. Jefferson unable to access most of the data from clinical trials for the Tamiflu vaccine, he discovered that the authors of the studies had no recollection of presenting the information and actually referred him back to the drug maker. He came to the conclusion that these studies were ghostwritten.

Why is Information So Important?

Information has a powerful influence over our lives because it guides our behavior and drives our decisions. Sometimes there is an agenda behind the information presented to us that we can’t easily see. Information is what forms our belief systems about a particular topic and when the data is manipulated or is not based on valid and reliable science, we must then reexamine our previously held conclusions. Analyzing information is similar to working out a mathematical equation: when you omit evidence or change it to reflect a desired finding, the conclusion will always be flawed. We have more information at our fingertips than we’ve ever had, yet converting the raw data into actionable knowledge is where the heavy lifting is required.

vac gigo


Source: Google Images

Summary 

When you look up the term pseudoscience’ in the dictionary, one of the definitions is as follows: a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method. What we are witnessing with these journals is certainly not science. Our medical journals have devolved into something other than pillars of scientific truth in pursuit of health, and by definition, would have to be characterized as pseudoscience. 

Vaccine skeptics are constantly being told that they are anti-science or science deniers, but when we look at the so called ‘science’, it becomes clear that the exact opposite is true. To be more accurate, vaccine skeptics are taking issue with cherry picked data, buried studies, fraudulent data and poorly conducted clinical trials, posing as science. Vaccine skeptics are well aware of the fact that our medical journals left the realm of science years ago and have become valuable business tools in the world of economics, marketing and politics. 

The fact that so many experts from within the industry are telling us that we can’t trust data published in the most prestigious journals in the world really cuts to the heart of the matter. We are told that the debate is over and vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective, but from what evidence can they conclude this? If pharmaceutical companies sponsor almost all of the research while then also deciding what gets published and what doesn’t, how can we imagine we’re getting reliable information? When we know that the data in these publications have been manipulated in favor of pharmaceutical products, how can we trust it?

The truth is that studies favoring the safety and efficacy of ANY pharmaceutical products published in medical journals can no longer be presumed to have integrity and cannot be safely cited as scientific fact. Arguments that use this data as their foundation must be called out for what they are: agenda-driven misinformation. Unless we have comprehensive independent audits, allowing auditors to review ALL the information, or until trial results can be replicated by independent researchers, the published research on vaccines is not reliable. Published vaccine trial data is lacking the scientific rigor and the integrity we need, in order for it to provide us with the quality of information necessary for giving adequate informed consent.

The information presented in part one of this article alone is enough to make any parent feel skeptical about putting any pharmaceutical products into their children. As you will see in the following parts of this article, medical journals are only one component of the systematic deception and corruption taking place in this industry. When we take a closer look at the behavior of the pharmaceutical industry and their ties with federal and local regulatory agencies, we find behavior that is equally troubling.

This article originally appeared at: http://visionlaunch.com/many-people-choosing-not-vaccinate/#.

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