© docteurdu16.blogspot.comProfessor Peter C. Gøtzsche
Anyone who has taken an interest in the dark side of the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry is most probably familiar with the name of Danish professor emeritus of medicine Peter Christian Gøtzsche. Gøtzsche can be regarded as one of the greatest figures of evidence-based medicine of our time. There are probably not many people in the world who know and understand the pharmaceutical industry, clinical trials, the regulatory oversight of medicines, and the whole system surrounding the field better than Gøtzsche. He holds master's degrees in chemistry and biology. He started his career at the Astra Group and continued in Astra-Syntex, a joint venture between the Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra and the US pharmaceutical company Syntex.

Astra is the same company that later merged with the British Zeneca group in 1999, so the first half of the Astra-Zeneca name is its direct descendant. At Astra-Syntex, Gøtzsche established a medical department responsible for conducting clinical trials and submitting applications for the registration of new medicines.

Gøtzsche comments in an email interview with Freedom Research:
"My employment in the drug industry when I had been educated as a biologist and knew very little about drugs, opened my eyes quickly to all the fraud I observed in clinical research and marketing. Healthcare is much more corrupt than people think, and industry money goes everywhere, to politicians, medical journals, newspapers, other media, etc."
Co-founder of Cochrane

While working at Astra-Syntex, he also started pursuing a medical degree and became a specialist in internal medicine. His thesis, written after he left the pharmaceutical company, examined the claims of clinical trials for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a group that includes ibuprofen and aspirin, and showed their bias. Gøtzsche also strongly critiqued the marketing practices of his former employer, Astra-Syntex, pointing out that no good evidence existed for their claim that the higher the dose, the better the effect. After leaving the pharmaceutical company, he worked at hospitals in Copenhagen, the capital of his native Denmark.

In 1993, Gøtzsche was one of the co-founders of Cochrane Collaboration and founder of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. These are organisations whose aim is, via analyses of medical research, help health professionals, patients and policy makers make evidence-based health decisions. Cochrane's meta-analyses, which show what dozens and sometimes hundreds or more studies summarise about a treatment, a medical problem, or a medical intervention, are considered the gold standard in the field. The network has currently thousands of members from 190 countries around the world. In fact, many of Cochrane's best-known conclusions - for example, that the placebo effect may in fact be a myth, or that mammography is unlikely to reduce breast cancer mortality and turns healthy women into cancer patients because of overdiagnosis - come from Gøtzsche's research.

In 2010, Gøtzsche became a professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen. He has published more than 100 papers in the world's five leading medical journals, such as British Medical Journal (BMJ), The Lancet, JAMA and others. He has also been one of the most influential medical voices in the media for the past many years, exposing and criticising the oftentimes dishonest and corrupt working practices of large pharmaceutical companies.

"Much of what the drug industry does fulfills the criteria for organised crime"

Gøtzsche has also written several books on this dark side of the pharmaceutical industry. His most widely acclaimed book to date is Deadly medicines and organised crime: How big pharma has corrupted health care. It is a painful read that describes how large pharmaceutical companies systematically buy off doctors and scientists, as well as officials in regulatory agencies responsible for allowing drugs on the market and making sure they are safe. Or, alternatively, the drug companies are simply so intertwined with these agencies through the 'revolving door' phenomenon, whereby specialists and senior managers working in regulatory agencies are offered high paying jobs in drug companies. It also means finding and exploiting loopholes in the regulatory system by the very people who helped build it and have valuable personal contacts there.

Gøtzsche has said:
"Much of what the drug industry does fulfills the criteria for organised crime in the US law. And they behave in many ways like the mafia does. They corrupt everyone they can corrupt. They have bought up every type of person, even including ministers of health in some countries. So there is a huge amount of corruption."

The result is a situation in which clinical trials of drugs are carried out in a sloppy, shoddy, and flawed way, sometimes illegally, and with no regard for the health - or lives - of the subjects. But even if the trials follow the rulebook, it is important to note they have anyhow lost much of their meaning, being a priori designed to show the drugs to be effective, and hence, as Gøtzsche has highlighted in his book, very few patients actually benefit from the drugs that are recommended to them. He has a simple example of this in his book in the case of antidepressants.
When antidepressants are prescribed to patients suffering from depression, 60% of them report feeling better after 6 weeks. Yet half of those given a placebo say the same in the same time period. Gøtzsche also points out though that this is not even a case of a placebo effect, since if one leaves the patients untreated and talks to them again when 6 weeks have passed, many of them will have recovered, or in other words, the illness will have simply run its natural course.
Antidepressants do not have clinically meaningful benefits and they double the risk of suicide, says Gøtzsche.

As medicines always have side effects, i.e. they potentially do harm to the patient instead of good, it is quite natural that any intervention with medicines should always be carefully considered. However, the interests of the pharmaceutical companies are at odds with this, because their aim is to maximise the profits from the sale of their products. Gøtzsche writes to u:
"Drug regulation is hugely dysfunctional. If it worked as intended, our drugs would not be the leading cause of death, which I have documented they are."
While back in 2013 he estimated that drugs were the third leading cause of death, he has now concluded in his recent article that they are the leading cause, ahead of heart disease and cancer.

Expelled from Cochrane because of criticism

In the autumn of 2018, his vocal criticism also brought him a personal setback - Gøtzsche was forced to resign from the board of Cochrane by a narrow majority. A few months earlier, he and colleagues had analysed a Cochrane review on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which had found that the vaccine was effective and had no risks of serious side effects. An analysis by Gøtzsche and colleagues showed that the Cochrane review was incomplete and ignored important evidence of bias. Similarly, Gøtzsche had previously criticised the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which had already said in 2015 that the HPV vaccine did not cause complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) in young women. The issue had been raised with the EMA by the Danish Health and Medicines Authorities, and Danish doctor Louise Brinth submitted a comprehensive response to the EMA's decision, and Gøtzsche supported this criticism. Neither the EMA nor Cochrane were up to the task in Gøtzsche's view and turned a blind eye to the serious side effects of the HPV vaccine. The real reason, however, for his expulsion from Cochrane was not his criticism of the Cochrane HPV vaccine review but of psychiatric drugs, he explains to us. Psychiatric drugs alone are the third leading cause of death, he says.

Commenting on expelling Gøtzsche, Cochrane cited 'the Governing Board's decision'
'based on an ongoing, consistent pattern of disruptive and inappropriate behaviours by Professor Gøtzsche, taking place over a number of years, which undermined this culture and were detrimental to the charity's work, reputation and members.'
They also mentioned that he had erred against the organisation's spokesperson policy, which requires spokespersons to clearly identify whether they are speaking on behalf of themselves or Cochrane. Gøtzsche writes in an email that he has documented that these allegations are untruthful in two books (e.g. see The decline and fall of the Cochrane empire). A documentary about Cochrane's moral downfall is also under way, he says. To Undark Gøtzsche has commented that Cochrane is now bending to industry influence and overlooking important documentation of harms. He said the organisation has become 'a servant to industry, which passively promotes what industry wants Cochrane to promote: messages that are very often untrue.'

Criticism of Covid policies

Of course, Gøtzsche was also vocal in his criticism of the policies used in the Covid pandemic, and rushing the Covid vaccines onto the market under emergency rules and without proper safety trials. Whistle-blowers have subsequently described in detail the shoddy and sloppy way in which these trials were conducted, including the falsification of data. Adverse reactions to the vaccines were not properly addressed and often not properly documented. At the same time, the pharmaceutical companies, the national regulators who authorised the drugs on the market, and, in their wake, most of the press, repeated that the vaccines were safe and effective.

However, as is now well known, these vaccines are associated with very serious side effects that can cause permanent injury and even death to people. Gøtzsche's work has also demonstrated the seriousness of this problem. He points out that when an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and senior editor at The BMJ, Peter Doshi and colleagues reanalysed the pivotal mRNA trials, they found that one serious adverse event occurred for every 800 people vaccinated with the vaccine. "Drug companies behaved during COVID as they always do, published flawed clinical trials in major journals of the vaccines," Gøtzsche comments to us now, with hindsight.

Gøtzsche, along with several other doctors and scientists, was also among the authors of a public letter published in December 2021 in the medical journal BMJ, opposing vaccine mandates, i.e. directly or indirectly forcing people to vaccinate. The letter stated that there is no evidence-based argument in favour of those mandates. The authors of the letter noted at the time:
"There is considerable uncertainty about the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines, some serious short-term complications, and a lack of data on long-term harms. In this situation, it is imperative that people are able to make a fully-informed choice about whether to have the vaccine or not."
However, Gøtzsche considers the most damaging Covid policy to be the lockdowns.
"The lockdowns were the most damaging aspect of the COVID pandemic. Sweden did not lock down and had one of the lowest excess mortalities in the world. They did the right thing and were heavily criticised for it."
Gøtzsche has discussed the question more elaborately with the former Harvard Medical School professor of medicine and one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration Martin Kulldorff here.

Founder of The Institute for Scientific Freedom

In January 2019, Gøtzsche founded The Institute for Scientific Freedom.
"Democracy, scientific freedom and freedom of speech are constantly under attack because of financial, political, religious and other special interests. These essential values get eroded if we do not constantly work on preserving them. Censorship of science is common. Unwelcome research results are often published with considerable delay, if at all, and often only after the researchers have modified their results or conclusions to accommodate the interests of sponsors or peers. Self-censorship is also common. Researchers may fear losing funding if they report honestly what they found, or they might never embark on science that is likely to lead to unwelcome results. It is far easier to get funding for main-stream projects that run no risk of changing the status quo than for innovative projects that might be of great public benefit."
The institute's website justifies the rationale for setting it up, while specifically pointing out that in the medical system the situation can constitute a threat to human lives, since the fact is that research is driven by pharmaceutical industry money. "Research that threatens industry's profits is being shut down and censored."

Gøtzsche adds, describing his institute's mission, that it was during the Covid pandemic that the restriction of scientific freedom and freedom of expression manifested itself on an unprecedented scale.
"Freedom of research and speech have been seriously limited during the COVID pandemic. I work to make people aware that we are approaching a situation that reminds me of the Middle Ages where the King approved or rejected new books."