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15 Dirty Big Pharma Tricks That Rip You Off and Risk Your Health for Profit

pharma
© unknown
Even during a recession, pharma is still the nation's third most profitable sector. Here are some of the dirty tricks it employs to stay on top.

Even during a two-year recession with people losing their homes and jobs, pharma is still the nation's third most profitable sector. How does it do that? In part by cheating the government, misrepresenting science, bribing doctors, patients and pharmacies, and squeezing the FDA. Other than that, the industry plays completely fair. Pharma has often been criticized for lack of creativity in developing new drugs. But these dirty tricks show its creativity is alive and well when it comes to putting the public at risk just to turn a profit.
  1. Astroturf Patients?

    Pharma promotes fake patient advocacy groups to lobby for its interests.

    These front groups often push the FDA to approve an expensive drug that has acceptable, cheaper alternatives. Or, they'll try to prevent Medicaid from switching to the less pricey drug. One of the largest faux groups, the "grassroots" National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), was investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley for undisclosed pharma links. He found the 10 top NAMI state chapters received $3.84 million from pharma in less than five years, the biggest largesse from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

    How else can you tell an astroturf group? Their Web sites look just like the pharma companies that fund them.
  2. Cheating the Government

    Pharma is now a top defrauder of the federal government. "Desperate to maintain their high margin of profit in the face of a dwindling number of important new drugs," pharma illegally promotes unapproved uses of drugs and deliberately overcharges Medicare and Medicaid, says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. Pharmaceutical companies have been hit with $14.8 billion in wrongdoing settlements in the last five years. But that's still cheaper for Big Pharma than going about things the old-fashioned, legal way. So the fraud continues.
  3. Trials and Fibulations

    Presiding over clinical trials can make a doctor thousands per patient. But they wouldn't compromise patient safety just to make a buck, would they? Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Richard Borison and his colleague Bruce Diamond did 13 years ago when they tested Zyprexa, Risperdal and 20 other drugs and ended up in jail. So did Baystate Medical Center's Scott Reuben, who went to prison earlier this year for fraudulent Celebrex, Neurontin and Lyrica trials. And a Tucson facility testing asthma drugs Symbicort, Advair and Singulair doctored data and risked patients' health to net as much as $10,000 per patient, according to a whistleblower and government and court documents. How many other drugs were tested for such fiscal outcomes? Not counting recalled ones, of course.
  4. More Trials and Fibulations

    Even without fraud, pharma-sponsored studies can deceive. Trials that only determine that a drug is "not worse" than another one or impute safety before real data are available -- as in the case of Vioxx and Avandia's threat of heart attacks -- can skew results. And some research is not meant to be accurate to begin with. The Johnson & Johnson Center for Pediatric Psychopathology Research at Massachusetts General Hospital was founded to "move forward the commercial goals of J.& J." according to unsealed court documents. Its head, Harvard's Joseph Biederman, promised J.& J. a proposed drug trial "will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone [Risperdal] in this age group," before it was ever conducted. Why leave things up to science?
  5. Overseas Adventurism

    As pharma increasingly eyes poorer countries for new markets and cheaper manufacturing it also eyes them for cheaper clinical trials. In 1996, 11 Nigerian children died in trials testing Pfizer's not-yet-approved antibiotic Trovan. While Pfizer paid the Nigerian government and state of Kano millions in a settlement, documents released by Wikileaks show that Pfizer tried to extort Nigeria's former attorney general to drop the lawsuits. Trovan was withdrawn from U.S. markets in 2001 for liver toxicity, though "safety signals" may have appeared sooner.

Smoking

Anti Smoking Campaign: Kingdom of Bhutan: Police Raid Homes to Stub Out Smoking Habit

anti-smoking
© unknown
Bhutan police can raid homes of smokers in a search for contraband tobacco and are training a special tobacco sniffer dog in a crackdown to honor a promise to become the world's first smoke-free nation.

Buddhist Bhutan, where smoking is considered bad for one's karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005, but with a thriving tobacco smuggling operation from neighboring India, the ban failed to make much of an impact.

But legislation passed in the new year, granting police powers to enter homes, is set to stub out the habit, threatening five years in jail for shopkeepers selling tobacco and smokers who fail to provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes.

Smoking in private is not illegal in the Himalayan kingdom, but as the sale of cigarettes is banned, smokers are restricted to 200 cigarettes or 150 grams of other tobacco products a month that can be legally imported. And they must provide a customs receipt when challenged by police.

The Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency has started raids, with officials allowed to enter homes if someone is seen smoking or if officials have reason to believe there is illegal tobacco there.

There has been widespread grumbling about the new rule.

Magic Wand

Italy: Evidence Mounts Over John Paul II Beatification

Image
© The Associated Press / L'Osservatore Romano
In this Nov. 2, 2010 file photo made available by the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI prays before the tomb of Pope John Paul II for the traditional November 2nd All Soul's day prayers, in the Vatican Grottoes. Evidence is mounting that the pope will soon approve the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II. On Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011, workers began restoring a mosaic near the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica where John Paul's remains are expected to be moved for better public access once he takes the key step toward possible sainthood.
Evidence is mounting that the pope will soon approve the miracle needed to beatify Pope John Paul II, setting the stage for a major celebration this year for a Catholic Church trying to recover from the clerical sex abuse scandal.

Italian news media have been reporting that in recent weeks Vatican-sponsored panels confirmed that a young French nun was miraculously cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to the Polish-born John Paul.

Pope Benedict XVI now must sign off on the miracle and set a date for the beatification, the first major step to possible sainthood.

Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, former No. 2 of the Polish Bishops' Conference and an old friend of the late pope, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he understood an announcement could come Friday, though he stressed he didn't have independent confirmation.

He said the beatification date could be as early as May 1, though other reports have said it would be later in the year given the enormous preparations that will be necessary to host the influx of pilgrims for the event.

On Thursday, workers began restoring a mosaic in a chapel near the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica, where John Paul's remains presumably would be moved for better public access once beatified.

USA

Ex-US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused of torture

rumsfeld

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

A US rights group has filed a lawsuit charging former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with involvement in torturing former prisoners in American prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) catapulted the torture case into prominence on Thursday after it lodged an appeal to a court in the District of Columbia, alleging that Rumsfeld and some senior US military officials were quite aware of a torture case involving nine detainees between 2002 and 2004 in American prisons in the two countries, AFP reported.

The case initially was brought forth in December 2006, but later on was withdrawn by a federal court in March 2007 on the grounds that the ex-defense secretary and other top American military officials were immune from prosecution.

Bad Guys

Congress Quietly Prepares to Renew Patriot Act

patriot act stamp
© n/a
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) has introduced a little-noticed bill that intends to once again renew controversial provisions of the Bush administration's USA Patriot Act that are due to expire this year.

When the act was first signed into law, Congress put in some "sunset" provisions to quiet the concerns of civil libertarians, but they were ignored by successive extensions. Unfortunately, those concerns proved to be well founded, and a 2008 Justice Department report confirmed that the FBI regularly abused their ability to obtain personal records of Americans without a warrant.

The only real sign of strong opposition to the act was in 2005, when a Democratic threat to filibuster its first renewal was overcome by Senate Republicans.

Since the bill introduced by Rogers on Jan. 5 was virtually identical to the extension passed last year, its passage was seen as likely.

"Given the very limited number of days Congress has in session before the current deadline, and the fact that the bill's Republican sponsor is only seeking another year, I think it's safe to read this as signaling an agreement across the aisle to put the issue off yet again," the conservative-leaning Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez wrote.

"In the absence of a major scandal, though, it's hard to see why we should expect the incentives facing legislators to be vastly different a year from now," he added. "I'd love to be proven wrong, but I suspect this is how reining in the growth of the surveillance state becomes an item perpetually on next year's agenda."

As senator, Obama promised to support reforming the Patriot Act, but voted in favor of extending it in 2005 and 2008. Similarly, he signed last year's extension into law with little fanfare. FBI and Department of Justice officials had consistently argued that restricting their blanket authority to conduct warrantless searches would harm national security.

Cult

'Gentile Sperm Leads to Barbaric Offspring!'

rabbi dov lior
© Gil Yohanan

Rabbi Dov Lior says Jewish Law prohibits sterile couples from conceiving using non-Jew's sperm, as it causes adverse traits. On subject of single mothers he says, 'Child cannot be 100% normal'

Rabbi Dov Lior, a senior authority on Jewish law in the Religious Zionism movement, asserted recently that a Jewish woman should never get pregnant using sperm donated by a non-Jewish man - even if it is the last option available.

Lior addressed the issue during a women's health conference held recently at the Puah Institute, a fertility clinic. His conservative stance negated a ruling widely accepted by rabbis, which states that sperm donated by a non-Jew is preferable to that of an anonymous Jew, who might pose a genealogical risk.

Take 2

Righthaven extends copyright lawsuit campaign to individual Web posters

Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC is now suing individual message-board posters, not just website operators.

Righthaven, which files copyright infringement lawsuits over unapproved online postings of material from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post, filed seven infringement lawsuits Tuesday and Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Nevada, lifting its lawsuit total since March to at least 203.

Among the defendants sued Monday were message board posters identified as James Higgins and Wayne Hoehn.

Bad Guys

World Business Leaders to Discuss UFOs & Extraterrestrial Life

UFO Conference
© Exopolitics Institute

A leading business forum discussing global competitiveness will in its annual conference host a panel discussing UFOs and extraterrestrial life. The Global Competitiveness Forum is hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and discusses business trends and insights essential for future business investment and competitiveness. The panel is titled: "Contact: Learning from Outer Space", and features famed astrophysicist Dr Michio Kaku and a leading Islamic scholar, together with prominent UFO experts Stanton Friedman and Nick Pope. The Global Competitiveness Forum is poised to introduce, perhaps for the first time, many world business leaders to key issues concerning UFOs and extraterrestrial life, and how these impact on economic competitiveness.

The Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) is hosted by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and will be hosted in the capital Riyadh from January 22-25, 2011. The GCF website says:
The Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF), the only event of its kind, is an annual meeting of global business leaders, international political leaders, and selected intellectuals and journalists brought together to create a dialogue with respect to the positive impact organizational and national competitiveness can have on local, regional and global economic and social development. It was founded in 2006 by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), and is held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia under the patronage of HM King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Beaker

Organic Ag in Jeopardy, USDA Close to Approving GE Alfalfa

alfalfa
© n/a
Is GM alfalfa the new Cold War? USDA urges peaceful coexistence.

The USDA seems to be paving the way for approval of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa with pleas for coexistence and cooperation. These will be needed. Organic alfalfa is the mainstay of organic animal feed. Organic standards exclude GM. But pollen from GM alfalfa transmits GM genes to organic alfalfa.

In releasing the Environmental Impact Statement on GM alfalfa, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack used Cold War rhetoric:
We have seen rapid adoption of biotechnology in agriculture, along with the rise of organic and non-genetically engineered sectors over the last several decades... While the growth in all these areas is great for agriculture, it has also led, at times, to conflict or, at best, an uneasy coexistence between the different ways of growing crops. We need to address these challenges and develop a sensible path forward for strengthening coexistence of all segments of agriculture in our country.
USDA is working hard on this one. It held a stakeholders meeting to discuss the issues. Secretary Vilsack also wrote an open letter to stakeholders pressing the need for coexistence:
The rapid adoption of GE crops has clashed with the rapid expansion of demand for organic and other non-GE products. This clash led to litigation and uncertainty. Such litigation will potentially lead to the courts deciding who gets to farm their way and who will be prevented from doing so.

Regrettably, what the criticism we have received on our GE alfalfa approach suggests, is how comfortable we have become with litigation - with one side winning and one side losing - and how difficult it is to pursue compromise. Surely, there is a better way, a solution that acknowledges agriculture's complexity, while celebrating and promoting its diversity.

By continuing to bring stakeholders together in an attempt to find common ground where the balanced interests of all sides could be advanced, we at USDA are striving to lead an effort to forge a new paradigm based on coexistence and cooperation. If successful, this effort can ensure that all forms of agriculture thrive so that food can remain abundant, affordable, and safe.

Nuke

UK Nuke Sites Put Public at Risk

the Bomb Store
© Press TV
Construction of the Bomb Store on Thetford Heath, known as RAF Barnham began in 1953 or 1954 and was completed by 1955.
A nuclear safety watchdog says UK nuclear weapons sites pose great public and environmental risks, amid complications caused by the government's spending review.

The Ministry of Defense's nuclear safety watchdog said in a report that there are 11 bomb-making sites and ports housing nuclear submarines across the UK that pose potentially significant risks, the daily Guardian reported.

Budget cuts and staff shortages were already hurting nuclear safety before the new government began slashing government spending, the report added.

The reports warns that efforts to reduce radioactive risks have been "weak", safety analyses "inconsistent" and attempts to cope with change "poor."

The danger zones include nuclear weapons sites and the two places where nuclear submarines no longer in use are docked, nine at Devonport in Plymouth and seven at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, said the report.

The report also reveals that there is "no funded plan" for the decommissioning of Britain's 16 defunct nuclear submarines.

The report by Rear Adm. Nigel Guild, chairman of the defense nuclear environment and safety board, is restricted, but the newspaper said it had been allowed to look at Ministry of Defense documents.

Guild said no money has been allocated to decommission the nuclear submarines. The report, which covers 2006 and 2007, identified 11 sites, including Devonport and Rosyth, where there are "potentially serious risks" -- as well as Aldermaston and Burghfield, the nuclear weapons factories, and nuclear submarines near Glasgow.