Wednesday, 4 January 2012

BBC News, Big Pharma - and an outbreak of honesty?

Could this be an outbreak of (very welcome) honesty within the BBC News service? Hitherto, their reporting of health issues has been lamentable, apparently only willing to publish the 'good' or 'positive' news about pharmaceutical drugs, and quite unwilling to tell its listeners, viewers and readers, any of the 'bad' or 'negative' news.

This morning, on its Today programme, the BBC reported that a BMJ (British Medical Journal) editorial had attacked the 'long-existing habit of the pharmaceutical and science community' to publish only selectively (that is, the good bits) about the clinical trials on new drugs. This, by itself, is an amazingly refreshing outbreak of honesty from the Conventional Medical Establishment! But to listen how the BBC dealt with this, listen to the broadcast at:

You will hear in the short clip that two examples are given of this Big Pharma practice, which has been going on for decades, largely without comment or concern from the BBC, or indeed, the mainstream media generally:

1. Tamiflu - about which Roche has apparently been refusing to publish data, and
2. Vioxx - where evidence about its link to heart attacks has been suppressed by the drug company.

Apparently, the BBC asked the drug companies to comment - but they declined! However, Professor Colin Blakemore said, presumably in their defence:

What journal will publish boring results?

Indeed, he appeared to assume that the public only wanted to hear the 'good' news, and certainly for as long as I can remember, this is all the BBC has wanted to report too.

Blakemore, perhaps mirroring the attitude of the entire conventional medical establishment, appears to have been more concerned about the need to 'entertain us' rather than ensuring, and safeguarding, the health of patients!

However, despite this unusual but welcome display of BBC honesty, it is also clear that they did not know how to ask searching and relevant questions on the issue. Indeed, they did not appear to recognise the importance to us all of this issue.

* How many pharmaceutical companies are failing to publish the full evidence about their drugs?

* On what basis are Big Pharma companies allowed to withhold important clinical information? Is this being done in order to sell more drugs? And if so, can this be in the interests of the health of patients?

* Are the Drug Companies being held fully accountable for any consequences to patients of the drugs they manufacture and sell? (Drug companies are being sued in the USA for the damage they cause patients, but not, it would seem, in this country).

* How many pharmaceutical drugs, and indeed which ones, are currently being prescribed without the full clinical information being known to medical personal and patients?

* How many patients are at this moment taking pharmaceutical drugs about which full information remains unknown? And what action will now be taken by the medical authorities to obtain this information?

* How long has the government, the NHS, and MHRA been aware of the practice? If the medical establishment has known about it, why has nothing been done? And if it did not know, is there a need to re-examine the basis on which pharmaceutical drugs been sanctioned, approved and prescribed to patients?

* Are local doctors and GPs aware of this practice? Are they, indeed can they be, fully aware of the impact any drug has on their patients?

Clearly, the BBC are more adept at criticising and attacking those people who are aware of the dangers of Big Pharma drugs, and who are looking for 'non-drug alternatives' to the medicine being offered to us within the current NHS-ConMed monopoly.