Friday, 6 July 2012

BBC News. A sudden conversion to honesty?

The BBC Today programme this morning featured a piece on GlaxoSmithKline's recent $3 billion fine for fraud in the USA.  

So is this a sudden (and welcome) conversion to honesty for the BBC when reporting on health matters? Or was this news just too big for them to ignore, and brush under the carpet? (which is what the BBC normally does when it deal with the Big Pharma industry).

The questioning in two interviews by John Humphrys would have appeared to be direct, and indeed quite critical - for anyone who was not aware of 'the health debate', but as this series of articles explains, journalist's like Humphrys are not really conversant with this debate. Certainly, the interviews he conducted made it clear that he believed, or wanted to believe, this was a 'one-off' situation, and he seemed relatively happy to accept the re-assurances that 'this situation was all in the past'. The interviews certainly failed to to bring out the full seriousness of the fraud that GSK has now admitted too.

Nor did it highlight the several other important court cases in the USA, involving several Big Pharma companies, in recent years. These have all been studiously ignored by our mainstream Media, just as they were this morning by BBC News.

* Eli Lilly, in January 2009, fined $1.42 billion for mis-selling its drug Zyprexa.
* Pfizer, in September 2009, fined $2.3 billion for defrauding and misleading promotion of its painkilling drug, Bextra (which was later withdrawn from the market for safety reasons).
* Astra Zeneca, in April 2010, fined $520 million for illegally promoting the anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel.
* Merck, in November 2011, fined $950 million for illegally promoting its painkiller, Vioxx, another drug that had to be withdrawn from the market for safety reasons.
* Abbott, in May 2012, fined $1.5 billion for its illegal promotion of its anti-psychotic drug, Depakote.

So the GSK incident is only the latest of a number of scandals - all ignored by the BBC, and other Media sources. And these stories are, of course, only the tip of an iceberg of fraud and corruption that have been perpetrated by Big Pharma companies on patients over the last 50-60 years.

Conventional drugs have created disease, in epidemic proportion. And they have caused death, and has done for decades, on an unprecedented scale.

This article, by Child Health Safety, states that Big Pharma drugs are now the 4th biggest killer in the USA (if the British media were honest enough to report these issues, perhaps we would know how it was ranked in the UK). But it should not be the task of small, internet based organisations like this one to inform the public, and patients in particular, about the dangers of Conventional Medicine. Patients should not have to turn to the internet to learn the truth about Big Pharma's drugs.

BBC News, in its public service broadcasting role, should be at the forefront of investigating the dangers of Conventional Medicine. It is not there yet.

But at least this morning's brief flirtation with honesty on the Today Programme might just be a start for BBC News, and if so, it is a welcome, if long-overdue conversion to open reporting on health matters.

We are currently in a time when the morality of large multinational companies is being brought into serious question. The Murdoch press has plumbed the very depths of corruption. The Banking industry is under very serious review. But do Media organisations, or Banks, really cause the same amount of pain, suffering and death to the general public as Big Pharma companies?

* Is phone-hacking worse than causing disease through drug 'side-effects'?
* Does financial impropriety, however corrupt or serious, kill more people that pharmaceutical drugs?

Unlikely! And this is what makes it even more important that BBC News, and other mainstream media organisations, to begin reporting honestly to us about health news issues.