Three days ago I wrote a blog post titled: “Would The Real Ben Goldacre Please Stand Up?”. The gist of the blog post was a general illustration of how people (particularly doctors, psychiatrists and academics) can be seduced and manipulated by the pharmaceutical industry. I used Ben Goldacre as an example because quite frankly- his stance on the pharmaceutical industry confused me. On the one hand- he writes about drug company corruption and advocates for better access to clinical trail data- but on the other- he accepts awards from GSK (one that I am aware of anyhow) and gushes undue praise on the management of the company (GSK ) that he criticizes in his books.
I find this attitude baffling. I really do.
I understand that there are obvious overlaps within the pharmaceutical world between the industry, regulation, academia, universities, marketing and science etc. It is common for scientists and academics to receive bursaries and funding for research (particularly early on in their careers) and this doesn’t always mean that a conflict of interest, a bias, or corruption comes along with that -but what really frustrates me is how the industry (and those attached to it) doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with this generally. It’s as if there is an attitude of- “it’s so rampant and ingrained” that they wonder why anyone would question it? The attitude seems to be- “everyone has either done it- is doing it- or will do it” so what’s the problem?
And herein lies exactly the problem…
Because it is so widespread: this forms the crux of the problem! Industry has too much power and influence. That’s the problem!
Companies like GSK have their monetary tentacles in literally every facet of UK society. Globally they are powerful too- but it is on their home-turf where they are virtually untouchable. They basically operate above the law.
Why is this?
It’s simply because they are the UK’s biggest drug company (and second biggest globally)- they are massively important for the UK economy- not just in terms of jobs in research, development, factories etc- but also in terms of what they donate to, support, and sponsor in regards to universities, science, scholarship etc. They are massively influential. Too influential.
Often it is difficult to entangle who is indirectly being funded by pharmaceutical companies because they can sometimes donate to organizations (patient groups, astro-turfing) who then funnel funding through to different people and on to individuals. And then we have the problem of who owns stocks and shares in companies like GSK? How does that influence policy? How much influence and power do GSK have over politicians, the government, regulation, academia, etc etc etc.
From what I have researched- GSK have immense power in the UK. Too much power.
This wouldn’t be a problem if GSK were an ethical and moral drug company who cared about patients before profits. But, alas they are not. They are just simply not ethical and they have never given any reason for us to believe that they ever will be.
I could rattle off dozens of instances of GSK’s unethical behavior but I won’t as I have almost 500 blog posts documenting that.. and I think anyone who knows the industry would have to be aware that GSK are amongst the worst offenders of corporate crime of recent times…but anyhow all that has been documented on this blog and all over the web so I won’t talk about that now…
But what I would like to talk about is Ben Goldacre’s comments on my blog-post.
I did not expect Ben Goldacre to comment on the blog-post and I was surprised when I noticed views coming from the Guardian. I did not expect the comments after the post to turn into something of a debate either. Furthermore, I honestly have had little interest in Ben Goldacre until recently. I was aware that he was involved in Alltrials and wrote Bad Pharma, but it wasn’t until I began to think to myself that he was possibly being manipulated by GSK that I started to research stuff online.
I don’t think that Ben Goldacre is corrupt at all. Not in the slightest bit. I think his heart is sincerely in the right place. I honestly think he is one of the good guys and I think he genuinely wants to do the right thing, but I do think he could be being misled by GSK and I think it could be precisely because of his trusting nature that GSK have endorsed him and his Alltrials organization. I also think GSK are cynically using his celebrity and popularity for PR purposes – and I hope Ben begins to see that too, or at least becomes a little aware of it…
That’s just what I think and that’s my opinion- and that was the purpose of the blog post. I hope I am proved wrong and that GSK will give access to all their trials- particularly the raw data- nobody would like that more than me- it’s what I have been calling for – for several years on this blog! I was prescribed Seroxat and I would love to know what GSK have hidden about that!
However, I have been scrutinizing GSK for a long time now- and I just do not trust them- nor will I ever -and I think it’s foolish to approach them with anything but mistrust and caution. They have broken every promise in relation to trial data so far so it is likely that they will not change their policy now, or they will find a way around all this… they always do. If they do give data it will be on their terms- they will not do anything that goes against their interest- they never do.
I could go on and on about how corrupt, fraudulent and criminal GSK are but everyone knows that- or at least they should!
But I would like to sincerely say to Ben..
and if you would like to contact Bob Fiddaman – he has information that he would like to pass on to you- it might help..
E-mail him here:
Good luck 🙂