Dr David Healy has a belter of a post over at his website. The post, entitled, “Persecution: He Who Would Do A Great Evil”, throws out much for debate and readers have been forthcoming with comments.
Many of the comments mention the AllTrials Campain, spearheaded by Dr Ben Goldacre. He and I have never really seen eye to eye, he thinks I’m one of those “angry smeary conspiracy theorists”, (Fig 1) which is a shame. I’m really just a patient seeking answers from a big corporate company who lied about one of their prescription drugs that I took.
Three days ago All Trials published a letter from Ben Goldacre on their website, the crux of which sees the announcement that Goldacre, along with Síle Lane (Director of Campaigns at Sense About Science) are going to be banging on the doors of individual pharma companies to ask them what they’re doing to fix the problem of future clinical trials reporting.
At present pharmaceutical companies carry out clinical trials for their drugs and hand over the successful trial results to medicine regulators in efforts to get a licence to sell their wares to the public. Any failed trials (that shows the drug didn’t work or caused serious adverse events) are kept away from the regulators, doctors and the public.
I’m almost certain that Ben Goldacre didn’t wake one morning and think to himself, “I know what needs to be done, I’ll start a campaign calling for transparency and enter into a partnership with GSK on their terms.”
He probably (and this is just an assumption) was delighted when the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical company jumped on board the AllTrials train. His measure of elation overriding what lay beneath GSK’s reasons.
It looks great for GSK, even more so for AllTrials – what a coup!
One of the most abhorrent pharmaceutical companies in the history of medicine agreeing to open their doors to “the privileged” so “the privileged” can just see how GSK are trying, oh so desperately, to make it look as though they have nothing to hide.
Do you think for one minute that GSK would have jumped on board any campaign spearheaded by any of their fiercest critics?
The Seroxat User Group, back in 2011, asked for a meeting with GSK’s Andrew Witty. The meeting was an attempt to ask Witty for help on behalf of the thousands of patients suffering severe withdrawal problems at the hands of his company’s antidepressant Seroxat (known as Paxil in the US)
Witty declined, even though Janice Simmons, who operates the Seroxat User Group, had amassed over 60,000 emails from Seroxat patients, most of them are struggling to get off Seroxat.
GSK’s UK medical director Dr Pim Kon wrote back to Janice informing her that they (GSK) was not allowed to discuss personal matters with patients and that they should ‘talk to their doctor‘. [See – **Exclusive – GSK’s Andrew Witty in Patient Aftercare Snub]
It’s a perfect escape route for GSK. 60,000 emails from patients complaining about one of their products and 60,000 patients being told “Um, we can’t talk about your experience or offer you any guidance regarding withdrawing from our product… but you can talk to your doctor.”
AllTrials, however, have had red carpet rolled out for them by GSK because their campaign would actually make GSK look good. I mean whose idea was it to forget the 60,000 or so patients wanting help from GSK and, instead, focus on how to make GSK look like a great, caring company.
Put the two together – what’s more important?
GSK had nothing to gain by meeting Janice Simmons but they have everything to gain by teaming up with AllTrials. It’s all about image. Not the image of AllTrials. Not the image of Dr Ben Goldacre. The image of GSK.
Dr David Healy has given evidence against GSK in US Courts. Would they have been so obliging to him had they had been approached by him regarding a campaign to open their doors to show their clinical trials?
I think we know the answer.
So, why have they teamed up with Ben Goldacre who has, in the past, been slightly critical of them?
Well, Ben, as mentioned above, seems like the sort of chap who can be beneficial to GSK. Labelling me an “angry smeary conspiracy theorist” would have, no doubt, given the likes of former Glaxo spokesperson Alistair Benbow and Andrew Witty a jolly good laugh – “Way to go Benny boy, that Fiddaman guy is just a blogger and knows nothing about our medicines and how they have helped millions of people all over the world.”
By turning against the patient, be they disgruntled or be they advocates pushing for answers, Ben Goldacre has created a divide. He, himself, is a physician and any patient with questions about prescription medication should not be turned away and be labelled in such a way to make them feel they are wrong.
I think the concept of AllTrials is a good one. I think the terms under which pharmaceutical companies are agreeing to open their doors is a recipe for disaster. Goldacre, for what its worth, seems like a decent enough guy, I wouldn’t like him if he were my doctor though, especially if he could dismiss my concerns over a drug with a brush of the hand and a slur of conspiracy theorist.
If the likes of GSK wish to be transparent then they should be so with absolutely no restrictions.
Joining forces with AllTrials is pretty on the eye yet deceiving.
GSK, in this instance, are your street magician. They are showing the public the delights of magic and the public applaud.
Always bear in mind that magicians often use secret helpers to accomplish their magic. They also use sleight of hand to make things just disappear… Think Paxil 329.