‘Nonsensical’ System: Dr. John Abramson on Conflicts of Interest Among Big Pharma, Medical Journals, and Regulators

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According to Dr. John Abramson, pharmaceutical companies, medical journals, and federal health agencies have conflicts of interest that would harm the public “tremendously.”

The problem has been demonstrated by how clinical trial data is being handled, said Abramson, a Havard Medical School lecturer and an expert in litigation.

“It’s a system that is inherently nonsensical,” Abramson said in a recent interview with EpochTV’s “Facts Matter” program.

Abramson explained that Big Pharma funds most of the clinical trials, and its influence could allow the data to be presented in a way that is in their best interest—selling more products. However, peer-reviewed medical journals don’t have complete data access and can’t guarantee the integrity of those studies. Government agencies also play a role in advancing Big Pharma’s agenda. These factors could lead doctors to prescribe or patients to accept a medical product without knowing its full risk.

‘Tabulated Data’

Drug companies prepare a clinical study report for a major clinical trial, but the data in the report is “tabulated,” said Abramson.

“Medical students and doctors are being taught that they have to practice evidence-based medicine, meaning the articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals, and the recommendations in clinical practice guidelines, need to be followed by good doctors,” said Abramson.

“What they’re not taught is that the peer-reviewers don’t get to see the actual data from the clinical trial. They just get to see the data that is summarized in the journal article manuscripts that are submitted.”

Abramson said drug companies fund 86 percent of the clinical trials that are conducted in the United States, and those manuscripts are typically written with the help or control of the drug companies “to put the best light on their drugs to present the data in a way that will have the greatest impact in prescribing their drug.”

“This is why we’re having the problems of recalls and drugs that don’t turn out to be as good as they say.”

Abramson played an important role in the investigation of Vioxx, a drug made by Merck and Co. pharmaceutical company. The investigation later led to the largest drug recall in history.

He said the experts who write the clinical practice guidelines couldn’t see the actual data from the clinical trials either.

Who Funds Clinical Trials

Clinical trials, that is, the study of a pharmaceutical product in humans, are essential to develop or approve a new medical product, such as a drug or a vaccine.

According to clinicaltrials.gov, a website maintained by the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as of July 3, there are 1,234 clinical trials, or interventional studies, relating to COVID-19 that have been conducted in the United States. Among them, 177 were funded by NIH or other federal agencies, 510 were funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and 582 were funded by individuals, universities, or organizations.

The National Library of Medicine told The Epoch Times via email that multiple groups could fund a clinical trial so that a study may be counted twice.

For clinical trials funded by individuals, universities, or organizations, the money may actually come from Big Pharma.

It’s reported that universities relied upon Big Pharma’s grants for most of their medical research.

For individuals, universities, or organizations, another donation source is philanthropic organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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