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How Big Pharma greed is killing tens of thousands around the world

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EXCLUSIVE: How Big Pharma greed is killing tens of thousands around the world:

Patients are over-medicated and often given profitable drugs with 'little proven benefits,' leading doctors warn
  • Queen's former doctor, Sir Richard Thompson, has backed new campaign
  • Experts calling for urgent public enquiry into drugs firms' 'murky' practices
  • They say too much medicine is doing more harm than good worldwide
  • And claim many drugs such as statins are less effective than thought

The Queen's former doctor has called for an urgent public enquiry into drugs firms’ ‘murky’ practices.

Sir Richard Thompson, former-president of the Royal College of Physicians and personal doctor to the Queen for 21 years, warned tonight that many medicines are less effective than thought.

The physician is one of a group of six eminent doctors who today warn about the influence of pharmaceutical companies on drugs prescribing.

The experts, led by NHS cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, claim that too often patients are given useless – and sometimes harmful – drugs that they do not need.

They maintain drugs companies are developing medicines they can profit from, rather than those which are likely to be the most beneficial.

And they accuse the NHS of failing to stand up to the pharmaceutical giants.


Sir Richard said: ‘The time has come for a full and open public enquiry into the way evidence of the efficacy of drugs is obtained and revealed.

'There is real danger that some current drug treatments are much less effective than had previously been thought.’

He said the campaign highlights the ‘often weak and sometimes murky basis on which the efficacy and use of drugs, particularly in the elderly, are judged’.

Writing for MailOnline, Dr Malhotra says commercial conflicts of interest are contributing to an ‘epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients in the UK and beyond’.

Furthermore, he adds the NHS is ‘over-treating’ its patients, and claimed that the side effects of too much medicine is leading to countless deaths.

And he claims the full trial data on statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to millions - has never been published, and also points to questions about the power of Tamiflu, a drug that has cost the NHS nearly £500 million.

The group has called on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to conduct an independent enquiry into the safety of medicines.

They claim public funding is often allocated to medical research because it is likely to be profitable, not because it will be beneficial for patients.

Dr Malhotra said: ‘There is no doubt that a “more medicine is better” culture lies at the heart of healthcare, exacerbated by financial incentives within the system to prescribe more drugs and carry out more procedures.

‘But there’s a more sinister barrier to making progress to raise awareness of - and thus tackle - such issues that we should be most concerned about.

There is no doubt that a “more medicine is better” culture lies at the heart of healthcare, exacerbated by financial incentives within the system to prescribe more drugs and carry out more procedures

Dr Aseem Malhotra

‘And that’s the information that is being provided to doctors and patients to guide treatment decisions.’

He accused drugs companies of ‘gaming the system’ by spending twice as much on marketing than on research.

Dr Malhotra says that prescription drugs often do more harm than good, with the elderly particularly at risk.

One in three hospital admissions among the over-75s a result of an adverse drug reaction, he claims.

In addition to Sir Richard, Dr Malhotra is backed by Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health; psychiatrist Dr JS Bamrah, chairman of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; cardiologist Professor Rita Redberg, editor of medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine; and Professor James McCormack, a pharmaceutical scientist.

Dr Malhotra, who is launching the campaign in a personal capacity, is a trustee of the King's Fund health think tank, a member of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and advisor to the National Obesity Forum.

He is particularly critical of the dramatic recent increase of the prescribing of statins.

NICE – the NHS drugs rationing watchdog – lowered the threshold for prescribing statins in 2014 to encourage GPs to prescribe the drugs to more people.

But it later emerged that six of the 12-strong panel received funding from drugs manufacturers - either by being paid directly to give speeches or 'advice', or through funding for research.

Dr Malhotra claims that the full data on the power of statins and their side effects have never been published.

He also points to questions about the efficacy of Tamiflu – a flu drug that the NHS spent £473million stockpiling.

A 2014 report by a panel of eminent scientists concluded that Tamiflu was no more effective than paracetamol.

Dr Malhotra also cites an investigation by the BMJ medical journal, which earlier this month suggested that major blood thinning drug Rivaroxaban is not as safe as its trial data suggests, although the regulator stands by the drug.

He writes: ‘For the sake of our future health and the sustainability of the NHS it’s time for real collective action against “too much medicine”, starting with the Public Accounts Committee launching a full independent inquiry into the efficacy and safety of medicines.’

Professor Ashton added: 'Public health relies on a comprehensive, accurate and cost effective evidence base to ensure we make decisions based on the best available research that improve and protect people’s health, as well as prioritise care in the best way for patients.’

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