You have heard that Big Pharma, led by Pfizer, will deliver us from corona virus. There will of course be a vaccine, and it will of course be costly. Proof of its efficacy will be shrouded in adulterated studies. If a true immunization is developed, it would be the first time in history anything like this ever happened in such a time frame. The following is an excerpt from my recently published book Butchered by “Healthcare” (Amazon). References are in the e-book.
Pharmaceutical corporations violate more criminal laws than any industry in history, as measured by their criminal settlements. The top 22 drugmaker payoffs since 2004 have their own Wikipedia page of shame. Nine of the ten largest companies are there, and five payments are for more than a billion dollars. Prosecutors allow these businesses to admit little and keep their executives out of jail if they pay up.
In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) paid a record $3 billion settlement and agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges. It was then the single largest healthcare fraud settlement. The company was alleged to have marketed unapproved uses of medications, lied to physicians about safety, lied in medical journals, and illegally promoted drugs for children. This involved ten medications: Avandia, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Advair, Lamictal, Zofran, Imitrex, Lotronex, Flovent, and Valtrex. As usual, there were no admissions of wrongdoing. Their stock rose nearly two percent after the agreement made the news. GSK’s gross receipts were $27 billion (2016), so the massive fine was a bit more than a single month’s total revenue, another cost of doing business.
In 2009, Pfizer accepted a $2.3 billion fine settling civil and criminal allegations for illegal marketing of their anti-inflammatory Bextra. John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative and whistleblower, said, “The whole culture of Pfizer is driven by sales, and if you didn’t sell drugs illegally, you were not seen as a team player.” It was the fourth Pfizer settlement within a decade and only sixteen days of their total revenue.
Eliot Spitzer sued GlaxoSmithKline when he was New York’s attorney general. He said, “What we’re learning is that money [fines] doesn’t deter corporate malfeasance. The only thing that will work in my view is CEOs and officials being forced to resign and individual culpability being enforced (2004).” People need to go to jail.
Litigation records like these are the visible tip of an enormous iceberg of concealed graft. Even bribery of foreign government officials, as reflected in US criminal settlements, has become commonplace, as described in a 2017 Public Citizen article. The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) describes scandals almost weekly.
Peter Rost, former Pfizer marketing vice president, compared the drugmakers to mobsters:
It’s scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob… obscene amounts of money… killings and deaths… [bribing] politicians and others… The difference is, all these people in the drug industry look upon themselves… as law-abiding citizens… However, when they get together as a group and manage these corporations, something seems to happen… It’s almost like when you have war atrocities; people do things they don’t think they’re capable of… because the group can validate what you’re doing as okay.
By 2002, the top 10 drugmakers’ profits equaled those of all the other 490 Fortune 500 companies together. Drug manufacturers, showered with federal and insurance money, have 20-25 percent net profit margins. Pfizer’s have been phenomenal: 51 percent in 2013, 43 percent 2014, 40 percent in 2017, an 44 percent 2018. Thriving industries which freely compete and are not state-supported average less than 10 percent net profit margins.
Courageous Cassandras introduced me to drug industry practices. Ben Goldacre, for example, wrote the following about drug studies:
Drugs are tested by people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analyzed using techniques which were flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments… You can compare your drug with something you know to be rubbish–a drug at an inadequate dose perhaps, or a sugar pill… you could peek at your results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good.
Bad Pharma, 2012
David Healy is an academic psychiatrist who wrote Pharmageddon (2012). He says that for twenty-five years the corporations have been fabricating diseases and syndromes and then marketing the drugs to treat them. He also says that over half of our pharmaceutical spending is for proprietary medications with dubious benefits such as antidepressants or statins. He calls the current drug approval system “research misconduct on a grand, international scale.”
Ghostwriters paid by industry draft more than half of all drug studies and even some textbooks. Academics whose careers depend on publication claim authorship and lend their credibility. Editors at prestigious journals give these authors a pass. When academic physicians want to author a paper, they often approach a pharmaceutical company that has the research, evaluation, and writing teams in place. Only ten percent of trials are still run inside the US because data scams are easier to pull off where there is less scrutiny. In The Citizen Patient (2013), Nortin Hadler adds:
[Contract Research Organizations, CROs, are] contracted to test for efficacy rather than to try to disprove efficacy. The latter is sound science. The former is profitable. The CROs, the recruited physicians, and usually the patients all receive remuneration for their participation. Long gone are the days when drug trials were free of vested interests, conflicts of interest, marketing undercurrents, and fraud. Some scandals [involve] “paper patients” and data massaging.
Dr. Robert Fiddes, a Southern California family practitioner, developed a business doing medical studies with fabricated data. He said, “…most researchers are forced to cheat because drug companies issue requirements for test subjects that sound good in marketing material but are impossible to meet in the real world… anyone successful in the business was skirting the rules.” He went to jail for 15 months after being convicted of research fraud.
Studies confirm that company money destroys study integrity. In a 2007 analysis of 192 studies of statin drugs, favorable outcomes occurred twenty times more often with drugmaker funding than with other sources of support. In a review of psychiatric medications, trials paid for by the companies were positive 78 percent of the time, while with outside funding, only 48 percent were favorable. In a survey of 161 studies about harmful chemical exposures, only 14 percent found adverse health effects when industry-funded, but 60 percent revealed harm when independently funded. Other reviews of hundreds of trials also confirm funding bias. Expert witness bias is a well-known analogous situation. Lawyers, like corporations, pick witnesses who favor the viewpoint of whoever writes their check.
Forty percent of the studies of antidepressants remain unpublished, undoubtedly because they revealed that the drugs did not work. In the published trials, industry may remove data, ghostwriters may misrepresent the information, or they may switch patients into categories that change outcomes. Suicide, violence, and other issues may be under-reported or hidden. As the rules exist now, drug companies are entitled to conceal whatever study information they want because they own it. The administrators and patient-volunteers sign gag contracts.
Another often-used hoax is to publish positive studies over and over. For example, a 2005 review from Cochrane, arguably the most respected source in medicine, found a Zyprexa research data set that showed up 142 times in various publications. Zyprexa’s cost is many times that of older drugs, although it is not more beneficial.
John Braithwaite is a pharmaceutical company whistle blower and author of Pharmaceuticals, Corporate Crime, and Public Health (2014). He said that marketing departments dominate the drug companies. He described the concealed studies and the decline of innovation in favor of promoting established classes of medications that make quick profits.
He suggested applying whistleblower laws from the False Claims Act to corporate crime. Whistleblowers get a portion of settlements, which “privatizes law enforcement.” These incentives work, but they are currently only used for fraud against the government. Braithwaite said corporate penalties should be criminal rather than civil. He believes “corporate capital punishment” is the only way to get their attention. This means government takeover and sale of all assets. He calls this “corporate execution.”
Federal prosecutors are powerful, but unfortunately, we have given these companies such enormous resources that they can afford vast lobbying operations and rich political payments. This effectively squelches most laws that could hold them criminally accountable. The standards for criminal conviction are high, so these cases are tough to prosecute against wealthy white-collar defendants. The prosecutors have discretion, and their culture is to leave the troublesome cases alone.
Civil suits have lower requirements for proof than criminal cases. Some plaintiffs’ attorneys have made inroads against the corporations. As of the publication date of this book, Purdue Pharma and Insys, both guilty of premeditated mass-murder using opioids, are finally being bankrupted by plaintiffs’ lawyers. Remarkably, another company purchased the Insys fentanyl spray out of bankruptcy, and they continue to sell it.
How did the drugmakers get so out of control? The pharmaceutical companies’ 2019 gross revenue, the total amount spent on drugs worldwide, was over $1.3 trillion (1300 billion). This had increased from one trillion in 2014. It is more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of any country except the top fourteen.
This industry is more than twice the size of Big Tobacco, which has only $500 billion in yearly global revenue. The National Football League’s gross receipts in 2018 were $14.5 billion. This would not have put it in the top ten pharmaceutical corporations, which had from $24 billion to $52 billion in revenues in 2019.
In 2003, a law slid through Congress stipulating that Medicare, the world’s largest drug buyer, could no longer negotiate prices with corporations. The statute directed them to pay 106 percent of the companies’ average wholesale price. Although this seemed reasonable, it allowed corporations to price-fix. The Veteran’s Administration, which was not part of the deal, now pays only about fifty percent of the Medicare rate for each medication. Even the notoriously wasteful US military bargains with competing defense contractors.
The US pharmaceutical lobby paid to make this happen. They spent $4 billion from 1998 through 2018, more than aerospace, defense, and oil/gas combined. The finance sector had the only lobby that was close—$5.1 billion between 1998 and 2008, but this figure included campaign contributions.
The US is only 4.3 percent of the world population, but soon after this legislation passed, 75 percent of the drugmakers’ worldwide profits and nearly half of all medication spending came from the US. The committee chairman who pushed the law through, Wilbert Joseph Tauzin II, retired to a $2 million a year pharmaceutical company job. A final, almost surreal detail is that half of these pharmaceutical companies are not based in the US and do not pay our taxes. This law allowed these outsiders to gouge us right along with the domestic corporations.
Will we be “saved” by a vaccine? Orwell’s 1945 quote about the delusions of academics applies here, “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”
Robert Yoho, MD
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There is no reason to trust any rhinovirus vaccine. There is a reason why nobody ever bother to try to make one before. Rhinovirii (Like Covid-19) mutate too darned quickly to make any vaccination effective. That’s why you can get several colds each and every year. For what it’s worth, yesterday I heard a “medical professional” on the radio explaining how the new vaccine was expected to be effective for 3-6 months.
In July there were 5 known strains of Covid-19. In August, there was a strain unique to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And then the news stopped reporting on the subject altogether. Gee, I wonder why the reporting stopped?
That was excellent. Thank you.
FANTASTIC. God Bless you
O, where does the fine money go?
Who receives it and what do they do with it?
Hating on pharmaceuticals, kissing the a** of greedy lawyers. I simply cannot read people who would will me DEAD and that is what killing “Big Pharma” would do. Healthy people who want DEAD sick people—absolutely immoral. Next we support Marxism because “they care”???? Briggs, you really horrify me some days.
Interesting read, thank you Dr. Yoho. So, medicine is corrupted. And science is corrupted. And business is corrupted and so are the arts, and sports, and law, and religion, and politics, and morals, and language. That’s a lot of stinking corruption. Hell, even my good dog has suddenly taken to rolling in goose poop. Dark days indeed.
On the other hand, I recently acquired a new pair of leather shoes of excellent construction and value, so shoes, at least, are not entirely corrupted… yet. And the old oak tree down by the lake still looks honest and upright. The lake, however, has invasive milfoil, and so is corrupted, dadgummit. Coffee beans are still okay. I don’t think Briggs has sold out yet but with all that big pharma cash sloshing about let’s keep a quick eye on him. And me. Because if I could get hold of some big pharma cash you better believe my twenty year old car is getting a new set of snow tires… if tires aren’t yet corrupted. Only problem is; nobody wants to corrupt me. A shame, no? Corruption, corruption, everywhere, and not a drop to drink! (Just joking, Satan, don’t go getting any stupid ideas.)
His book looks interesting. I read another book recently called The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine by James Le Fanu (1999). I think it discusses many of the same issues in the fall part. The books worth it for the rise part also. What was discovered by 1950 and how it was discovered is stupendous.
Excellent article, but I guess we’ll have to read your book, to find out who benefits from the billions of dollars in Big Pharma criminal settlement penalties. It’s the more interesting question that rarely gets asked or answered.
We know that under Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, many, many “settlements” were extracted from various “offending” companies, who paid hefty fines to avoid taking on the federal legal leviathan that almost always wins, whether you’re guilty or not. The Obama administration then handed most of this money over to their favorite left-wing orgs, who in turn donate mightily to Democrats. Rinse and repeat.
I get a little nervous when people start calling for the jailing of corporate CEOs. Has this author been sleeping the past few years? Does he think that our corrupt and increasingly totalitarian, fascist government should have this kind of power? Maybe we should ask General Flynn about that.
Another item I hope the author addressed in his book, is the huge pay-offs Big Pharma has made to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), by way of their “CDC Foundation” over the past ten years, well over $150 million. Might this have something to do with the CDC’s favoring new, expensive, profitable drugs, over cheap generics such as the proven-effective hydroxy/zinc regimen?
Let this sink in: the very government agency in charge of setting public health policy, is taking pay-offs from Big Pharma, and then virtually outlawing cheap effective medicines in favor of new expensive ones.
How many people have sickened and died, because they were denied hydroxy regimen, in order to enrich Big Pharma, who then in turn donated to the CDC and friendly politicians and beneficiaries?
Who are the real criminals here? Shall the government prosecute itself? Gee whiz, we’re still waiting for that to happen. Forget the CEOs, who are working in their companies’ best interests. Let’s prosecute some politicians and government workers, aka Employees of We the People, who are supposed to be working in OUR best interests, but have sold us out to the highest bidder, Big Pharma, Communist China, and any other John with deep pockets, to finance Pimp the Government and its various whores and other beneficiaries. They are Legion.
Lastly, and this is important: Why O why, do you utterly fail to mention that President Donald J. Trump has proposed legislation to give the US Government “favored nation status” and the power to buy drugs at the cheapest prices. He’s being fought tooth and nail by Big Pharma, and probably by most of our criminal politicians. Indeed, Big Pharma has everything to gain in a Biden/Harris presidency, and we peons have everything to lose.
Thank you (sarcasm) for joining the club who, purposely or otherwise, want to “cancel” Trump, by blindly ignoring his tireless efforts on behalf of the very causes about which you proclaim to care.
There are ways to encourage good behavior by politicians and CEOs but it requires transparency and better laws. We’re in the process of getting rid of the best President we’ve ever had, because he’s tried to do just that. It’s a rigged system, a real swamp, but then we knew some of that going in.
Thanks to Trump, the masks are coming off, and we see that the swamp is deep, and it is wide, and it is full of hangry gators. As the figurative masks come off, the literal ones are forced upon us, because we live in opposite-world now, a typical characteristic of the Communist mob mental disorder, Forced Collectivism. We now follow the Science of the State, reinforced by various exercises in obedience, such as pronoun crimes, and other nonsense. Meanwhile, wear your mask, it’s the law!
Ann Cherry: your point about jailing CEOs is interesting. We probably agree substantially on several points. However I’d argue it’s not a simple problem due to corporate personhood. Who is responsible when the corporation itself absorbs liability from consequences of individual humans making the decision to act? In other words when a real person is harmed by the actions of the CEO and the organization but the corporation is the one held responsible and punished in the only way it may be (financially) is justice really served?
You won’t go to jail for refusing to get injected with Kommie crap-cine, but you will not allowed to buy food or medicine, take any form of transportation, vote (who cares?), see a doctor, go to school, or breathe.
oh where to start…
1 – no, medicine is not corrupted- the selling processes for drugs have been.
What has happened with “big pharma” is that regulators have largely replaced the market as the control mechanism limiting and directing behavior. As a result the cost of litigation is reduced to a monetary charge against revenues i.e. it’s now a normal cost of doing business. Want to fix it? combine tort reform with deregulation. In a real sense people who act “big pharma” for its behavior are targeting the victim – please read my essay on this on telearb dot net.
2 – will the vaccine work? Yes – when not enough people in the control group get sick to justify making positive claims for the vaccine, it means that injecting people with a bit of salt water would work as well. Basically: for a disease that is largely imaginary for the vast majority, the placebo effect can be relied on to render the immune majority immune.
Just like with the financial industry the gov’t doesn’t care if the drug companies commit crimes as long as they get a “cut” of the profits.
The Federal is now just a criminal enterprise.
Please explain the relevance of this expose to whether or not COVID 19 vaccines will prevent those vaccinated from becoming sick with COVID19. Or is this just another drive by shooting via guilt by association so common in today’s “informed” discussion of events?
Whatever sins the pharmaceutical industry has committed, it has produced numerous vaccines that work, e.g. the Salk vaccine and vaccines against yellow fever, measles, shingles and even the annual flu. Millions, probably billions, of people all over the world have benefited from these discoveries. Will COVID 19 vaccines be similarly successful? Who knows, but the summary of Dr Yoho’s piece doesn’t really address, let alone discuss, that issue. Perhaps his most direct attack is the unprecedented speed of development. In one sense this is certainly true. Eleven months from unraveling COVID 19’s genome to successful trials of a vaccine crushes all prior experience. However, two vaccines use a new messenger RNA delivery platform that has been under study for more than 20 years.
The important question is whether the risks of taking the vaccine are greater than its benefits. Too bad Dr Yoho seems uninterested in that discussion.
No one writes books like this for money. If you are following this blog, you can download a free copy at dryohoauthor.com.
The issue with the criminal settlements is that they
1) are trivial for these corporations
2) they allow the same crimes to go on and on
3) the behavior that has been prosecuted over and over is certainly happening right now with this vaccine. (Most other vaccines with a few exceptions—flu for example—are the highest accomplishments in medicine).
The settlements money presumably goes back into the general fund. It is not earmarked for some nefarious purpose.
This was a long post but not every political or social issue could be addressed. Also, doctors who talk politics with their patients are engaging in not only boorish behavior but “boundaries violations” which destroy the doctor-patient relationship (call us on it if it happens to you). Yes, I have political beliefs but this COVID thing and the vaccine idea should piss everyone off, whatever their politics.
I’m trying to be objective and educational about the history and project what we are going to see in this narrow area. It will be the same pattern as what has gone on in the past 20-30 years, and it isn’t pretty.
For Mr. Smith:
No, I’m not into the weeds of vaccine development. There are more simple heuristics that ordinary people like me use to explain whole ecosystems:
1) do you start believing something told to you by someone who has always lied to you in the past because you like their story today? Spoiler for my book: some recent vaccines besides just flu are likely ineffective. Japan, which has a public health system as good as ours, said HPV is a failure (half the studies were likely concealed) and their vaccination rate for this is now near zero.
2) When the science is complex and controversial, and the numbers are huge and statistical significance is claimed yet the effects aren’t transparently obvious, and the profits are billions, do you swallow the fish whole? This vaccine is not going to be a health effect like smoking, which kills 1/5 Americans and half those who smoke. The press releases I’m hearing about the vaccine efficacy sound like a parody. What can we conclude about their veracity in view of their conflicts of interest?
Follow the money is the corruption. Democrat politicians, e.g. see Clinton, Obama, Spitzer, became very adept at extracting billions from all types of corporations (in return for settlements and non-prosecution agreements), then funneling the funds to various partisan-aligned interest groups and NGOs. Defensive litigation became another line-item cost of doing business foisted on the consumer.
In other words, the fact that Big Pharma (and others) have settled litigation and other govt regulatory action is evidence/proof of next to nothing, other than guilt by insinuation. One need only go back to the Johns Manville bankruptcy settlement and the tobacco settlement to view the litigator’s gravy train. No other country in the world subjects its corporations to the costly litigation system as the US.
The more curious aspect needing scrutiny is the fear and panic porn inflicted on the country (and world) for a 99% survivable flu-like respiratory ailment that has resulted in a govt-caused global economic recession ruining countless lives and businesses–for what? The accumulation of more power and wealth by politicians and govt-protected oligarchs??
And a vaccine to protect the young and healthy from a virus that predominately kills the most elderly and ill among us?
A form of American exceptionalism we could do without.
For Dr Yoho:
I neither believe Pfizer and others because of their claims and the history of vaccine successes nor disbelieve them because of their history of bad practice. My comment about “who knows” makes that point. On whether the vaccines developed so far are fit for purpose I am from Missouri: “Show me”. It is the job of FDA and other regulators to evaluate testing protocols and results to determine whether a medication is appropriate, i.e. efficacious and “safe”. I await their judgment and rationale.
In deference to your concerns what has surprised me is the calculation of 95% effectiveness for the Pfizer vaccine. This number is apparently based on the following data: 40,000 trial participants, two month trial duration; 175 COVID 19 positive test results, 167 of whom received the placebo. Perhaps the “Statistician to the Stars” can explain why we should find 95% to be a convincing number from what seems to be rather scanty data. What surprised me is that only 175 trial participants became infected during a time (post Labor Day) of rising infections (I assume that most of the trial period was in September and October and that trial participants didn’t hibernate for those months).
The pharmacy companies have a golden ticket: Donald Trump. Any problems with the vaccine will be his fault, since he’s the one behind “warp speed”. So my guess is that these vaccines are full of horrible things, intentionally or not, and president Trump will be blamed for it failing. If he’s in office still he will be impeached for it, if he’s out of office he will be sued. Or worse.
The Left are devious.