Big Pharma attacks the NHS through 'grassroots' groups

By enquirewithin · Oct 1, 2008 · Updated Oct 10, 2008 · ·
  1. enquirewithin
    Drug firms bankroll attacks on NHS
    Special investigation: Charities' protests against Nice funded by pharmaceutical companies
    By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, Wednesday, 1 October 2008

    The rising tide of protest over the refusal by the NHS to provide expensive drugs for cancer and other conditions is being funded by the pharmaceutical industry, an investigation by The Independent has revealed.

    Patient groups that have been among the most vocal in spearheading attacks on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) over decisions to restrict access to drugs on the NHS depend for up to half of their income on drug companies, but details are often undisclosed.
    The growing clamour over decisions by Nice to ban access to certain drugs has outraged patients and the public, and undermined confidence in the NHS.

    Protests have been launched by charities including the National Kidney Federation, the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, Beating Bowel Cancer, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Alzheimer's Society. All of these charities received sums of up to six figures from drug companies in 2007.
    The extent of the drug companies' support for the smaller charities has led to criticisms that supposedly grassroots patient organisations are puppets of the pharmaceutical industry, being used to bludgeon Nice into making the drugs available on the health service. A positive decision by Nice on a drug not only guarantees sales to the NHS but can influence global markets worth billions of pounds.

    Yet none of the charities named has criticised the high prices charged by the pharmaceutical companies for their products in their recent campaigns.
    The National Kidney Federation (NKF) accused Nice of taking a "barbaric, damaging and unacceptable" decision when it turned down four kidney cancer drugs for NHS use this year and pledged to campaign against the decision. It did not criticise the cost of the drugs, at more than £3,000 for a 30-tablet pack. Half the NKF's £300,000 budget comes from the pharmaceutical and renal industries.

    The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (Arma) organised a protest letter from 10 professors of rheumatology, published in The Sunday Times last month, over a recent Nice decision to restrict access to arthritis drugs. The letter made no mention of the cost of the drugs but Ros Meek, chief executive, admitted that "half, or more" of the charity's £147,000 income came from the drug industry.

    The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society described the same Nice decision as "another nail in the coffin" for arthritis treatment and launched an appeal against it this week, with Arma and three drug companies. The society received 49 per cent of its £300,000 budget from the pharmaceutical industry in 2005-06, reducing to 26 per cent of its £472,000 budget in 2006-07.

    Beating Bowel Cancer, which condemned a Nice decision to turn down the bowel cancer drugs Avastin and Erbitux as "a scandal", and assisted a BBC Panorama programme on the postcode lottery in drugs for cancer, received 10 per cent of its £1m income from pharmaceutical companies last year. It also made no mention of the cost of the treatments. Two of the biggest campaigns against Nice decisions in recent years were organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and the Alzheimer's Society which, between them, represent millions of patients. Six figure sums were paid to both charities by drug companies last year but because they are large organisations, the donations accounted for less than 1 per cent of their total income.

    The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has tightened its code on drug company funding of patient groups, which requires companies to agree grants in writing and to be transparent. Both the RNIB and the Alzheimer's Society declare their drug company funding on their websites, in the spirit of the code, but many smaller charities do not. Tim Kendall, director of research at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said the pharmaceutical industry reached into "every corner of the health service" in order to gain influence.

    "Drug companies will try to do anything to align their interests with those of patients. They do things at every level of the health service and we know they do it with patient groups. It is a multi-pronged approach to persuade patients that their drug is the one."

    Cost effective? The medication selection process
    1. The drug is licensed for use as safe and effective by the European Medicines Agency.
    2. The Department of Health refers the drug to Nice for assessment.
    3. Nice convenes a committee of 20, including doctors, nurses, specialists, patients, drug company representatives and health economists.
    4. The committee compares the new drug with existing drugs on cost and effectiveness.
    5. The committee decides if the drug is cost effective using the Quality Adjusted Life Year (Qaly), a measure of health gain for quality and length of life.
    6. Drugs are mostly approved up to £30,000 per Qaly.

    Share This Article


  1. Synesthesiac
    Why am I not surprised.

    The amount they try to charge for these products is ridiculous. The strict multi-million pound testing laws and regulations for these (usually crap anyway) treatments mean they have a complete monopoly on the market. Give the instructions of how to make them to the worlds drug dealers, and the competiton would make the price plummet.

    Now who's going to invest multi-millions of dollars to get anything thats non patenable and thus cant have a profit made off it through as a treatment for cancer? No-one.

    As Griffin says: "A control for cancer is known, and it comes from nature. But it is not available to the public because it can not be patented, and therefore is not commercially attractive to the pharmaceutical industry" The amount of supression of viable cheap alternatives in this area is truly remarkable.
  2. salviablue
    Unfortunately "medicine" is all about patentability and profit, unless its diy, in which case its probably illegal!
  3. Benga

    not that i have any sympathy for the practices of the pharmaceutical industry, but is the Edward Griffin quote on a cancer-controling substance a reference to "amygdalin" / "laetrile" ( "B17") ?
    swim gathered that the conclusions on this were negative or inconclusive at best, beyond the supposed "pressure from parmaceutical groups" issue.

  4. Panthers007
    The Leatrile scam started back in the 1970's - hardly new. It's an organic cyanide (nitrile) from apricot pits. It will kill cancer - and you, too. It's too toxic for use in medicine. Anyone involved in this crap is not to be trusted. Lots of people died early from cancer by believing the hype around leatrile - and the "Government is trying to kill you!" conspiracy theories of the day. People with cancer traveled to Mexico to "Clinics" there where they were poisoned. Some died from the "treatment."
  5. Synesthesiac

    Christ. Why wasn’t anyone sued? I didn’t think murder by poison was looked on so lightly. How many people were murdered?

    Laetrile is not poisonous in normal amounts. Anyone who eats large amounts of it or gives people large doses of it is highly irresponsible, buts that’s the same for any drug or treatment. The molecule is made up of four components, two glucose, one cyanide, and one banzaldehyde. Yes, Cyanide is poisonous in gaseous form, they used it to gas people years ago, but this is only when in the pure form. When its locked up in the structure of the molecule, its not cyanide anymore, its a would be called a cyano[.....]. For example vitamin B12 contains cyanide, its called cyanocobalamin. Its not in its gaseous form, its locked up with banzaldehyde and glucose, and called amygdaline. Proponents think it works on treating cancer for a number of very good reasons, mainly by depositing the cyanide on the cancer cells, killing them, but not effecting the rest of the body.

    As everyone knows, cyanide can be highly toxic in its pure form, and even fatal if taken in sufficient quantity. However, locked as it is in this natural state, it is chemically inert. There is only one substance that can unlock the Laetrile molecule and release the cyanide, an enzyme called beta-glucosidase, and when Laetrile comes in contact with the enzyme in the presence of water, not only is the cyanide released but also the benzaldehyde. Fortunately, the unlocking enzyme is not found to any dangerous degree anywhere in the body except at the cancer cell, where it always is present in great quantity, sometimes at levels in excess of one-hundred times that of the surrounding normal cells. The result is that Laetrile is unlocked at the cancer cell, releases its poisons to the cancer cell, and only to the cancer cell. Theres another important enzyme called rhodanese, which has the ability to neutralize cyanide by converting it instantly into by-products that actually are beneficial and essential to health. This enzyme is found in great quantities in every part of the body except the cancer cell which, consequently, is not protected.

    The trouble is that no controlled or double-blind clinical trials have been reported (who would fund them? You cant patent it, so there no incentive to do so) And the few reported cases of cyanide poisoning are very dubious. Supporters of Amygdaline have since eaten many apple pips in one go, to show that there are no adverse effects. Your best bet is to eat as much as you would with your normal fruit intake, just don’t throw away the seeds. But over time, due to its bitter taste, this chemical and the seeds that contain it have gradually been processed out of modern peoples diets.

    As you said, The drug was tested in the 70’s by some major cancer research institutes. And this is where the story gets messy, depending on which side you listen to.

    Wiki says:

    After this Sugiura was pulled off the project, as it was presumed he had made a mistake, and they got two other scientists to perform the test, Elizabeth Stockett and her colleague, and they came up with essentially the same results as sigiura, in fact they were probably even more favourable than Sugiura was, and so they were pulled off the project too, and then finally the tests were given to a Dr Schmidt, who also verified this, but was told to keep quiet. And later all three were leaked due to angry people at the research centre, and due to this the final test was commissioned, which finally showed what they wanted; that there was no overall benefit to laetrile.

    So what were these mistakes that Moss got fired for that were thought to be inconsequential by the big pharma? Him and others that dug into the research pointed out a weird anomaly. The mice in the final test receiving the saline injection proved to have their tumours stop growing 40% of the time. Which is impossible, if that’s the case then salt water is the cure we’ve all been looking for! Moss claimed they did this because the Laetrile mice were getting a recovery rate of 40%, and they wanted to show that there was no difference between the two groups. But he was fired, and the case for laetrile considered closed.

    Some independant studies have been done since, and all have looked very promising, but they find it nearly impossible to get funding, as you don’t get a return from a non patentable drug. For example, one out many of these was conducted by Dr Mahendra Deonarain in 2000, and he came to the exact same conclusion that was postulated in the 70’s about the cyanide in laetrile being a very effective treatment for cancer. The BBC ran a good article on it:

    Cyanide targets cancer


    Of course if you were to take high doses of it it may have adverse effects, but thats the same as anything else. There does seem to be ample evidence of this working. The best way to prove or disprove the laetrile theory of cancer, would be to take several thousands of people, over a period of many years, expose them to a consistent diet of Laetrile rich nitriloside foods and then check the results. Fortunately this has already occurred by the study of the following cultures; The Hunza, aboriginal Eskimos, Hopi and Navajo Indians, Abkhazians.

    [/FONT] [FONT=&quot]


    I think instead of ridiculing the people that research treatments that would be basically free for anyone to create and open to the world we should take them seriously and invest money in these cheap alternatives to further test them, we should remain sceptical of what the big Pharma say about them and their research on the subject, they all work on money driven motives. Dismissing people as quacks without giving a decent reason always seems suspicious to me, and this why why I looked into this further.

  6. enquirewithin
    I've been to the Hunza valley and it is a very wonderful place where people are friendly and the landscapes are awe inspiring. I can believe that there many diseases don't (or didn't) exist there as its very remote) but there is no evidence for people's mythical longevity as far I can tell. Until the government set up a diarrhea clinic recently presumably people were still dying from dysentery (I had a dose of it).
  7. Benga
    for the anecdotal value it has, apparently actor Steve McQueen went to such a clinic in Mexico for cancer treatment and died there, no great escape that time.

  8. Synesthesiac
    yeah, appreciated, its no miracle cure. But a 40% sucess rate in certain tumours is higher than most of the amazingly expensive treatments today, and they all have huge side effects. Thats why it needs to be researched more, and not dismissed based on profit driven speculation. I wouldn't recommend to anyone to turn down treatment for cancer in replace of this if they have it, but I cant see the harm in just eating the pips in your apples or apricot kernels to raise your laetrile levels incase theres something to it. Wouldn't cause any harm, and you've also got another good reason for your mind to think you could recover, the placebo effect can be a powerful thing.
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!