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In the pocket

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Our main feature this month ( highlights two disturbing statistics about Big Pharma: in 2011, it was recorded as the most fraudulent industry group in the world, while its drugs became more lethal than traffic accidents, killing one person every 14 minutes in the United States alone.

These worrying facts beggar two obvious questions: why hasn’t the media featured them? And why aren’t our politicians jumping up and down, demanding immediate controls?

The answer lies in another statistic from the drugs industry: for every pound and dollar it spends on research and development, it spends two on ‘promotion’, which includes political lobbying and media influence.

Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper recently accepted an undisclosed sum from the drugs industry to run a series of ‘independent’ health policy articles.

Murdoch’s son, James, sits on the board of UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate responsibility committee to review “external issues that might have the potential for serious impact upon the group’s business and reputation”. External issues such as The Times, The Sun, The Sunday Times and Sky TV, perhaps, all a part of the News International empire, which James helps to control.

It works the other way, too. Doctors sit as ‘independent’ consultants on editorial panels that determine the broadcasts that are fit and proper for us to read, see and hear. Lynne McTaggart’s ‘regular’ column in The Sunday Times lasted all of one week before the Chief Medical Officer intervened, and the column was stopped.

Its influence extends to all areas of media, even advertising. It is contrary to the UK’s advertising standards to run any advertisement that might affect the sacred relationship between patient and doctor, even if that which is being stated is true.

The drugs industry is the biggest political lobbyist in the world, ensuring damaging legislation controlling its worst excesses are never passed into law. When the lobby system fails, it has enormous capital clout, and can threaten to close processing and manufacturing plants, as it did recently in the UK. Prime Minister Cameron quickly saw sense, and withdrew plans to slow the process for new drugs approval.

Back in 1989 when we launched WDDTY, The Times described us as a “voice in the silence” (James was a mere boy of 17 at the time). We still are – and we’re still among the few reporting on Big Pharma’s excesses, and the damage they may do to you. And now you know why.

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