Should “experts” be given a pulpit without one word about their serious conflicts of interest? Action Alert!
Last month the Wall Street Journal published Dr. Paul Offit’s pro-vaccine screed without disclosing his major financial conflict of interest. As we reported then, he’s the inventor of the rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq, which is now recommended for universal use among infants by the CDC. He makes untold amounts of money from vaccines. He is entitled to his opinion, however ill-informed it may be, but it is shameful that the prestigious Wall Street Journal has not insisted on a full disclosure of his financial interest.
Readers like you sent over sixteen hundred letters to the Wall Street Journal, asking them to publish an editorial note and correction of their omission of Dr. Offit’s financial connections to the industry he is trumpeting so loudly. The WSJ has not done so, and has not responded to our letters.
Unfortunately, conflicts of interest—which often lead to important clinical data being deliberately concealed by the pharmaceutical industry—are rampant in today’s scientific research. The relationship between conflicts of interest and withheld or distorted data is illustrated by the Tamiflu/Relenza saga.
You may recall our report on how Roche Pharmaceuticals withheld critical data about the flu virus drug Tamiflu. The withheld data suggested the drug was no more effective than aspirin. This meant that billions in taxpayer dollars had been wasted because the US had stockpiled over 37 million doses of the useless stuff. We also reported the ineffectiveness of GlaxoSmithKline’s antiviral drug Relenza, which reduced rates of infection by only 8%. Compare this to the 58% effectiveness rate of vitamin D3!
Since our reports, a study was published in the British Medical Journal examining 170,000 pages of data from twenty Tamiflu trials and twenty-six Relenza trails. The study concluded that the drugs’ efficacy on complications from influenza (e.g., pneumonia) could not be determined, and noted that when Tamiflu was used in prevention trials, there was an increased risk of headaches, psychiatric disturbances, and renal events. Tamiflu also failed to prevent flu patients from carrying the virus and spreading it to others.
Roche isn’t backing down. The company cites data published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine which, they claim, demonstrates the effectiveness of their drug. Here’s where the conflicts of interest come in. Of course, they could not lay claim to impartiality in the study—it was funded by Roche! In fact, seven out of eight studies by researchers with financial conflicts of interest touted the effectiveness of neuramindase inhibitors such as Tamiflu and Relenza) and recommend their use, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. By contrast, of the twenty-nine studies conducted by scientists who didn’t receive money from the makers of the flu drugs, only five had favorable outcomes!
Such disturbing financial conflicts of interests have been influencing science for a number of years now. Marcia Angell, former editor of New England Journal of Medicine, pointed out in her 2004 book The Truth about the Drug Companies that PhRMA, the lobbying group Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, employs more Washington lobbyists than there are members of Congress. Since 2007, the group has spent more than $155 million on lobbying.
Here are some further distressing facts:
- In 2008 there were 2.3 million patients participating in about 50,000 clinical trials via $58 billion of privately funded drug research. Medical research analysts have concluded that the sheer volume of clinical research has overwhelmed the ability of medicine to assess these trials independently—which means that many unsuccessful clinical studies testing prescription drugs will never see the light of day.
- A 2009 report from the Department of Health and Human Services called FDA’s drug screening process “unreliable” because 42% of the applications for new drug approval lacked complete financial information. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 23% and 28% of university researchers had financial ties to the drug industry. We think this is an understatement.
- According to an investigation by the British Medical Journal, the World Health Organization overstated the H1N1 (swine flu) danger (and thus the need to stockpile vaccines) based on recommendations from experts who had ties to drug companies.
- About half of all drug trials aren’t made publicly available, and positive findings are twice as likely to be published as negative ones for the same drug.
- Many “independent” studies are designed, conducted, and analyzed by the drug companies, and then published under a physician’s name. At best, this ghostwriting practice is dishonest; at worst, it is downright fraudulent.
Conflicts of interest are not just troubling. They also throw a shadow on every positive outcome, making a mockery of any attempt at serious research.
Action Alert! Even if you have done so already, please send a message to the Wall Street Journal. Ask them why they are ignoring our calls for them to disclose their contributors’ financial interests, and once again ask them to publish an editorial note and correction of their omission. Send your message today!
6 thoughts on “Wall Street Journal Ignores Over Sixteen Hundred Letters Challenging Its Journalistic Ethics”
To Editors & Reporters of the WSJ
I am very disappointed that in some of your columns and reports you have failed the public by not revealing the possible conflicts of interest therein. The poster child for such a conflict is Dr. Paul Offit who can financially benefit from the sale of certain vaccines. Then he speaks in favor of vaccines thereby promoting his own private wealth accumulation. I consider that unconscionable so please clarify such situations in the future by full disclosure of such conflicts.
Thank you for reading my concern.
Richard P. Fuller
22 Hazlet Ave.
Hazlet, NJ 07730
It must be frustrating to fight virtually 100% of the medical community as well as centuries of successes.
Those other people with degrees and research papers and population studies must seem so arrogant. Why should mere facts give them the right to a different conclusion?
If one is not willing to read the research as I have please watch the PBS special that is still available on its web site.
So how much did the pharma cartel pay the wall street journal to publish this crap? How many people have to die because of the lies> It doesn’t matter to them because they still get their money from the sales of the poison. The common man has no idea they are being played. Where is true journalism today? I would rather have Walter Winchell of the past than all of the media today because at least both sides of the story was told. WSJ is no different that all the other media outlets, they all lie and they all protect the ones that pay the most to hide whatever it is they want hidden from the public. All I can say is one day God will get them and it won’t be pretty. What goes around comes around. shame on the main stream media and shame on the WSJ!
Stop all this corruption!!! Stop poisoning our children !!! Don’t you people have any since of right & wrong??? Will you sell your souls to the devil??? Stop!!! Do what’s right!!!
Does anyone actually trust the WSJ anyways? Blatant propaganda written by supposed industry experts.
“EXPERTS?” Who would trust experts anymore? You really, really have to check them out.
WSJ being the point of this article – look at what the experts have done for the economy – the WSJ specialty being economy. The economy is at best limping along. Despite this, rich people are getting rich at record rates. Now either the economic expertise in general is grossly incapable of bringing a robust economy back online – in which case intelligent people don’t obey or take the advice of those “experts” and we have to assume that the uninntentional fallout is the accidental wealth increase for the uber rich.
The alternative theory would be that the “experts” push policies which make the rich richer as they keep the economy depressed for the advantages the wealthy are accruing. Again, society as a whole is NOT benefitting from such “expert” advice and needs to stop following it – again.
Assange from WIKIleaks was quite assailed for publishing State Dept memos in which their bigotry towards the people they worked with was exposed. The govt position is that the politicians need to use their expertise to keep the world safe. How’s THAT working out for you. Most people don’t recall this, but the leaks quoted a Saudi royalty as stating that the US should bomb Iran. When asked by the press, he calmly stated that yes, he thought the US should bomb Iran.
The NEXT DAY Iran stated that they would now allow UN inspectors into their nuclear program for monitoring. So Assange’s leak was MORE EFFECTIVE than state dept bullshyt. Hmmm
As for the other signs of govt expertise – we are less free, have a more restricted life improvement capability, are being forced (by govt in collusion with rich psychos) to consume the most toxic and least nutritious foods grown, are involved in more wars of economic empire and in general – our government is killing us and destroying America.
You don’t have that happen for 60 years and find out that it was an accident. Such a long-term damage train is not coincidence. It is intentional, carried out by BOTH parties, since both dems and reps are necessary to pass bad and kill good legislation (& vice-versa) and they pass 15 bills to hand out goodies to the rich for every bill that purports to help the populace.
Yeah – “experts” aren’t doing too well out there right now. The good news is that true experts do exist, but you need to look outside the box.