NYU Professor Uncovers How the FDA Systematically Covers Up Fraud and Misconduct in Drug Trials

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

That misconduct happens isn’t shocking. What is: When the FDA finds scientific fraud or misconduct, the agency doesn’t notify the public, the medical establishment, or even the scientific community that the results of a medical experiment are not to be trusted. On the contrary. For more than a decade, the FDA has shown a pattern of burying the details of misconduct. As a result, nobody ever finds out which data is bogus, which experiments are tainted, and which drugs might be on the market under false pretenses. The FDA has repeatedly hidden evidence of scientific fraud not just from the public, but also from its most trusted scientific advisers, even as they were deciding whether or not a new drug should be allowed on the market. Even a congressional panel investigating a case of fraud regarding a dangerous drug couldn’t get forthright answers. For an agency devoted to protecting the public from bogus medical science, the FDA seems to be spending an awful lot of effort protecting the perpetrators of bogus science from the public.

The sworn purpose of the FDA is to protect the public health, to assure us that all the drugs on the market are proven safe and effective by reputable scientific trials. Yet, over and over again, the agency has proven itself willing to keep scientists, doctors, and the public in the dark about incidents when those scientific trials turn out to be less than reputable. It does so not only by passive silence, but by active deception. And despite being called out numerous times over the years for its bad behavior, including from some very pissed-off members of Congress, the agency is stubbornly resistant to change. It’s a sign that the FDA is deeply captured, drawn firmly into the orbit of the pharmaceutical industry that it’s supposed to regulate. We can no longer hope that the situation will get better without firm action from the legislature.

From the Slate article: Are Your Medications Safe? 

In the past week or so, I’ve come across several important articles that will leave any rational observer increasingly skeptical of the entire medial industry in the U.S. This isn’t something I say lightly, and I think it’s an absolutely horrific development for our society.

Just last week, Liberty Blitzkrieg published an article titled, Introducing “Physician Dispensing” – The Latest Troubling Medical Industry Scam, which expounded on why an erosion of trust in doctors is so troubling. If you missed that piece, I suggest going back and reading it. Here’s an excerpt:

Once the corruption reaches a certain level of societal saturation, you create a culture in which people simply stop trusting everyone and everything. For obvious reasons, this is a very dangerous development. There are people whom you need to trust for any civilization to function reasonably well. Police are one, but doctors are another. I can speak for myself when I say that I am not convinced that any medical professional I see has only my best interests at heart. I seriously wonder how he or she is balancing my health with the ability to earn more money. From conversations with friends and family, I have found that this is much more widespread than we would like to admit. This is incredibly bad and incredibly sad.

While that article was bad enough, it is nothing compared to what I just read by Charles Seife, a journalism professor at New York University. He and his students set out to research the FDA and how it deals with evidence of fraud and misconduct in pharmaceutical drug trials. What he found will shock and disturb even the most hardened cynic. If you are one of the 70% of Americans that take at least one prescription drug, brace yourself…

From Slate:

Agents of the Food and Drug Administration know better than anyone else just how bad scientific misbehavior can get. Reading the FDA’s inspection files feels almost like watching a highlights reel from a Scientists Gone Wildvideo. It’s a seemingly endless stream of lurid vignettes—each of which catches a medical researcher in an unguarded moment, succumbing to the temptation to do things he knows he really shouldn’t be doing. Faked X-ray reportsForged retinal scansPhony lab testsSecretly amputated limbs. All done in the name of science when researchers thought that nobody was watching.

That misconduct happens isn’t shocking. What is: When the FDA finds scientific fraud or misconduct, the agency doesn’t notify the public, the medical establishment, or even the scientific community that the results of a medical experiment are not to be trusted. On the contrary. For more than a decade, the FDA has shown a pattern of burying the details of misconduct. As a result, nobody ever finds out which data is bogus, which experiments are tainted, and which drugs might be on the market under false pretenses. The FDA has repeatedly hidden evidence of scientific fraud not just from the public, but also from its most trusted scientific advisers, even as they were deciding whether or not a new drug should be allowed on the market. Even a congressional panel investigating a case of fraud regarding a dangerous drug couldn’t get forthright answers. For an agency devoted to protecting the public from bogus medical science, the FDA seems to be spending an awful lot of effort protecting the perpetrators of bogus science from the public.

We didn’t have to search very hard to find FDA burying evidence of research misconduct. Just look at any document related to an FDA inspection. As part of the new drug application process, or, more rarely, when the agency gets a tipoff of wrongdoing, the FDA sends a bunch of inspectors out to clinical sites to make sure that everything is done by the book. When there are problems, the FDA generates a lot of paperwork—what are called form 483s, Establishment Inspection Reports, and in the worst cases, what are known as Warning Letters. If you manage to get your hands on these documents, you’ll see that, most of the time, key portions are redacted: information that describes what drug the researcher was studying, the name of the study, and precisely how the misconduct affected the quality of the data are all blacked out. These redactions make it all but impossible to figure out which study is tainted. My students and I looked at FDA documents relating to roughly 600 clinical trials in which one of the researchers running the trial failed an FDA inspection. In only roughly 100 cases were we able to figure out which study, which drug, and which pharmaceutical company were involved. (We cracked a bunch of the redactions by cross-referencing the documents with clinical trials data, checking various other databases, and using carefully crafted Google searches.) For the other 500, the FDA was successfully able to shield the drugmaker (and the study sponsor) from public exposure.

Think about that. Despite all that digging, they were able to link questionable data to specific drugs in only 20% of the cases examined.

It’s not just the public that’s in the dark. It’s researchers, too. And your doctor. As I describe in the current issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, my students and I were able to track down some 78 scientific publications resulting from a tainted study—a clinical trial in which FDA inspectors found significant problems with the conduct of the trial, up to and including fraud. In only three cases did we find any hint in the peer-reviewed literature of problems found by the FDA inspection. The other publications were not retracted, corrected, or highlighted in any way. In other words, the FDA knows about dozens of scientific papers floating about whose data are questionable—and has said nothing, leaving physicians and medical researchers completely unaware. The silence is unbroken even when the FDA itself seems shocked at the degree of fraud and misconduct in a clinical trial.

Such was the case with the so-called RECORD 4 study. RECORD 4 was one of four large clinical trials that involved thousands of patients who were recruited at scores of clinical sites in more than a dozen countries around the world. The trial was used as evidence that a new anti-blood-clotting agent, rivaroxaban, was safe and effective. The FDA inspected or had access to external audits of 16 of the RECORD 4 sites. The trial was a fiasco. At Dr. Craig Loucks’ site in Colorado, the FDA found falsified data. At Dr. Ricardo Esquivel’s site in Mexico, there was “systematic discarding of medical records” that made it impossible to tell whether the study drug was given to the patients. At half of the sites that drew FDA scrutiny—eight out of 16—there was misconduct, fraud, fishy behavior, or other practices so objectionable that the data had to be thrown out. The problems were so bad and so widespread that, contrary to its usual practice, the FDA declared the entire study to be “unreliable.” Yet if you look in the medical journals, the results from RECORD 4 sit quietly in The Lancet without any hint in the literature about falsification, misconduct, or chaos behind the scenes. This means that physicians around the world are basing life-and-death medical decisions on a study that the FDA knows is simply not credible.

It’s not just one study, either. The FDA found major problems with sites involved in the other three clinical trials that were used to demonstrate rivaroxaban’s safety and effectiveness. RECORD 2, for example, was nearly as awful as RECORD 4: Four out of 10 sites that the FDA inspected showed evidence of misconduct, or other issues grave enough to render the site’s data worthless—including clear evidence of data falsification at one site. In aggregate, these problems raise serious doubts about the quality of all four key rivaroxaban studies—and, by extension, doubts about how seriously we should take the claim that rivaroxaban is safe and effective. The FDA is keeping mum, even as wrongful-death lawsuits begin to multiply.

In the decade since the Ketek affair, it’s hard to see any change in behavior by the agency. On occasion, the FDA has even actively approved and promoted statements about drugs that, according to its own inspectors, are based upon falsehoods. At the end of 2011, the FDA learned that an audit of a Chinese site involved in a key clinical trial of a different anti-clotting agent, apixaban, had turned up evidence of fraud: Personnel had apparently been fiddling with patient records. Worse yet, the fraud appeared to invalidate one key finding of the study. Just three months earlier, the researchers running the trial proudly announced in the New England Journal of Medicine that there was a “significant reduction in mortality” among patients who took apixaban compared with those who took the old standby, warfarin. Alas, the moment you exclude the data from the Chinese fraud site, as per standard FDA procedure, that statement went out the window. Yet look at the label for apixaban—the one approved by the FDA after the fraud was discovered—and you read that “treatment resulted in a significantly lower rate of all-cause death … than did treatment with warfarin,” backed up by the data set with the Chinese site included. In other words, the label is carrying a claim that the FDA knows is based upon fraud. In a written response to my questions on this subject, the FDA stated that, “The FDA extended the drug’s review period to address the concerns. However, the review team did conclude concluded [sic] that the data at that site and other sites in China did reflect meaningful clinical information; that was not what was considered unreliable.”

Again, this isn’t an isolated incident. I had previously encountered bogus data on FDA-approved labels when a colleague and I were looking into a massive case of scientific misconduct —a research firm named Cetero had been caught faking data from more than 1,400 drug trials. That suddenly worthless data had been used to establish the safety or effectiveness of roughly 100 drugs, mostly generics, that were being sold in the United States. But even after the agency exposed the problem, we found fraud-tainted data on FDA-approved drug labels. (The FDA still maintains its silence about the Cetero affair. To this day, the agency refuses to release the names of the 100-odd drugs whose approval data were undermined by fraud.)

The most common excuse the agency gives is that exposing the details about scientific wrongdoing—naming the trials that were undermined by research misconduct, or revealing which drugs’ approvals relied upon tainted data—would compromise “confidential commercial information” that would hurt drug companies if revealed. This claim falls apart under scrutiny. The courts have ruled that when information is provided by companies involuntarily, such as the information that an FDA inspector finds, “commercial confidential information” refers to proprietary material that causes substantial, specific harm when it falls into the hands of a competitor. It doesn’t cover embarrassing peccadilloes—or misconduct that might cause bad publicity when word gets out.

As usual, it’s all about protecting corporate profits. America’s new religion. 

The sworn purpose of the FDA is to protect the public health, to assure us that all the drugs on the market are proven safe and effective by reputable scientific trials. Yet, over and over again, the agency has proven itself willing to keep scientists, doctors, and the public in the dark about incidents when those scientific trials turn out to be less than reputable. It does so not only by passive silence, but by active deception. And despite being called out numerous times over the years for its bad behavior, including from some very pissed-off members of Congress, the agency is stubbornly resistant to change. It’s a sign that the FDA is deeply captured, drawn firmly into the orbit of the pharmaceutical industry that it’s supposed to regulate. We can no longer hope that the situation will get better without firm action from the legislature.

For related articles, see:

First is a MUST WATCH hilarious video by John Oliver: Video of the Day – John Oliver on Pharma Company “Marketing to Doctors”

Fraud Alert: FDA Allowed Drugs with Fraudulent Testing to Remain on the Market

The FDA is Caught Spying on its Employees and Creating an “Enemies List”

Introducing “Physician Dispensing” – The Latest Troubling Medical Industry Scam

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  • Me Who

    Sue on behalf of the US government or the FDA

  • These are the days that try mens souls!

    Feb 18, 2015 What You Need To Know About Medical Kidnapping

    In this video Luke Rudkowski talks to CPS whistleblower Carlos Morales about medical kidnapping by the state. Carlos exposes the medical system and CPS’s Corruption, Kidnapping, and Drugging of Children. He explains the incentives that the State gives to destroy families, and what to do if CPS comes after you, your friends, and your community.

    http://youtu.be/zhLzV09_WAQ