No Cure, No Vaccine, No Treatment

By Nicholas Regush

There is no way to be nice about this. There is no point in raising false hopes. There is no treatment or vaccine in sight. There is no miracle breakthrough on the horizon.

Medicine, as we know it, is dying. It is entering a terminal phase.

What began as an acute illness reached the chronic stage about a decade ago and progression towards death has been remarkably swift and well beyond anything one could have predicted.

The disease is caused by conflict of interest, tainted research, greed for big bucks, pretentious doctors and scientists, lying, cheating, invasion by the morally bankrupt marketing automatons of the drug industry, derelict politicians and federal and state regulators - all seasoned with huge doses of self-importance and foul odor.

As a journalist, it has become very plain to see how little anything the medical Establishment does these days can be trusted or taken at face value. Press conferences, journal articles, symposia - all are geared to spike and obfuscate the truth, to hide red flags from the public and to bulk up the shares of investors in the companies that are promoting the science and the researchers.

Like a disease that festers to the point of no return, medicine has reached that line and stepped over it.

Item: A well-known expert in prescription drugs tells me that it is no longer possible for him to fight the system. His wife has made it clear to him that she is losing out on the good times and wealth that "all the other wives" are enjoying. So he has thrown in the towel and now expects to get the perks that all the other guys are getting: free trips to conferences, invitations to give speeches at luncheons, research funding without having to beg for it, and so on. He is sad about this - but hey what can you do?

Item: Dr. David Healy, a well-known Welsh expert in psychiatric drugs is approached by an agency representing an antidepressant manufacturer. He is invited to speak at a symposium. The deal is that he will write a paper for a supplement based on his talk. The agency tells him that their ghostwriters will actually produce the paper, based on his previous work. He says no. He writes his own paper but the agency also wants the ghostwritten paper to appear in the supplement because it had some "commercially important points." The agency finds another "expert" who will lend his name to its "paper."

Item: There is more noise being made these days about who pays for research published in journals. But what about research published in books? And who actually reviews these "books?"

Do we have any idea of how many medical books are actually financed by industry? No, we don't because most people don't tell who their backers are. This has been a non-issue.

Item: Whose agendas are fueling medical research? A case in point: Should Cancer researcher John Mendelsohn, who is president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Center in Houston, sit on the corporate board of ImClone? This is a biotech company that has been developing a new anticancer drug. Forget for a moment that ImClone is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Did the company mislead investors about the cancer drug?) Does it make make any sense for John Mendelsohn to have ties to ImClone? Can we trust that MD Anderson is looking out for its patients first?

Item: A scientist with ties to research at the National Cancer Institute managed to convince an editor of an obscure cancer journal to publish a paper that had been previously rejected. The journal's editor, a buddy, had also been involved in the research that was featured in the paper.

You're right. This is all very depressing. It goes on and on. Any enterprising reporter could put a list together of thousands of examples like these of how both the giants and the pipsqueaks of modern medicine have sold out and can no longer be trusted.

I feel bad for the physicians who do care about their patients- and yes, there are still many of those around. Day in and day out, they turn up at their community or hospital offices and meet with people who need help. And they mend wounds and take the time to do careful histories. They usually are not the type who go to big conferences and give speeches.

The problem, unfortunately, is that the foot soldiers rely on the information from the monster pack that has ripped away the heart of medicine and now they will also watch it die, as they have known it.

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