The time I have spent in law enforcement has taught me that every investigation begins as a conspiracy. Sometimes the case you are working on is found to be factual and sometimes it is not but at all times you must investigate if given cause (such as a report of a crime or a direct observation). The old adage "where there's smoke, there's fire" is a constant guide and driving force for getting to the bottom of a matter and it has served me well over the years.
It is no different when so called “medical conspiracies” arise and usually where there is smoke there is certainly fire. There have been many very real medical conspiracies that have taken place over the years. They take on many shapes and sizes but they all have the same thing in common: they were unbelievable until the truth was revealed. We will explore a few so you (and I) can be sure that we are not the crazy ones, indeed.
The Nigerian DrugExperiment: In 1996 one of the largest US based drug manufacturers, Pfizer, had a dilemma. It was sitting on what they believed would be a super antibiotic that would (or should) work on even the most aggressive bacteria. The problem was they needed to do some human testing on this highly experimental drug. It just so happened that a terrible outbreak of meningitis was underway in a tiny Nigerian village called Kano. The Pfizer doctors set up a tent not far from an aid station that was giving proven treatments and began administering their experimental drug. Unwitting parents desperate to get help for their children began to line up at “the other” aid station not knowing the drug was experimental because none of the doctors told them it was. About 100 children were given the drug and of that number 11 died and many others suffered permanent side effects such as brain damage, loss of hearing and organ failure. An 11% death rate from your test drug can be considered significant. The name of the drug used was Trovan which has been banned for sale in the EU and pulled off the market in the US.
The Tuskegee Experiment: Covered in general in part I of this series the Tuskegee Experiment remains one of the most unbelievable stories of just how bad medical science can derail from the tracks of ethics. It is thought that this experiment is the single most damaging event that has caused a perpetual mistrust of the medical establishment in the eyes of the African-American community. In this experiment 600 African-American men were medically monitored to see how syphilis affected the men over time. The study was initiated in 1932 by the U.S. Public Health Service at the University of Tuskegee. There was ethical trouble right from the start because it was predetermined that the men “participating” in the study would not be treated for the disease. In fact, they were not told they had syphilis. The researchers simply told the men they were studying and being treated for “bad blood” which was understood by locals at the time as being just about any kind of illness or poor condition. To make matters worse only 301 men in that community had syphilis. 299 of the eventual 600 studied was intentionally infected with syphilis to carry out the study on a wider scale. The final ethical and moral indignity came during the 1940’s when it was determined that penicillin was a great treatment for syphilis. From the 1940’s to the end of the study in 1972 no treatment was given to any of the men many of whom died from the disease. The picture gets even dimmer when you consider the fact that these men unwittingly passed this disease on to their wives and lovers who also contracted the disease with some passing it on to their babies all under the supervision of US health officials. The only reason the experiment ended in 1972 was that it was leaked to the media. As for the men who lived and died unknowingly of this terrible disease they were given free burial insurance from the study’s inception which is as cold-hearted and vicious it seems.
Pharmaceutical PriceFixing and Altered Studies – GlaxoSmithKline: If you are a manufacturer and you have some of the most sought after products on the market then the sky’s-the-limit on profit margins but what if you want your profits to reach into outer space? The way to do it is by fixing the price and fixing it at exorbitant levels. Also, to insure your fixed price commands the payout expected you alter (lie) about the drug data submitted to the FDA to make your product seem nearly miraculous. Then you advertise that your drugs do things they are not designed to do to expand your market. That way no one asks why your product cost so much. But there can’t be companies out there like that especially when it comes to the medicines we supposedly need to support and maintain life, right? Unfortunately there is and its name is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
In 2012 the company plead guilty to one of the largest medical fraud cases in US history and was ordered to pay $3 billion in fines. The charges stemmed from several different fraudulent practices. One of those practices was the marketing of Paxil, an anti-depressant, to people under the age of 18 even though it had only received approval for adult use. Also, they marketed Wellbutrin, a drug intended as an anti-depressant, for weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction which it had not been approved to do. Now you may be saying something like “it’s not surprising for a company to lie to get more money…there’s no real conspiracy in that”. We would be in marginal agreement except for the lengths GSK went through in order to get away with their practices. One particularly appalling example is that GSK would routinely give doctors illegal kickbacks in the form of vacations, pay additives per prescription and speaking honorariums for their duplicity in their fraudulent practices. Some of our trusted doctors helped GSK commit medical fraud against us with some going so far as to write papers in respected medical journals to give credence and credibility to their false claims.
The U.S. Army Gets a Pass– Consent to experiment on soldiers not needed: A case came before the US Supreme Court in 1985 involving Master Sergeant James Stanley who served in the US Army. His claim was that he was given, without his knowledge or consent, an experimental which is now known as LSD. Stanley complained of a change in his personality (for the worst), memory loss, hallucinations and incoherent thoughts as a result. The Supreme Court ruled that because he was a service man he did not have a right to claim injury and absolved the military of all past, present and future medical experiments with or without military personnel consent. Congress has attempted to redress this issue by creating a little known law called a “private law” which can provide relief from another law that is adverse to a person or corporation. What a minute. A law that can relieve you from another law? That’s very intriguing but I will digress for now. Another interesting point is that military medical experimentation was thoroughly addressed and condemned at the Nuremberg trials for Nazi party members and their crimes committed during World War II. Leading the charge to set up international condemnation and laws against it was the US. Ironic to say the least.