In the article, “Statins (Crestor) for Everyone?”, I wrote about how the AstraZeneca-funded JUPITER study (JUPITER stands for “Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention: an Intervention Trial Evaluating Rosuvastatin”) made a case for putting many more people on statins, especially on AstraZeneca's own Crestor. In the article, I pointed out several troubling facts, including that studies funded by pharmaceutical companies are much more likely to have positive results than those that are not industry-funded, and that many of the “news stories” about the JUPITER study reported “the facts” of this study, almost word for word, as they appeared in AstraZeneca’s press release.
In her November 14, 2008 Columbia Journalism Review article, "Science Reporting by Press Release,” Cristine Russell calls this kind of “reporting” the “dirty little secret of journalism.”
The subject came up recently in a conversation I had with Burt Berkson, MD, PhD, pioneer in the use of alpha lipoic acid, and more recently, of low dose naltrexone (LDN), as well, for treating some very serious diseases and conditions -- without the side effects of more toxic pharmaceuticals. Dr. Berkson was telling me that, at one of the conferences he spoke at, LDN researcher Dr. Maira Gironi told about the wonderful results she was having in Italy, reversing multiple sclerosis with LDN. (You may read about Dr. Gironi's work with LDN here, here and here.)
Dr. Berkson noted: “But you hear nothing about it because there are no very wealthy corporations promoting it.”
His words brought to mind the fact that Dr. Gironi had presented a paper on this study at the 60th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago, in April, 2008, around the same time that I was interviewing several of the LDN patient and physician advocates for my article, “Four Lifesaving Medical Treatments: Not So ‘Anecdotal,’ After All.” Everyone I spoke with was excited about the very positive results Dr. Gironi was getting in Italy with LDN for MS. They were eager for her paper to be presented at the AAN meeting in Chicago.
Indeed, Dr. Gironi did present the paper on LDN. But, as Dr. Berkson noted in our conversation, there were no big press announcements about her paper.
So, I went online to see what had happened –- and why there was such silence.
What I found was that, while there had been silence surrounding the LDN study (which had no pharmaceutical company backing), at the same conference one of Dr. Gironi’s LDN co-investigators, Dr. Giancarlo Comi, had also presented a paper on another MS drug, FTY720 (fingolimod). The research on this drug had been funded by the pharmaceutical company, Novartis.
News stories about this pharmaceutical-company-funded study/presentation abounded. The drug was called a “novel oral therapy.”
But then, I began to notice something very curious: ALL the “news stories” about fingolimod had the same identical wording, from beginning to end.
I knew exactly where to go to learn where the wording had come from. There it was, in the April 15, 2008 Novartis company press release, titled “FTY720, a novel oral therapy in development for MS, shows sustained benefits for the majority of patients after three years of treatment.”
Then, I went to medicalnewstoday.com, which boasts that it is “the largest independent health and medical news website on the Internet.” Well, not so independent, after all -- because there it was, on the very same date (April 15, 2008), a news “article,” titled -– Surprise! -- “FTY720, a novel oral therapy in development for MS, shows sustained benefits for the majority of patients after three years of treatment,” with the same exact wording as the Novartis press release.
And the same day, on www.bio-medicine.org, which purports to contain “the latest biology and medical news,” this identically titled article ran: “FTY720, a novel oral therapy in development for MS, shows sustained benefits for the majority of patients after three years of treatment.”
Is this why the “big news” to come out of the AAN meeting was NOT about low dose naltrexone, but rather, about a pharmaceutical company-funded drug? What do you think?
To learn about how Big Pharma also writes (or commissions to have written) the "scientific" medical journal articles about the pharmaceuticals they "study" and manufacture, read Dr. John Abramson's Overdosed America and Melody Petersen's Our Daily Meds. In addition, there is a wonderful PBS interview with Ms. Petersen, in which she talks about this phenomenon (she says the pharmaceutical industry calls it "publication planning").