One Nation Under Drugs: How Big Pharma Is Sabotaging Your Health and the Environment E-mail
Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00  |  Written by Shane Ellison, M.S. | Commentary

Pill and Dollar photo by carbonnycAs a medicinal chemist, I tried to ignore my suspicion that an insidious and deliberate conspiracy to get each and every American hooked on drugs, while at the same time bankrupting them, existed between Big Pharma and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

I enjoyed my work. Drug design paid well and kept me comfortably isolated in a high-tech lab, fully equipped to help me bend and twist matter at will. The last thing I wanted to think of was a plot designed to sabotage health and wealth—while causing untold ecological damage—using my chemistry skills. But over time, experience confirmed my suspicion as fact and revealed something even scarier.

Deadly Profiteering
My passion for drug design arose from the miracle of emergency medicine, one of humankind’s greatest scientific achievements. Sadly though, medicine is no longer exclusive to emergency use. Today it’s being used in a deadly game of profiteering. Herein lies a story of deceit and a chemist’s abandonment of modern medicine.

My doubts about modern medicine began while I was employed by Eli Lilly to design a new generation of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs, a class which includes tamoxifen and raloxifene. Initially, they were thought to block estrogen receptors and thereby halt breast cancer. As time progressed, it was learned that they were also capable of activating estrogen receptors and boosting cancer growth. The Journal of the American Medical Association recognized this trend and published, “Our data add to the growing body of evidence that recent long-term use of HRT is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and that such use may be related particularly to lobular tumors.”

My task was made clear: Design HRT ‘knock-offs’ that are effective without causing cancer. My attempt to design safer alternatives began with small alterations to the two-dimensional structure of tamoxifen. It was unsuccessful. All chemical cousins acted as cancer fertilizer and after one year, the project was ended. Access to tamoxifen and other HRT meds, however, was not. Despite its ability to inflame cancer, tamoxifen continued to be used as the Gold-Standard in breast cancer treatment. As a young naïve chemist, I was determined to learn how such a dangerous drug could get through the prestigious FDA approval process.

Checkbook Science
Tamoxifen was developed by British company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), whose pharmaceutical division was later spun off as Astra Zeneca. Knowing that “demand drives drug approval,” ICI established—in partnership with the American Cancer Society–National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Fueled by fear, women worldwide began pushing for more choices in cancer drugs, and in Big Pharma language, that means more drug approvals. Tamoxifen demand was successfully created and expanded every subsequent year thanks to ICI’s self-serving pink ribbon campaign. But, how did tamoxifen sail past the protective blood-brain barrier of the FDA? A quick lesson in statistical contortionism shows how.

The Just like chemists manipulate the properties of matter, Big Pharma manipulates studies using “checkbook science.” This allows them to pay for both the design and the interpretation of clinical trials. Tamoxifen studies, for example, were conveniently stopped at just five years, the minimum amount of time required for cancer to develop. This successfully hid the drug's cancer causing problem. But just like their pink campaigns, there’s even more stink to be found.

In 1992, tamoxifen evangelist Dr. Bernard Fisher, working for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), received $68 million in federal money to assess whether the drug could prevent breast cancer. Fisher was accused of failing to report falsified data and enrollment fraud to the NCI in an effort to make tamoxifen appear safe and effective, thus casting further stench over the study and resulting in his termination as director. The smoke and mirrors showed that tamoxifen reduced breast cancer by 50%. In reality, it was an insignificant 1.3% absolute difference.

Checkbook science isn’t illegal by FDA standards. It’s been going on for more than 20 years. Known as the Bayh-Dole Act, US law was amended in 1980 to permit flagrant conflicts of interest, ones that allow the industry to design drug trials and hire experts to conjure up favorable results at will.

Once demand was created, and checkbook science in place, the FDA needed only one study to approve tamoxifen in record time–30 days. They did this by hiring advisors with Big Pharma financial ties to sit on its review committee. Failing to do their homework, only 10% of the case reports from women enrolled in the tamoxifen trials were reviewed by the committee. But, most alarming to me as a chemist, it was still given a green light as a preventive cancer treatment for healthy women!

Aiming for wealth, not health, Big Pharma hit the financial bull’s eye. As the most recommended drug treatment for women recovering from breast cancer, generic tamoxifen rakes in billions every year with few noticing its “little cancer problem,” as it became known in our lab.

Inadequate Regulation
I thought I was getting paid well as a new drug chemist; I was driving a brand new PT Cruiser (which my wife hated), had $15,000 in stock options and was offered a $10,000 incentive to buy a new house. Heck, if I was really good, I would get a $4,500 dollar raise after a year, which equated to a weekly burrito at Chipotle, with guacamole (which is extra) and Mountain Dew included. A closer look at the real drug profits however, revealed I wasn’t even making pennies on the pharmaceutical dollar and neither were the biology researchers.

Obscene amounts of drug profits were going to the pharmaceutical titans, their shareholders—and even to the FDA. That’s right, rather than being funded solely by taxpayers, our drug administration is being paid by the very industry it’s supposed to regulate. This is legal—courtesy of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Today, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA is dependent on drug companies for nearly half of its funding.

Revolving Door photo by jlcwalkerDrug lobbying is another slimy practice that greases the “FDA-Big Pharma revolving door,” and blurs the line between the drug industry and the US government. According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, Congressmen are outnumbered two to one by lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. And many are later put onto the government payroll and vice versa. Total pharmaceutical lobbying in 2009 came to a whopping $267,893,947, enough to feed 502 million starving African children. Instead, it pays to grease the drug approval pipeline via 450 lobbying organizations, 1,743 lobbyists, and 1,113 revolvers (congress and senior congressional staffers who revolve in and out of the private and public sectors).

Medical Ghostwriting
Doctors can’t keep up with safety and efficacy of tamoxifen or any other drugs being used today. But this hasn’t changed their prescribing habits. Medical ghostwriting, the slimy practice of hiring PhD’s to crank out drug reports that hype benefits and hide negative side effects, has successfully brainwashed most physicians into thinking that “the benefits of drugs outweigh risks.”

Once completed, drug companies recruit doctors to put their names on the reports as authors. These reports are then published in respected medical journals. The dangling carrots for this deceitful practice are money and prestige. Ghostwriters earn up to $20,000 per report and doctors receive the acclaim of being published. Ultimately, patients get bad drugs disguised as good medicine resulting in carnage like the Vioxx™ body count–88,000 people died from taking “the safest pain killer,” as it was lauded in ghost written articles.

As deplorable as medical ghost authoring sounds, it’s more common than you might think. It is estimated that nearly half of all published journal articles are written by ghostwriters and many of the rest may not be entirely untainted. British Journal of Medicine editor, Dr. Richard Smith, admitted that, “We are being hoodwinked by the drug companies. The articles come in with doctors’ names on them and we often find some of them have little or no idea about what they have written.” And Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, editor for the New England Journal of Medicine, insists he can’t find drug review authors who don’t have financial ties to drug companies.

Massive Over-Prescription
Doctors and Drugs illustration by Mike LichtDealing legal drugs pays very, very well. Annual global pharmaceutical profits, if piled up in cash, would occupy about two thousand stacks of dollar bills, each one towering as high as the Empire State Building. In 2009, global revenues from prescription drugs topped $837 billion, and the United States took the largest bite out of the pharmaceutical pie, consuming more than $300 billion in prescriptions. And global sales are increasing; they are expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2014.

Big Pharma, with the collusion of the FDA, is now half way to its goal of marketing the entire country into drug dependence. According to CDC’s September 2010 National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief No. 42:

  • Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%. The use of two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%. The use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%.
  • In 2007-2008, 1 out of every 5 children and 9 out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.

If John Galt—the noble, fictional scientist in Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged—symbolizes the power and glory of the human mind, FDA approval is his biggest threat. Sloppy FDA standards have created a corporate drug leviathan that is robbing every man, woman and child in its path of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This profit-pulling monster has no checks or balances, which makes it almost impossible to fight and scary as hell to witness through the eyes of a chemist.

Toxic drugs are being consumed daily, as if they were vitamins. Women, adorned in pink ribbons, are asking for tamoxifen by name thanks to cancer “awareness campaigns” founded by the drug’s maker. Men are being herded into taking cholesterol lowering drugs. Children are being labeled with psychiatric disorders at breakneck speeds so our tax dollars can get them hooked on drugs even faster. Athletes are being poisoned with drugs disguised as artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose courtesy of energy drinks and sport bars. And soccer moms are unknowingly compromising the health of their families by buying synthetic drugs disguised as multivitamins. And all of this is occurring under the “watchful” eye of the FDA.

Environmental Impact
Even those of us not seduced by ubiquitous media drug advertisements or misled by doctors who over-prescribe medications are at risk of exposure to dangerous pharmaceuticals. Just as non-smokers can have their health impaired by second-hand smoke, so too can non drug users be negatively impacted by “second-hand drugs.” And it all happens silently and invisibly through our drinking water.

A 2008 Associated Press investigation discovered that the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans are laced with prescription drugs. The report revealed these shocking facts:

More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world….Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the [US] water supply… Over the past five years, the number of US prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co. ‘People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case,’ said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States. Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

The Bottom Line
As a drug chemist, I had to face the cold, hard facts: Western Medicine has become a billion dollar empire not out of keen science, but rather deceit. The end result has been one nation under drugs, with slavery and sickness for all. This subjugation has set a standard of health in America that is sick care disguised as health care.

Every year, prescription drugs kill an estimated 106,000 Americansmore people than the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined and three times the number killed by automobiles. This makes prescription drugs the fourth leading cause of death in the US after heart disease, cancer and stroke. And the trend of increasing prescription drug deaths has been going on for about 35 years according to researchers writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Those who profit from prescription drugs should hold some sort of record for having the most reckless disregard for human life.

The tally of those injured and sickened by pharmaceuticals is even higher. And now, thanks to the explosion of prescription drug use, even those of us careful not to purposefully put prescription drugs into our bodies are being dosed against our will each time we drink water from a poisoned aquifer.

It’s time we shield the FDA from Big Pharma’s influence, giving our government regulators the independence they need to make impartial decisions in the public interest.

Help spread the word about how the FDA is sabotaging our health and the environment by sending the shortened link to this article http://bit.ly/Oo5Cko to your email contacts and posting it on your social media sites. Click on the "Email This" and "Share This" links below for more options.

Related article by the same author:
How the AMA Hooks You on Drugs, Harms Your Health and Hurts the Earth

Additional resources:
What You Need to Know about Drugs and Chemicals in Your Drinking Water
Water: Making Every Drop Count
There’s Something in the Water...and It Shouldn't Be There
Fresh Water Supplies At Risk
The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Save the Earth—and Recycling’s NOT One of Them
Big Pharma Has Defrauded $30B from States, Federal Government: Report
The Best Environmental Writing on EcoHearth

Copyright EcoHearth. All rights reserved. Reprint Policy

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This piece was written by Shane Ellison, M.S., an award-winning organic chemist and a two-time recipient of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Grant for his studies in biochemistry and physiology. Known as “The People’s Chemist,” Ellison abandoned his career as a drug-design chemist and founded Thepeopleschemist.com, a science-based natural-health information website. He has a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Northern Arizona University and is the author of Over the Counter Natural Cures.

Comments (9)add
Written by 3 time breast CA survivor , September 10, 2012
This article confirms that my oncologist told me 7 years ago (after being diagnosed second time). I was 38 with 1st diangosis of ER/PR+ stage II breast cancer. Had mod. rad. mastectomy, followed by dose dense aggressive chemo and estensive radiation due to lymph node involvement. Less than 2 years later, a mammo of other breast revealed cancer. Underwent another mastectomy. At that time, I went to a second oncologist for another opinion. She told me it was her belief that the tamoxifen caused/jump started the second cancer, which was ER/PR - this time. A 3rd diagnosis came in Aug. 2008. I'm still in Rx, receiving daily oral meds and well as regular IV Rx. Side note, I do not carry the BRACA I or II gene, nor do I have any breast CA history on either side of my family. I have 3 children, breast fed all for at least 12 months. In fact, my youngest was just over 1 when I was first diagnosed.

There were 5 woman I worked with back in the early to mid 80s that have developed various forms of breast cancer. At the time, there were only a handful of young, pre menapausal women who worked there F/T. Statistically speaking, it's impossible that we all developed Breast CA at a young age... all tested BRACA negative and none had a family Hx of the disease. Say what you want, but there is no doubt in my mind that the environment we live in, is not-so-slowly causing us harm!
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Written by Rick , August 16, 2012
Good points, Activist Angel. I've changed the headline.
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Written by activist angel , August 16, 2012
Rick,
How wonderful of you not only to "approve" my comment but to respond. Thank you.
I appreciate that you cite other articles that point out in their content the truth; about the capturing of agencies meant to do good and protect or "police" the corporate and monied powers that our constitution was established to protect us from. For example it was the East India Tea company and it's evil monopoly that spurred the original tea party.
But you and I are both in media, and we both understand a rather unsettling truth. That most people do not read past the headlines. In fact, they are the MOST important part of an article.
Many a time I have tried to complain to some writer about the headline and they have conveniently passed the buck to the "editors" and "management" and "copy people" who basically manage, in large type, to twist, ever so subtly, the meaning.
We are engaged in a great struggle for truth, Rick. And the International Bankster Corporate Warlord Mafia (that is literally attacking the United States Constitution) has a very successful campaign to make the "government" a bad word. The real truth is that the "government", (the FDA), is supposed to be the peoples protection against agragate monopolied power cartels, such as big Pharma.
Your headline, which is the most important part of any article (unfortunately!) lists the FDA as the bad guy. This works perfectly in to the Corporate Propaganda, which seeks to dismantle any opposition to it's agenda. As powerful as it is, the only opposition could only come from a government and the people that comprise it.
To list the FDA as the "enemy" is like saying that "The Drug Cartels have bought off the police! Down with the police! Let's get rid of them!" Here would be that headline:
"One Nation Under Drugs: How the police are running drugs".
Words are important Rick, and headlines are the most important of all.
Thanks again for caring and listening,
Activist Angel

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Written by Rick , August 15, 2012
Activist Angel, thanks for your comment. EcoHearth is well aware of the dangers of corporate subversion of our democracy. Many of its permutations are covered in various articles, blogs and especially op-ed pieces ( see http://ecohearth.com/eco-op-ed.html) on this site. You may especially be interested in a commentary I wrote in which I suggest a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood (see http://ecohearth.com/eco-op-ed...-plan.html).

The article above covers in detail most of the points you make in your comment as to FDA corruption being caused by corporations (in this case, Big Pharma). But the article is specifically about how the FDA, because it has been corrupted, does an inadequate job of protecting the public's health. Hence its title.

Please read more pieces on our site, such as the ones I suggested above, and I'm sure you'll agree that your fear of corporate power and that of this site are closely aligned.
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Written by activist angel , August 15, 2012
Damn you to hell for your headline.
The only hope we have is coming together with our common purpose, in other words... oh I know it's a scary word to you... Government!!!
Your headline should read...
Evil Big Pharma has corrupted Democracy!
Big Drugs have bought off the FDA!
If only the "police" were not so easily bribed.
You and your absurd anti "government" crap, when it is Corporate power that our founding fathers warned us about!
Oh, and so did Eisenhower!
But you have headlines that blame the corrupt police (FDA) instead of the Mafia Media Drug Lord Oilgarchy Bankster Gangster Warlord Prison Owners.
Don't join the Corporate Propaganda machine! Make your headlines reflect the truth!
You make it sound like the answer is to get rid of the FDA instead of insulate it from corruption!
HELLO! Then who would watch the store? (or the cash register?)
Oh, you perhaps mean the mystical magical fairy dust free market of individual greed?
Commons were created on purpose.
Remember the Constitution of the United States? General Welfare, Establishing JUSTICE? Domestic TRANQUILITY? COMMON defense? Blessings of liberty?
What are those blessings to you? The chance for British Petroleum to have unfettered access to our resources and the free reign to poison us with their negligence?
God help us.
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Written by Lizz Huesmann , August 14, 2012
Having had surgery and radiation in March as a result of breast cancer, I have been prescribed Tamoxifen - for 5 years! I did not want to take it after being told of all the dreadful possible side effects - including the increased risk of endometrial cancer. Every doctor, oncologist and gynae I have questioned about this, has told me the benefits far outweigh he risks! What do I do?!
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Written by Silvia , August 13, 2012
Dr. Shane Ellison I couldn't find a single article from you in PUBMED. It's strange a scientist who doesn't have publications.

Please, how can you prove that your accusations and your conexion with the referred lab are true?

I am asking it as tamoxifen user.
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Written by Dan Abshear , August 13, 2012
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Written by Blair T. Longley , August 12, 2012
I added a link to the article above on this thread:

http://www.marijuanaparty.ca/forum/showflat.pl?Cat=&Board=CMPmarijuanaparty&Number=2666&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5

The profit from disease system is integrated into the overall system of debt slavery, backed by wars based on deceits, which is spinning out of control towards debt insanity, backed by omnicidal world wars.

Anyone who becomes involved in the political processes to try to change these things soon discovers that these problems are now a runaway fascist plutocracy juggernaut.

The history that made War King then made Fraud King.

The whole world is controlled by huge lies, backed by violence. However, that violence can never make those lies become true. Therefore, we are looking at final failure from too much success at controlling civilization with triumphant lies, which get further and further away from reality.

Fraudulent science is theoretically the WORST of all the things done by making Fraud be King. Of course, it is all about the money, and the most important thing is to follow the money to its SOURCE.

However, the USA has now had a continuous Century of Fraud being King. The entire government has become almost inconceivably crazy and corrupt. Everything that one examines reveals the same pattern!

Here is a collection of some of my favourite videos on the money system, with a link at the end to the deeper issues about how the money system depends upon the murder system:

http://www.marijuanaparty.ca/article.php3?id_article=445

Whether we like it or not, medicine is actually inside of militarism.

Simply saying that it should not be does NO good, since IT IS!

Everything in this article above looks quite correct to me. I have been worrying about the same issues for several decades, but have only developed a different way to talk about how the debt controls and death controls should be done differently. A creative synthesis of medicine within militarism is necessary, although apparently practically impossible to implement.
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