Why doctors who pretend to write journal articles should be punished

I was relieved to see on a CBC News report that somebody’s finally calling a spade a spade when it comes to medical school academics who pretend to be the actual authors of research papers about prescription drugs. Two Canadian law professors interviewed for the piece actually used the word “fraud”.  They then called for legal sanctions against any academics who lend their names to medical journal articles that are actually ghostwritten by pharmaceutical industry writers. Here’s what their report had to say on this:    Continue reading

Why is my government paying for drugs that France won’t touch?

The Premier of my lovely province here on the West Coast of Canada promised during our spring election campaign that her government would pay for prescription drugs or products to help British Columbians quit smoking. But a new report in The Tyee suggests that some of the drugs the province wants to fund are controversial.

One of them, varenicline (which is made by drug giant Pfizer and sold as Champix in Canada and Europe, or as Chantix in the U.S.) has been associated with suicides and severe psychiatric side effects.

In fact, here’s what the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, an American non-profit, said about varenicline in its October 2008 quarterly update:

“Varenicline accounted for more reported serious injuries than any other prescription drug for a second quarter, a total of 1,001 new cases, including 50 additional deaths.”

And the government of France last month announced that it will stop paying for varenicline because of serious questions around its safety. Continue reading

“Death by Prescription: A Father Takes on His Daughter’s Killer”

* See NEWS UPDATE below

When I first heard him interviewed on CBC Radio, I had to stop chopping my red peppers for that night’s pasta sauce. I was utterly riveted by Terence Young‘s compelling story about the tragic death of his 15-year old daughter, Vanessa. His story began 11 years ago on an ordinary spring evening at home near Toronto, while his wife Gloria was also preparing dinner for the family, just as I was doing. Vanessa suddenly collapsed to the floor. Her heart had stopped.

When ambulance paramedics asked if Vanessa had been taking any drugs, her stricken parents replied: “Just Prepulsid.” Prepulsid was the brand name for the drug cisapride, commonly prescribed at the time to treat gastrointestinal issues like indigestion or constipation.

What Terence Young later learned was that cisapride was clearly contraindicated for Vanessa, and that the drug had been associated with hundreds of suspicious deaths in Canada and the United States.  Continue reading