Beyond Belief

If a belief is taken beyond the safety of rational thought, it’s then an act of faith. Brave and bold, but delusional. I’d argue that medicating is well down this path – devoutly taking risks with side-effects, perhaps even shortening lifespan, yet ‘smoke and mirrors’ is a fair description of the governance in clinical research. A blog on a fabricated conclusion in an NHMRC sponsored study is linked, and my notification of the misconduct to the publishing Arthritis Care & Research journal editor Dr Gary Firestein was never acknowledged. Likewise concerns about deception in drug trial PRO-HEART (linked) to the manager of research also went unanswered, but are now subject of a Freedom of Information legal demand for disclosure.

A third matter is detailed below, and these were chosen from this site’s 43 posts to submit to Public Library of Science as a manuscript exemplifying medical research scams. Publication assistant Rebecca Green replied that “unfortunately such a paper would fall outside the scope of PLOS Medicine“. Dirty research can’t be retracted, furthermore making the case for a multitude of scandals won’t be published. Enough to shake one’s confidence in the system? Have heart, the BMJ may come to the party.

Impunity in both corrupting the medical evidence base and inappropriate commercial allegiance has led some to crossing of the boundary from immoral to illegal. Fraud. ‘Dog and pony show’ is another idiom pertinent to NHMRC funded program BackTrack. BackTrack-dogjumpDSC_0477Managed by qualified dogcatcher Bernie Shakeshaft, their modus operandi is to attend a rural court where juvenile offenders have run out of warnings, and are due for detention. An alternative offer is made for these feral kids to voluntarily labour on a remote farm, where they’ll also be taught to handle dogs. This goes down well with the Magistrate “… if I can forward them to a structured program like BackTrack, I certainly feel like there would be less recidivism.” In 2013 while Bernie’s brother, University of NSW (UNSW) Prof Shakeshaft, was on the NHMRC council their grant application “This study quantifies the benefits/costs of combining cognitive-behaviour therapy with a community-reinforcement strategy to reduce substance-related harms among young Indigenous Australians” was approved for $386771. A year later Bernie took off on a study tour of the USA, Canada and Italy. Bernie’s been done for Driving Under the Influence, so has learnt by experience the perils of alcohol abuse. But he’s naïve about CBT, and the majority of incarcerated kids aren’t Indigenous. This is revealed in a book submitted by Helena Pastor for her PhD by observation from the local Uni. An excerpted page Wild_Boys_—-_(Pg_253) describes physical abuse and isolation from social workers.

The majority of finance comes from the philanthropic Vincent Fairfax Foundation. So besides taking Aboriginal kids away from their community support, these souls are in Christian hands. This situation is ongoing, not some historical ‘taking the children away’.

A report was produced, ‘The Feasibility of Embedding Data Collection into the Routine Service Delivery of a Multi-Component Program for High-Risk Young People’ *, which described their use of a routine survey. This sufficed for NHMRC, whose Ethics & Governance dept disclaimed accountability for their spend of our funds “…allegations of misconduct would need to be addressed by raising your concerns with the research institution through which the research was conducted.” Director of Integrity at UNSW, Bronwyn Greene, has been working on her answer to this since May 5th. So too has bureaucrat David Baragry, whose previous diplomatic statement was careful not to tread on toes in Canberra: “The Ombudsman has the discretion not to investigate certain complaints… respects the role, expertise and decisions of the NHMRC and … tends to consider only questions related to the NHMRC’s administrative processes.” Then Minister for Science & Research, SEN Kim Carr, recognizing the need for an Office of Research Integrity left the task to the key funding bodies NHMRC and Aust Research Council to establish an independent review body. They did so, but within their own organisations. This Committee, ARIC hasn’t replied either. In its first year 2011 it accepted only one complaint against its NHMRC parent, then rejected all allegations but for a procedural matter regarding sending of a letter. It’s not listed under https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about/nhmrc-committees but buried as a paragraph in the NHMRC Annual Report – the latest stating on pg98 that one matter was dismissed, and another is an ongoing investigation. That’s all they have to show in five years (check the reports for yourselves: nh15, nh162, nh166, nh169 & nh172). The cries of dissent are more voluble – links available from http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/plagiarismfraud.html are a start.

There’s more, and worse. UNSW’s harbouring of Khachigian, for instance. I awaited Aust Fed Police response in vain, since they decided that others were better placed to investigate the ‘fraud’ (as they termed it). There’s so much finger pointing going on that I’d think eye protection was needed.

* Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 208; doi:10.3390/ijerph14020208

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We’re all crazy now

PRO-logue. It’s telling that an identical German study to PRO-HEART was shutdown early. Comments by psychiatrist Andreas Ströhle and Nina Rieckmann from their Institute of Public Health : “Dr Angermann and colleagues reported that escitalopram did not reduce all-cause death or hospitalization… It is not clear why the authors expected that it would, as it does not reduce mild to moderate levels of depression… Rather, it adds to the mounting evidence that questions the risk-benefit ratio of prescribing antidepressants to patients with less than severe depression.”

Once upon a time, psychs drew a distinction between depression originating from within (endogenous) or that which arose due to circumstances (reactive). The former was treated by meds, but the market for anti-depressants has grown as the two-type concept has fallen out of favour. Pills manipulating neurotransmitter levels are a simple solution with scrip from your GP, one that doesn’t require psych expertise. The American Psychiatric Association aren’t blameless, since the criteria for mental illnesses is loosened with every release of the DSM. That manual has also expanded in order to inform practitioners of the complexity of the complex. But they have lost control in this non-infectious pandemic. Prof Peter Gotzsche is fanatical in advocating that prescriptions of such meds be reduced 50-fold, but for a less emotive perspective I suggest you follow psychiatrist Professor David Healy, or read his ‘Pharmageddon’.

Followon book to 'Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime'

Followon book to ‘Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime’

Earlier posts have complained at the fabricated conclusion that chronic pain is  manifestation of a mental illness. It was a researcher’s invented report that then conveniently led into a publicly funded trial for anti-depressants in osteoarthritis. It’s to the Royal Aust & NZ College of Psychiatry’s credit that their submission  against Medicine Aust code-of-misconduct application to regulatory authority ACCC was the only one to address perversion of research by industry. If they’re to be believed, academics are corrupted. And if Gotzsche is right, you can’t trust Patient Organisations for … “having done absolutely nothing to stop the blatant abuse of patients in industry-sponsored trials“, citing Dr Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Pharma’ of 2012. It’s worse than that, as you’ll find out.

Heart Foundation Vic CEO Jennifer Johns has earlier come in for ridicule over statins, echoing her disgraced NSW President’s associations with the refined sugar industry. An Austin hospital cardiologist, in 2010 she funded her colleague David Hare and Baker IDI’s Prof Krum to trial  Lexapro as treatment for the depression that their heart failure patients are presumed to suffer, PRO-HEART. Also in this year the manufacturer’s promotion of such off-label usage cost them $USD313m in fines, with civil actions continuing. Such as 03-10395-NMG for wrongful dismissal of sales rep and whistleblower Chris Gobble, who complained to supervisors of “illegal kickbacks (i.e. paying doctors for no other reason than to induce them to prescribe Celexa and Lexapro)”. The marketing budget disclosed in the Confidential plan provided to the US Senate was $35m on speakers fees, and $36m on lunches. In one year. In one country.

The drug is also associated with hyponatremia, ie it worsens heart failure risk. None of the team answered this concern, but they were defended by the Heart Foundation’s Deidre Cope: “In regard to its Research Program, the Heart Foundation follows the NHMRC guidelines around disclosure of interest. The research funded by the Heart Foundation undergoes a rigorous peer review process involving assessment by independent, external reviewers. All funding decisions are scrutinised by an external committee to ensure that all aspects of the peer review process are consistent, transparent and ethical.” Affirming that they’re just as utterly corrupt as the NHMRC, as evidenced by Cicuttini and Wluka’s impunity.

The other half of the $820,000 raised by door-knockers and tin-shakers that PRO-HEART is costing was from Beyond Blue. No responses to approaches were provided at all. It’s too early to allege misconduct – the trial is running three years behind schedule, and a staffer thought late 2017 would see a report released. But it already stinks like something’s died. [Sep 2017 update: 2018 perhaps? BB CEO Georgie Harman states that she’s happy with the study progress – seven years after the first patient was enrolled in the 6month study]

There’s often a trite closing disclaimer in articles that if you suffer from depression, there’s phone support available at these numbers…… who’ll suggest medical advice. I’m more of the opinion that you think carefully, so have linked further material on happiness or absence thereof at http://themindfulgap.com.au/2016/02/05/the-blue-bird-and-the-black-dog/