Deadly medicines and organised crime How big pharma has corrupted healthcare

About the Author

Professor Peter C Gøtzsche graduated with a Master of Science in biology and chemistry in 1974 and as a physician in 1984. He is a specialist in internal medicine; he worked with clinical trials and regulatory affairs in the drug industry 1975–83, and at hospitals in Copenhagen 1984–95. He co-founded The Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre the same year. He became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen.

Foreword No:1 of the book is written by Dr. Richard Smith, former Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious British Medical Journal.

Dr. Smith wrote about the author:

  • There must be plenty of people who shudder when they hear that Peter Gotzsche will be speaking in a meeting … He is like the young boy who not only could see that the emperor had no clothes but also said so. Most of us either cannot see that the emperor is naked or will not announce it when we see his nakedness, which is why we need people like Peter …he has a taste for strong, blunt language.

What Dr. Smith said about this book:

  • I have long recognised that science is carried out by human beings not objective robots and will therefore be prone to the many human failings, but I was shocked by the stories in Peter’s book.


  • Science can be corrupted in order to advance particular argument and how money, profits, jobs and reputation are the most potent corrupters.


  • He (Peter) is not the first to compare the industry with the Mafia or mob. He quotes a former vice-president of Pfizer who has said: It is scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and death and the side effects are same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry.


  • Many people are killed by the industry … indeed hundreds of thousands are killed every year by prescription drugs.


  • The benefits of drugs are exaggerated … the drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.


  • The industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organisations, university departments, journalists, regulators and politicians. These are the methods of the mob.


  • Doctors are beholden to the drug industry and that many are being paid six figure sums for advising companies or giving talks on their behalf. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that these “key opinion leaders” are being bought. They are the “hired guns” of the industry.


Foreword No:2 is written by Dr. Drummond Rennie, Deputy Editor, JAMA (Journal American Medical Association)

  • There already exist hundreds of reports of scientific studies, and many books written about the way pharmaceutical companies pervert the scientific process and, using their massive wealth, all too often work against the interests of the patients they claim to help.


  • Gotzsche’s experience is unequaled. He has worked in sales for drug companies either as a drug company representative pitching pills to doctors or as a product manager. He is a physician and a medical researcher and has built a high reputation as head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre … he deeply understands the statistics of bias and the techniques of analyzing reports of clinical trials.


  • We base our treatments on the results of clinical trials, so the results are a matter of life and death. Patients who allow themselves to be entered into trials expect their sacrifice to benefit humanity. What they do not expect is that their results will be held, and manipulated, as trade secrets.


  • We have the ironic situation in the US where the drug companies pay the agency, the FDA, to assess their projects. Is it any surprise that the agency has been captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate?


Quotations from the Introduction of the book.


  • Unfortunately, we now suffer from two man-made epidemics, tobacco and prescription drugs, both of which are hugely lethal. In the Unites States and Europe — Drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.


  • Tobacco executives know they are peddling death and so do drug company executives.


  • I shall describe in this book how drug companies have deliberately hidden lethal harms of their drugs by fraudulent behaviour, both in research and marketing, and by firm denials when confronted with the facts.


  • The main reason we take many drugs is that drug companies don’t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs.


  • Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors … the reason patients trust their medicine is that they extrapolate the trust they have in their doctors into the medicines they prescribe.


  • Drug salespeople tell many lies, but they have often been deceived by their superiors in the company who deliberately withhold the truth from them.


  • The patients don’t realize that, although the doctors may know a lot about disease and human physiology and psychology, they know very, very little about drugs that hasn’t been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry.


  • The main problem with our healthcare system is that the financial incentives that drive it seriously impede the rational, economical and safe use of drugs. The drug company prospers on this and exerts tight information control. The research literature on drugs is systematically distorted through trials with flawed designs and analyses, selective publication of trials and data, suppression of unwelcome results, and ghostwritten papers.


  • Ghostwriters write manuscript for hire without revealing their identity in the papers, which have influential doctors as “authors” although they have contributed little or nothing to the manuscript. This scientific misconduct sells drugs.


  • If you don’t think the system is out of control, please email me (the author) and explain why drugs are the third leading cause of death.


  • If such a hugely lethal epidemic had been caused by a new bacterium or a virus or even one-hundredth of it, we would have done everything we could to get it under control.