Misdeeds, Not Mistakes, Behind Most Scientific Retractions
October 17, 2012
By Dr. Mercola
The medical and health fields are absolutely riddled with dogmatic beliefs that defy both commonsense and scientific truth. And yet they prevail because they are supposedly backed by "science."
But what if that science was not actually trustworthy, but rather a carefully orchestrated product... the result of massive conflict of interest, perpetuated by self-interested groups and industries that push unfavorable research findings under the proverbial rug, or even tweak their studies to have the "right" results?
Would it change the way you feel about your diet, your lifestyle and even your medical decisions if it turned out the research upon which your prior choices were made was actually not science at all, but fraud?
67 Percent of Research Retractions Made for "Misconduct," Including Fraud
Much like a potentially dangerous product can be recalled from the market, journals have the right to retract research papers if they turn out to be seriously flawed.
You might assume that most of those flaws would be due to simple human errors, but a review of over 2,000 biomedical and life-science research papers that have been retracted through May 2012 found that only 21 percent were retracted due to errors.1 Instead, the most common reason, in over 67 percent of cases, was misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%).
...And the more respected or influential the journal was, the more likely its retractions were to be attributed to fraud or suspected fraud! The study reveals a disturbing epidemic of deception going on in the research world, which has largely been downplayed, according to the researchers. In reality, scientific fraud has been on the rise for decades:
"Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ~10-fold since 1975." 2
While previous studies have looked into this issue, they typically used the study's retraction notice to determine the cause of the retraction. This is problematic in and of itself, however, because the study authors often write the announcements, and they're certainly not going to say they fabricated the data!
NPR pointed out the case of a 1993 study in Science,3 in which the data was found to have been falsified. But the retraction notice said only that "some experiments have not been reproducible."4 To get around these misleading announcements, the researchers for the current study independently verified the retraction reasons using information from the Federal Office of Research Integrity and independent media reports – and their results speak for themselves.
I wish I could say this is not a widespread issue... but a survey published in the BMJ earlier this year revealed that 13 percent of scientists or doctors had actually witnessed colleagues intentionally changing or fabricating research data in order to get a study published, while another 6 percent said they are aware of possible research misconduct at their institution that was never properly investigated...5
Drug Research May be Even Worse
The study above focused on retracted biomedical and life-science research papers, whereas a study earlier this year reviewed retracted studies in the drug and biomedical literature.6 The highest number of incidents of misconduct occurred in the drug literature, as compared to general biomedical literature. Nearly 75 percent of the retracted drug studies were attributed to scientific misconduct, which includes:
- Data falsification or fabrication
- Questionable veracity
- Unethical author conduct
The most unfortunate thing about this is that these are the types of studies many health care professionals rely on to make treatment recommendations. Large numbers of patients – potentially millions – can be affected when false findings are published, as the average lag time between publication of the study and the issuing of a retraction is 39 months. And that's if it's ever caught at all.
It's important to understand that our current medical system has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science when in reality it is a heavily manipulated process designed to deceive you into using expensive and potentially toxic drugs that benefit the drug companies more than it benefits your health. Across the board, drugmakers do an excellent job of publicizing the findings they want you to know, while keeping very quiet about the rest.
You see, all research is NOT published. And it should come as no surprise that drug studies funded by a pharmaceutical company that reaches a negative conclusion will rarely ever see the light of day... What this means is that even if you scour the medical literature to determine what the consensus is on any given medical topic, what you'll find is an overwhelming preponderance of data in favor of the drug approach that in no way, shape or form reflects the reality of the scientific investigation that went into that specific drug.
Ex-FDA Chief Says J&J Broke the Law Promoting Risperdal
Of course, it's not only in the research realm that drugs are fraudulently promoted; it occurs all the time in the marketing realm, too. Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) antipsychotic Risperdal was heavily promoted for unproven off-label uses for more than a decade, even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings against the misleading claims. Doctors are well within their legal rights to prescribe a drug for off-label use; it's actually a common, albeit sometimes dangerous, practice. However, drug companies may not promote them for uses other than those that are FDA-approved.
Research has shown that up to two-thirds of prescriptions for Risperdal were for unapproved uses that had little or no scientific support.
How did this happen? Simple – J&J's Janssen unit sent out an army of salespeople to doctor's offices, nursing homes, Veteran's Administration facilities, and jails to tout Risperdal as a proverbial miracle drug for mental illness and dementia in the elderly, as well as for unapproved uses in children and adolescents. Former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, a pediatrician, said in an October trial report that the companies were in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act when they promoted Risperdal for non-approved uses in children and adolescents. He noted:7
"The promotion of non-approved uses by a manufacturer, because it undercuts the system and safeguards of drug regulation, is concerning... The promotion of non-approved uses by a manufacturer of powerful drugs is more concerning... The promotion of non-approved uses in the most vulnerable children of powerful drugs is most concerning. Janssen's promotion of Risperdal, a powerful drug, for non-approved uses in the most vulnerable children is deeply troubling."
Drugs in Search of a Disease: Pharma Targets Women
And if they're not promoting a drug for unapproved uses, the drug companies are actively developing drugs based on entirely questionable – some might even say fictional – diseases. Women are often the targets for these drugs, as statistics show U.S. women use nearly 65 percent more drugs, on average, than men8 – making them a more lucrative market for the drug companies. Drug and biotech companies are currently testing or awaiting FDA approval for more than 850 different drugs for diseases that "disproportionately affect American women."9
Writing in Scientific American, Judy Stone, MD, recently highlighted the almost comical pursuit to classify what were once ordinary feelings into unique woman-centered diseases:10
" ...women still are the primary targets for pharmaceutical advertising, in part because they can be captured for multiple products – if not quite from the cradle, at least from puberty, through pregnancy, to menopause and to grave. What are some of the consequences of this relentless focus on women's hormones and common symptoms? For one, it seems to promote a nation of hypochondriacs. It is extremely profitable for pharmaceutical companies, but it is not so good for the target of this attention, women... be wary of innocent sounding offers of drugs to relieve all of your discomforts."
Among some of the more curious diseases she included are:
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): "In my day, it was moodiness at 'that time of the month,' more typically known as bitchiness. We didn't have an ICD-9 or DSM code. We had uncomfortable days but knew that this, too, would pass. Now cyclical hormones are a disease," Stone writes. Now women are being treated with antidepressant drugs, which might increase the risk of suicide, to avoid these symptoms.
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD): Otherwise known as lack of libido, various pills and "female Viagras" are clamoring to get to the market. Interestingly, lack of libido is often a side effect of antidepressant use.
The Solution is Within Your Hands...
The take-home message here is that even if a drug or treatment is "backed by science" or marketed as the miracle cure you've been waiting for, this in no way guarantees it is safe or effective. Likewise, if an alternative treatment has not been published in a medical journal, it does not mean it is unsafe or ineffective.
You've got to use all the resources available to you, including your own sense of common sense and reason, true experts' advice and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation. I advise you to remain skeptical but open – even if it is something I'm saying, you need to realize that YOU are responsible for your and your family's health, not me, and certainly not drug companies trying to sell their wares and convince you to take dangerous "symptom-cover-ups" disguised as science-based solutions.
If you're facing a health challenge it is best to identify a qualified natural health consultant – someone who really understands health at a foundational level and has had extensive experience in helping others resolve their health care challenges. Just make sure to see a competent regular physician to make certain any serious disorders like cancer are ruled out as well. In the meantime, do all you can to take control of your health so you stay healthy, and drug-free, in the first place.