And the winners are ...

The following are the top 15 submissions, sent in response to our Call for Abstracts on Pharmageddon. The background to this initiative is summarised here.


1. Genomics, Medicalisation and the Pharmaceutical Industry - David King

The main impact of genomics upon medicine will be a radicalisation of many aspects of the medicalisation of society. The enormous hype and quasi-religious metaphors associated with such advances as the completion of the Human Genome Project ('Book of Life') and isolation of embryonic stem cells (Christopher Reeve hoping to rise from his wheelchair) has boosted the expectation and demands for cure that Illich identifies as the main source of medicalisation. Furthermore, genetic enhances the role of doctor as priest: whereas the conventional doctor diagnoses what is wrong with our body, because genes are associated with both individual and collective identity, the genetic physician tells us who we are.

Genomics encourages a new understanding of the body as inherently flawed, (in a sense curiously analogous to the Catholic concept of original sin) and in need of medical intervention in order to maintain health. We all carry many alleles which can cause 'susceptibility’ or 'pre-disposition' to disease, and the central paradigm of medicine has become the idea that it is the interaction of these genes with environmental factors that leads to the disease.

The attraction for the pharmaceutical industry of genomics and the new paradigm is that it promises (at last) a real understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of disease, leading to new targets and a ‘rational drug design’ process. The most far-reaching aspect of genomics is the search for ‘disease susceptibility’ genes and the prospect of an individualised prediction/prevention medicine, although the robustness of gene-disease associations is still unclear. Whilst superficially attractive, the idea of a personalised medicine accords perfectly with economic pressures to shift the burdens of healthcare costs onto the individual. It also implies a radical new turn to medicalisation, with people incorporated into the medical system from before conception, and subjected to continual monitoring and preventative medication. As two pharmaceutical marketers put it, 'Through the use of predictive medicine, an individual’s disease will be seen as part of a biography, rather than as an affliction of a patient and the practice of medicine will increasingly be able to operate at the level of the individual, rather than at the level of the disease’ [1]. Public health genomics aims even higher; through population genotyping it aims to medicalise public health, and to open new markets through preventive drugs targeted at genetic (or ‘racial’, in the case of BiDil) sub-groups of the population. This co-option of prevention and the incorporation of genetics into public health will greatly intensify the role of ‘health’ as a technique of biopower. The focus on individual risk will set new standards for individual health performance, and will inevitably lead to an expansion of eugenics.

Pharma hopes that the high costs of population genotyping will be largely borne by the state through public-private partnerships, which will allow it to colonise all areas of medicine. As the gene-environment paradigm is becoming the central idea of medicine, Pharma has the opportunity to strengthen its hold on healthcare, by developing from simple drug suppliers into integrated healthcare companies, involved in basic research and providing diagnosis, medication and other services. The only alternative to this ‘rational’ medicine, says Pharma, is rationing [2].

Genomics is also driving medicalisation of many other areas of life, through the identification of ‘genes for’, personality, addiction, anti-social behaviour, ethnic identity, and the use of genetic information to determine access to insurance, employment etc.  

[1] Gilham, I. and Rowland, T. 2001 Predictive medicine: potential benefits from the integration of diagnostics and pharmaceuticals International Journal of Medical Marketing 2, pp16-22  [2] Fears, R, Roberts, D and Poste, G. 2000 Rational or rationed medicine? The promise of genetics for improved clinical practice British Medical Journal 320 933-935


2. Biocalypse - David King

Over the next two decades humanity will have to fight an existential battle, one which transcends the issues raised in Pharmageddon?, and which would better be called Biocalypse. The Biocalypse will be driven by the increasing power of the biosciences to understand, and of associated technologies including surgery, drugs, electronic implants, nanotechnology, and tissue engineering (combining stem cells and genetic engineering) to manipulate and control life. The issues discussed in Pharmageddon? cannot be adequately discussed without this broader context. In the 21st-century the issue will be whether humans will, like the rest of nature, become subject to manipulation and control according to the rules of the capitalist technocratic system, or whether we will be able to retain species integrity, singularity and the right not to be treated as an object. At stake is not just the expropriation of health, but the expropriation of life itself.

Although biology’s understanding and ability to manipulate are still developing, in this age of globalisation, its philosophy and globalist ambitions are clear. Already, all species except the human may be subject to genetic and other forms of manipulation. Now, whilst the systems biologists work towards a quantitative grasp of the entirety of complex biological systems, their technologist colleagues are designing ‘synthetic life’ from scratch.

At the root of the problem, as ever, is the reductionism of capitalist science. As the reductionist gaze dismantles complex wholes, it objectifies them, turning them into mere machines. Now, life is conceptualised as nothing more than editable information (and, as such, a form of capital), whose plasticity fits perfectly with the post-modern world view. Thus, biology undermines the conceptual basis of modern humanism.

This deconstruction of humanism is already evident in the continual erosion of the constraints imposed by liberal medical ethics, which has been replaced by a bioethics centred on facilitating science and ‘progress’. We have now reached the point where, whereas previously medicine was at the service of humanity, now human life (in ‘therapeutic cloning’ and ‘saviour siblings’) is conceived and born for the sake of medicine.

Unimpeded, biomedical technology is taking us to a world of routine 'enhancement' and eugenics, in which social control (biopower) is exercised through direct biological interventions. The fact that this trend wraps itself in the banner of 'health' and 'progress' means that a defence of the human, and a new politics of the rights of Life, must start from a re-evaluation of what those words mean.


3. Planting Paranoia and Harvesting Patients: Irrational Exuberance in the promotion of diagnostic screening - Alan Cassels

Despite a paucity of good evidence of the overall population benefit of much diagnostic screening, public health agencies around the world embrace it with a form of irrational exuberance as they attempt to seek out medical aberrations in healthy people. This exuberance is best exemplified by the direct-to-consumer methods of public service announcements, advertising and other marketing materials which plant the seeds of paranoia in patients and push them towards diagnostic screening for prostate, breast or colorectal cancers. What characterizes the excitement around testing is the lack of any public discussion which contextualizes the myriad of problems and potential downsides (including worsening quality or length of life) associated with this testing paradigm.

Given all this, how does one measure population-wide paranoia? If the promotion of PSA testing in men, mammography in women and colorectal screening in both genders is turning citizens into paranoiacs how can we measure this? Can we develop a "paranoia index", and create a series of measurable "fear factors" around such promotion which can be used to judge the urgency with which patients are encouraged to present themselves to their doctors for the required tests? Perhaps it is best to examine public promotion through both marketing and the media, especially the quality of print and broadcast journalism to see how the press has been planting paranoia and otherwise promoting diagnostic tests beyond the ranges of their potential usefulness. Media Doctor Canada, Media Doctor Australia and in the United States are all services which examine print and web-related media reporting of diagnostic testing and treatments. Assessing reportage of these three types of screening from three national sources could at least give us a taste at how international English language coverage discusses the tests’ many controversies, and explaining the potential harm of diagnosing and treating healthy people for what may be benign medical abnormalities.

Promoting diagnostic screening which medicalizes and then pharmacologizes healthy people strongly foreshadows a world of pharmageddon where paranoia-inducing medical exuberance works to turn healthy people into lifelong patients.



4. Rooting for Cancer: Radiologists as the truffle pigs of the cancer establishment
Alan Cassels

You can learn a lot about the cancer establishment by watching the behaviour of truffle pigs. These prized pigs are bred for their highly sensitive olfactory glands, used to find the well-hidden, and acclaimed fungi known to chefs worldwide as the truffle. Truffles are found in damp, mossy forests, often covered with dead leaves or debris and are best hunted with the skilled aid of a truffle pig. The pig’s famous sense of smell, combined with its sharp teeth and ax-like hooves are ideal to sniff out and then destroy the truffle’s hiding place. The pig’s destructive digging often results in extensive collateral damage, destroying other species and their forest habitat even as this vigorous activity spreads the truffle’s spores throughout the forest thus helping to ensure its reproductive success.

Using some of the most advanced diagnostic tools available—the PET and the CT scan—the modern radiologist is able to similarly root through the body with incredible precision to find potentially harmful tumours or lesions. A key problem, which should be of keen interest to students of pharmageddon, is that the radiologist, unlike the truffle pig, can find any fungi with incredible precision but he has no way of knowing in advance if the discovery is a prized truffle or nothing worth salivating over. Also unlike the truffle pig’s hunting expedition which ends in a prize, the radiologist’s discovery is the beginning of the real hunt, stimulating biopsies, surgeries and other invasive examinations that often leave patients worse off, destroying much surrounding tissue and sometimes causing new cancers by the diagnostic tests themselves.

If pharmageddon is a world where more harm than good is often inflicted then the habits of radiologists and their scanning technologies deserve major scrutiny. With cancer, the more you hunt, the more you will find, and a "positive" test inevitably leads to even more hunting, rooting, digging and destroying. Population-wide use of these scanning devices deserve deeper and more comprehensive evaluation, conducted by those not involved in organising the hunt.


5. Describing Pharmageddon needs transparent measurement - Andrew Herxheimer

The recognition of Pharmageddon has been much delayed by the conspiracy of good will, but also importantly by

the lack of a consistent method for measuring the harms caused by drugs or other treatments;

the lack of a language to explain the benefit-harm balance for any given treatment.

The existence of these two fundamental gaps highlights the complexity of the tasks so far neglected. We must move beyond assertions to serious attempts at quantifying harm and benefit-harm balance. A statement from the EMEA, for example, that "it has concluded that the benefits of [nimesulide products] outweigh their risks" cannot be accepted at face value.

In principle, whether and when Pharmageddon will be reached depends on the sums of the benefits and the harms attributable to drugs. We need running estimates of these sums. How should we try to calculate them?

The starting points must be to list the drugs used, the benefits and harms attributable to each, and the extent and manner of its use in every country (or population, eg children, women, old people) where it is used. 'Extent' and 'manner' will include the purpose of use, precautions taken, dosage and duration. This builds on existing drug utilisation research.

The next steps would be to focus on the most widely used drugs in each population, say the top 10 or top 20, and then to list their known benefits and harms. It will be necessary to categorise the benefits and harms according to their duration and their importance to the users. Pilot studies will be needed to suggest how many categories to use. The benefit-harm balance might first be assessed separately in each category before trying to assess it across the categories.

Another aspect that will require much thought and pilot work concerns people's personal valuation of benefits and harms. These vary in different circumstances, and over time, in ways that have been little investigated.

The time at which benefits or harms are likely to occur also presents special difficulties. Should long-term harms be 'discounted' when benefits are likely much earlier?


6. Pharmacovigilance needs a complete rethink - Andrew Herxheimer

The idea of Pharmageddon long remained hidden because the public mind focused far more on the expected benefits of medicines than on their possible harms. A major cause was the 'conspiracy of good will', in which patients, doctors, pharmacists, industry and health ministers expect the best. In addition everyone is looking for evidence and stories of benefit, while few people look for signs of harm, so much less is known about harms.

Drug regulation came because adverse effects had become intolerable. The term 'pharmacovigilance' should not be taken literally: its practice has been largely confined to the collection of spontaneous reports of ADRs and their interpretation, particularly to identify 'signals' of new reactions, especially to new drugs. It is the weakest part of drug regulation.

The following professional tasks concern adverse drug effects and must be part of the public agenda.

[partially/wholly Unmet Needs: A = Access to results; I = Implementation; O = Overhaul organisation; R = Research programme]


A. Preclinical animal toxicology A
B. Human toxicology, including AE monitoring during clinical trials A O R
C. Gather & analyse spontaneous reports of suspected ADRs O I R
D. Monitor adverse effects in clinical practice A O R
E. Describe characteristics & natural history of particular effects A R
F. Investigate/ discover the pharmacological/ biological mechanisms involved R
G. Investigate the epidemiology of the effect, eg frequency, seriousness, risk factors A R
H. Research ways of preventing or attenuating the effect, and testing them R
I. Develop treatments for people who have suffered damage R
J. Design & test a framework for compensating people avoidably harmed R
K. Review balance of benefits and harmful effects of the drug in different clinical situations I A
L. Communicate the knowledge gained to health professionals and the public I
M. Revise the Summary of Product Characteristics, the leaflet for patients, and the licensing status I A
N. Develop means of checking that the new knowledge is used in practice R I
O. Investigate and assess the social impact of medicines: on communities; the development of dependencies; quality of life R


7. The Hidden Epidemic of Harm Caused by Medicines - Donald Light

Evidence over the past 40 years indicates that harms to patients from adverse side effects of medicines exceed benefits: only 1 in 7 new drugs, have offered substantial therapeutic benefit over existing treatments. On the other hand, at least 30 percent bear risks of serious adverse events.

This benefit:harm ratio of 15:30 or 1:2 is made worse by medicines being widely prescribed for unapproved indications, being prescribed in higher doses than needed for their stated benefits, being prescribed to ever-wider populations as industry-supported experts lower thresholds on guidelines, and being prescribed to patients with higher risks of the adverse events involved. Each of these widening uses reduces any benefit and produces more ill-health. The scale of ill health is epidemic.

These general trends are illustrated by rofecoxib (Vioxx), an anti-inflammatory painkiller promoted as safer because of it breakthrough gentleness to the stomach. Yet the main trials never established this benefit sufficiently for the FDA to remove the standards warning against adverse gastrointestinal events remained on the label. While having no proven benefits, Vioxx had a 1.6% chance of causing heart attacks, stroke or sudden death in patients with low cardiovascular risk and a 4.4% chance in patients with high risk. Based on a detailed national data from the U.S., this one drug caused 560,000 cardiovascular traumas or death in the United States and about 1,120,000 worldwide.

While some medicines are clearly beneficial, there are many other examples of widely marketed and used medicines like Vioxx that provide little or no benefit but contribute to substantial harm. Anti-depressants and many other psychotropic medicines cause more harm than good. In fact, careful research by Allan Horwitz has established that most non-psychotic "mental diseases" have little or no medical basis.

Meantime, patients and doctors have become dependent on medicines as the way to "cure" or help a problem; so the profession and patients have become drug-dependent. This hobbles their ability to address their problems in more healthy and sound ways.

Why is this happening? Key institutional factors include:

setting the benchmark for efficacy as superior to placebo so companies are rewarded for developing many drugs no better than previous ones superior to placebo

having companies run and pay for clinical trials, which they design in several well-documented ways to hide adverse events. Trial results have been shown to be systematically biased. Approvals are based on them.

allowing sales reps to provide much of the information doctors use to prescribe, and allowing companies to sponsor medical education

allowing doctors to prescribe for any untested and unapproved condition that they can be persuaded to consider

having weak monitoring of harms and controls over harmful medicines. Not charging back for costs of treating harms.

keeping regulatory oversight agencies drug-dependent for funding and information.

The result is a hidden epidemic of illness and trauma to patients from the medicines their doctors prescribe. As currently designed, the way in which medicines are developed, approved and marketed will generate continuous waves of sickness and malfunctioning, most of it hidden in increased rates of familiar disorders and behaviours.


8. Just how well is our watchdog guarding us? - Jerome Burne

Drugs in the UK are licensed and then monitored to check for side-effects by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). However there is evidence to suggest that its post-market monitoring – pharmacovigilance – is inadequate.

Antipsychotic drugs such as Zyprexa are not licensed to treat patients with dementia. Evidence shows they raise heart and stroke risk in these patients and that they are ineffective in controlling behavioural problems. Yet they are prescribed to 200,000 elderly dementia patients annually. The MHRA has taken no action on this..

The only anti-depressant SSRI drug recommended for use on children and adolescents is fluoxetine (Prozac) because of the greater risk of suicide and lack of effectiveness of the others. However the combined use of the other SSRI’s is known to exceed that of Prozac. The MHRA has taken no action on this.

Studies recently showed that the diabetes drug Avandia raises the risk of cardiovascular problems and of osteoporotic fractures in women. The American authorities are proposing a serious warning on the drug. No such warning is being contemplated in the UK.

The weight control drug Rimonabant is not licensed in the USA because it can cause psychiatric problems. It is licensed in the UK and warnings about psychiatric problems come with the drug. But there is evidence that the Agency does not have the will or the resources accurately to monitor any increase in adverse side-effects.

The anti-inflammatory drug Arcoia – similar to Vioxx, withdrawn for safety reasons in 2004 - has been refused a licence in the USA on grounds of raised cardiovascular risk. It is licensed in the UK. But there is evidence that the Agency does not have the will or the resources accurately to monitor any increase in adverse side-effects.

Following a review of the evidence for the MHRA’s failure to protect patient’s safety, the paper would propose how it should be reformed along the lines proposed by commissions in America, Canada, the republic of Ireland and the UK. The MHRA has said that it does not need any reform.




Pharmageddon is here – and by definition, it operates in a highly dense system of overlapping nodes. I will lay down a map of this system, capturing the breadth of its impact – a breadth that speaks volumes about the depth of its impact. This system map will:

Demonstrate the landscape of Pharmageddon – the Pharma-dominated reality which circumscribes how individuals interact with medical systems and impoverishes understandings of health and illness

By laying down this map, I plan to not only demonstrate the reality of Pharmageddon, but to provide workable guidepost for political action to curb its influence.

The strength of this approach is that it is able to offer a bird’s eye view of the entire system in order to inform strategies for resistance. Offering this system-wide view will preclude going into great detail regarding any one node – yet this is precisely the point. Advocates addressing the negative impacts of any one node of Pharmageddon may miss opportunities to impact the forest of Pharmageddon.

Ideally, a system map of Pharmageddon would be a collaborative, fluid creation. Sharing this map with conference colleagues would be an ideal chance to build upon my initial efforts with insights from others. Once a collective map is in place, the challenge is before us: What do we do with it? How can we use it to inform strategies to move away from the sickness of Pharmageddon towards health and well-being?

Initial nodes on the map include:

R&D Which drugs are developed and why?

Funding / conflicts of interest

Publication Which data is published – or not?
Marketing and Education How do doctors and patients learn about drugs?

Minimizing conflicts of interest / maximizing evidence-based medicine

Prescribing Which drugs are prescribed, how often, and why?

Are drugs actually taken as prescribed?

The patient experience

Outcomes What are the real-world outcomes for prescription drug use?

How are we better off? Worse off?

Regulation Which drugs are approved and why?
Pricing How are drugs priced and why?
Public, private and individual payers Who pays how much for which drugs and why?

Cost / access axis



10. Expropriation of the manner of our dying: a Sisyphean path to Pharmageddon? 
- Dee Mangin

The purpose of health care is to relieve suffering and to prevent premature death. If the goal of prevention is to turn the survival curve into a rectangle, when this point is approaching the facility for life extension disappears: If an effect is seen on reduction in mortality from one cause, another will supplant it. How will we recognise when this point is reached? In developed countries individuals live longer and healthier lives than ever before. Yet, rather than savouring this success, this spate of health seems overwhelmed by a drive to take increasing quantities of medicines to prevent disease, even once an average lifespan has been exceeded. By extending the use of preventive treatments to reduce the risk of particular causes of death in older people have we reached a point where we are simply changing the cause of death rather than prolonging life, distorting health promotion into death prevention?

The current situation sees preventive treatments applied regardless of age. This situation is fuelled by three factors; Single disease perspectives, sensitivity about age discrimination, potentially huge financial gains for pharmaceutical companies if markets for treatments can be expanded as widely as possible. International interest in the state introduction of financial incentives for doctors adds a coercive impetus to persuade patients to take such treatments.

The use of statin drugs to prevent heart disease in the elderly illustrates the unintended and ethically questionable potential consequences of these processes. While rates of cardiovascular death and disease are reduced by taking these medicines, the overall death rate is no different as rates of cancer diagnosis and death increase. Treatment may simply be selecting for another cause of death and suffering unknowingly, without significant benefits in overall mortality and morbidity, and certainly without the patient’s informed consent.

If medicines are used to cause subtle shifts among older populations towards the next on the list of prevalent causes of death the availability of new epidemics and markets is endless. At this point, like Sisyphus, medicine becomes ensnared in endless but meaningless effort. We face Illich’s paralysis of a healthy response to death and its causes if the celebration of long and healthy life is blighted by an endless epidemic of the risk of death.


11. Factors behind the epidemic of breast cancer diagnoses in France -
Formindep (Bernard Junod)

Cancer is a constantly changing pathological process. In order to decide if cancer is present or not, the pathologist applies histological criteria to a sample at a given point in time. Comparing the frequency of breast cancer diagnosis in a group that has been screened many times against a group screened only at the end of a similar study period shows that overdiagnosis does take place. The more you look, the more you find. The smaller the tumour, the less valid the diagnosis. The purpose of this study is to show the link between the promotion of screening in France and the epidemic of breast cancer diagnoses.

Breast cancer frequency was estimated by studying breast cancer mortality, registered breast cancer diagnoses and surgical interventions on breast cancer performed over time in France. Appraisal of screening practices was based on the increase over time of mammography facilities.

 There was no significant change in breast cancer mortality, whereas incidence of cancer diagnoses increased in France between 1980 and 2000. In 1980, there were 8362 breast cancer deaths and 21 211 new diagnoses. The corresponding numbers for 2000 were 10 950 deaths and 41 845 new diagnoses. Over the same period, mammography facilities in operation in France increased from 308 to 2511. Between 2000 and 2003, the annual number of surgical interventions for breast cancer increased from 53 411 to 63 628.

A meta-analysis questioning the effectiveness of mammography screening was published in January 2000. Soon afterwards, a professional who had done drug marketing work in the United States was appointed in France to produce an official report setting aside the conclusions of this meta-analysis. Since then, France's breast cancer screening policy has grown ever stronger. The trend in breast cancer mortality does not support the hypothesis of an increase in the occurrence of breast cancer. Treatment of false positives is harmful. Breast cancer screening is a key component of the spread of oncological treatment. It helps to explain why cancer drugs are now among the top-selling medicines in the world.


12. The medicalization of healthy womanhood - Michael Weingarten

Observation: Western medicine has recommended healthy children to take routine supplements – vitamins A + D, iron, and fluoride. Now healthy women too are categorized as requiring routine pharmacological support – sex hormones for contraception and in menopause; folic acid and iron before and during pregnancy; and calcium and biphosphonates in old age.

Discussion: This is a remarkable exercise in the medicalization of healthy lives. By virtue of being female, the body seems to require constant help even when healthy. These recommended preventive medicine protocols, if followed religiously, make pill taking a routine part of life for a woman from birth to death. Although each and every element in these preventive protocols can be justified individually, the total end result is counterintuitive. Normal biological life should not require constant pharmacological support. The fact that it is women in particular who are singled out as being deficient demands a reappraisal of the social, political and commercial interests that might benefit from subjugating this half of the population to a life of monitored medical prescription.

Prediction: The tide may be turning. Now that doubts are being cast on the efficacy and/or safety of nutritional supplements in pregnancy, Hormone Replacement Therapy, and biphosphonates for osteoporosis, there are increasingly authoritative calls for changes in these routine management policies.

Conflicting interests: The author is male.

Iron and folic acid during pregnancy: Routine supplementation with iron and folate had no detectable effect on any substantive measures of either maternal or fetal outcome. Mahomed K. Iron and folate supplementation in pregnancy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1998. Mahomed K. Iron supplementation in pregnancy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000
HRT: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force 2005 (USPSTF) recommends against the routine use of combined estrogen and progestin for prevention in postmenopausal women.
Biphosphonates: "[The results for] etidronate are consistent with….no effect on non-vertebral fractures". Cranney A, Adachi JD, Griffith L, Guyatt G, Krolicki N, Robinson VA, Shea BJ, Wells G. Etidronate for treating and preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001


13. Genetically Engineered Rice to Treat Children in the Third World - Amanda Cundiff

Worldwide, hundreds of millions of children develop acute infectious gastroenteritis. While oral rehydration solutions (ORS) consisting mainly of electrolytes successfully treat children in most cases, about two million children under five years old worldwide die of diarrhea and dehydration each year. Babies that are exclusively breastfed rarely have acute diarrhea, and researchers found that proteins in human breast milk—particularly lysozyme and lactoferrin—protect infants from gastroenterological infections.

Biotech company Ventria has genetically engineered (GE) rice to contain human lysozyme and lactoferrin for use in ORS. In a company-sponsored randomized, controlled clinical trial at a Peruvian ORS center, 140 children ages 5 to 33 months received (1) standard ORS, (2) rice-based ORS, or (3) rice-based ORS plus human lactoferrin and lysozyme. On average, the ingestion of the proteins in GE rice shortened the duration of diarrhea from 5.2 to 3.7 days (P = 0.05). There was no difference in mortality. Ventria is expected to seek FDA approval for its GE rice milk for oral rehydration.

From a public health perspective, the underlying problem in developing countries is the need for safe municipal water systems. Meanwhile, GE drugs like insulin and growth hormone are quite expensive—prohibitively expensive in some third world countries. While Ventria claims that their GE ORS will be affordable, they have not published a price. Importing GE proteins to treat diarrhea may compete for funds with projects that actually improve the safety of water systems.

Beyond the monetary cost, cultivation of rice with human milk proteins raises serious environmental concerns. Ventria obtained permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant 3500 acres of this GE rice in Kansas earlier this year, while the U.S. public remains largely uninformed that this is happening and while there are no plans to study whether the rice escapes the area in which it is planted.

Because it shifts the focus away from the real problem of unsanitary water supplies and because large-scale pharmacrop cultivation has simply not been proven safe, Ventria’s GE rice is likely to cause more harm than good to both the environment and to public health.



14. The picture from 1/6th of the Globe: Who will be lucky to live in the future world?
Lilia E Ziganshina, Irina S Burashnikova, Airat U Ziganshin

Striving for freedom has always been the sole stimulus for the progress of mankind. Yet, establishing democratic freedoms we loose the basis for the freedom itself – personal and social health. We become dependent on medicines.

In the Soviet Union people lived with the aim to build a happy society, on average income, with simple joys and pleasures. The health services were free to 100% of population. The country managed with fixed number of essential medicines, produced by a few manufacturers. All health indicators were enviable. For example in the 1960-70s it was common for a child not to become PPD-positive after fading off of the birth BCG vaccination due to the rigorously functioning tuberculosis control system.

Yet after the stagnation and collapse of the great country we went through democratic way. We got freedom of speech and press, the hugest pharmaceutical market in the world and a flood of pharmaceutical information. People, not being able to adjust to violently changing environment and furious pace of life, became confused and looked for a way out in a form of a tablet.

The business of clinical trials, set up by pharmaceutical companies, became an easy way of money making for physicians behind a mask of high scientific values. Unjustified risks for population in a country without proper regulatory process and legislation of clinical trials contribute to deterioration of health.

Meanwhile the continuous increase of mortality rates and decrease of birth rates in Russia indicate the lack of essential benefit for society of diverse pharmaceuticals with potential threat to lives of future generations. But we still believe in tablets. We forget that a human being is a child of Nature and cannot utilize without consequences thousands of alien substances. Only mutants capable of utilizing diverse chemicals will have chances to survive in a pharmaceutically-determined selection process. It is terrifying… but we can change this. We just have to think about future, to think about our descendants. Positive thinking, active position, life for creation and happiness, not for profits is the alternative for Pharmageddon.


15. Pharmageddon - André Menache

Adverse drug reactions now rank as the fourth leading cause of death in the UK and in the western world, after heart disease, cancer and stroke. In Britain alone, 18,000 people die every year from the side effects of prescription drugs – the equivalent of 60 jumbo jets filled with 300 passengers, crashing every year. If that were to happen in the aviation industry, we would all stop flying. It is happening in the pharmaceutical industry, but no-one seems to know, or care.

The facts speak for themselves. On average, out of ten new drugs, only one will successfully make it through clinical trials to market. This figure not only reflects the poor predictability of pre-clinical animal tests, but it also highlights some of the inherent weaknesses still present in the design of clinical trials. A major issue of concern is that of using healthy human 'volunteers' to test novel drugs. Although these individuals provide their legal consent to participate in a clinical trial, they are incapable of giving their 'valid' consent, in the case of a drug never before tried in people - and whose side effects are therefore not yet fully known. This point was brought to light in the Northwick Park disaster in March 2006. Had the six healthy young men known the real risks of taking part in that clinical trial, it is doubtful indeed that they would have agreed to risk their lives and their futures for a fee of around £2,000.

A discussion about pharmaceutical drugs would not be complete without reference to the profit motive of the world's most profitable industry. Fully two-thirds of its budget is spent on marketing and advertising, while the remaining third is spent on actual research. Drug companies have been found to be in breach of their corporate social responsibility by making exaggerated claims for their products and deflecting litigation suits. Although a parliamentary investigation into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry was launched in 2004, little or no affirmative action took place. An overhaul of our current drug testing paradigm is therefore still well overdue.



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