Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are the Australian Government Under the Spell of the Pharmaceutical Industry?

"Huggy Bear"  Fictional character who played a pimp in the 70's cop show Starsky and Hutch.

Quite often when a reader throws me a link to research I sit and ponder whether or not it merits further investigation. When a sharp eyed Australian reader of my blog recently sent me a link to the Australian Medicines Industry webpage, I kinda shrugged my shoulders and muttered "Yup" under my breath.

The Australian Medicines Industry,  formerly known as The Pharmaceutical Association, represents 80% of all Australian pharmaceutical companies. They appear to lobby the government and get consumer organisations to promote drugs, at least that's the way I see it.

What I find baffling is another body, namely Medicines Australia.

As far as I can see, Medicines Australia represents The Australian Medicines Industry but they would appear to be one and the same.

Here, Dr Brendan Shaw announces a new public website that seeks to raise awareness of the industry’s contribution to the health and wealth of the nation. The article cites Shaw as being The Australian Medicines Industry spokesman.

Yet this video sees him as the spokesperson for Medicines Australia?


Even more confusing is the registrant of The Australian Medicines Industry website is Medicines Australia [Fig 1]

Fig 1

The Australian Medicines Industry and Medicines Australia are basically the equivalent of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry [ABPI], the body that protects pharma from pesky patients requesting information about pharmaceutical products, they probably coined the term, "Talk to your doctor."

One only has to contact GSK to ask them about one of their prescription products. Any "Dear GSK, Can you help me withdraw from your product" type of letter is usually met with, "Dear Consumer, Under the ABPI Code of Practice...blah, blah, blah.... we therefore suggest you talk to your doctor....blah, blah, blah....

I can only assume that they have the same system set up in Australia.

A short time ago, I received a promotional pack of Aropax through the post. Aropax is yet another brand name or the SSRi antidepressant Seroxat, known as Paxil in the US and Canada and a whole host of different names throughout the world.

The Aropax promotional pack is from 2002 and it's my understanding that only a handful of these still exist today, luckily I have one.

I have, on two occasions, contacted GSK Australia and asked them about this particular promotion. They have never replied. With this in mind, I sent the following to Medicines Australia to see if they could have thrown some light on the 2002 promotion of Aropax in Australia:

1. How many patients were enrolled in the a plus project?

2. How many of the patients were under the age of 18?

3. Did the starter packs just contain packets of Aropax with 20mg tablets or were there starter packs with lower doses?

4. What were the qualifications and training of the counsellors on the a plus project?

5. What were the sales trends of Aropax in Australia before, during and after the a plus project?

6.How much did GlaxoSmithKline pay individual key opinion leaders, including (but not limited to) Professor Graham Burrows and Professor Bruce Singh? What were the services for which each was paid?

7. What were the goals of the a plus project?

8. How long did the a plus project run for?

9. How many adverse reactions were reported for Aropax during the project?

10. Were participants on the a plus project ever followed up or did GlaxoSmithKline Australia lose touch with the participants once the project had finished?

11. Why was the project ended?

12. Was the a plus project deemed a success by GlaxoSmithKline?

13. Has GlaxoSmithKline or its subsidiaries ever offered similar counselling sessions to patients taking other drugs manufactured by the company?

14. How much did GlaxoSmithKline pay for sponsorship of the Depression Awareness Journal around the time of the a plus project?

For an introduction into GlaxoSmithKline's promotional tool for Aropax watch this short video I made: [Forgive the Brummie accent]

I though it was reasonable of me to ask Medicines Australia about GSK's marketing tactics, they do seem to have a very good relationship with them, as a matter of fact, today sees them 'big up' Glaxo on their page. The Royal Flying Doctor Service [Queensland and Victoria] and Save the Children being two key partnerships recently secured with GSK Australia.

When I see the word 'children' and 'GSK' in the same sentence I normally hear alarm bells.

Medicines Australia replied within 48 hours, it was a peculiar email to say the least.

With the above questions, I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

I have wrote to GSK Australia on two separate occasions regarding the promotion of Aropax in Australia in 2002. Sadly, for reasons only known to them, they have failed to respond.

I therefore request that Medicine's Australia intervene and either answer the questions I put to GSK or urge GSK Australia to give me answers.

Medicines Australia replied with:

You have sent your email to a non-manned mailbox at Medicines Australia.
Medicines Australia is the industry association representing pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Medicines Australia is not interested in your services and no action has been taken with regard to your email.
Many Thanks
Medicines Australia

Non-manned? Weird that a non-manned inbox has the ability to tell me that it is not interested in my services? Weird that Medicines Australia would set up an email system to 'bounce' emails back to the sender...without actually reading what was sent?

Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

So, the 2002 Aropax promotion by GSK in Australia still remains shrouded in secrecy. GSK won't answer me, neither will Medicines Australia. I'd ask the Aussie government but it would appear they are already having a back scratching session with Medicines Australia.

Will Delaat, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Council and former "Independent" Chairman of Medicines Australia, recently addressed Medicines Australia's 2011 Parliamentary dinner, where the theme of the evening was "Innovation for the Health of the Nation."

Here's part of Delaat's speech:

It’s about shining a light on how the health and productivity of our people, and the health our economy, benefit from the Australian medicines industry.

It’s about shining a light on the importance of the right policy settings from Government to enable and encourage a viable medicines industry.

It’s about shining a light on the importance of a robust intellectual property framework in Australia.

But it’s also about something much more straightforward than that. It’s about celebrating a great success story - the Australian medicines industry.

  • An industry that delivers the latest medicines and vaccines to Australian patients and contributes to improved health and productivity outcomes.
  • An industry that employs 14,000 Australians in high-skill, high wage jobs – 72 per cent of whom are tertiary educated.
  • An industry that contributes more than $4.1 billion in manufacturing exports, more than any other high tech industry.
  • An industry that undertakes 800 clinical trials in Australia each year.
  • An industry that attracts more than $1 billion a year in global R&D investment – more than the automotive industry.In short, the medicines industry is one of Australia’s key innovative technology industries, which contributes to the nation’s social and economic development in a number of ways.

The medicines and vaccines the industry researches, develops, manufactures and brings to the community play a vital role in treating illness, and helping people live healthier, happier, more productive lives.

Tie this together with the Australian government ploughing money into Patrick McGorry's early intervention program [a model whereby children can be diagnosed with a mental disorder...before they actually get it] and you have a very cosy, exclusive pill pushing club who, when brought to task, claim that you are either a conspiracy theorist or Scientologist! [Back story]

Australian's need to start asking questions of this bed hopping. Exactly who is running your country? Is it Prime Minister Julia Gillard or is it the pharmaceutical industry?

**Footnote - The father of Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a former psychiatric nurse.