Official French report trashes Pharma, calls many drugs 'useless'

A couple of French medical experts have some really nasty things to say about Big Pharma in a book they were commissioned to write after the scandal in France over the weight-loss drug Mediator, which was tied to hundreds of deaths there.

They claim that half the drugs prescribed to patients are of no use, or even dangerous, and the government could save €10 billion ($13 billion) a year if it quit paying for them, The Guardian reports. Bernard Debré, a physician and member of parliament, and Philippe Even, director of the Necker Institute, suggest that stopping use of the drugs could prevent up to 20,000 deaths and reduce hospital admissions by up to 100,000.

In their book, "The Guide to the 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines" they evaluated the costs, effectiveness and risks of the drugs available in France, some of which they say "are completely useless." They are particularly harsh about lipid-regulating statins and have singled out 58 drugs, that are used for a wide range of conditions, like diabetes and osteoporosis, which they claim are outright dangerous. 

"The pharmaceutical industry is the most lucrative, the most cynical and the least ethical of all the industries," Even tells The Guardian. "It is like an octopus with tentacles that has infiltrated all the decision-making bodies, world health organizations, governments, parliaments, high administrations in health and hospitals and the medical profession."

The French trade group the Professional Federation of Medical Industrialists, is having none of it, claiming that many of their examples are not precise and pointing out that France has a government agency that oversees pharmaceuticals.

Of course, France dissolved and replaced its drug safety agency earlier this year in response to a couple of medical scandals. The predecessor agency was highly criticized for allowing the diabetes drug Mediator, made by French drugmaker Servier Laboratories, to remain on the market even after it was linked to thousands of deaths and heart valve damage cases. It was often prescribed for weight loss. There was also an outcry last year when it was reported that a French company used industrial-grade silicone in breast implants that had been rupturing. Then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked for the report after the public outcry over Mediator.

Queried by The Guardian on why the French rely so heavily on drugs if they are not effective, Even suggested that they had been brainwashed into asking for drugs. "Today we have doctors who want to give people medicines and sick people asking for medicines. There's nothing objective or realistic about this."

- here's The Guardian story

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