Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Carl Elliott on the nature of modern psychiatric research

Carl Elliott has published a shocking, truthful, rigorous and brave article on the gross dishonesty and immorality typical of modern Big Pharma-funded psychiatric research; using as the example his own employer the University of Minnesota.


"Many clinical studies place human subjects at risk — at a minimum, the risk of mild discomfort, and at worst, the risk of serious pain and death. Bioethicists and regulators spend a lot of time and energy debating the degree of risk that ought to be permitted in a study, how those risks should be presented to subjects, and the way those risks should be balanced against the potential benefits a subject might receive.

"What is simply assumed, without much consideration at all, is that the research is being conducted to produce scientific knowledge.

"This assumption is codified in a number of foundational ethics documents, such as the Nuremberg Code, which was instituted following Nazi experiments on concentration camp victims. The Nuremberg Code stipulates that an “experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society,” and “the degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.”

"But what if a research study is not really aimed at producing genuine scientific knowledge at all? The documents emerging in litigation suggest that pharmaceutical companies are designing, analyzing, and publishing trials primarily as a way of positioning their drugs in the marketplace.

"This raises a question unconsidered in any current code of research ethics. How much risk to human subjects is justified in a study whose principal aim is to “generate commercially attractive messages”?"

Carl Elliott. Making a killing. Mother Jones. September/ October 2010.



It is this kind of thing, which has been going on for several decades, getting progressively worse - that has led me to my current position that the medical research literature is so dishonest, so full of deception, so distorted as to be scientifically worthless.

Medical research is by far the largest branch of 'science' in the world today. Yet as a generalization medical research is much-worse-than-useless, because actively misleading.

What an appalling achievement! To have expanded the resources and personnel of medical research by an order of magnitude over half a century; while simultaneously converting it into a deadly amalgum of marketing, politics, bureaucracy and amoral careerism.


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  4. "amoral careerism": it's my belief that almost every use of "amoral" is a misuse - "immoral" is usually the mot juste.

  5. @dearieme - You are probably right, but for me amoral carries an implication of instrumentalism as contrasted with the active wickedness suggested by immoral.