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Top 5 Terrifying Big Pharma Facts

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands

Just because it was developed in a lab, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. From questionable methods, to levels of effectiveness, here are some things you might not know, but should. WatchMojo counts down the Top 5 Terrifying Big Pharma Facts.


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Top 5 Terrifying Big Pharma Facts

Just because it was developed in a lab, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 5 Terrifying Big Pharma Facts.

Let’s get one thing straight - we live in an age of medical marvels, and pharmaceutical research has undoubtedly saved and changed the lives of countless individuals. But wherever there is money involved, the top priority is usually profit margins and making sales. So we’re peeling off the label and reading the fine print as we explore the darker side of Big Pharma.

#5: Pharmaceutical Trials Don’t Necessarily Test the Important Stuff

There’s a problematic question one needs to ask when administering, receiving or considering any sort of medical treatment. Does this approach address the root cause of the problem, or just the symptoms that stem from it? According to a 2015 John Hopkins University study, various drugs used to treat diabetes have been proven to lower blood sugar quite effectively, but are often brought to market on those grounds alone. Such trials – approved by the FDA – fail to consider whether a drug that reduces high blood sugar, a symptom of diabetes, will necessarily reduce the long-term effects associated with the disease, such as strokes. To borrow the words of Dr. Mark Hyman “It’s like taking the batteries out of a smoke detector instead of trying to find the fire”. Treating “surrogate symptoms” can prove a deadly approach to medicine.

#4: Many Clinical Trials Go Unpublished, Often the Critical Ones

The sad reality is… at the end of the day, people are only interested in results, and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. But when it comes to research intended to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular drug, a lack of results should never be ignored. Sadly, according to Iain Chalmers, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, the standard publication and peer review system used to share medical research contains an inherent bias that results in roughly half of all clinical trial findings going unpublished. Of trials resulting in positive correlations, 73% are published. For those with negative or neutral findings, only 41%. If you’re testing a certain drug, and come up with no proof of the desired effect, that might be “statistically insignificant”, but it ALSO speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the product.

#3: After the Trials, We Hardly Evaluate Drug Effectiveness

Alright, so during the clinical trial phase, we tend to overwhelmingly report the good news about a potential drug, while tests undermining its efficacy are casually swept under the rug. But surely once everyone starts taking the drug, specialists and GPs will quickly notice if the drug is ineffective? Sadly, no. Think about it. If your doctor prescribes you a medication and it doesn’t work... you try something else. But what if that’s happening to everyone? According to Marty Makary, a surgeon, best-selling author and advocate for greater transparency in the medical system, there is no system in place for measuring the performance of a drug across the board once it gets approved. Unless serious, previously unreported side effects show up, second thought is never given to the drug’s actual effectiveness beyond the trial period.

#2: Pharmaceutical Trials Cherry-Pick Test Subjects

We’ve already talked about publication bias… but what about participant bias? You – yes, you – can, theoretically, participate in clinical trials. But what’s the criteria? Must you be a non-smoker, have perfect vision, fall into the ideal BMI range, and have essentially no medical history worth mentioning? Pharmaceutical trials can’t lie about their numbers, but they can limit their tests to the ideal demographics in order to get the best results. According to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, less than one in four people taking citalopram, a common antidepressant, would’ve actually been eligible for the clinical trials behind it. Women are often underrepresented or excluded entirely from trials, which has historically resulted in many unforeseen complications when the drug was later prescribed to them.

#1: Pharmaceutical Sponsored Studies Result in More Favorable Findings

And so we come full circle, back to the almighty dollar. Clinical trials aren’t cheap - no scientific research is. But sadly, all too often, only those parties with a vested interest in the outcome of the research are willing to foot the bill. Again, researchers aren’t going to falsify their results. But research teams running trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies have been found to statistically yield results in favor of the company interests more so than their financially-independent counterparts. According to Lisa Bero, co-chair of the Cochrane Collaboration, it’s no small difference. She claims that an industry-funded study is more likely to produce positive results by a margin of 30%. Furthermore, a 2010 review study published by German science journal “Deutsches Ärzteblatt International” found evidence that companies “influenced study protocols” in favor of their desired outcome.


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