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Paula Joan Caplan's Authors Guild Blog

Science Takes a Major Hit with Firing of Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche from Previously-respected Cochrane Collaboration

The public ought to be able to have confidence in scientists' claims, especially when those claims can have immediate impact on their lives. However, far too much research in medicine and psychology has been skewed, even sometimes purposefully faked, as a result of the influence of companies that manufacture drugs and medical devices and that fund that research. 

 

Until recently, the Cochrane Collaboration has been a stellar and rare example of an entity from which issued scrupulously careful, unbiased analyses of bodies of research were issued, allowing the scientific community and the general public to have justifiable confidence in their conclusions. They appeared uniquely unaffected by industry, so that consumers and practitioners would not be at the mercy of a medical or psychiatric journal article (usually written by someone whose research funding came from the company manufacturing the drug being studied) or of a popular publication's science writer's sometimes inaccurate portrayal of what the research truly showed.

 

On September 13 of this year, Cochrane Cofounder Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche, a Cochrane Board member and Director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, was abruptly expelled from the Board and from Cochrane altogether. The move was frightening for three reasons: (1)Because of the apparent reason behind it, (2)Because of the way it was done, and (3)Because it shatters confidence in Cochrane, when it's so hard to find other truthspeakers about medical and psychiatric/psychological research. http://www.deadlymedicines.dk

 

M. Arbyn, L. Xu, C. Simoens, and P.P. Martin-Hirsch from Cochrane had published a major review of vaccines like Gardasil, whose manufacturers and many well-meaning people have been strongly urging parents to have injected into their children as young as age 11 (the U.S. Center for Disease Control's reoccmmendation) in order to prevent human papillomaviruses (HPV). Arbyn et al. reported no evidence that such vaccines cause harm 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29740819?dopt=Abstract

 

Subsequently, Dr. Gotzsche and his colleagues Lars Jørgensen and Tom Jefferson published a perceptive, solidly argued and strongly-supported critique of the above review. In that review, titled "The Cochrane HPV vaccine review was incomplete and ignored important evidence of bias,"
https://ebm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/07/27/bmjebm-2018-111012
they showed that there is indeed compelling evidence of serious kinds of harm, including deaths. The negative effects of these vaccines therefore could not have more severe implications for the public -- and doctors who advise use of the vaccine -- to know about.

 

Jorgensen, Gotzsche, and Jefferson show that the unwarrantedly sunny Arbyn et al. review was characterized by incomplete reporting of data and its authors' ties to industry:  "The Cochrane review only has four authors; three of whom had such conflicts of interest a decade ago. The review's first author currently leads EMA's 'post-marketing surveillance of HPV vaccination effects in non-Nordic member states of the European Union, which is funded by Sanofi-Pasteur-MSD that was the co-manufacturer of Gardasil."

 

In what Dr. Gotzsche calls a show trial, his expulsion was implemented although Cochrane's hired counsel had found no evidence of his wrong-doing. http://www.deadlymedicines.dk Had Cochrane's Board tried harder to think of a way to render obvious their motives for getting rid of Dr. Gotzsche, it's difficult to think how that would have been possible.

 

As a specialist myself, for decades, in research methods, and as author with Jeremy B. Caplan of a textbook about research methods https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Critically-about-Research-Gender/dp/0205579884/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538332545&sr=8-1&keywords=thinking+critically+about+research+on+sex+and+gender&dpID=5150rJj8XTL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch, I have long been alarmed by the amount of sloppy science that is promoted by powerful entities -- drug companies, medical device manufacturers, the American Psychiatric Association, to name a few -- as truth. And for decades I have listened to those who have been victimized by the false advertising based on that sloppy science that holds out the promise to people that if they just take this pill, get this injection, use this medical device, their suffering will end, or they will avoid future suffering. 

 

Are there honest medical and psychiatric/psychological researchers who scrupulously design and carry out research and then responsibly describe their results? Of course. But they are too rare, which makes the firing of Dr. Gotzsche and the corruption of Cochrane tragic.

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