Monday, 16 February 2015

Professor Peter Goetzche's special seminar: the dangers of pharmaceuticals

Professor Peter Goetzche, Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark visited SPHPM on the 11th of February to present a special seminar on a contentious topic: the dangers of pharmaceuticals and why they’re not helping patients. 

At 2:00pm, the Level 5 Lecture Theatre is already buzzing and there is not a spare seat in the whole room, people are excitedly whispering with someone commenting that they’ve never seen the room so packed. Professor Goetzche has garnered interest with his recent feature in the Sydney Morning Herald, followed by an impressive number of publications in the field of pharmaceuticals.

Professor Goetzche opens his presentation with shocking facts of Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies being convicted of crime in 2013 for a misbranding violation. Pfizer paid $420 million for their fraud and Professor Goetzche makes it clear that the big pharmaceutical companies have a worse track record for bribery and corruption than any other companies. He then proceeds to outline the many crimes associated with prescription medication; organised crime, political corruption and extortion. 

The seminar is explorative and broad, covering topics such as polypharmacy and the dangers for the elderly. The example he provides is one that affects many on a yearly basis. With the elderly on numerous, up to five drugs at once, there has been no studies conducted on the effects of what various medications can have on individuals, placing them at great risk.

Reaching the tail end of Professor Goetzche’s presentation, he introduces a topic that sparks interesting questions following his discussion; the relationship between the drug industry and psychiatry. The issue he points out is with so many individuals on anti-depressants such as SSRI’s, very few successfully wean themselves off the drug, even when attempted in a slow and careful process. Pharmaceuticals such as SSRI’s and anti-psychotics can pose a great risk for many vulnerable populations, increasing suicide rates in the young and allowing the elderly to lose their balance or equilibrium, creating accidents and placing them in greater pain. The professor’s examples are hard hitting and raise many questions about the true benefits of prescription medication for the population.

Professor Goetzche closes with some solutions to address the issue of pharmaceuticals. These include introducing a public fund for drug trials, conducting independent trials that are paid for by the industry and using drugs that are at least seven years old to ensure they can do no harm. He also stresses the importance of using drugs as little as possible and reading the inserts provided.

The seminar concludes with a slew of questions by attendees on a diverse range of topics from the definition of the placebo effect to the issue of blaming psychiatrists for prescribing anti-psychotics rather than the industry. Professor Goetzche answers each question concisely and leaving the audience with a lot to think over.

SPHPM hosts regular seminars and individuals can see our upcoming events on the SPHPM calendar on the right hand side of our blog.

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