Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Uncovering Pharmaceutical Fraud

In a previous post, I mentioned a research paper that was published in The Lancet that made claims that a certain vaccine caused autism. The idea went viral, and the amount of vaccinations decreased, which resulted in many children suffering needlessly with the measles and other preventable diseases. Claims in the paper were eventually proven false, and The Lancet retracted the paper. However, although there may not be a causal link between vaccines and autism, there does appear to be alleged fraudulent activity occurring on the side of the pharmaceutical companies to cover up and enhance the results of their vaccines.

A recent Huffington Post article discusses three court cases filed by whistleblowers against Merck, a pharmaceutical company, saying that they “fraudulently misled the government and omitted, concealed, and adulterated material information regarding the efficacy of its mumps vaccine in violation of the FCA [False Claims Act].” One of the court cases describes Merck’s misconduct as follows:

It "failed to disclose that its mumps vaccine was not as effective as Merck represented, (ii) used improper testing techniques, (iii) manipulated testing methodology, (iv) abandoned undesirable test results, (v) falsified test data, (vi) failed to adequately investigate and report the diminished efficacy of its mumps vaccine, (vii) falsely verified that each manufacturing lot of mumps vaccine would be as effective as identified in the labeling, (viii) falsely certified the accuracy of applications filed with the FDA, (ix) falsely certified compliance with the terms of the CDC purchase contract, (x) engaged in the fraud and concealment described herein for the purpose of illegally monopolizing the U.S. market for mumps vaccine, (xi) mislabeled, misbranded, and falsely certified its mumps vaccine, and (xii) engaged in the other acts described herein to conceal the diminished efficacy of the vaccine the government was purchasing."

Regardless of whether or not Merck actually produces a vaccine that causes autism, it appears very likely that they falsified some of their data and potentially reported fraudulent results.

I'm curious to see what ultimately happens to Merck for perpetrating this fraud. Cases of fraud in science show that when a new claim is made, especially one that yields exceptional results, it’s best to wait before accepting and acting on the claim. As for me, I like to wait until new claims have been thoroughly tested, replicated, and published in a reputable, peer reviewed journal; even then a healthy dose of skepticism doesn’t hurt.

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