Friday, 6 July 2012

$3 billion GlaxoSmithKline and the IMPACT AWARDS

This week I received my flyers for the GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Awards 2013, which offer a range of awards ranging from one of £40k, to ten of £30k to reward charities’ excellent work to improve people’s health. There’s absolutely bucket loads of cash and the closing date for applications is the 21st September. The awards are offered in partnership with the King’s Fund and I’ve seen a number of arts/health projects proudly emblazoned with their award winning GSK logos over the years. Great opportunity in a time of austerity eh? But hold fire for a second, because haven’t GlaxoSmithKline been in the news for things other than philanthropy this week?
That’s right: as well as being fined $3 billion ‘after admitting bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants (Paxil) for children’, they’re also expected to admit failing to report safety problems with the diabetes drug Avandia! GSK also ‘paid for articles on its drugs to appear in medical journals...’ 

It reminds me of the excellent work done by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare, (IQWiG) which I reported in my paper, A Brightly Coloured Bell-Jar and that showed Pfizer’s anti-depressant, reboxetine was no more effective than placebo,  and was "significantly less" effective, and was less acceptable, than the other drugs in treating the acute-phase treatment of adults with unipolar major depression. Yet, the published data on reboxetine overestimated the benefit of reboxetine versus placebo by up to 115% and also underestimated harm, concluding that reboxetine was an ineffective and potentially harmful antidepressant. The study also showed that nearly three quarters of the data on patients who took part in trials of reboxetine were not published by Pfizer until after they had been exposed by the IQWiG...
And yet, still many of us in the arts/health world talk, (with dewy eyes) about the gold-standard, randomized controlled trial, and the impartiality of the scientific journal. Let’s remember this: GSK have pleaded guilty to promoting drugs for improper use - and Pfizer were hiding the evidence that their medication was ineffective and potentially harmful. Both used scientific journals to promote their products and in the case of GSK, paid doctors to actively promote their products.

Why do we let ourselves be blindly pulled into the myth of the commercially driven scientific journals ‘objectivity’? That said, I’m sure the research of the majority of scientists is driven by a desire for clinical advance, but its the dominance of the pharmaceuticals that clearly muddy the waters. It’s worth noting that whilst GSK have been fined $3 billion, the profits on Paxil are already over $11.6 billion and from Avandia are $10.4 billion! So their offer of around £340k Impact Awards to charities, suddenly seems paltry in the face of their grotesque profit and potential harm, both to health and wellbeing - and on the ethics of clinical research and its dissemination.

Footnote: This week I saw the 1974 Alan Yentob documentary on David Bowie called, Cracked Actor, in which Bowie (apparently out of his mind much of the time on cocaine), talked eloquently about his Ziggy Stardust period, and how this work was research on how people surround celebrities, pushing them further and further, and plying them with drugs to produce more and more (Hendrix, Joplin et al). It set my mind racing on the cult of drugs, both prescribed and illegal. Which are more immoral? Then I read the GSK apology and received its offer of cash for excellence. 
For a far more eloquent account of the pharmaceutical dominance withn research, go to, one-time editor of the BMJ Dr Richard Smith. Always excellent.  

...and moving away from medication for a moment:

Start2 is an online creative wellbeing service, free to use. Start2 contains over 80 exercises that boost wellbeing and help us to live more creatively. Whether for personal or professional use, Start2 is aimed at anyone who wants to explore wellbeing through creative outlooks and activities. Visit them by clicking on the image below: 

Case Studies Needed: 
National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing (England)
For the past couple of years, the North West Arts and Health Network has been working with partners across the country to develop a national voice for arts and health. This is due to launch in the autumn and a dedicated media campaign is being planned to coincide with this aiming to demonstrate leading arts and health projects and their impact on patients and the public.
The campaign, funded with the support of the King’s Fund and run by media agency SKV is looking for case studies which showcase the best in the field of arts health and wellbeing. We are looking to create a body of case studies which can be drawn on by SKV for press opportunities in different contexts and this means we need a variety of stories on a range of different subjects, demonstrating different points. With press attention in mind we are looking for examples which stand out, offer something new in context, demonstrate high quality work or offer real personal stories and insights which demonstrate the impact of the work. Because we will either have to be very responsive or be looking to demonstrate particular points, we cannot guarantee to use every case study we receive but we hope you will be happy to contribute to this important resource.
To let us know you would like your organisation or project to be included and for details on what to include in your case study submission, email 

RNCM Music for Health Programme
The Central Manchester University Hospitals Concert Series
Fri 13 July Royal Eye Hospital Atrium 7.30pm – 8.45pm
Ordsall Acapella Singers A four-part community choir whose programme will include songs as diverse as Imagine, Wonderful World and Nellie the Elephant!!
Sneak preview by clicking on the photograph below. 

PhD Opportunity in Nottingham 
There is an opportunity for three year full-time PhD funding from the NIHR. We are looking for a potential PhD student to collaborate with us on a research project looking at the effectiveness of singing with people with dementia. The project is at a late stage of development and you will be supported throughout the application process. We need an applicant who is 100% committed to do doing a full-time PhD in Nottingham over three years. The prospective candidate needs to be a registered health professional i.e. Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) or the Health Professionals Council (HPC) (at the time the award is granted - this includes arts therapists). Naturally we are also looking for somebody experienced in singing with older people. The ideal person will probably have a good science/arts balance and already have a Masters degree (or first class Bachelors with evidence of ongoing study). Contact 

...and returning to another kind of medication:

The fast food chain McDonalds unveils its first sustainable restaurant in the Olympic Park, Stratford. It's the largest in the world and during the Games, will be the busiest in the world. Mmmm, the opiate of the massives (sp)

...thank you as ever...C.P.