Sunday, 6 July 2014

☁ + ☼ = ♒

The Long-Term Health Benefits of Participating in the Arts: An International Evidence Base
Readers of this blog will remember that the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Arts for Health to conduct research into the evidence that exists around the longitudinal relationship between arts participation and health. We are pleased to announce that the first output from this project was launched at the annual conference of the UK Faculty of Public Health on Thursday, where Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt and I spoke.

Available by clicking on the image above, or by visiting this online repository includes short summaries of each of the studies to have included arts participation in long-term considerations of health, together with links to the majority of the original research articles. While these results are tentatively presented, the combined evidence shows a positive association between attending arts events or engaging in creative practice and physical/psychological health. As ever, we present these studies while remaining mindful of questions around who has access to the arts and health.

URBAN PSYCHOSIS will run from 14.07.14 - 22.08.14 with work by John Baldessari – Matthew Buckingham – Sophie Calle – Marc Camille Chaimowicz – Moyra Davey – Luke Fowler – Gillian Wearing – Catherine Yass 
Only a few tickets left for the Will Self talk...
Preview, Friday 11 July, 6-8pm

I AM - WE ARE - a free s y m p o s i u m
I AM: Memoirs of Addiction Recovery: an exhibition
17th July at MMU. Details and booking by clicking on logo above

It’s that time of year when I receive my publicity for the GSK Impact Awards in the hope that I’ll publicise them and encourage you, the hard-pressed arts and health community to get your entries in and have the chance of winning up to £40k plus bucket-loads of GSK publicity and national recognition. Hey - I am doing! In fact, I know some great organisations who have applied and won. It certainly does get you publicity. But hang on for a second, before you apply for the GOLD, let’s remember GSK is GlaxoSmithKline, one of the UK’s biggest industries and the provider of all your pharmacological needs, so let’s think about the publicity machine that you’ll be part of.

In terms of clinical trials, GSK have been found guilty of promoting two drugs for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a diabetes drug to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and fined $3bn - the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. Thanks to the forensic work of the GP Ben Goldacre and others, I’ll share some of the reasons why I continue to feel a little unrest, at GSK’s oblique affiliation with the arts/health movement.

The case I’ve referred to concerns 10 drugs and GSK’s admission of their promoting antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses, including treatment of children and adolescents until a ban in 2003 over concerns it triggered suicides. Seroxat or Paxil is a common anti-depressant prescribed to millions of UK patients every year. 

Additionally GSK were found guilty of paying bribes to doctors. The US attorney Carmin Ortiz comments, "The sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high-priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations [and] paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours, to tickets to Madonna concerts." This catalogue of dodgy dealings, is again under the spotlight in China, where a bribery investigation is underway alleging that GSK as a company has orchestrated payments - said to total £321million - offering prostitutes to doctors to persuade them to prescribe its medicines, and funnelling the money through travel agents. One of the arrested GSK executives, Hong Liang, told Chinese state TV, that bribes paid to doctors and officials pushed up the prices Chinese patients pay for GSK drugs by as much as 30%. (click on the 'sex-tape' image above for recent updates on this)

Whilst the company is valued at £113billion, the fines GSK is accruing amount to small fry, but this kind of fraud and deception isn’t limited to GSK - far from it - it has been endemic across the pharmaceutical industry, with “66% of fraud cases in the US involving the pharmaceutical industry…”

Ben Goldacre asserts that the industry in general, spends around twice as much on marketing and promotion as it does on research and development - of which it feels like the Impact Awards are your oh-so-discreet and saccharine-laced opportunity to add to the marketing strategy. (or is that strychnine-laced?)

And if that all isn’t sweet enough for you, in our market-driven world where The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is sponsored by Coca-Cola and the Chair of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition has served on the European advisory boards of both Mars and Coca Cola, and is said to be sceptical that sugar is the cause of obesity! The same man sits on the UK government’s Calorie Reduction Expert Group ultimately influencing public health in England. And by-the-by, the British Nutrition Foundation takes funding from Tate and Lyle, who argue the money has no influence on their scientific independence! Well that’s reassuring then.

Yes, all your pills and potions are legitimised by the state and pedalled to you exclusively by often misinformed clinicians, whilst our alcopops, vodka-shots, cheap supermarket booze and pop - well - they’re all paying their taxes, so what the hell? Not like those nasty dealers on street-corners eh?

And the media have a big part to play in all this too. In terms of mainstream media the more sensational the story, the more column inches are given over. Newspapers, in print and online, are the gatekeepers for what we receive and science and medicine journalists are not immune to prioritising sensation over the more mundane and helpful facts. 

Alasdair Forsyth’s quantitative exploration of drug fatalities in the popular press, reveals that in 1992 you needed to have 265 deaths from paracetamol poisoning for one story to appear, but every death from MDMA received, on average, one story. Similarly a study of the BBC’s coverage in 2003 revealed 8,571 people dying from smoking would result in one story, whilst there were three stories for every death from the more sensational variant CJD (Mad Cow Disease).

Perhaps whilst the popular press more blatantly sensationalises and controls the news that we consume, those illustrious academic journals too have their fair share of gatekeepers. In a 2010 federal court case in Australia against pharmaceutical giant Merke Sharpe & Dohme the court heard that the manufacturing company had engaged in misleading practices to promote the prescription and usage of Vioxx, including "fake" journals and guidelines to "drug reps" that minimised the adverse cardiovascular risks. These much hallowed journals were published by none other than Elsevier, who once rumbled, issued their profound apology! 

Goldacre discusses fake journals, ghost writers and the all out abuse that Big Pharma wage on us; the gullible public as well as the clinical world. His ourage at withheld negative data is something quite palpable.

So, as you prepare your bids to dear old GSK, remember that you’ll also be providing some feel-good marketing for them: actually, can you imagine how cheap you are as a marketing tool?

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
Do you work across the wide field of Design, Heritage Crafts or Carpentry? Would you benefit from travelling overseas to meet others with the same specialism as you? The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust are seeking people working in carpentry, traditional heritage crafts, the applied arts in architecture, interiors, product and graphic design.  The Designers category is the first year of a joint partnership with the British Council, as part of their new development programme for architects and designers. Successful applicants in this category will be eligible to apply to the British Council's Architecture, Design and Fashion department for a grant to follow up their Churchill Fellowship. These grants will help with events, exhibitions and further international collaboration. Read more here: 

Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship
The Trust awards travel grants to men and women who will be able to undertake research overseas and on their return disseminate their new knowledge and examples of best practice. Applicants must demonstrate that their project will have a wider benefit within their community or field, in addition to their own personal development. You must be over 18, and a British Citizen under the 1981 Nationality Act, who must also be resident in the UK. No qualifications are required. 

No comments:

Post a Comment