Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Health Care


There are many good books about the crimes in the drug industry and the widespread corruption of the profession to which I belong; doctors. I had therefore promised myself that I would not write one. But two things in particular made me change my mind in the summer of 2012.

In 2007, PhD student Anders Jørgensen and I applied for access to trial protocols and clinical study reports for two slimming pills at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Our request was flatly denied with the excuse that the documents could not be released because it would undermine commercial interests. We complained to the European ombudsman, and he agreed with us that these documents did not contain commercially confidential information. When, after 3 years, the agency was still completely resistant to our arguments and those of the ombudsman, he accused the EMA of maladministration. This caused the EMA to change its stance completely. Its director left the agency to consult for drug companies, and the new director introduced a far-reaching openness policy in accordance with the ombudsman’s wishes and in accordance with the principles on which the EU are based.

In 2012, I found out that the ten biggest drug companies in the world commit repeated and serious crimes to such a degree that they fulfill the criteria for organised crime under US law. I also found out how huge the consequences of the crimes are. They involve colossal thefts of public monies and they contribute substantially to the fact that our drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

I describe many therapeutic areas in my book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Health Care, and have come to the conclusion that psychiatric drugs are the most corrupted one. Psychiatry is the drug industry’s paradise as definitions of psychiatric disorders are vague and easy to manipulate, and as it is so easy to seemingly produce a positive effect, even for drugs that don’t work.

I devote two of the book’s 22 chapters to psychiatry and end the last chapter in this way:

“How come we have allowed drug companies to lie so much, commit habitual crime and kill hundreds of thousands of patients, and yet we do nothing? Why don’t we put those responsible in jail? Why are many people still against allowing citizens to get access to all the raw data from all clinical trials and why are they against scrapping the whole system and only allow publicly employed academics to test drugs in patients, independently of the drug industry?

“I know some excellent psychiatrists who help their patients a lot, e.g; David Healy uses watchful waiting before giving drugs to first-episode patients. I also know that some drugs can be helpful sometimes for some patients. And I am not ‘antipsychiatry’ in any way. But my studies in this area lead me to a very uncomfortable conclusion:

“Our citizens would be far better off if we removed all the psychotropic drugs from the market, as doctors are unable to handle them. It is inescapable that their availability creates more harm than good.”

You can read the second chapter, on psychiatry, on the publisher’s website.

From the Introduction:

‘The main reason we take so many drugs is that drug companies don’t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs. This is what makes drugs so different from anything else in life… Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors… the reason patients trust their medicine is that they extrapolate the trust they have in their doctors into the medicines they prescribe. The patients don’t realise that, although their doctors may know a lot about diseases and human physiology and psychology, they know very, very little about drugs that hasn’t been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry… If you don’t think the system is out of control, then please email me and explain why drugs are the third leading cause of death… If such a hugely lethal epidemic had been caused by a new bacterium or a virus, or even one hundredth of it, we would have done everything we could to get it under control.’​

Of further interest:

Richard Smith, Former Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journalreviews Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare

“Most of Peter’s book is devoted to building up the case that the drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.

“As an epidemiologist with very high numerical literacy and a passion for detail, so that he is a world leader in critiquing clinical studies, Peter is here on very solid ground. He joins many others, including former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, in showing this corruption.

“He shows too how the industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organisations, university departments, journalists, regulators,  and politicians.

“These are the methods of the mob.”


  1. THANKS for this book, Dr. Gotzsche! These are indeed the methods of the mob. Rx drugs are actually the third leading cause of death in the developed world??

    I’m helping out at with the petition against AbbVie’s lawsuit. I’d read that your quest for all the studies on duloxetine (Cymbalta) was cut short by this lawsuit? Are you still waiting for that data?

    As I’m sure you know, this is vital info for many of us in the US. Cymbalta is being hyped as a painkiller for everything from diabetic nerve pain (where it works pretty good?) to low back pain (really iffy!). We have an almost perfect storm of an uncontrolled experiment here, as people get this drug from their GP or orthopedic surgeon with NO awareness of its psychotropic properties and/or side effects! Grateful for your work… hope you get to finish it.

    • The big problem of course is that the cartel at the top in pharmaceuticals that controls 90% of all drug making and distribution treat these criminal activities to increase their bottom-line now as an expense that we all pay. Take GSK for example and where their $3 billion fine for fraudulent selling et al according to evidence, still left them with an $11 billion profit. Not bad and who said crime did not pay? Over $20 billion in fines for out-of-court settlements by the top twenty over the last 5 years and J&J the most recent over the last month with two fines to the tune of $4.7 billion($2.2 billion and $2.5 billion). The whistle-blowers for the first were paid out $168 million and one of the whistle-blower got $28 million.

      But this is not unusual when you know where most of these giant corporates have their roots –

      Dr David Hill
      World Innovation Foundation

    • Duane

      I’m to the point that I think this not only about psychiatrists but about doctors in all the disciplines of medicine. There are very few that I trust these days to take care of me. When prescribed drugs are the third largest killers of Americans we have to start asking what’s wrong with this picture.

      I live next to a university medical school and my neighborhood is full of med students. I am often tempted to stop them on the street while they’re walking to classes and ask them just exactly why they want to be doctors. Many of them are arrogant, cold, and distant. Most won’t even respond when you wish them a good morning. I get the feeling that they feel that it’s beneath them to speak to one of the unwashed masses.

      • Stephen,

        I agree. It’s a sad situation.

        It makes me wonder what any of it has to do with healing.

        I think we heal best by eating healthy, exercising, getting outdoors, and good relationships – surrounding ourselves with good friends, people who love is – just as we are.

        Those things are what make sense to me. In fact, they are the *only* things that make any sense to me.


  2. I read the on-line published chapter, so very compelling and clear, thank you again–not just for your courage, but for your impeccable integrity, as well.

    I once had a disagreement with a psychotherapist about Resperdal (respiridone). I said that it can cause Tardive dyskinesia, which can be permanent. She replied adamantly, “It does not.” I was surprised by her denial of this claim, and insisted that it was accurate. Her response was, “You’ve don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been working with clients on medication for years.” ‘Nuff said. I really hope that this particular craziness ends soon. To put a twist on a cliché, Whomever it doesn’t kill, it weakens.

  3. I am so grateful that physicians, like yourself, are speaking and writing about the atrocities happening from the greed and profit Big Pharma has manipulated at every turn.

    “How big pharma has corrupted healthcare” yes, indeed, my family and I sadly found this out in such a tragic way. We continue to deal with the unspeakable loss of our 25 year old handsome 6’5″ son 19 months ago from the direct heinous treatment from two different psych hospitalizations 18 months apart related to his two breakdowns. Both breaks were precipitated by too many stressors and most definitely his use of recreational drugs, mostly cannabis which for his brain fueled into psychosis (despite no history of severe MI on either family line). After having my son’s medical file subpoenaed by a lawyer representing another case against the same psych hospital because my son’s treatment matches the allegations by the whistleblower employee, reading the horror my son was subjected to with massive neuroleptics (especially the dosage given for someone not used to taking neuroleptics) the pages read like a horror movie. A young man in the prime of his life, but experiencing psychosis from a drug with psychoactive ingredients, instead of being humanely treated and helped to understand the root cause(s), is just incredibly overdrugged, warehoused, denied due process, and then “dumped” 13 days after voluntarily entering this hospital -with full HIPAA waiver- supposedly for its drug rehab program. Not only did the hospital administration and psychiatrist ignore my pleas how worse my son had gotten once he was deceived into going into the locked unit, all the hospital wanted was the revenue my son’s PPO insurance (as well as his parents $7500/wk additionally we were charged believing he would attend their drug rehab program) because he passed the admission test to be assured he was capable of entering the drug rehab program. Only 36 hours later was profiled, moved to the locked unit (no consultation with his family despite before admission my clear warning he could never be put inside a locked unit again after the nightmare experience when he was beaten and massively drugged 18 months earlier in a different psych hospital) again testing positive for the same “recreational” drug- cannabis. Lies, blatant lies our son would ultimately be moved back to the drug rehab program from the Admin and M.D. from the start once he was moved to the locked ward, however was never allowed out until his PPO insurance refused further stay. I am sickened beyond reading how my son had NO suicidal or homicidal or self-harm thoughts but once given massive neuroleptics inside the locked unit, his thoughts turned dark. Never once were we, his parents, warned our son was going to be “dumped” from this locked ward with suicidal thoughts. We never received a second of counsel other than when I on the 5th day (each night seeing how far worse my son was mentally from how he entered) I had to literally bang down the Administration to get attention and only then did the admitting psychiatrist finally return any of the phone calls to his office from Day One. As I read this doctor then charged the two phone calls he was forced to return by Admin to me as “family sessions”, I could vomit. We asked for an emergency family session the second day our son voluntarily agreed to reluctantly enter as we, his family, promised he would be treated humanely and we wanted drug educ so he would never touch a mind altering substance again. Never did my son receive help, just massive drugging to turn someone never suicidal into a suicidal thinking person…no counsel to his family, none to the psychologist treating my son whose address was listed…… and this is the humane treatment our son was promised by his family if he entered for drug rehab. How in this country can this be tolerated and accepted? Until I found out about the upcoming lawsuit against this hospital, who could believe this for profit industry of psychiatrists, psychiatric hospitals are so corrupt, greedy and callous? How can this be possible? If I knew what to do with the information I have uncovered, I would but I don’t. My own view of this country is now so warped
    and I have worked in health care for 30 years.

    As all of our family and my son’s countless friends continue to ask, how could these atrocities happen to this young man? Yes, he made some stupid errors in judgement, but to die from it? How in the the prime of his young life, instead of being helped and compassionately treated, given the benefit of the doubt that his neurotransmitters needed time to balance again, that he was young and could overcome the adversities like many, many others who experience the same thing… instead being brainwashed “mentally ill for life, bipolar for life, meds for life” and then the very meds massively forced during the locked brain raping duration actually pushed his brain over the edge. How many young men, like my son, could accept the chronically debilitating life sentence handed from these two hospitalizations? The very drugs Big Pharma has convinced society are beneficial, my son felt had damaged his mind far worse than any mind altering drug he had used. It is only recently where I understand why my son exited from a life that had always been filled with love, enrichment, and confidence as he had so many successes until his world collapsed. The hopelessness of being given this stigmatizing label, the horrific effect of the drugs he was subjected to and at those doses which border on criminal abuse, not to mention the betrayal and abandonment of his wife who he had personally sacrificed himself to save years earlier… I finally understand how he felt there was no way out.

    Yes, my son is one of the countless statistics of such corruptness in America’s psychiatric death care. I find these egregious injustices as I slowly continue to uncover them so reprehensible, but I don’t know where to direct my rage. I suppose the best all of us can do that have been directly or indirectly leveled by such atrocities, we must continue to stand in solidarity at MIA.

    Again, thank you for exposing the truth.

    • Being a lawyer, the first thing that comes to my mind is, why don’t you sue these people for the wrongful death of your son? You said, I think, that this happened nineteen months ago, so even in California, where I am, you are within the statute of limitations. Plus you mention that there is a lawyer you’ve been in contact with who is suing the same set of criminals who did this to your son.

      Yes, money won’t bring back your son, and a civil lawsuit won’t put these people in prison where they belong, but you will be helping prevent other people from going through the same thing.

      • Ted,
        Actually, the lawyer representing her client, the whistleblower employee, is not a mal-practice lawyer. She subpoenaed my son’s records because the story I shared with this lawyer absolutely fit her client’s allegations to the letter. I may be called at the trial if it doesn’t settle out of court. Trust me, I have every hope to be given the chance to honestly tell a jury what happened to my son while his family watched helplessly in horror, night after night we went to visit during the only allowed visitation hours. And yes, while this case is not amount my son and nor would there be any amount of money that would bring my son back but the chance to expose this hospital chain for what it did, priceless. And yes, I did contact another parent whose son died eerily three yrs before my son entered this same psych/rehab hospital, but the situation was vastly different. However, this parent’s attorney who successfully won the case against this hospital was interested in the details of my son’s hospitalization until he explained statue of limitations (in CA) expired two years after my son was discharged, June of 2011.My son took his life 7 months after his discharge. The lawyer inquired why hadn’t I contacted him earlier? Well, again, who could fathom it would take the grief therapist I see encouraging me to contact this lawyer when an article in the paper appeared early this summer about egregious violations from this hospital and the pending lawsuit filed by the whistleblower. By the time we made contact and the lawyer realized the violations alleged from her client fit my son’s egregious treatment, it was July. I didn’t receive my son’s medical file until last month, Ted.
        I told RW I would shout this from the rooftops if it would help, he hopes to find ways to eventually get my son’s tragic demise and countless other similar stories in the news.
        If you know any other way for me to bring this chain of hospitals down, please let me know. I can think of nothing that could help avenge my son’s untimely death. Listening to my surviving son recently share with a friend how he thinks about the unjustness of losing his best friend, his brother who was 4 1/2 years older, it made me weep again.
        And as the mother of two sweet,loving sons I will never fully understand how my oldest son is gone. Anyone that knows my family, can not accept this could happen to us. So I warn anyone reading MIA, if this happened to my son, this must be happening in every town across America. Big Pharma, Big Business is winning and my son’s life meant nothing to this tainted,unscrupulous industry.

  4. I once heard you speak at a bioethics conference in Helsinki and was duely impressed. Actually it inspired me to read more. Great to see you’ve written a book.

    I’ve been wondering about how much of the overall problem lies in the relationship between big pharma and government. How much, through finicial incentives, pharmaceutical companies are able to lobby governments and manipulate health policy. Doctors in many instances are just civil servants carrying out the will of the state.

    e.g. I read an article about the use of Tamiflu as a swine flu vaccine in Finland where the population are a pretty compliant and trusting bunch. There was massive uptake of the vaccine resulting in a marked increase in the incidence of narcolepsy, particulary in children. In an almost foot note to the article they mentioned the finicial ties between GSK and the Finnish governmant advoisors for this vaccination program. This to my mind was the real scandal.

    All the best,


  5. In my opinion the most damning quote in the above article is, “Our citizens would be far better off if we removed all the psychotropic drugs from the market, as doctors are unable to handle them.”

    Says eminant epidemiologist from one of the worlds leading organisations on drug safety and effectivness.

    Who am I to argue with him?

  6. The world is NOT going to get rid of:


    or psych drugs.

    Imagine a world where you are *forced* to smoke a joint or drink wine? Yikes.

    “Our citizens would be far better off if we removed all the psychotropic drugs from the market, as doctors are unable to handle them. It is inescapable that their availability creates more harm than good.”

    We’d be far better off to banish alcohol, tobacco and fire arms, too.

    There isn’t anything that can be done, you know. I am certain of it.

    • I’d much rather be forced to drink a glass or two of wine than take any kind of psych drug!

      IMHO, wine in moderation doesn’t wreck my total life nor destroy my brain but I know that psych drugs do this, without a doubt. Notice I stated, in moderation! And I suspect that a lot of “patients” at the hospital where I work would be a lot more at ease and more “mellow” with a glass or two of wine before dinner than what happens to their behavior due to the drugs.

      In some enlightened nursing homes they started having “happy hour” where residents could have a glass or two of wine before dinner. They were tapered off the damned psych drugs before this program was started. Residents started getting dressed up and coming out to socialize before dinner during happy hour and the entire atmosphere of the nursing homes did a 180 degree turn for the better. People became happier and didn’t just sit in their rooms looknig out the window or sleeping in their chairs all day long.

      I say more power to a couple of glasses of wine in nursing homes and psych hospitals! I was the chaplain for a large retirement center/nursing home and I know how dismal these places can be, and I worked for a really good place! I don’t even want to imagine what the bad places are like.

  7. Peter,

    Thank you for writing this book, I enjoyed the chapter. I appreciated your blatant honesty regarding the adverse effects of the psychotropics. And despite the fact I’ve learned from my experience and research that we’ve gotten too many sociopaths into the medical field, I also know there are many good doctors (or “whores”) who were (and unfortunately, it seems, still are) completely deluded by pharmaceutical false advertising. And what’s sad is that this lack of ethics by the pharmaceutical industry, really has rendered all doctors “un-credible,” since they are only as credible as the source of their information. What a truly sad state of affairs mainstream medicine is in now.

    Larmac, I’m so sorry you lost your son, and I recommend you write. You have a strong voice and your family’s story should be told. Many within the psychiatric industry did lose their minds due to their undeserved power, awe-inspiring stupidity, and complete and total lack of ethics, in my opinion.

    I understand mainstream medicine took psychiatry under their wings because the psychiatrists cover up malpractice for them. But a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and the reputation of the entire mainstream medical community will suffer due to the crimes of the psycho / pharmaceutical industries. How sad, I used to respect doctors, and now that’s difficult for me to do.

    • Yes, you pointed out that psychiatrists are known as “drug whores” by pharm reps.

      All doctors have an obligation to the people in their care to know what the effects of the drugs are that they prescribe to people. And I don’t want to hear that they don’t have time to do this because they’re “too busy.” Perhaps they need to see fewer patients so that they will have time to keep up with something that is vitally important to their patients. Not being informed is one more way that they don’t carry out the first law of medicine, “FIRST, DO NO HARM!”

      Work alongside doctors in a hospital setting and you lose even more respect for them. So many of them act like petty, little tyrants who must be obeyed at all costs. There are a few good ones out there but they’re becoming farther and fewer between.

  8. You know how you get those odd gut instincts sometimes? My first impression, or gut instinct, of the doctor who misdiagnosed me was that she was a “whore,” but she pretended to be a “Christian” therapist. I’m so glad others are now calling the psychiatric professionals what they actually are – hypocritical “whores.”

    And, Stephen, an absurd story about doctors being ignorant of the effects of their drugs. All my doctors swore up and down that no one could ever be made sick by their drugs, other than perhaps “increased thirst.” I left those doctors, and in order to finally be weaned off the meds by another doctor who thought no one could ever be made sick by drugs that render you senseless, cause atrophy of the brain, diabetes, etc. I had to embarrass my last psychiatrist by quoting my oral surgeon, who thank God was wise enough, since the psychiatrist wasn’t, to understand “antipsychotics don’t cure concerns of child abuse.” (The “Christian” therapist had originally misdiagnosed me based on a list of lies and gossip from child molesters, who wanted to cover up the abuse of my child, this was written right in her medical records. And, no doubt, this therapist was profiting off the child molester’s hobby by misdiagnosing physically abused children with made up disorders – she had seven suicides in her local high school by the time my child was in high school. Can you say hypocritical whore for money?)

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Psychiatry is absolutely corrupt. When will our government (ironically founded on an understanding of the importance of a system of checks and balances) realize it’s unwise to give any group absolute power over others? I agree with the United Nations, it’s time to put an end to forced psychiatric treatment forever. The psychiatric profession is not responsible enough, and it’s unwise in general, to grant all encompassing power to anyone, period.

  9. The psychiatrist : Here is an antipsychotic for you, I suggest also that you take an anti-epileptic and so maybe another antipsychotic will help better. Take three of this antipsychotic every day, two of this one every week and don’t forget to take your anti-epileptic, otherwise I suggest you do three hours of bicycling every days after taking your medicines. Maybe some tea infusion would also help to calm down the heartbeat. Beside this, here is free preservatives for you, I don’t think you would appreciate instead a penis cage.

    The patient : Thank you doctor ! I will maybe do what you tell me after doing some investigation with some Internet search engines because I have some doubts about your professionalism. I have another question : Should I continue to work knowing that if I tell to my director that I have any psychic disorder, he will dismiss me arguing that I have done a serious misconduct at work ?