Corruption at the Department of Health

by Chris Holmes

President Barack Obama said today: “Where there is inefficiency, where there is corruption, we expect those people to be held accountable.”

That is a fine democratic principle.  Well said, Mr President.  Of course he was talking about the government of Afghanistan, warning those people that they could not expect continued support from Western governments if they did not root out corruption wherever it is identified.

I take it, then, that President Obama would recommend the same remedial action to be taken within the U.S. administration and indeed their counterparts in the UK government, wherever it can be clearly shown that inefficiency and corruption are wasting valuable resources and attempts are made to conceal this, rather than rectify it.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy doesn’t work at all in the long term according to the government’s own research.  Already, following the press release in July this year from the smokers’ rights group Freedom2Choose which cited my research demonstrating clearly that the NHS advertising claim that smokers are “four times more likely to succeed” by using those services was actually false, we note that in the latest TV campaign promoting those services, the bogus claim has been quietly dropped!

This is not enough. Let me just remind you what the Borland report found when that group investigated the long term results of the NHS approach to smoking cessation at the 12 month interval:

What they found, at 12 month follow up, was that the in-practice treatment scored only 2.6% success at one year, whereas the Stop Smoking Services delivered a staggering 6.5%.  And then they actually had the temerity to officially conclude thus: “Where suitable services exist, we recommend that referral become the normal strategy for management of smoking cessation in general practice”.

Seriously folks, I ask you: is it possible to believe that anyone – any collective group of people – could be so unutterably stupid as to recommend the continuation of either of those approaches to smoking cessation, at the taxpayer’s expense, based on failure rates of 93.5% and 97.4% respectively?  Also, what happened to the supposed 15% success rate claimed by the Ferguson report?  Gone – reduced to 6.5% at best. This proves that the report was flawed and misleading and should never again be cited to market NRT products or NHS services.  No wonder they buried it.

Finally, if the 1992 University of Iowa report found 6% for willpower over very large sample numbers, as did Cohen (4%), then how is 6.5% “up to four times more likely to succeed”?

The fact is that it is not.

At the start of the Truth Will Out Campaign, I reported that smokers were being lied to about the effectiveness of these services and drug company products, and reproduced in the Evidence section of this site published NHS and DoH documents that claimed up to 90% success rates for short-term results (4 weeks), but did not report at all on long-term outcomes.  When they finally did, they claimed 15% success at one year, which I have now proved is also very misleading.

I said, right from the very beginning, that it was 94% failure.  Thank you Borland et al, you just officially confirmed it. (Reproduced from the blogpost Dept of Stealth 6)

These results do not indicate that smokers should be directed to the Smoking Cessation Services.  In fact they make it blindingly obvious that the whole sorry, stupid failure should be scrapped before any more valuable resources are wasted on it.  Any fool can see that, so before we start lecturing the Afghan government about corruption, we should take that fine democratic sentiment and use it to investigate the corruption at the heart of the British government, and the role of the global drug companies that are bleeding the NHS to death.

If you agree, link up – spread the word.  Let’s end it!  Where are the bloody investigative journalists these days?  Wake up, Health Editors!  THIS IS A SCANDAL!

*Update 15.01.10
Apparently in some NRT promotions this New Year the ‘Four Times More Likely To Succeed’ claim is still being used. This is not “evidence-based medicine”, unless of course the DoH and the MHRA are going to cynically attach that label to any officially approved medicines REGARDLESS of what the evidence actually is.

Hear that trickling sound, Doc? That’s the sound of your credibility steadily draining away. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.

**Update, January 2012: Harvard University report that NRT does not help smokers quit in any way.  August 2011 Tel Aviv University study confirms that smokers’ cravings have nothing to do with nicotine and that smoking is a habit, not a drug addiction – exactly what I said four years earlier when I first published:

Nicotine: The Drug That Never Was

Central Hypnotherapy

6 Replies to “Corruption at the Department of Health”

  1. Just launched today

    http://www.brusselsdeclaration.org/pages/home/

    Certain people in the Department of Health should read this and sign it too. (So should Obama!)

    On your report Chris, many agencies prefer to quietly drop mis-statements rather than boldly acknowledge making them.

    I had a complaint carried against a newspaper quoting the Press Complaints Commission in a classic confusion of relative risk with actual risk – the British Heart Foundation reported that a 25% risk elevation resulting from second hand exposure *meant* that “for every four non-smokers who work in a smoky environment like a pub, one of them will suffer disability and premature death from a heart condition because of second-hand smoke” http://www.pcc.org.uk/case/resolved.html?article=NDAxMQ==. The British Heart Foundation changed their statement, but refused to issue a retraction or to acknowledge clearly and for future reference that they had made such an obvious error in presenting assessments of risk to the general public in the course of their lobbying for a total smoking ban.

  2. A certain amount of this is inevitable when people get a bit carried away with things they feel strongly about. I have had to stand corrected about one or two things I have said on this website – the difference being, I haven’t quietly wiped that content away as if I never said it at all, even though I could easily have done that – I have full editorial control over this site.

    No, I have held my hands up, apologised, thanked the contributor for correcting me and let the evidence of that exchange stay there for all the world to see. No-one gets everything right all the time.

    Perhaps the British Heart Foundation, in their well-meaning zeal, failed to be objective at that moment and just had the attitude that the ends (supposedly better heart health) justified the means. Perhaps that’s what the climate scientists were thinking at that university when they were discussing privately which bits of information should be presented as evidence, and what should be done with the bits that were unfortunately the ‘wrong kind of evidence’.

    Belinda is quite right to point out the difference between relative risk and actual risk, because Western attitudes are becoming so risk-averse that it is not okay to die prematurely of anything any more. How many people died very prematurely in the defence of freedoms that are now being chipped away by well-meaning zealots?

    Also, what does dying ‘prematurely’ now mean, since people are living longer than ever before? The actor Richard Todd just died of cancer at the age of 90, for example, when some of the veterans of World War I reached over a hundred. How do we know that he didn’t die ‘prematurely’ – maybe as a result of smoking a pipe when he played the role of Guy Gibson in the film The Dambusters, or from the smoke he inhaled whilst fighting the real battle for Pegasus Bridge during the D-Day landings?

    I am not a health guru. I don’t persuade people to stop smoking, I only work with people who have already decided that they don’t want to smoke any more for their own reasons. My campaign is about the lies THOSE smokers are being told about nicotine replacement products, and the fact that the Department of Health has long known that information to be untrue, but they have gone to great lengths to cover that up, and continue to do so. They are also covering up the terrible harm Champix is doing to some of those smokers and their families… and a vast amount of ‘premature death’ that gets attributed to smoking is actually an inevitable result of these lies and corruption, thus proving that the Department of Health cares not a jot about the fate of smokers in reality.

    They do care a great deal about tax revenues, though.

  3. I’ve been looking again at the BHF, who state that

    ‘in 1991, smoking was responsible for about 24% of deaths from coronary heart disease in men and 11% of deaths from coronary heart disease in women. However, a more recent report suggests that these figures now stand at 20% of cases of or deaths from coronary heart disease in men and a shocking 17% of cases of or deaths from coronary heart disease in women.’

    I don’t understand why these rates are ‘shocking’ when the CRUK gives 33% in men and 26% in women as smoking rates in the professional managerial occupations with workers in Manual occupations having a considerably higher rate. Heart attacks kill fewer smokers per 100 than the percentage of smokers in the population. I could understand the BHF’s concern if heart attacks killed say 50 or 60 smokers per 100 people. All these figures say is that non-smoking kills 76 per cent of women and 89 per cent of women (or 80 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women at the later date)!

    I am convinced that behaviour modification the aim of lobby groups like the BHF. I am sure that smoking does carry risks but they are trying to shock by their use of language in communicating facts that are simply not shocking and even do nothing to further their cause.

  4. One of the difficulties here is that campaigning groups know that the general public are wrapped up in their own concerns and few of them will have the time or the inclination to look into scientific reports with a ‘scientific eye’, so to speak. Therefore they dumb it down, simplify the message and then just bang on about it endlessly.

    A good example of this is cholesterol. Millions of people are now taking statin drugs because doctors have been told to make a simple measurement of cholesterol levels in the blood, and if above a certain figure, prescribe the drugs. Never mind that the drugs have nasty side-effects, never mind that the link between cholesterol levels and heart disease has never been proven as a causal link.

    It doesn’t need to be, simply because of the power of suggestion. The suggestion of an increased risk of heart attacks – something which almost everyone is naturally afraid of – if repeated often enough along with a handy solution (a pill), will be enough to sell that solution to an awful lot of people. Science is not involved, this is fear-driven on the side of the public, and profit-driven on the drug company side.

    Same with Tamiflu: ridiculous and alarmist ‘worst-case-scenario’ of 165,000 dead in the U.K. was enough to get everyone to accept the idea of vaccinating the whole population. Never mind the bad reactions already seen in Japan. Never mind the new concerns about the parts of the trial data that Roche are currently refusing to reveal. The profit involved in selling a drug to an entire population sweeps all that aside easily. Yet the dreaded swine flu has killed far fewer people than seasonal flu. I predict that the hyping of Tamiflu will be revealed as an enormous scam at the end of all this, but Roche won’t care. They’ll have made an absolute killing.

    And so it goes on. Same with Prozac (the fear there is of emotional collapse or nervous breakdown). Hidden trial data revealed it to be no more use than a placebo, and that news was splashed all over the newspapers as a scandal. Did anyone get prosecuted for that colossal deception? No. Have the rules been changed to prevent it happening again? No.

    Same with Champix, which contributors to this blog have been reporting causes horrible side effects and usually doesn’t work anyway. I notice Dr. Ben Goldacre was raising concerns about all this in the British Medical Journal at the end of November, but of course the powers that be wheeled out some lackey of the drug industry who works for the Medicines and Hype Rubberstamp Agency (MHRA) to spout a load of lies suggesting that the problems to which Ben was referring were really PAST problems, and everything was all right now.

    LIAR. Do you think we’re stupid? Ben Goldacre is absolutely correct about this one – he knows that the good name of Science is being cynically trashed, and the dangers of that for the medical profession in particular are very grim indeed.

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