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Petition Letter to Danish Minister of Health against Dismissal of Peter Gøtzsche

The story of Dr. Peter Gøtzsche and scientific integrity continues.  This petition below hopes to stave off his dismissal from the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen following his expulsion from Nordic Cochrane. Whatever the alleged reasons for the sacking of Gøtzsche from Rigshospitalitet few can doubt that as with his sacking from the Cochrane Group in September when four other directors resigned in protest that this is connected both with his stand on the commercialization of science, and his stand on the dangers of HPV vaccines in particular. This shows that it does not matter how prominent or highly regarded a scientist is governments will move to isolate and persecute them if they challenge policy. Until Nordic Cochrane began their stand against European Medical Agency over HPV vaccines in 2016 Gøtzsche  had by no means been a vaccine critic - best known for his stand over SSRI antidepressants - but for the powers that be vaccines were a step to far. The harms of HPV vaccine were however far too blatant to be ignored. The Nordic Cochrane Complaint took on issues such as conflict of interest, suppression of data and the safety of aluminium adjuvants, which are used in many other vaccines, and in the end it proved not only to be EMA that were failing to protect the public against the industry, but the European Ombudsman's office from the EMA.

  
From the Petition - do click over even if only to read the pleas from fellow scientists and physicians on his behalf.

Dear Minister of Health of Denmark Ellen Trane Nørby:

We are writing to express our concern over the possible dismissal of Peter Gøtzsche from his job at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. We feel that Dr. Peter Gøtzsche´s work at the Nordic Cochrane Centre has been an important service to patients, taxpayers and the scientific community in Europe and globally. For many years the prestigious activity and publications of Dr. Gøtzsche have played a pivotal role in favour of the transparency of clinical data, the priority of public health needs and the defence of rigorous medical research carried out independently of conflicts of interest. The recent crisis within the Cochrane Collaboration that involved Dr. Gøtzsche and many other prominent long-time members of Cochrane should be seen in this light. Read and SIGN HERE.

From September 2018

Note: Striking letter below from Dr. Peter Gøtzsche , Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. Please see the original pdf letter here.  Background: What is Cochrane?

The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of researchers, health professionals, patients, carers, and other people interested in health. Cochrane contributors, from more than 130 countries, work together to produce reliable systematic reviews of the benefits and harms of healthcare interventions that are free from commercial sponsorship. These reviews are recognised as representing an international gold standard for high quality, trusted information. Many of our contributors are world leaders in their fields and our groups are situated in some of the world’s most respected academic and medical institutions.

Contributors are affiliated with the organisation through Cochrane groups, which are healthcare related review groups, thematic networks, groups concerned with the methodology of systematic reviews, and regional centres. There is no one place or office that is 'Cochrane'. Our contributors and groups are based all around the world. Each group is a 'mini-organization' in itself, with its own funding, website, and workload.

The Nordic Cochrane Centre

The Nordic Cochrane Centre was established in 1993, the same year as the Cochrane Collaboration. The centre has contributed substantially to Cochrane, particularly within research and IT development. We also co-author guidelines on standards for good reporting of research: CONSORT for transparent reporting of trials, STROBE for observational studies, PRISMA for systematic reviews and SPIRIT for trial protocols. These standards have been endorsed by many prominent scientific journals.

Cochrane reviews are being widely used in the area serviced by the Nordic Cochrane Centre and associated centres, with over 449,000 articles downloaded in 2016. This is an increase of 32% since 2015.

The Nordic Cochrane Centre has also worked closely with the Danish National Board of Health in producing evidence-based national clinical guidelines. The centre is primarily funded by the Danish Government, who also fund the national subscription to the Cochrane Library, ensuring free access for all people living in Denmark. If you would like to know more about our most downloaded reviews, please see our information about the Cochrane Library.

Director of The Nordic Cochrane Centre   Peter_bertel_photo_profile_image

Professor Peter C Gøtzsche graduated as a Master of Science in biology and chemistry in 1974 and as a physician 1984. He is a specialist in internal medicine; worked with clinical trials and regulatory affairs in the drug industry 1975-1983, and at hospitals in Copenhagen 1984-95. With about 80 others, he helped start The Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 with the founder, Sir Iain Chalmers, and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre the same year. He became a professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen.  In 2017, he was elected to the Cochrane Governing Board, the Cochrane Collaboration's uppermost authority.

Peter has published more than 70 papers in "the big five" (BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Ann Intern Med and N Engl J Med) and his scientific works have been cited 30,000 times (his H-index is 63 according to Web of Science). Peter is author of:

  • Deadly psychiatry and organised denial (to appear in September 2015)
  • Deadly medicines and organised crime: How big pharma has corrupted health care (2013)
  • Mammography screening: truth, lies and controversy (2012)
  • Rational diagnosis and treatment: evidence-based clinical decision-making (2007)

Peter has an interest in statistics and research methodology. He is a member of several groups publishing guidelines for good reporting of research and has co-authored CONSORT for randomised trials (www.consort-statement.org), STROBE for observational studies (www.strobe-statement.org) and SPIRIT for trial protocols (www.spirit-statement.org). Peter was one of the editors of the Cochrane Methodology Review Group 1997-2014.

His letter is below.

###

1

Trusted evidence. Informed decisions. Better health.

Nordic Cochrane Centre
Rigshospitalet, Dept. 7811
Blegdamsvej 9
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

Tel: +45 35 45 71 12
E-mail:general@cochrane.dk
www.nordic.cochrane.org

14

September 2018

A moral governance crisis: the growing lack of democratic collaboration and scientific pluralism in  Cochrane

I regret to inform you that I have been expelled from membership in the Cochrane Collaboration by the favourable vote of  6 of the 13 members of the Governing Board. No clear reasoned justification has been given for my expulsion aside from accusing me of causing “disrepute” for the organization. This is the first time in 25 years that a member has been excluded from membership of Cochrane.

This unprecedented action taken by a minority of the Governing Board is disproportionate and damaging to Cochrane, as well as to public health interests.  As a result of this decision, and a number of broader issues concerning the inadequate governance of Cochrane, in accordance with its principles and objectives, four other members of the Board have resigned.

As a result, the Cochrane Collaboration has entered an unchartered territory of crisis and lack of strategic direction. A recovery from this dire situation would call for the dissolution of the present board, new elections and a broad based participatory debate about the future strategy and governance of the organization.

 In just 24 hours the Cochrane Governing Board of thirteen members has lost five of its members, four of which are centre directors and key members of the organization in different countries. Recently the central executive team of Cochrane has failed to activate adequate safeguards, not only technical ones (which are usually very good) to assure sufficient policies in the fields of epistemology, ethics and morality. Transparency, open debate, criticism and expanded participation are tools that guarantee the reduction of uncertainty of reviews and improve the public perception of the democratic scientific process. These are conditions and tools that cannot be eliminated, as has happened recently, without placing into serious doubt the rigorous scientific undertaking of Cochrane and eroding public confidence in Cochrane ́s work. My expulsion should be seen in this context.

There has also been a serious democratic deficit. The role of the Governing Board has been radically diminished under the intense guidance of the current central executive team and the Board has increasingly become a testimonial body that rubber-stamps highly finalized proposals with practically no ongoing in-put and exchange of views to formulate new policies. On dozens of issues the Board can only vote yes or no with very little opportunity to amend or modify the executive team ́s proposals.

This growing top-down authoritarian culture and an increasingly commercial business model that have been manifested within the Cochrane leadership over the past few years threaten the scientific, moral and social objectives of the organization. Many Cochrane centres have sustained negative pressure and a lack of productive dialogue with the CEO of the central office. Upon alerting the Cochrane leadership of these worrisome tendencies that negatively affect the operability and social perception of our scientific work, the Nordic Cochrane Centre has received a number of 2 threats to its existence and financing. Many of the directors or other key staff of the oldest Cochrane centres in the world have conveyed their dissatisfaction with the senior central staff’s interactions with them. While the declared aims of interactions with the central office is to improve the quality of our work, the heavy-handed approach of some of the central staff has sometimes created a negative environment for new scientific initiatives, open collaboration and academic freedom.

There has also been criticism in Cochrane concerning the over-promotion of favourable reviews and conflicts of interest and the biased nature of some scientific expert commentary used by the knowledge translation department of Cochrane.

At the same time, Cochrane has been giving less and less priority and importance to its civic and political commitment to promoting open access, open data, scientific transparency, avoiding conflicts of interest and, in general, not promoting a public interest innovation model. I feel that these issues are intricately related to providing “better evidence” as the Cochrane motto professes. Recently the Cochrane executive leadership has even refused to comment publicly on new health technology policies, open access policies and other key advocacy opportunities despite the fact that an auditing of Cochrane fulfilment of objectives has shown a total failure to comply with Cochrane advocacy objectives. There is stronger and stronger resistance to say anything that could bother pharmaceutical industry interests.

The excuse of lack of time and staff (around 50) is not credible.There has also been great resistance and stalling on the part of the central executive team to improving Cochrane ́s conflict of interest policy. A year ago, I proposed that there should be no authors of Cochrane reviews to have financial conflicts of interests with companies related to the products considered in the reviews. This proposal was supported by other members of the Board, but the proposal has not progressed at all.

The Cochrane executive leadership almost always uses the commercial terms of “brand”, “products” and “business” but almost never describes what is really a collaborative network with the values of sharing, independence and openness. To the chagrin of many senior leaders in Cochrane, the word “Collaboration”, which is part of our registered charity name, was deleted from communications about Cochrane. Nevertheless, it is precisely “collaboration” that is the key to what distinguished Cochrane from other scientific organisations where competition is at the forefront. The collaborative aspect, social commitment, our independence from commercial interests and our mutual generosity are what people in Cochrane have always appreciated the most and have been our most cherished added-value.

Often it is forgotten that we are a scientific, grass-roots organisation whose survival depends entirely on unpaid contributions from tens of thousands of volunteers and substantial governmental support throughout the world. We make a substantial contribution to people’s understanding and interpretation of scientific evidence on the benefits and harms of medical interventions, devices and procedures that impact the population. 

Our work informs government legislation globally, it influences medical guidelines and drug approval agencies. Therefore, the integrity of the Cochrane Collaboration is paramount. We pride ourselves on being global providers of “trusted evidence” on a foundation of values such as openness, transparency and collaboration.

3

However, in recent years Cochrane has significantly shifted more to a business -a profit-driven approach. Even though it is a not-for-profit charity, our “brand” and “product” strategies are taking priority over getting out independent, ethical and socially responsible scientific results. Despite our clear policies to the contrary, my centre, and others, have been confronted with attempts at scientific censorship, rather than the promotion of pluralistic, open scientific debate about the merits of concrete Cochrane reviews of the benefits and harms of health care interventions.

Because of this moral governance crisis of the Cochrane Collaboration, I decided to run for a seat on the Governing Board and was elected in early 2017, with the most votes of all 11 candidates. It was considered an achievement, especially since I was the only one who had questioned aspects of our leadership. Regrettably today, I have been expelled because of my “behaviour”, while the hidden agenda of my expulsion is a clear strategy for a Cochrane that moves it further and further away from its original objectives and principles. This is not a personal question. It is a highly political, scientific and moral issue about the future of Cochrane. As most people know, much of my work is not very favourable to the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry. Because of this Cochrane has faced pressure, criticism and complaints.

My expulsion is one of the results of these campaigns.

What is at stake is the ability of producing credible and trustworthy medical evidence that our society values and needs.

Peter C Gøtzsche

Professor, Director, MD, DrMedSci, MSc

Nordic Cochrane Centre

Rigshospitalet, Dept 7811

Comments

Gary Ogden

greyone: That Marguerite Koster, a senior manager at Kaiser Permanente, is a Cochrane co-chair tells us all we need to know about what Cochrane has become: another shill for industry. Kaiser Permanente is the only health insurance company, as far as I know, with a five-star rating from our government. They have many thousands of clients, and operate numerous hospitals and clinics. They are also the main contributor to the Vaccine Safety Database, so they know the harm they are doing to children under their care. The VSD data are a tightly held secret from researchers and the public alike.

greyone

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/hospital-s-suspension-evidence-based-medicine-expert-sparks-new-controversy

Carol

"A scandal has erupted within the Cochrane Collaboration, the world’s most prestigious scientific organisation devoted to independent reviews of health care interventions. One of its highest profile board members has been sacked, resulting in four other board members staging a mass exodus.

They are protesting what they describe as the organisation’s shift towards a commercial business model approach, away from its true roots of independent, scientific analysis and open public debate.....

Gøtzsche is well-known for his blunt criticisms over the harms of breast cancer screening programs, the overuse of psychiatric drugs, and has referred to the drug industry as ‘organised crime’. But his most recent article, with co-authors Lars Jørgensen and Tom Jefferson, was a stinging critique of the quality and methodology of Cochrane’s HPV vaccines review.

Immediate backlash ensued and the Cochrane leadership, accused Gøtzsche’s team of causing reputational damage to the organisation, fuelling anti-vaxxers and risking 'the lives of millions of women world-wide by affecting vaccine uptake rates', according to a complaint by the editor of the Cochrane group that published the HPV review....

The Board of Trustees agreed to engage the services of an external law firm to independently assess the dispute between Gøtzsche and Wilson [Mark, CEO]....the report found that none of the serious allegations against the Cochrane executive could be substantiated, nor did it find that Gøtzsche had breached the Spokesperson Policy or had acted inappropriately in his role as Trustee....'The legal assessment essentially exonerated Peter of breaching the Spokesperson Policy so his enemies spent the day inventing new excuses to get rid of him', said one member. 'To expel Peter is totally disproportionate,' said another of Gøtzsche’s supporters. 'It was like looking for any behavioural pretext to fire him.'

The following day, 14 Sept 2018, four members resigned from the Governing Board in solidarity for Gøtzsche and because they felt something drastic had to happen in order to save the organisation...."

https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjebmspotlight/2018/09/16/cochrane-a-sinking-ship/


nhokkanen

Apparently an H-index over 60 is “truly exceptional.”

How chilling for other potential whistleblowers to see someone as esteemed as Dr. Gøtzsche treated in such a reprehensible manner. No wonder more scientists don’t come forward to speak out against institutional fraud — man’s inhumanity to man, only shielded by corporatism.

We are all capable of subversive covert personal revolutions against systems of oppression. Over time, water can erode stone.

Carol

I wonder if the light is now dawning on Dr. Gotzsche, that Andrew Wakefield was the victim of Brian Deer's lies and misrepresentations. Might be an "aha moment" for him. Sadly.

Hans Litten

25M crikey - never knew that figure ! XMRV

https://www.collective-evolution.com/2018/11/06/researcher-jailed-after-uncovering-deadly-virus-delivered-through-human-vaccines/

The Facts:Dr. Judy A. Mikovits, PhD, was thrown in prison after she refused to discredit her own research that led to the discovery that deadly retroviruses have been transmitted to 25 million Americans through vaccines.

HarvardMD

This is the "Wakefielded" threat of organized medicine turning against the best of their own and Ad hominem tactic by The Cochane Group as their reply to Prof. Gøtzsche's letter leaves the impression that the problem is his "inappropriate behaviours" that have been investigated - leaving that open to personal interpretation (indeed, someone close to me said he wasn't sure if Goetzsche was part of the perpetrators of #metoo. Nevermind directly addessing the scientific debate and issues at stake!

Statement from Cochrane’s Governing Board – Wednesday 26th September 2018

"Cochrane is a collaboration: an organization founded on shared values and an ability to work effectively, considerately and collaboratively. The Governing Board’s decision was based on an ongoing, consistent pattern of disruptive and inappropriate behaviours by Professor Gøtzsche, taking place over a number of years, which undermined this culture and were detrimental to the charity’s work, reputation and members."

Gary Ogden

Bob and John: We have indeed become a world ruled by criminals, enforced by technocrats. I am a precinct worker, so today I will be spending 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. greeting voters, asking their name and address, signing them in to the roster, and providing them with a ballot, all with a smile on my face. Yet it matters not a whit. Both parties are entirely beholden to corporate interests, and Congress mostly works in their interests, too. Thank God for Age of Autism and other beacons of light amidst this foul cesspool we call governance.

John Stone

Bob

Frankly, we are looking a a Stalinist purge - first of all Cochrane, now the Danish government. We have a generation of technocrats and politicians born too long after the Second World War (Denmark once a beacon of decency!) to understand or care what they are doing, and completely without shame. What does anyone stand for in politics anymore? Last week I wrote to eight London members of the European Parliament about the effective suppression of free speech implied in their proposed "copyright reform" directive, and not one replied. They are supposed to be there as our representatives but they have just become the rubber stamp for global interests and it doesn't matter who you vote for apparently, because they are all bought or intimidated. Of course, the Gøtzsche business also started with a conflict with European institutions which are completely dysfunctional and corrupt.

bob moffit

Apparently .. the Cochrane Collaboration .. a global independent network of researchers, health professionals, patients, careers, and other people interested in health .. has learned nothing from past mistakes where failure to accept and embrace valid theories resulted in the destruction of those who dare to pursue those valid theories .. regardless of the fierce response of vested interests who are far more concerned about the products they sell .. then the health of the people they sell those products to.

Consider Ignaz Semmelweis .. who discovered the cause of the bacterial disease puerperal fever (also known as “childbed fever”), Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) made possible the saving of millions of lives. During his own lifetime, however, while trying to get his medical breakthrough accepted, he faced an enormous amount of opposition. Not only was Semmelweis discredited by his colleagues and the medical authorities of the time, even his wife and close friends eventually began to distance themselves from him. Nevertheless, in the years following his death, his findings went on to replace the entrenched ideas of the scientific and medical establishment, eventually becoming fully accepted. Semmelweis’ discovery was finally implemented into standard medical practice in the late nineteenth century.

Unfortunately for mankind .. had his advice about good hygiene been acted upon years earlier, rather than being attacked by the scientific and medical orthodoxy, many thousands more needless deaths could easily have been avoided.

It appears the tragic consequences of mistreating the scientific "good hygiene theory" of Dr Sammelwiess is being repeated .. as Dr Gøtzsche warns the Cochrane Collaboration .. "despite our clear policies to the contrary, my centre, and others, have been confronted with attempts at scientific censorship, rather than the promotion of pluralistic, open scientific debate about the merits of concrete Cochrane reviews of the benefits and harms of health care interventions.

As has been said before .. the only way evil can triumph is for good men .. like Dr Gotzsche .. to stay silent … which he is courageously refusing to do.

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