Founder of Leading Medical Research Group Warns Against Use Of Prescription Drugs

Peter Gotzsche warns of the risks of using prescription drugs and says they harm more than they help.

Credit: Think Progress

Credit: Think Progress


Peter Gotzsche, the founder of Cochrane Collaboration, went on a speaking tour in Australia to warn citizens of the dangers of prescription drug use. The Cochrane Collaboration is a global network of researchers, professionals, patients, and carers that gathers and summarizes the best research so that people can make informed health decisions. It is touted as the most reliable source for evidence relating to clinical trials.

Gotzsche estimates that 100,000 people in the United States alone die from the side effects of prescription drugs every year. He states that the most dangerous, commonly-used drugs are antidepressants and pain-killers that are self-described as anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal. Another drug that has since been pulled from the market, is called Vioxx and was pulled because there were 140,000 documented cases over the 5 years it was available that showed that the drug caused serious heart disease. Over half of these cases were reported to be fatal.

He states that antidepressants are causing more harm than good and even published a paper last year in the Lancet Psychiatry journal. Gotzsche says that although some antidepressants have been used to replace Xanax and Valium, strong drugs with bad side effects and addictive properties, the replacements have proven to be just as addictive and have side effects.

The biggest victims of over-prescription with antidepressants and drugs in general are the elderly, Gotzsche says.”Those who use arthritis drugs are mostly the elderly who are most at risk of dying of a heart attack caused by the drug or a bleeding ulcer,” he said. “We have a high use of psychiatric drugs by the elderly and we kill an enormous amount of them.” Since many elderly people are alone at home or are put into nursing homes, they become depressed and are often prescribed antidepressants rather than facing the real problems causing the change in mood. These people are not stimulated enough in their environment and need an enriching environment, not just antidepressants to soothe them when they weren’t even depressed earlier in their lives. As Professor Gotszche explains it, “These people get shoved in a nursing home and they get aggravated, so they’re knocked out with an antipsychotic drug – it’s very inhumane.”

Credit: 6 Minutes // Peter Gotzsche, founder of Cochran Collaboration

Credit: 6 Minutes // Peter Gotzsche, founder of Cochrane Collaboration

It’s estimated that one out of every 28 elderly people prescribed an antidepressant dies because of a heart attack, stroke, or fall caused from the drugs. These people would have otherwise lived.

Gotzsche’s work is criticized because he encourages patients to safely lower their doses of antidepressants until they no longer feel they need them. Many doctors panic because they misread the withdrawal symptoms for signs that the patient’s depression is worsening and end up hiking up their dose again, but Gotzsche says patience and attention to the symptoms can help erase the problem.

Additionally, he states that there is no substantial evidence that proves that pain-killers like ibuprofen are actually anti-inflammatory. He has conducted clinical trials and reviewed other trials’ evidence and has found nothing to support the idea that they reduce inflammation. Gotzsche says that this term was created by drug companies to market the drug to healthcare professionals and convince many to use it.

Since Peter Gotzsche is such a respected leader in his field and within the network he helped create at Cochrane Collaboration, it’s miraculous that not many have heard of his work and the attempt he is making to help people make better healthcare decisions. Of course, not every piece of advice he has may work for everyone, as our bodies are all different. However, he implores people to look into what it is that they are putting in their bodies in the form of drugs and ask themselves if it’s really helping or harming.

Here is a list of things Peter Gotzsche says to avoid:

  • Antidepressants for all, as they very likely don’t even work for severe cases of depression
  • All brain-active drugs in children
  • Anti-psychotics and other brain-active drugs for the elderly. Psychotropic drugs should be used as little as possible and mostly in very acute situations, as they are very harmful when used long term Anti-dementia drugs, as they very likely don’t work
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for arthritis, muscle pain and headaches, including over-the-counter, low-dose ibuprofen. These drugs should be used as little as possible.
  • Mammography screening, as it doesn’t prolong life whereas it makes many healthy women ill through overdiagnosis and leads to the premature death for some because radiotherapy and chemotherapy increases mortality when used for harmless cancers detected at screening
  • Drugs for urinary incontinence, as they very likely don’t work

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