Thou Shalt Not Question Big Pharma

You WILL be silenced!

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Maryanne Demasi presented a depressing historical account of the reach of Big Pharma in an era well before covid when she was speaking at the recent Australians for Science and Freedom conference at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Maryanne is an investigative journalist with a background of health research and has been a regular writer for the BMJ. She shared her lecture here – the parallels with the last three years are uncanny. 

Maryanne has a doctorate in rheumatology from the University of Adelaide and worked for 10 years as a research scientist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital prior to her increasing success as a journalist and broadcaster. According to Wikipedia, Demasi has been awarded National Press Club of Australia prizes in 2008, 2009 and 2011 for “Excellence in Health Journalism”.  She worked for Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) which is a taxpayer funded television channel. She had particular success in the early evening scientific programme ‘Catalyst’. 

But 10 years ago this all came to an abrupt end after a very successful two-part documentary about the overuse of statins. Popular with viewers and rising ratings gained accolades from the bosses at ABC TV. But three days after the second episode, complaints arrived from all three of the pharmaceutical companies marketing statins, which ironically were Pfizer, Merck and AstraZeneca. It was suggested the programme would have ‘blood on its hands’ if anyone came off their statins and then had a heart attack. An internal inquiry exonerated her of any inaccuracy but concluded she had “unduly favoured one perspective over another.” Then with no warning, both programs were removed from the channel’s website and replaced with an apology. This sounds remarkably similar to an article by Peter McCullough being removed from a journal without him even being asked to respond. Or Norman Fenton being stood down from a conference.

The Wikipedia entry tells of ongoing harassment. In 2017, Demasi wrote an article with Robert H. Lustig and Aseem Malhotra arguing that the cholesterol hypothesis is “dead”. But also in 2017 (complete coincidence of course), someone complained about a paper she had published in 2003 arising from her PhD thesis. It was suggested there was some duplication and the Journal retracted the article. But the University of Adelaide carried out a review and the panel ruled that it “could not substantiate any of the allegations made by the complainant”.

Maryanne has continued writing for the BMJ and has covered some tricky topics including:

She hasn’t published there since 2022. Maybe ultimately she was too hot for the BMJ’s handlers but I am delighted to see she is a 2023 Brownstone Fellow. The HART team wish her well!

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