November 29, 2012

Mercola: NIH in Bed with Big Pharma?

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of conflicting interests – profits v. truth – when Big Pharma conducts drug studies.

Implicit in my post was the notion that studies conducted by non-profit or government entities – particularly NIH, the second biggest study funder after Big Pharma – would be fairer, more reliable, less driven by return-on-investment, more committed to public welfare.

Today, none other than Dr. Joe Mercola – the guy I’ve lampooned for hawking coconut oil on his website for $65 a gallon as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease – asks us to think twice about the reliability of all drug studies, including NIH’s. Even at our government’s most prestigious research facility, Merocla suggests today on his website (, there’s the taint of industry collusion, all driven by greed.

Perhaps there are important issues to consider in Mercola’s warning, even if it is painful to think that NIH is really in bed with Big Pharma.

Mercola wraps up his alert with these comments, which sound like the voice of reason itself:

When it comes to your health, you simply cannot accept claims at their face value ... you've got to dig below the surface and use all the resources available to you, including your own commonsense and reason, true independent experts' advice and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation. 
Ultimately, you must come to the realization that YOU are responsible for your, and your family's health -- not me, not your physician, and certainly not any researchers or government health agencies on a drug or vaccine manufacturer's payroll. You've got to become an active participant in your care and make sure you are making decisions that correspond with your own best judgment, knowledge and experiences.
Amen, doctor. Nobody believes in the importance of becoming one's own best healthcare advocate more than I do.

But Mercola has an agenda, too. He assails the site (one of my frequent sources) as too connected with Big Pharma. Similarly, he questions the reliability of another frequent and favorite source,, for the same reason. In a shameless plug, he reports that his own site – which he claims as the fourth most visited for health info, and the MOST visited natural health site – is “one of the only truly independent informational sources on the Web.” I don't doubt that he believes that claim.

If Merocla didn’t have a site where he sells stuff -- and if he didn’t feel he was in competition with other health sites -- I might take him a little more seriously. The coconut-oil-for-Alzheimer’s hype strikes me as a crock, based on a paucity – dare I say non-existence? -- of supporting science. The grim warning on his website today, calling into question the science-driven, results-focused impartiality of our country’s most revered research facility… well, Mercola can't be too pleased that NIH research typically finds no evidence for claims he makes and products he markets.

You can find Mercola’s web commentary here.

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