Going down the wrong path
Why I openly question the "New Normal" or "New life style"
SMON, Big Pharma, and Scientists
I chose to highlight SMON for various reasons, although there have been, and we continue to have, cases of similar ethical misconducts by pharmaceutical companies.
I do not intend to say that COVID-19 is a case of mistaken diagnosis. It may well be! Without detailed clinical investigation and post-mortem studies we may not know.
No, I chose to talk about SMON because it highlights two important players in the current crisis — large pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma, hereafter) and the scientific community.
Big Pharma and SMON
Katahira, Kiyohiko. "SMON Reported in 1935 in Argentina." JAMA 239.26 (1978): 2757-2757 SMON happened in the first place, because Ciba-Geigy the giant pharmaceutical company misled the Japanese drug regulators about the safety of the drug.
Ciba-Geigy promoted the drug as being safe and effective, even for children, and as having no permanent adverse side effects. They hid the knowledge that, as early as 1935, the neurological damages from clioquinol were reported from Argentina and the U.K, in 1944 by the inventors of clioquinol themselves, and in 1965 by doctors from Sweden.
As a result of Ciba-Geigy's false marketing campaign, Japan allowed the drug to be used for all types of abdominal trouble, with no limitations as to dosage and length of treatment. It is worth noting that, even after Ciba-Geigy admitted its part in the SMON tragedy, it took another 4 years for the company to take the drug off the market worldwide.
Scientists and SMON
There was ample reason to suspect clioquinol as a factor behind SMON as early as 1967, when the 'study group of the National Hospitals on SMON' produced a report on medications prescribed to SMON patients. Yet, too many doctors and researchers refused to recognise the possibility of an iatrogenic disease (one caused by medical treatment).
What made the scientists who were investigating SMON focus exclusively on viruses for 15 years?
Virology was well funded in those days as a consequence of the war on polio. The involvement of a large number of scientists and university departments, and the volume of published data from virology research far exceeded other research directions. Naturally, the scientific establishment gravitated towards a viral cause for SMON.
The SMON epidemic finally ended because Prof. Reisaku Kono and other Japanese scientists possessed the wisdom to direct some resources into nonvirological research and listen when those other investigators found answers.
Nevertheless, the war on SMON remains as a classic example of misdirected science!
Clioquinol is still being used with disastrous results
In 2015, researchers from the Netherlands Pharmacovigilance Center Lareb pointed out a rising trend of adverse drug reactions associated with clioquinol, in a letter to the Medicines Evaluation Board of the Netherlands,.
They pointed out that there is an increase in use of systemic administration of clioquinol in the Netherlands since 2010, although the advised dosage regimen is a maximum of 750 mg per day for no more than 10 days.
The adverse reactions included SMON in a 4-year old child!