Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Drugs Which Drive You Crazy

Long-time readers know there are several "deep background" big-money sponsors of this site: Kroika! cookies
(for instance, Kroika and Starsbuck Take a Hit), Jank Coffee and everyone's favorite pharmaceutical behemoth, Astra-Zastra.

Here we have Astra-Zastra's latest ad:

Just for fun, let's peruse the latest news of pharmaceutical wonder drugs with either dubious value and/or horrendous side-effects.

My favorite is the "stop-smoking" drug which makes you suicidal--as a side-effect, of course:
FDA Issues Health Advisory On Pfizer's Chantix Tablets

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration said it is "increasingly likely" that Pfizer Inc.'s smoking-cessation drug Chantix may be tied to serious psychiatric symptoms. The FDA's comment is part of a public health advisory issued Friday.
The public health advisory highlighted warnings issued by Pfizer last month stating that Chantix users should be monitored for suicidal behavior, depressed mood and other changes in behavior. (emphasis added--CHS)

There is a terrible irony here: in an effort to stop your suicidal habit of smoking, you are driven to suicide by the medication you were prescribed to help you. With "help" like this, who needs enemies?

Next up: the "blockbuster billion-dollar profits drug" which is either worthless or dangerous: Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?

"Research suggests that, except among high-risk heart patients, the benefits of statins such as Lipitor are overstated."

The article goes on to describe the nasty side effects which many users experience. This would be pathetic if it wasn't such a common story: blockbuster drug's value overstated, horrible side-effects understated. How many times have you read this?

We've skewered the fake syndromes which the pharmaceutical industry creates to hype sales of their drugs--restless leg syndrome, etc. Fake drugs for fake syndromes include Discolegato, Euphorestra and Zombiestra, which attempts to cure (with hideous side-effects) the dreaded quattro-polar disease.

The entire psychiatry/psychology industry is also guilty of inventing diseases, so that their pals in the pharmaceutical industry can rush new dangerous drugs to market to "help" the poor patient: in this case, just a typical teenager:

How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness

Big pharma has some new customers. Not complying with authority is now, in many cases, labeled a disease.

Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them "care less" about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa -- powerful tranquilizing drugs -- are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.

Many talk show hosts think I'm kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After I assure them that ODD is in fact an official mental illness -- an increasingly popular diagnosis for children and teenagers -- they often guess that ODD is simply a new term for juvenile delinquency. But that is not the case.

Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior." The official symptoms of ODD include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don't respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.

Your kid isn't a dutiful robot yet? Then get him on some heavy pyschotropic drugs, man, and get him robotic ASAP. Of course, side effects may include suicidal thoughts, but hey, no pain, no gain, right?

Allow me to state emphatically who is truly insane: the American public, for demanding (and blindly accepting) solutions to complex problems (i.e. life) in the form of a pill. Yes, we could press for regulatory relief (and you already know how effective that will be), but the real solution is to just refuse to fill the prescriptions which don't do anything positive. Stop trusting "the experts." Do your own research into side effects. Find out for yourself that maybe 3% of all the pill-poppers actually extract some meaningful results from the horrendously costly pills. The other 97% either suffer from horrific side-effects or get no value out of the pill. (These numbers are massaged/guesses, just like the drug trials statistics on safety and efficacy.)

And don't fall victim to the fear hype. Big Pharma knows how to do one thing well, and that's scare the bejabbers out of you.

For example, there's the "big scare" that every middle-aged woman's bones are about to turn to dust via runaway osteoporosis: Bones of Contention: Drugmakers are stoking fears of fracture among middle-aged women. But experts say the risk is low (Good reporting, BusinessWeek)

"Up to half of women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime." Consumers likely have heard such claims hundreds of times in commercials for drugs to treat osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease primarily afflicting women. As a result, sales of drugs such as Merck's Fosamax, Procter & Gamble's Actonel, and Eli Lilly's Evista totaled some $7 billion last year.

But the medical community is hardly of one mind about how many women over 50 should be taking these drugs.

The odds of having an osteoporosis-related fracture before age 70 are low: Half of all hip fractures occur after age 80. And in a paper just published in the Jan. 19 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a group of researchers concluded after combing through several drug-company-sponsored studies that the benefits of osteoporosis meds for prevention were overstated. It's a classic case of disease-mongering, according to the researchers: "A risk factor has been transformed into a medical disease in order to sell tests and drugs to relatively healthy women."

The pharmaceutical industry is an out of control monster, spitting out fake diseases, hyping minor conditions into major diseases, invoking fear via billion-dollar ad campaigns, and selling drugs with little proven efficacy and proven terrible side-effects.

How do you stop the monster? Pull the plug. Don't give it any of your money, or your insurer's money, or Medicare's money, unless the results from your own experience and tests support the claim that this pill is truly extending your life or curing your debilitating condition. Maybe it is--but find out if it is. Monitor your own tests and side-effects.

Lagniappe: Another fact which is under-reported is that many medications lose whatever effectiveness they might have had at the start of treatment after a few months or years. Recall that all those Phase III drug trials which are supposed to prove efficacy and safety only run for a year or so. Beyond that, nobody knows.

Readers Journal has been updated! There are great ideas and experiences in Readers Commentaries, and four different writers have submitted thoughtful, fascinating essays on four very different subjects:
Growing Up in Cuba (A.R.)
A Rising Standard Lifts All Boats: Employment and a Better Life (Eric Andrews)
Spendthrift Americans (M. Goodfellow)
Reading the Bible and the Koran (Protagoras)

RS also has two new poems for your pondering:

In memory of Shafilea Ahmed (poem, Protagoras)
The Geometry of Passion (poem, Verona U.)

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Thank you, Patricia and Darrin W. ($50), for your very generous donation in support of this humble site. I am greatly honored by your contribution and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

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