Nation of Pill Poppers: 19 Potentially Dangerous Drugs Pushed By Big Pharma
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Meanwhile, says Robert Whitaker, kids on ADHD meds "are told they are going to be on these drugs for life. And next thing they know, they're on two or three or four drugs," a phenomenon also known as the co-administration market.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro probably did more to inflate pharma profits in the last decade than direct-to-consumer advertising and Viagra put together, no pun intended: over 60 million prescriptions were filled in the US in 2007 with many patients reporting their depression lifted.
But some critics say for mild depression, SSRIs don't work at all and are no better than placebo.
And others say they can add aggression, bizarre behavior, self-harm and suicidal thoughts to depression. In fact, there are 4,200 published reports of SSRI-related violence, aggression, bizarre behavior, self-harm and suicide since the drugs were introduced in 1988 including the well known gun massacres at Columbine (1999), Red Lake (2005), NIU and likely, Virginia Tech (2007).
SSRIs have non-behavioral perks both sides agree on: life-threatening serotonin syndrome when taken with migraine drugs, gastrointestinal bleeding when taken with aspirin, Aleve or Advil and the bone condition, osteoporosis.
Paxil can reduce or abolish the effect of tamoxifen in breast cancer patients and increase deaths says British Medical Journal. It's linked to a two-fold increased risk of cardiac birth defects in infants according to its own manufacturer, GSK.
And sex? SSRIs are so linked to dysfunction even the pharma-identified web site WebMD admits many will experience impotence, delayed ejaculation or no orgasm. But there is a solution (besides going off SSRIs) says WebMD: Add another antidepressant that's not an SSRI, like Wellbutrin!
Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, SNRIs
Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are like their SSRIs chemical cousins except their norepinephrine effects can modulate pain, which has ushered in your-depression-is-really-pain, your-pain-is-really-depression and other crossover marketing. But the problem with giving a psychoactive drug for pain is that you're giving a psychoactive drug for pain. "After three months of taking Savella [another SNRI], I started self-destructing and cutting myself," writes a 40 year old woman on askapatient.com. "I don't know why or anything, but it does similar to Prozac where it makes you think and do weird things."
And Cymbalta, approved this fall for chronic back pain and osteoarthritis?
Cymbalta was the drug healthy 19-year-old volunteer Traci Johnson was testing when she hung herself in an Eli Lilly dorm in 2005. It was the drug Carol Anne Gotbaum killed herself on at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport in 2007.
SNRI's are also harder to quit than SSRIs, especially Effexor. 25-year-old Chicagoan David F. told AlterNet he stood at the top of an 8-story parking lot contemplating jumping every day for weeks after quitting. It's also the drug Andrea Yates was on when she drowned her five children in 2001.
But not all SNRI side effects are behavioral. The FDA would not approve Pristiq, a newer version of Effexor, when Wyeth/Pfizer tried to market it for vasomotor symptoms, because it caused heart attacks, coronary artery obstruction and hypertension in clinical trials. That's similar to another SNRI, the diet pill Meridia, which was just withdrawn from the market for causing heart problems. Pristiq is still available.
Foradil Aerolizer, Serevent Diskus, Advair and Symbicort
How could asthma drugs that increase the chance of dying of asthma become pharma's top sellers? The same way antidepressants that cause depression and antifracture drugs that cause fractures become top sellers: good consumer marketing.
Still, unlike drugs that look safe in trials and develop safety signals postmarketing, the long-acting beta agonists (LABA), salmeterol and formoterol, found in many asthma products, never looked safe. In fact it was their links to deaths and adverse events that led to studies in the 1990s and 2000s which showed more deaths and adverse events: LABAS increase death in users, say the studies, especially African-Americans and children.