Nation of Pill Poppers: 19 Potentially Dangerous Drugs Pushed By Big Pharma
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Since direct-to-consumer drug advertising was legalized 13 years ago, Americans have become a nation of pill poppers -- choosing the type of drug they desire like a new toothpaste, sometimes whether or not they need it.
But if patients want the drugs, doctors and pharma executives want them to have the drugs and media gets full page ads and huge TV flights (when many advertisers have dried up), is the national pillathon really a problem?
Yes, when you consider the cost of private and government insurance and the health of patients who take potentially dangerous drugs like these.
Seroquel, Zyprexa, Geodon, atypical antipsychotics
Even though the antipsychotic Seroquel surpasses 71 drugs on the FDA's January quarterly report with 1766 adverse events, even though it's linked to eight corruption scandals, even though military parents blame Seroquel for unexplained troop deaths, it is the fifth biggest-selling drug in the world and netted AstraZeneca almost $ 5 billion last year.
Atypicals were originally promoted to replace side-effect prone drugs like Thorazine but soon became pharmaceutical Swiss Army Knives for depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar and conduct disorders and other off label uses -- and betrayed the same side effects as older antipsychotics. (Especially tardive dyskinesia-linked Abilify.)
Foisted disproportionately on the young, poor and disadvantaged, atypicals cause such weight gain and metabolic derangement -- 16 percent of Zyprexa patients gain 66 pounds and some gain over 100 -- manufacturer Lilly Eli Lilly agreed to pay the state of Alaska $15 million in 2008 for the Medicaid costs of Zyprexa patients who developed diabetes.
Atypicals carry warnings of death in demented patients but are widely used in nursing homes. And even though Risperdal maker Johnson & Johnson, Geodon maker Pfizer, Abilify maker Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lilly and AstraZeneca have all entered into government settlements that acknowledge fraudulent or wrongful atypical marketing, FDA rewarded atypical makers by approving Zyprexa and Seroquel for children last year. And approved a new atypical antipsychotic, Latuda, in October. Maybe the FDA is bipolar.
Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Adderall and ADHD drugs
When it comes to the epidemic of 5.3 million US children between 3 and 17 diagnosed with ADHD, suspicions of pharma pushing the disorder are exceeded only by pharma's admissions thereof.
During an August conference call with financial analysts, Shire specialty pharmaceuticals president Mike Cola credited the "very dynamic ADHD market" to Shire's globalization efforts and "investments we have made in new uses for our existing products."
Those uses, a.k.a. diagnoses, for Shire products like stimulants Adderall, Vyvanse and Intuniv include adult ADHD, cognitive impairment, depression and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Still, Cola says despite the 10 percent ADHD "new starts" that are helping Shire "grow the market," and the "co-administration market" of add-on prescription drug$, the ADHD franchise suffers from patients who drop out when they quit seeing their pediatrician. "We don't see those patients show up again until their mid-to-late 20s," laments Cola.
ADHD drugs, in addition to "robbing kids of their right to be kids, their right to grow, their right to experience their full range of emotions, and their right to experience the world in its full hue of colors," as Anatomy of an Epidemic author Robert Whitaker puts it, can also be deadly.
A 2009 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry called Sudden Death and Use of Stimulant Medications in Youths found 1.8 percent of youthful stimulant users died sudden deaths from cardiac dysrhythmia or unexplained causes versus 0.4 percent who were not on stimulants. Though it helped fund the study, the FDA said the results proved no "real risk" and kids should keep taking their meds.