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General News    H4'ed 4/23/10

Are You at Risk From Vaccine and Fibromyalgia Advertising?

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"Traditionally, fibromyalgia falls under the scope of rheumatologists. But today, primary care doctors, podiatrists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, neurologists -- plus nurse practitioners -- are overseeing long-term fibromyalgia treatment," exults an article on WebMD.

And sure enough, Pfizer ads on WLS-AM radio in Chicago exhort women to see their "nurse practitioner" for fibromyalgia because a visit "only takes five minutes." As if time, not money or health, were the only issue.

Sure, private insurance and government entitlement programs may cover the $100 plus a month cost for Cymbalta, Savella and Lyrica now that they are approved for fibromyalgia, raised insurance rates and squandered taxes notwithstanding.

But should doctors prescribe people with simple pain, seizure drugs like Lyrica and antidepressants like Cymbalta, Savella which are linked to life threatening side effects including the risk of suicide?

People taking Lyrica (pregabalin) have twice the amount of suicidal thinking of those not on the anticonvulsant says an FDA alert issued in January. And Lyrica's parent molecule, Neurontin (gabapentin) is also linked to suicide in an article in the April 14 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA.)

Meanwhile Cymbalta -- a SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant like Savella -- has a long trail of inexplicable suicides like 19-year-old Traci Johnson, a healthy volunteer who participated in its initial trials. There was also Carol Anne Gotbaum, the daughter-in-law of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who killed herself in police custody at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport in 2007.

And there are other risks from populist disease marketing -- like the ads for vaccines against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer, which are everywhere.

Just as GSK's cervical cancer "glamour" ad, which debuted at the Oscars, seems to sell perfume, poster-sized ads on Chicago's CTA Red Line seem to sell individual Chicago neighborhoods but actually "sell" the many women at risk for cervical cancer in those individual neighborhoods. Very different.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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