It is part of the American dream to put a dollar into a company stock today, and get lots of dollars back when you sell. The only modifier to this dream by some is an aversion towards “sin” stocks – avoiding companies that make alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, guns or provide gambling.
But when I suggest that you pitch drug-companies into this same sin-bucket you probably think I’m joking. But I’ll let you in on my reasoning, which includes numerous lawsuits against the companies, lying by the company executives to market their drugs under false pretenses for profit’s sake, and drugs pushed on the public which knowingly harm more people with the side-effects than they ever help.
All drugs have side-effects! Taken for a short time to cure something worse, it is a beneficial exchange. But drug companies can’t make the huge profit for an antibiotic you take for two weeks as they can for a “mental-health” pill you take every day for the rest of your life!
With the first group of antipsychotics marketed, drug companies freed many people from the state hospitals. But one debilitating side-effect of these drugs (like Thorazine, Haldol and Prolixin) was that they caused involuntary, repetitive, and purposeless movements. In the 1990s, newer drugs called atypical drugs (like Clozaril, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon and Risperdal) largely replaced the older meds and were marketed (at eight to twenty times the cost of the prior drugs) as causing fewer involuntary movements, but they have their own side-effects such as weight gain, diabetes and early death.
· Tens of thousands of people sued Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca, saying that their drugs, Zyprexa and Seroquel, gave them diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels. Eli Lilly reports having paid $1.2 billion to settle over 30,000 lawsuits.
· In 2008, Alaska sued Eli Lilly for the medical costs of Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. One of Eli Lilly’s top executives sent an email encouraging Lilly to promote Zyprexa for a use not approved by federal drug regulators (known as “off label”) and while doctors can prescribe a drug “off label”, it is against federal law for a drug company to encourage this practice. Alaska settled with Lilly for $15 million and now other states are going after this legalized drug pusher. (Global sales of Zyprexa approached $4.8 BILLION in 2007.) Lilly also faces 1,200 cases as well as a federal probe over its marketing tactics.
· Janssen's Risperdal got FDA approval to expand the use of the drug to address adolescent schizophrenia, the irritability of autism in kids and for bipolar disorder. In 2006, it was the most heavily prescribed psychiatric drug in New York’s Medicaid kids program, given to 17,393 children. It is also blamed in lawsuits nationwide for side-effects including diabetes caused by weight gain, Parkinson's-like movement disorders and gynecomastia, in which males grow breasts which have to be surgically removed.
· The pharmaceutical companies have made astronomical profits since promoting the atypicals to treat mental disorders. Since the drug companies couldn’t claim that the atypicals were better than the old drugs, they paid doctors to say so. This brought about a widespread false belief that the newer medications were safer and worth the additional billions of dollars in taxpayer money to make these the states’ preferred drugs of choice. Since then, the life expectancy of people treated in community mental health centers has plunged to a point twenty-five years LESS than the average due to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease as a side-effect of these drugs. (For comparison sake, being homeless cuts ten years off your life expectancy.) Chuck Areford said in a 2008 article titled “Antipsychotic Drugs are Doing Harm” that this “… must be ranked as one of the worst public health disasters in U.S. history.”
Drugs Marketed Under False Pretenses
If you are the CEO of a company, a large part of your multi-million dollar compensation is tied to how well the stock does during your tenure. This has led the companies to promote their drugs much like the rest of Madison Avenue promotes cars or the latest perfume. However, while the brand of car you drive doesn’t adversely affect your health, which psych drug you take to hide your problems does.
· The entire basis for the use of psychotropic drugs is a THEORY, not a fact! The media presents it as a fact that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. However, even the psychiatric bible clearly states that the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown. Jeffrey Lacasse, a doctoral student co-authoring a study on this is quoted as saying, “… there are few scientists who will rise to its defense, and some prominent psychiatrists publicly acknowledge that the serotonin hypothesis is more metaphor than fact.”
· In 2006 4-year-old Rebecca Riley died of an overdose of psychiatric drugs that had never been approved or tested for children. She had been taking drugs for ADD and bipolar since she was two years old and died with four prescription drugs in her system. Her heart and lungs were damaged due to prolonged abuse of the prescription drugs.
· Cheyenne Delp, a five year old, died in 2004 while on five prescription medications. One of the anti-depressants required that she undergo an EKG to determine if her heart was healthy enough for her to take it. The child psychiatrist, Dr. Saran Mudumbi, testified that Cheyenne was out of control and that she suffered from paranoia, depression and anxiety.
· One of the main psychiatrists pushing treatment of children with psychatric drugs is Dr. Biederman who has financial ties with fifteen drug companies and serves as a paid speaker or adviser to half of them, including Eli Lilly & Co. (Zyprexa) and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Risperdal).
· A drug is approved by the FDA for narrow uses, but gets tried off-label on hard-to-treat conditions and the drug company’s sales force stokes up this usage until the research catches up years later that shows the initial enthusiasm was unfounded. With the limited schizophrenic and bipolar market for the atypicals, the drug companies marketed them as safer than their predecessors They came to be tried beyond the approved uses for nursing-home residents, prisoners, and children younger than six years old. Total U.S. sales for this class of drugs reached $13 billion in 2007, doubling the sales just five years earlier.