The Antidepressant Scandal – Where Is The Outrage?
How Pharmaceutical Companies Are Suppressing Data About The Effectiveness And Safety Of Antidepressant Drugs While The FDA Looks The Other Way
We are being lied to. Our health and safety are being compromised by dangerous antidepressant drugs and the wealthy corporate giants that peddle them.
Just a few weeks ago, an alarming report was released by the acclaimed New England Journal Of Medicine proving once again that the pharmaceutical industry has entirely too much influence in Washington, D.C. and specifically with the Food and Drug Administration.
For the most part the antidepressant scandal has flown under the radar of most Americans. Perhaps most people missed the story with so much media attention focused on the heated presidential race.
In short, the report shows the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs has been severely over hyped. It turns out the pharmaceutical companies that produce antidepressant drugs are publishing the results of only positive clinical trial data in medical journals while suppressing all the negative data. In cases where negative clinical study data is published, the negative parts are being rewritten to appear positive or simply being omitted altogether.
This outrageous practice has major implications on our health. Since doctors rely primarily on this published medical journal data they are getting a skewed view of the effectiveness and safety of antidepressant drugs. As far as they know, little evidence exists to make them think twice about prescribing antidepressants to their patients. As a result, many more patients are ending up on frequently ineffective and dangerous antidepressant drugs.
So again… where’s the outrage?
Are we getting so used to the greed and social irresponsibility exhibited by some of our major corporations that we are becoming immune? Did we already forget the lessons taught by the likes of Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, and Adelphia?
And what is the role of the FDA in all of this? Don’t our tax dollars ensure they follow their own mission statement to protect us from such activity?
Congress has been well aware of the risks associated with antidepressants for many years but has done very little to address the problem. Why? Probably because there’s far too much money involved. How much money?
The pharmaceutical industry consistently outspends other economic sectors on Washington lobbying. Drug companies spent $155 million on lobbying between Jan 2005-June 2006. This large cash infusion has been instrumental in keeping us from having access to less expensive drugs from Canada and other foreign countries. In fact, this money pretty much ensures that nothing interferes with the enormous profits being raked in by the pharmaceutical giants.
It’s not just lobbying that keeps the pharmaceutical companies wealthy. Their bread and butter is consumer direct advertising. No surprise there. You can’t turn on your television anymore without being bombarded by pharmaceutical ads plugging drugs for every ailment from osteoporosis to erectile dysfunction. No wonder more than half of all Americans are now on prescription medications.
The goal of these ads? Simply to get more people to request these drugs from their doctors by name. That’s why they’re pitching us products that we cannot buy without a doctor. And it’s working.
Did you know that the United States and New Zealand continue to be the only two developed countries that allow the advertising of pharmaceutical drugs directly to consumers? The resulting corporate-friendly landscape has resulted in a massive over prescribing of pharmaceutical medications.
Which brings us back to the antidepressant scandal. If the entire drug industry system is set up in favor of big pharmaceutical companies then why should the suppression of negative study data on antidepressant drugs upset us?
Because the antidepressant drug business is huge. In fact, antidepressants have become the most prescribed drugs in the United States. They’re prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, and even headaches. Antidepressant drug sales alone have become a $21 billion dollar a year industry.
Antidepressants are also controversial. Many believe they are dangerous. A recent case in point is the tragic death of young actor Heath Ledger. Two different antidepressant drugs were found in his system along with other prescription pharmaceuticals that caused his death.
Several high profile homicidal rages have been blamed on antidepressants. In fact, some of the worst acts of violence in American history are linked to antidepressant drugs. Both of the Columbine High School shooters in Colorado were taking antidepressant drugs. So was the lone gunman at Virginia Tech University who killed 32 students. And more recently, so was the young killer in the mall in Omaha , Nebraska.
Is this coincidental? Dozens of other well documented, but less known cases exist. Several that ended up in the legal system resulted in a verdict against the pharmaceutical companies.
And how about the link from antidepressants to suicides in kids? Did you forget about that one? At least the FDA succumbed to the pressure on that issue and recently ordered drug companies to add strong “black box” warnings to the labels of antidepressants warning against the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and teens.
Why isn’t the mainstream media talking more about this?
Is the ad revenue from pharmaceutical companies strong enough to muzzle even them? Or are they just too busy trying to get the latest scoop on Britney Spears’ epic collapse?
What’s the FDA doing about this? Is the FDA like an old toothless watchdog? Or are they just incapacitated by the big money that ultimately governs them? Is the antidepressant scandal just the tip of the iceberg? What else aren’t we being told?
Some industry critics believe that high ranking officers of giant pharmaceutical companies have more influence with the FDA officials than the agency’s own medical officers. How else do you explain the censorship and suppression of critical medical information that influences our own doctors prescribing decisions? Isn’t it time we force our government to do something to stop the blatant misconduct that is affecting the health of our nation? Is there no limit to what we’ll allow pharmaceutical giants to get away with? One thing is certain: until we curtail or reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington and the big bucks they wield the answer is clearly “no”.
Founder of Panicyl
 Center For Public Integrity
 US Centers For Disease And Control
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