February 3, 2008

Chantix may not be for...(anyone?)

Amid reports last week in the Wall Street Journal that Pfizer’s smoking-cessation drug Chantix might be tied to serious psychiatric symptoms came even more disturbing information about certain drugs.

The New York Times on Friday (February 1) reported that, according to the Food & Drug Administration, some drugs used to treat epilepsy, bipolar illness and mood problems double the risks of suicidal thoughts and behavior, and patients taking them should be watched for sudden behavioral changes. Read the story

As health care in the United States becomes an increasingly prominent and volatile issue, certain things seem clear:

1) while our knowledge of medicine and capabilities to provide health care are enormous, our ability to actually deliver services is broken; and

2) drug companies spend enormous amounts on “research and development,” but talk little about how much they spend on advertising – luring Americans to believe a pill will cure whatever ails us;

I applaud those national media which aggressively report what’s going on at major pharmaceutical companies, but more needs to be explored.

What about the unparalleled extent to which drug companies go to indoctrinate the doctors of tomorrow – while they’re still in medical school – to a mindset that drugs are a cure-all?

What about pervasive advertising that serves only to lure more people into drugstores and pay higher prices for all drugs, many of marginal value, but including those that are life-saving?

A recent random sampling of ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News found that some two-thirds of all advertising on the half-hour television programs was for pharmaceutical companies. Personally, I miss the dog food, automobile, and floor wax commercials of yesteryear! But they apparently can't pony up the kind of big bucks available to the drug companies.

It makes the drug culture of the ‘60s look lame by comparison.

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