(Publisher's Note: A close friend is a pharmacist and wishes to share their knowledge and opinion. But to protect their career they wish to remain anonymous. A Very Important Perspective... - This article was submitted for our January 2013 edition of the Freedom's Phoenix eZine only available to our subscribers but I chose to share it with everyone now so that it can be shared widely... Please forward now.)
How people answer that complex question often depends upon their politics. Like every other problem we struggle with today, we see a line of bumper stickers drawn down the center of America: people on the left side frequently answer that guns and the NRA are the cause, while on the right, the response appears to be divided between “mental illness” and “evil character/lack of religion.”
This battle of the bumpers seems to generate the most eye-rolling when someone points out that mentally ill people are not all violent, and are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. A “normal kid” desensitized to brutality by a diet of violent video games and hate-filled rap lyrics are far more dangerous than someone who can’t ever manage to be happy. It’s an important distinction. In fact, the U.S. Army uses a similar desensitization process to “overcome the normal antipathy to killing” experienced by young soldiers, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former Army psychologist.
The argument has understandably grown heated in this year of so many mass shootings. With December 14’s mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary committed by a young man diagnosed with autism – a diagnosis by itself not associated with violence – We The People (a group associated with some Constitution Party members) launched a petition on the White House website to demand an investigation of drug company products, stating that between 2004 and 2011, there have been over 11,000 reports to the U.S. FDA’s MedWatch system of psychiatric drug side effects related to violence.
As a pharmacist, I agree that it’s long past time for the people of this country to take a hard look at the side effects of psychiatric drugs. Since I would like to remain employed, I choose to remain anonymous, like the author of “I Am Adam Lanza’s Psychiatrist” (who also admits he has trust issues with Big Pharma).
Rather than make a list of all the mass killers on psychiatric drugs since Eric Harris shot himself in the Columbine library with therapeutic levels of Luvox in his blood, I will focus on what I know about the behavior of drug companies. We have yet to find out what medication Adam Lanza was on. We don’t know the percentage of mass killers on psychiatric drugs, because many psychiatric records have never been released to the public (Dylan Klebold and James Holmes are cases in point).
However, drug company distortions of the truth are no secret. You can read about their indiscretions everywhere from The New York Times to Psychology Today. “Follow the money” is as true now as it was in the Watergate era.
In July of this year, the FDA levied its biggest fine ever on drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline, $3 billion to resolve federal criminal and civil inquiries arising from the company's “illegal promotion of some of its products, failure to report safety data and alleged false price reporting.”
The company agreed to plead guilty to three criminal counts, including two counts of pushing unapproved uses of Paxil and Wellbutrin, and one count of failing to report safety data about the drug Avandia to the Food and Drug Administration.
This wording by the Justice Department vastly downplays the reality. Among other sleazy practices, the company hired attractive women from the ASU golf team to travel around the country playing golf with doctors. As for “failing to report safety data” – is that what you call it when a company leaves out data about patients who died from heart attacks during Avandia’s first clinical trial?
From April 1998 to August 2003, GlaxoSmithKline hired doctors to tell other doctors to prescribe the drug Paxil for treating depression in children, though the FDA had never approved it for anyone under age 18. The same illegal promotion happened with Wellbutrin from January 1999 to December 2003 for adults who needed help with weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, despite the fact that it was only approved for treatment of major depressive disorder.
The previous record-setting fine hit Pfizer, the world's biggest drug maker, in 2009. Pfizer paid the government $2.3 billion in criminal and civil fines for improperly marketing 13 different drugs, including Geodon, an antipsychotic, as well as Viagra and Lipitor. Pfizer was accused of encouraging doctors to prescribe its drugs with free golf, massages, and junkets to posh resorts.
It’s worth pointing out that the usual prescriptions for autism include Adderall-type stimulants, SSRIs such as Prozac and Luvox, and anti-psychotics. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors don’t notice that a patient is getting worse, not better. Sometimes they ignore the family’s pleas to discontinue the drugs.
Have prescriptions for these drugs decreased since the fines? I haven’t seen much of a change. Prozac isn’t prescribed much now, but its popularity has been waning for several years. In my opinion, we’ll see a drastic change only when drug company executives are brought up on charges of manslaughter. Timely prosecution could have prevented much tragic loss. For the families of the victims, it’s small consolation that the FDA is now $5.3 billion ahead.
“Violence and other potentially criminal behavior caused by prescription drugs are medicine’s best kept secret,” says Dr. David Healy, a world-famous psychiatrist (and former Secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology) who has written extensively about the lack of data in evidence-based medicine, including in his latest book, Pharmageddon (Feb 2012).
It’s a secret that now must be shouted from the rooftops.
Or in America’s case, the clock towers.