Jul 08

drugCompanyDogfood.jpgI want to propose a radical idea here: to the executives and employees of the major drug companies- if you are an individual responsible in any way for manufacturing, distributing or selling mind-altering drugs, you should be required to sample your own product before you push it on others in the same way that police officers are required to take a hit from the taser weapon before they can administer it in the field. Undoubtedly this idea would meet intense resistance and never get approved. I can hear the opposing arguments now and the rebuttal of “well if that’s your logic then Smith & Wesson employees should have to…” But what if a vitamin manufacturer was unwilling to consume its own product – would you not be skeptical of what they’re selling? Consider for a moment the current state of the pharmaceutical industry: think about the sums of money involved, the incentives at every level to encourage unnecessary prescription of these drugs, think about how they are defended and litigated to minimize exposure and maximize profit in situations where new information comes to light revealing crippling side effects and ultimately recognize who will bear the cost of this government-sanctioned racket in the form of long-term health issues for a significant chunk our population. More and more western medicine appears broken and the problem cannot be isolated to the chemists inventing the compounds in the lab, the clinicians conducting the trials, the lawyers securing the patents, the drug reps pushing the product, the doctor’s and psychiatrists writing the slips, the insurance companies paying the claims or the pharmacists scooping the pills over the counter – it’s the economics of the whole chain the fact that each individual is so removed from the end result that ensures this ugly trend will perpetuate itself indefinitely.

There’s a brilliant lyric from a song by Jack Johnson called Cookie Jar:

you can’t blame me, says the media man
i wasn’t the one who came up with the plan
i just point my camera at what the people want to see
it’s a two way mirror and you can’t blame me

I understand the dynamics of the situation: “it’s my job” says the salesperson. “It’s my job” says the chemist. “It’s my job” says the lawyer. “Other companies would move into our space if we didn’t” says the CEO. Capitalism has come in direct conflict with the the Hippocratic Oath and the public interest of health and wellness though, and guess which one has steamrolled the other? In such a radical situation, isn’t a radical approach necessary to re-balance the boat? When the boat has demonstrated that it’s not going to right itself an is in fact in an indisputable state of capsizing, isn’t it time to rally the crew and take action to save the ship? Responsibility has to exist at each link of the chain – if you’re pushing the safety of your product and you’re unwilling to sample it yourself, what does that say about the confidence of your assertions that the product is in fact safe?

I will share that for the greater part of 2001 I was on a cocktail of three of the most dangerous prescription drugs in existence: zyprexa, effexor and risperdal. How these substances continue to be sold blows my mind – read some of the patient testimonials from the above links to get a flavor for what these medications do. By some miracle and against the advice of every doctor and psychiatrist that saw me, I weaned myself off of these medications, evaded the path of zombie-dom that was inevitable for me and returned to a normal existence having gone through what I can only say what it must have felt like to the Apollo astronauts when they lost contact with earth on the dark side of the moon. Talking about a personal experience such as this carries a negative stigma, it’s seen as “uncool” and is arguably a risky bit of “career-damaging” info to share publicly. But having had first-hand experience with these medications and learning about the prevalence with which they are now being prescribed, it’s gut-wrenching to think about the lives that are being permanently destroyed under the guise of health and for monetary gain on the part of these drug companies.

Following cognitive dissonance theory I can only imagine the supporting justifications that the employees of these companies must concoct to be okay with what they are doing. These drugs may be helpful in isolated cases as an intervention method but they are being prescribed as a way of life. Pharmaceuticals- don’t kid yourself, you are not improving the lives of your consumers- you are causing child suicides. Short of meeting this plague head-on with a radical addition of checks and balances such as the one I’m suggesting here, what is a possible resolution to this situation? I challenge any representative of one of the major pharmaceuticals to respond to this question. And to everyone else what do you think the answer is to this situation?

12 Responses to “Drug companies should be required to ‘eat their own dogfood’”

  1. Gus says:

    I have mixed feelings about the pharmaceutical industy. While I think there are plenty of reasons to bash it, I am personally very thankful for the work they do.

    In 1999 I became the father of twin sons. They were born 3 months prematurely and weighed in at 1 lb 12 ounces and 1 lb 15 ounces. After three months in the neonatal intensive care unit, they came home healthy as any babies could be.

    This was due to incredible care by their nurses and doctors, and because of the miriad medicines they recieved when their lives where in jeopordy.

    Today you would never know they were so fragile when they were born.

    So, when I read about the negatives of the pharma industry, I can agree that there is much to criticize. However, I think it is also important to remember the value of so many of the products they create.

  2. sean says:

    agreed 100% – there are a ton of drugs that undoubtedly save lives and improve the quality of life for many people. I’m speaking to a very specific segment of medications that include the antipsychotics I refrenced above. Very simply they destroy lives and are being promoted over psychotherapy as life-long treatments rather than the accute interventions they should be. I would not argue with your defense of the medications that saved your twins- medicine is a miraculous field but it’s being exploited in this specifc area and the myriad lawsuits now surrounding drugs like Zyprexa and Risperdal are testament to that fact.


  3. diamondtearz says:

    Although I can agree that different segments of the drug food chain have their motivation for pushing whichever medicine but to categorically label all of the antipsychotic drugs as a negative would be to ignore the many patients that do benefit from these same medicines.
    When we make a decision as a team to put a patient that came in grossly psychotic on Risperdone it’s because of the hundreds of people who have been able to walk out of the same institution and not be terrorized by the voices or hallucinations or other psychosis that has come into their life and done whatever damage. It’s hardly for financial gain.
    The myriad of lawsuits surrounding those drugs is more indicative of the climate in which we are forced to practice defensive medicine- the same one in which people sue for hot coffee or for McDonalds making them obese.
    These medicines do have their side effects but atypical antipsychotics have come into the picture as a chance for many people to have a much better life than the previous Haldol, sedation and the side-effects that patients had to suffer before they had these options.
    Actually drugs are not promoted over therapy but as a part of a combination. The conditions that have been shown to be responsive to therapy and combination therapy are addressed accordingly- A depletion or overabundance of dopamine in your brain is no more likely to be repaired through talk therapy than your cholesterol.
    The stigma that you mention in your post is the very same stigma that you would propagate if you are to say that every other part of your body is susceptible to biochemical malfunction and hence repair…except the brain. The advances in the last decade in Psychiatry and that will be made in the coming decades are from realizing the relationship between diseases of the mind and the biochemistry of the brain.

    I regret that you had an unfortunate experience with Risperdone and other psych meds. However; I have seen too many people benefit from these medications, when appropriately used, to agree with you.
    And as far as eating my own dog food- I can distinctly remember spending weeks immobilized by depression and feeling as if life had nothing to offer me until I was finally fortunate enough to have s psychiatrist catch my depression and Zoloft and therapy helped me get my life back on track.

  4. flawedplan says:

    Followed a link from PsychWatch, this was a fabulous post. The *debate* must become part of our cultural discourse, especially by those who have been silenced by psychiatry with a capital “P”.

    Not having all the answers doesn’t mean you should be silent. Those who think they have all the answers are part of the problem here.

    The causes and treatment of mental breakdown isn’t just theory or philosophy, we’re talking about people’s lives.
    The more self-expression the better, and anyone who misses the beauty in your rant ought to consider the power and purpose of aesthetics. Humor is the most daring of all.


  5. Applaud your blog!

    I took zyprexa which was ineffective for my condition and gave me diabetes.

    Zyprexa, which is used for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, accounted for 32% of Eli Lilly’s $14.6 billion revenue last year.

    Zyprexa is the product name for Olanzapine,it is Lilly’s top selling drug.It was approved by the FDA in 1996 ,an ‘atypical’ antipsychotic a newer class of drugs without the motor side effects of the older Thorazine.Zyprexa has been linked to causing diabetes and pancreatitis.

    Did you know that Lilly made nearly $3 billion last year on diabetic meds, Actos,Humulin and Byetta?

    Yes! They sell a drug that can cause diabetes and then turn a profit on the drugs that treat the condition that they may have caused in the first place!

    I was prescribed Zyprexa from 1996 until 2000.
    In early 2000 i was shocked to have an A1C test result of 13.9 (normal is 4-6) I have no history of diabetes in my family.
    Daniel Haszard http://www.zyprexa-victims.com

  6. jim collins says:

    Effexor rocks. It actually can permanently cure depression. How awesome is that?

  7. flawedplan says:

    I take Effexor too, Jim, but it hasn’t permanently cured my major depression. Anyway did you have a point or are you just a paid shill for psychopharm, and if not a shill for psychopharm why are you, ya know, shilling for psychopharm?

    Seriously. Think on these things.

  8. […] Also, tried to clear up some confusion at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time about the Pink Flag elpee, blurbed on irony and the new sincerity movement of the 1980s at Pandagon, offered encouragement for a self-stigmatizing sister, found the cure for psychopharm (dog food), which we will come back to, it’s a stone barnburner and well worth a showcase, right, I’ll get up on that next so bbl and stay true love. […]

  9. Sheena says:

    Hey Sean,

    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences, however, I am taking a combination of Zyprexa and Effexor and seem to be doing fine. Not with standing, I have also been on Risperdol which made me even more “out of touch with reality” and had only taken a pill and a half (I barely new my own name) and craved the drug for a year afterwards. So I hear where you are coming from. I have however managed to become a Pharmacy Technicain in my recovery and Medical Office Assistant so maybe it was all for the better. Take Care

  10. […] Of the 1,325 drugs produced over the years covered by a recent World Health Organisation survey, only 11 specifically targeted tropical diseases like malaria. According to The Independent, 80% of drug company research budget is directed at developing drugs ‘that offer no real therapeutic advance.’ More importantly, the marketing budgets of ‘Big Pharma‘ (as campaigners call massive drug manufacturing behemoths) dwarf what they spend on research and development. Sure, they spend much more developing treatments for ‘rich man’s diseases’ like Viagra, but they spend a lot more convincing people to buy it. […]

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  12. Ollie says:

    Well written post. Over time I recovered from depression but it took medication, counseling and also a lot of personal development. Are there any good forums you would recommend?

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