Friday, July 20, 2012

The Pharmaceutical Industry


The Pharmaceutical                Industry

*  All art was provided by "Google Images" with our thanks.

The chemical "sea of pills".

By Felicity Blaze Noodleman

Jack Andraka, Age 15 
Two articles in the news lately have caught my attention.  The first was about a high school student, Jack Andraka, 15, who won the Gordon E Moore award in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for developing a test which detects pancreatic cancer with a 90% accuracy rate and is 100 times more sensitive than current tests.  It is faster and cheaper than current tests.

May the large pharmaceutical and medical supply companies eat their hearts out!  They have all been shown up by a youngster with no funding or elaborate facilities that have produced something which is really useful and saves people money and time.  These are the kind of researchers  we need today.  This brings me to the real point of this  article.

The second news article which I found to be of interest in the same field of pharmacology was July 2, 2012.   It was reported that British Pharmaceutical Company GlaxoSmith Kline was fined $3 Billion for promoting antidepressants for unapproved uses and for failing to report safety data about a top selling diabetes drug.  There were also civil penalties for the improper marketing of half a dozen other drugs according to Federal prosecutors.
There were so many dynamics to this case that I can’t believe it.   Here are some excerpts:

·       Prosecutors said Glaxo illegally promoted Paxil for treating depression in children from 1998 to 2003, even though it wasn't approved for anyone under age 18. The company also promoted Wellbutrin from 1999 through 2003 for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although it was only approved for treatment of major depression.    The New York Daily News

·       The pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline has been fined $3bn (£1.9bn) after admitting bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants to children. Glaxo is also expected to admit failing to report safety problems with the diabetes drug Avandia in a district court in Boston on Thursday.  The company encouraged sales reps in the US to mis-sell three drugs to doctors and lavished hospitality and kickbacks on those who agreed to write extra prescriptions, including trips to resorts in Bermuda, Jamaica and California.    The Guardian - UK

·       Part of the civil settlement also includes claims that the company overcharged the government for drugs. Glaxo did not admit any wrongdoing in the civil settlement. Despite the large amount, $3 billion represents only a portion of what Glaxo made on the drugs. Avandia, for example, racked up $10.4 billion in sales, Paxil brought in $11.6 billion, and Wellbutrin sales were $5.9 billion during the years covered by the settlement, according to IMS Health, a data group that consults for drugmakers. “So a $3 billion settlement for half a dozen drugs over 10 years can be rationalized as the cost of doing business,” Mr. Burns said. Mr. Burns and others have said that to institute real change, executives must be prosecuted criminally or barred from participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, an action known as “exclusion.”     The New York Times
It should be noted that 2012 is becoming a record year for fines set by the Fed. In these kinds of judgments!  What is also really distasteful is a video made at a GlaxoSmith Kline sales convention which shows company representatives offering huge cash incentives and other perks for the promotions of their drugs and other supplies.  Other big pharmaceutical companies which have been prosecuted and fines in the recent past include Pfizer Inc. settling for 2.3 Billion; Eli Lilly & Co fined nearly 1.5 Billion. and Abbot Laboratories settled for 1.6 Billion.  Johnson & Johnson has had two serious recalls of their “Tylenol” products and their problems just don’t seem to end with a fine which could result in 2 Billion settling for its “Risperdal” drug.

The fact which really blisters me about this case is the exploitation of children with powerful psyche. Meds. in this case.  Drugs for adults and not approved by the FDA for children were being promoted to Doctors by GSK.  Drugs which are known to cause suicidal behavior in teens.  When I first heard of this case it raised my interest in writing this article, but as I study it more closely I am beginning to see the really criminal direction this industry has been moving in for some years now! 

I can also say that it seems to me that our youths have become more dependent than ever on so many drugs.  I have to ask what is going on?  This was not the case when I was growing up.  Is it a result of what I call “The Frosted Flake Syndrome”?  Too much sugar in children’s diet and adults who can’t cope with it all?  Children who have become diabetic and are on a regiment of “Ritalin”.  I wonder.

This is becoming a sad commentary on childhood these days.

I suppose we should be glad to see a system in place which oversees and deals with problems of this nature but it’s alarming to see so much happening all at once.  It seems to me that the drug companies have become extremely profit motivated and have thrown caution to the wind as they market their products like never before.   It all reminds me of the drug “Thalidomide” which was marketed in the late 1950’s.  Thalidomide was found to cause birth defects when taken by pregnant woman and had to be pulled.  What a nightmare!

What governs today's health care system?

Pharmaceutical companies view fines in cases like this as “the cost of doing business” and know that the judgments legally point out the way in which they may proceed in the future.  Eliot Spitzer, New York Attorney General, has remarked regarding a 2004 judgement against GSK "this kind of corporate arrogance will continue unless company officials are held accountable for the criminal behavior of their companies".  What is really startling is when it comes to writing legislation in congress for these companies the authors are industry insiders.  After all, they are the experts and congress has very little to do with the process and oversight only arises as a result of a specific problem which has occurred in a mass incident.  It should be noted that the FDA is also made up of these insiders as well.

There have been other cases in the past related to a number of problems in the pharmaceutical Industry.  At one time or another all the companies have been sued in court or have had recalls over a number of various products.  Law firms quite often are looking individuals who have taken a drug as they are preparing for a class action law suit or law firms which are dispensing payouts for a legal settlement by drug companies.

All too many evenings I have watched a parade of TV ads. For new drugs and have been horrified as the side effects have been listed.  Advertising directly to the public is something relatively new for the drug companies.  In the past new pills and treatments have come to us through our doctors.  As I watch these television commercials I have to ask myself am I a doctor?  How do I know if I might need this new miracle cure?  They advise “ask your doctor” or “You could benefit when added to something you are already taking”.  What is becoming all too clear though is how far pharmacological companies will go for profits in marketing their drugs.

The costs of doing business with these companies.

If we view things on a really personal level than it becomes largely apparent that pharmaceutical companies are the real drug pushers in our society and they are bullies who have an arsenal of inducements at their command to convince the public to buy their “stuff”.  From the Federal governments Medicare programs down through the state level, such as here in California with Medical, government is the biggest customer in dispensing the pharmaceuticals to the public at large.  Insurance companies also have become a target for drug companies to “unload” their merchandise.

Too often in the news we hear of the tragic deaths which have occurred from the extreme miss use of pharmaceuticals.  Some under physician’s oversight and also by over dosages and abuse by individuals.  An area of great concern is physical conditioning in the sports world and individuals seeking to achieve a muscular physique through the use of a multitude of different pills and injections.  Is this what they mean when they say “better living through chemistry”?

Now let me ask a question.  Would you take a drug or pill if you knew that in the future you would develop severe complications?  Many people begin a regiment of pills at a young age during a time in their lives when they are relatively healthy.  Added to this regiment are vitamins, health supplements and so forth.  What is going to happen in the future when new illnesses develop as a result of aging?  Isn’t it wise to be prudent?  Let me tell you a story.  A friend of mine has been on chemotherapy for a number of years.  He became ill with a cold and took an over the counter remedy.   He became very ill with and interaction which easily could have resulted in death.  The moral of this is obviously to check with your Doctor about everything you take.  Isn’t that a good rule in general for all substances we’re taking?

Obviously pharmaceutical serve a valid purpose and fill a legitimate need in society.  I’ve seen firsthand for myself radical transformations for the better with patients who suffer with a variety of illnesses and have to be grateful for the availability of such “wonder drugs”.  Let’s all hope that prudent progress will guide the way for us all.

In closing; I was reminded of a poem learned in childhood which may illustrate the need for caution with drugs.


A green little chemist mixed
Some green little chemicals
On a green little day
In his own green little way
Now the green little chemist
Silently lays
Under the green little grasses
That tenderly sway
In their own green little way

Be careful about what you put in your body.  It's not a test tube!

Speaking of childhood this is the choice for next week’s article, “Childhood Memories”.  I’m Felicity and I’ll see you then!


The two faces of suspected shooter James Holmes, (aka) the "Joker"

By now most have heard the appalling news of the young 24 year old Colorado gunman who killed 12 and injured 58 others at the midnight opening of the film “The Dark Knight Rises” Thursday the 19 th.. In Aurora, CO.  The Noodleman Group would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this tragedy and especially to the families of the injured by this horrifying incident.

As more information becomes available will we be seeing how Pharmaceuticals may have affected the suspected shooter, James Holmes?  Cases like this in the past rarely have not gone into detail concerning this aspect.  Clearly this young man was seriously disturbed.  He claimed that he was the “Joker”, a character out of the “Batman” stories.

In April of 1999 a very similar incident occurred at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, CO., in which 12 students and one teacher were murdered by two gunmen.  Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold.  Both gunman committed suicide ending the incident.  Among all of the areas explored by officials dealing with the incident, and there were quite a few, one area surfaced with alarming precursors which may have pointed to that tragedy.  Pharmaceuticals!  Here is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article recounting the facts of that investigation:


In one of his scheduled meetings with his psychiatrist, Eric Harris complained of depression, anger and to possessing suicidal thoughts. As a result of this, he was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft. He subsequently complained to feeling restless and to experiencing a lack of concentration to his doctor, and in April, he was switched to a similar anti-depressant drug— Luvox.  At the time of his death, Harris had therapeutic Luvox levels in his system. Some analysts, such as psychiatrist Peter Breggin, have argued that one or both of these medications may have contributed to Harris's actions. Breggin claimed that side-effects of these drugs include increased aggression, loss of remorse, depersonalization, and mania.  A subsequent study conducted by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices identified Luvox as being 8.4 times more likely than other medications to be associated with violence.

Of all the factors in the Columbine High incident shouldn’t Pharmaceuticals be held equally as accountable with guns in the cause of this tragedy?  What will we be seeing surface as officials begin their complete investigation of Eric Harris?

Felicity B. Noodleman   7.23.2012 

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