Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

The Don’t Do Drugs

November 24th, 2010 by Holly Grigg-Spall

15 Dangerous Drugs Big Pharma Shoves Down Our Throats

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Alternet recently posted a list of the drugs most likely to make you sick. Writer Martha Rosenberg’s ’15 Dangerous Drugs Big Pharma Shoves Down Our Throats’ contained some startling choices.

Yaz is there, described as a “too good to be true” birth control pill that purported to do away with acne, bloating and PMS but ended up causing the deaths of many young women from blood clots and gall bladder disease. Interestingly, she points out that although the pharmaceutical company Bayer has seen a sales slump of late this has been attributed to the appearance of a generic, cheaper version of the pill, and not women’s suspicion of its side effects. This is a testament to the power of the company’s aggressive marketing campaign, and the pull of Yaz’s promise.  I have written at length on my blog, Sweetening the Pill, about the impact Yaz had on my health – from the UTIs to the paranoia – but still when I saw Bayer would be releasing a rebranded version of the drug – Beyaz, with added vitamin B – I still felt tempted to try it. My life has been entirely transformed since ditching the Pill after ten years and looking back I can see very clearly how Yaz destroyed my body and mind, but I am still a woman living in a Pill-pushing culture just trying to avoid the self-doubt I’m sold on every day.

The birth control pill was the first drug created for and prescribed to healthy people. Its release was a catalyst for the industry, showing that although pills for sick people could make a profit, pills for healthy people could make millions. The Pill had a massive potential market of fertile women, and soon became a cure-all for any ailment seen as specific to them. This paved the way for another medicine on Alternet’s list – Lipitor – the heart-attack preventer drug, on which Martha Rosenberg writes:

“”My older patients literally do without food so that they can buy these medicines that make them sicker, feel bad, and do nothing to improve life,” says an ophthalmologist web poster from Tennessee. “There is no scientific basis for treating older folks with $300+/month meds that have serious side-effects and largely unknown multiple drug interactions.” What kinds of side effects? All statins can cause muscle breakdown but combining them with antibiotics, protease inhibitors drugs and anti-fungals increases your risks. In fact, Crestor is so highly linked to muscle breakdown it is double dissed: Public Citizen calls it a Do Not Use and the FDA’s David Graham named it one of the five most dangerous drugs before Congress.”

Lipitor is the best-selling drug in the world because its market is huge – healthy people holding any risk of heart attack, or just holding the fear of a heart attack are the demographic. Whereas the Pill is confined to female parameters, Lipitor also hooks men. Those behind the Pill had to first convince women that stopping ovulation is okay, then that menstruation is at best bothersome and unattractive, and at worst dangerous. Lipitor had a lost less work to do.

Since moving from the UK to the US I have been shocked by the casual use of Ambien that I’ve seen here. This drug also seems to be gathering cure-all status despite actually only reducing the get-to-sleep time by 18 minutes. Despite high profile cases of Ambien inducing users to act – drive, make phone calls, have sex – in their sleep, it is taken with an easy, carefree attitude. Martha Rosenberg remarks increased uptake has been linked to higher rates of traffic accidents and national overweight statistics – as users find themselves crashing cars and eating junk food whilst under the influence. The sleep cycle can usefully be considered alongside the menstrual cycle as important fixtures of a life led at optimum wellness – a topic I have written on previously. Lack of sleep impacts on hormone levels with a range of negative consequences. As we see more magazine articles advocating eight hour a night sleep routines people have been reaching for the Ambien, rather than the relaxation techniques.

The hormone drugs Prempro and Premarin are listed with these statistics: “26 percent increase in breast cancer, 41 percent increase in strokes, 29 percent increase in heart attacks, 22 percent increase in cardiovascular disease, double the rates of blood clots and links to deafness, urinary incontinence, cataracts, gout, joint degeneration, asthma, lupus, scleroderma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and lung, ovarian, breast, endometrial, gall bladder and melanoma cancers.” However Pfizer is still testing such pills for proof of their benefits, hoping to come up with a ‘lite’ – rebranded – version to sell.

The article lists other medicines classed as “once-unapprovable drugs” that are only now available as a result of the FDA “transferring risk onto the public’s shoulders with “we warned you” labels.” As the writer highlights, “The warnings are supposed to make people make their own safety decisions. Except that people just think FDA wouldn’t have approved it if it weren’t safe.” Warning labels and inserts were first produced for the birth control pill after women protested that they were not fairly informed of the early version of the drug’s ability to provoke cancer, blood clots and chronic depression. After the trials that questioned the release of the Pill in the late 60s this ‘victory’ for women was essentially a move by the industry to shirk responsibility and make women coconspirators. By linking the Pill to the concepts of freedom and choice, the phamaceutical companies could ignore the need for real informed consent and use millions of willing as experiments for money-making schemes. As is suggested in the article, we should all really receive ‘test subject’ compensation.


  

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