We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy pills or "Happy Trails" pills?

Are drugs for an invented disorder causing REAL deaths?

You know how I feel about ADHD. I've written ad infinitum about how it's the most over-diagnosed "disorder" on Earth (it's actually a largely made-up illness that's fueled by Big Pharma and enabled by today's lax parenting), and how it's creating an entire generation of drug-dependant souls who feel they just aren't themselves without their expensive stimulants.

I've also written to you about how these drugs are more and more the medication of choice for adults, and not just those with difficulty focusing. As I've told you in past Daily Doses, there's a fast-growing contingent of adult Ritalin and Aderall users who aren't the least bit imbalanced.

They're just college kids looking for an edge - trying to stay sharp and alert for late-night study sessions or major exams. Still others fake illnesses to re-sell their pills to "normal" kids who just want a good buzz...

But unfortunately, the parties, study sessions, and even playground recesses might be getting cut mortally short for a certain number of these people. According to a 2006 report issued by the Food and Drug Administration, as many as 25 suspicious deaths (19 among children) and 54 cases of serious cardio-vascular issues have been reported among patients who began treatment with five of the most oft-prescribed ADHD drugs - including Ritalin and Aderall, the two such medications most people have heard of - between 1999 and 2003.

These aren't the first casualties associated with these drugs, either.

According to a recent Associated Press article about the new report's findings, the FDA claims to have recorded 26 more deaths in a partially overlapping time period that may also be linked to the use of these drugs. Of course, the FDA is moving at its usual glacial pace on this situation.

Instead of acting quickly to protect consumers - like neighboring Canada did last year when it pulled Aderall from the market until further review could conclusively validate it - the agency instead continues to debate the best ways to study whether the drugs have negative long-term effects. This, despite Congressional pressure to speed things up.

According to the AP piece, at least one U.S. Senator has chastised the FDA for its lethargy in the matter. Meanwhile, sales of ADHD drugs continue to skyrocket, more than quadrupling between 2000 and 2004, to a total $3.1 billion worth. Over that period, adult prescriptions of the drugs outpaced children's.

Mom's killer blues cure

More bad news for mood-altering drugs: According to some recent research reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the most popular class of today's anti-depressants (called SSRIs) can increase the risk of an often-fatal birth defect by up to SIX-FOLD when taken by mothers-to-be - especially during the second half of their pregnancy.

The drugs, which include Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, have been implicated in increased numbers of cases of persistent pulmonary hypertension - a condition that retards the adaptation of an infant's lungs to normal breathing soon after birth, thereby preventing enough oxygen from reaching the blood.

According to an Associated Press report on the study's findings, the FDA plans to issue public health advisory on this link soon. This isn't the first time these drugs have been linked with prenatal health issues, either.

Last year, the FDA warned that Paxil in particular may be linked with fetal heart defects when taken in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

What's most disturbing to me is this little-known fact: Nobody knows how ANY patented drugs affect pregnant women or fetuses until after they've been prescribed to the public.

Ethical rules prohibit the testing of drugs on pregnant women. Drug companies are literally testing these medications by prescribing them to an unwitting populace - relying on the FDA, universities, or individual doctors to report pernicious results.

In this instance, the result is a 600% increase in the risk of infant death.

Trying not to be depressed when drugs cause distress,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD

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