Monday, February 9, 2009

Drugs for Everyone

Okay, so now we’re going to start medicating “healthy” people because "’[t]his takes prevention to a whole new level, . . . appl[ying] to patients who we now wouldn't have any evidence to treat,’ said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, a Detroit cardiologist and president of the American College of Cardiology.”

Yes, you read that correctly. In an article entitled Cholesterol drug Crestor cuts deaths, heart attacks in healthy people; could see wider use, by Marilynn Marchione, and reported in Newsday, it is suggested that we medicate otherwise healthy people with Crestor (manufactured by AstraZeneca) in order to prevent possible heart attacks when the risk for such attacks is nearly non-existent.

Of course, I’m all for taking care of people, and certainly do not want anyone to suffer from a heart attack, however . . .
“[S]ome doctors urged caution. Crestor gave clear benefit in the study, but so few heart attacks and deaths occurred among these low-risk people that treating everyone like them in the United States could cost up to $9 billion a year — ‘a difficult sell,’ one expert said. About 120 people would have to take Crestor for two years to prevent a single heart attack, stroke or death, said Stanford University cardiologist Dr. Mark Hlatky.” (Emphasis added.)

Also, consider that:
1. AstraZeneca paid for the study, and the study’s authors have consulted for the company and other statin makers.
2. More people in the Crestor group saw blood-sugar levels rise or were newly diagnosed with diabetes.
3. Crestor also has the highest rate among statins of a rare but serious muscle problem.

Where does something like this stop? Should we start giving Vioxx to healthy people to prevent arthritis? (Oh wait, Vioxx isn’t on the market anymore . . .) Or let’s give Diethylstilbestrol (DES) to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages and avoid other pregnancy problems. (Oh wait, doctors did that and it turned out to be a really, really bad idea . . .) I know, let’s all take Aricept to prevent Alzheimer’s. (what could possibly go wrong?)

Call me crazy, but wouldn’t eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising get the same, or even better, results at a cost substantially less than nine (9) billion dollars and without the dangerous side-effects?

But, it gets better.

In an article entitled, Feed brain with pills, published in Newsday, so-called experts stated that “’[w]e should welcome” the idea of allowing otherwise healthy people to take powerful, psychotropic, Class II narcotics in the hopes of “improving our brain function.” This sentiment appears in an opinion article published in the journal Nature (note the irony).

Perhaps even more disturbing is the comment that using such drugs is “no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night’s sleep.”

I kid you not!

OUTRAGEOUS. There is simply no other word for this.

When did exposing otherwise healthy people to dangerous, mind-altering drugs become “okay?” In fact, according to the "experts," it is not only “okay” but it should be equated to eating right, getting a good night’s sleep and, one must presume, exercising. Wow.

Let’s see. Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising are healthy, free, non-addictive (although, sometimes exercising can be addicting – in a good way), and have no side-effects other than improving brain function, improving mood, slowing aging, preventing heart disease, fighting obesity and improving the immune system.

Drugs like Ritalin help people sustain attention. They also carry with them the risks of, among other things, heightened anxiety, radical mood swings, growth inhibition, sleep problems, addiction, strokes, sudden death, and possible chromosomal changes. On the other hand, prescribing these drugs for otherwise healthy people opens up a brand new, multi-billion dollar market for the pharmaceutical companies and most likely extra fees for the doctors who get to write so many more prescriptions for such medications.

Yeah, the two approaches can obviously be equated.

Note that two of the authors of the Nature article consult for pharmaceutical companies.

No comments:

Post a Comment