Press Room


The Issue:  Pharmaceutical-industry influence has tainted the information stream that doctors, medical educators, and consumers themselves rely upon.

The Story: Heavy marketing of pharmaceuticals directly to consumers is creating a demand for specific drugs before they’ve been fully evaluated and often before the patient even discuses a problem with a doctor.  And even doctors are not getting a full view of the research on a drug’s effectiveness and side effects. It’s estimated that 106,000 Americans die every year from improperly prescribed drugs .  As that article notes, “22 million Americans, one out of every 10 adults, have taken a drug that was later withdrawn from the market between 1997 and 2000.”  It is no coincidence that pharmaceutical profits have been increasing at three times the rate of other Fortune 500 companies (Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, “Prescription Drug Trends: A Chartbook Update,” November 2001). 

Here is one example of many:  Of 28 clinical trial published in the U.S. on the new antidepressant drugs, 22 were overwhelmingly positive. But across the ocean in Sweden, the Swedish Drug Authority (their FDA) was also considering the new application for these same drugs. In Sweden, however, a drug company must submit all of the completed studies, not just the ones which have been published.  The Swedish Drug Authority was given 42 studies, of which half showed the new drugs to be ineffective. A similar story emerged when the British drug authorities reviewed all nine studies of the use of Paxil for the treatment of adolescents under the age of 18 (only one of which had been published). They found that the young patients were no less depressed after taking Paxil but suicidal thoughts were twice as high and they promptly recommended Paxil no longer be prescribed for adolescents .

Do doctors and patients rely too much on drugs for problems that have better solutions? Perhaps improved eating habits, less stress, and a sense of community and relationship can do more to prolong and enhance life than scanning pharmaceutical ads and infomercials for the latest “magic bullet.”

Background:  See “Overdosed America” by Dr. John Abramson (whose credentials include a Robert Wood Johnson fellowship in epidemiology, statistics and healthcare policy.)  This book is well written, easily understood, and fully referenced. The last 50 pages cite articles, websites, government publications and unpublished data.  Also, “Prozac Backlash” by Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen.

Story Elements:  Bethany Hays, MD, True North Medical Director and Miles Simmons, MD, True North psychiatrist are available for comment.

Contact:  Chris Bicknell Marden, Director of Development, 781-4488,

J. Lezarou, JAMA  1998; 279(15):1200

Keller MD Efficacy of Paroxetine in the Treatment of Adolscent Major Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Abstract) Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2001;40:762-772), SSRI’s: Suicide Risk and Withdrawal (Editorial) The Lancet 2003:361:1999


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