Evil Drug Companies Accused of Taking Advantage of the Bereaved

4039mene mene tekel upharsin Evil Drug Companies Accused of Taking Advantage of the Bereaved

First, a disclosure: When my
father died back in 1998, I took Prozac. At the time, I was
finishing up a PBS television documentary and could not focus on
the task. My physician suggested that I might try taking Prozac to
see if it would help. I don’t know if it helped or not, but I did
finish up the program in the month after I began taking the pills.
Perhaps my grief was running its natural course and would have
abated on its own, or perhaps the anti-depressants were effective,
or both. Four months later, I took a look at the bottle and put in
back in the medicine cabinet, never taking another pill. I have not
used any anti-depressant medication since then.So why the disclosure? A front page article, “Pills
for grief, and a boon for drug firms,” in today’s
Washington Post is going on another conflict of interest
witch hunt in which pharmaceutical companies are once again the bad
guys. In this case, a committee of the American Psychiatric
Association (APA) has decided to change its guidelines and suggest
that people experiencing deep grief over the death of a loved one
might benefit from using anti-depressants. As it happens several of
the experts on the committee have had financial relationships with
various drugmakers, e.g., consulting fees and/or research grants.
From the Post:
While no evidence has come to light showing that committee
members broadened the diagnosis to aid the drug companies, the
process of developing the handbook was fraught with financial links
to the industry:
What follows are the details of some of the relationships that
the committee members had with pharmaceutical companies. Simplistic
QED: The decision must have been corrupt.I note that the Post article does not in fact
say that the industry-funded studies that suggest that
anti-depressants might help people cope with grief are wrong.Look, pharmaceutical companies are not to be confused with
angels. They do have financial interests at stake and sometimes do
unethical things. When they do they must be held liable. I did a
long analysis,
Scrutinizing Industry-Funded Science, [PDF] for the
American Council on Science and Health back in 2007 in which I
reviewed pretty much the entire peer-reviewed literature on
scientific conflicts of interest. I turned that research into a
Reason article, “Is
Industry-Funded Science Killing You?” Basic conclusion: No.Nearly all medical journals now require declarations of
potential conflicts of interest (mostly financial) when publishing
a research article. In addition, most are now requiring that all
clinical trials be registered. I further recommended continuous
open peer-review modeled on the Public Library of Science
journals.Considering that very few new drugs are in fact removed from the
market and that newer
drugs tend to work better than older ones, the sort of
conflicts of interest identified by the Post do not appear
to have caused significant harm to research subjects or
patients.Back in 1998, there were no guidelines with regard to using
Prozac to cope to with grief. Perhaps Eli Lilly made a few bucks
off of me and perhaps I succumbed to the placebo effect;
nevertheless, I am glad that my physician gave me the option to try
that medication. Until other researchers can show that the results
of the scientific studies cited by the APA committee are flawed,
mere reportorial innuendo of possible corruption is not useful for
physicians or patients.Another disclosure: I own shares in various biotech and
pharmaceutical companies (no more than 1,000 in any one company,
alas). I purchased all of the shares with my own money and all are
held in my retirement accounts. May your deity of choice have mercy
on you if you even think about cribbing any investment advice from
me.

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Evil Drug Companies Accused of Taking Advantage of the Bereaved

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