Cover Story

The FDA’s tolerance of false and misleading promotion of psychotropic drugs allows substances on the market that poison the body and can kill with little or no warning. According to FDA Deputy Commissioner Mary Pendergast (above), drug manufacturers spend more than $10 billion each year to hawk their wares.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force to Study the Impact of the Potential Loss of Pharmaceutical Support concluded decades ago that the APA would perish without these funds. There’s a new APA president, Herbert Sacks (above), but nothing new in terms of the group’s funding source.

Agency Reportedly Ignored Signs of Nerve and Brain Damage

      And so it is that with an ocean of FDA-approved substances readily available, up to 180,000 people, according to medical writer Martin Zucker, are killed as a result of medical drug side effects each year, with hundreds of thousands more maimed through brain damage or other means.

      A study by the Drug Abuse Warning Network showed that FDA-approved medical drugs accounted for more than double the number of teenage deaths due to cocaine, heroin and amphetamines combined.

      Even diet pills have their hazards. In May 1997, several dozen neuroscientists wrote to the FDA, charging that it had ignored tests that showed extended use of the diet drug Redux could create nerve and brain damage.

      Said Dr. Mark Molliver of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, “Laboratories around the world have found that the drug has serious brain toxicity. It has the potential for producing brain damage.”

      Yet the FDA took no action. Still, someone at the agency must have been suspicious. When Redux was approved in 1996 as a diet pill, it required the manufacturer, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, to conduct a follow-up study to determine ill effects users might be suffering — a study on which critics said the company dragged its feet. As of the publication of this article, no follow-up had been done, even though sales of the drug soared up to $200 million per year. And despite evidence of potential dangers, the FDA approved Redux for extended use — up to one year.


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