Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Drugs Are Bad, Mmmkay

Maybe this whole time, I've accidentally been taking Zoloft every morning. My roommate and I were watching some teevee after work, when one of those "Feeling Blue, Assface? Ram This Little Pill Down Your Bitchboy Throat" antidepressant commercials hit the ol' airwaves. Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention to the mersh itself, but my ears definitely perked up the second that seemingly constipated narrator lady finished reading the side effects. "Sounds familiar, dude. TiVo back." I heard them again:

People who use this product might experience dry-mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.

Wait, so people who use this product are essentially paying all that money to feel like I do every day? Damn, I'm in the wrong business altogether. And while I myself am not depressed, don't you think someone experiencing all those side effects would be pretty fuckin' far from okay? Shit, if some of these people were depressed before popping Zoloft, just wait until they can't sleep through the night with the constant feeling of nausea and a wicked case of 'rhea. Not fun.

I'll never understand the sudden rush to legal drugs as an answer to our ills, and especially to our children's perceived ills. In fact, we now spend more on mood-altering drugs for our children than we spend on antibiotics. Zoloft alone generated more than $3 billion in sales for Pfizer last year, and those pills are still selling like the the Tri-Lambda's homecoming pies. Pfizer recently reported its corporate earnings, and said its Zoloft sales jumped 25 percent in the latest quarter. They're not alone: Wyeth's Effexor racked up more than $2 billion in sales last year, while GlaxoSmithKline's double trouble combo of Wellbutrin and Paxil totaled about $3.3 billion.

This ain't the medicine business, this is a motherfuckin' $14 billion fuck-you industry in the United States alone. This ain't about the need to make people feel better, it's about the need to sell the products that make money. Much like the terror alert system, it's about playing on people's deepest fears and capitalizing like a gang of robber baron apothecaries. As Alec Baldwin's character says in Glengarry Glen Ross, "Only one thing matters in this life. Get them to sign on the line that is dotted." That's why Pfizer makes $52 billion a year and you're nothing.

But greed is not good, Gekko. Greed leads to shadiness and negligence, even death. A nurse in Los Angeles last month sued Pfizer on behalf of all California residents who allegedly have been misled about Zoloft. The suit alleged that Pfizer misled doctors and the public regarding the safety and effectiveness of its drug, downplaying the alleged risks of taking Zoloft, such as increased suicidal and violent impulses, while exaggerating its benefits (New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of all "aggrieved consumers" in that state who used GlaxoSmithKline's drug Paxil).

Zoloft also came under intense fire when a 12-year-old boy taking the drug (mind you, no antidepressant has been approved to treat pediatric depression except for Prozac) killed his grandparents and set their house on fire in 2001. And they say pot is bad for you. The case is drawing national attention "because it is among the first to arise amid a national debate over the safety of antidepressant use in children and teenagers." I'm anxiously awaiting the outcome of this case. We're a quick-fix society that rarely corrects it errors until it's too late. But it's been too late. It's too late for that 12-year-old's grandparents, it's too late the families and friends of the people in last month's lawsuit, and it may be too late for all the people who were misled by these pharmaceutical evildoers. It sucks to be misled by people whose sole responsibility it is to tell the truth, whether it be our government or our business leaders, or the people who are supposed to make us feel better.

To me it's painfully obvious that the driving force behind the sudden rise in prescriptions is aggressive direct-to-consumer advertising. It's a tel-e-vsion com-mer-cial. Following the relaxation of a 30-year drug marketing agreement in 1997, pharmaceutical companies have tripled their annual advertising to consumers, resulting in a 37% increase in sales of prescription stimulants for children. Also, roughly one-third of all adults have asked their doctor about a drug they saw advertised. If television commercials have made you want to go out and get a pair of Nikes, why can't they make you want to go out and get social anxiety disorder? Couple that with the fact that general practitioners, internists and family doctors are sometimes penalized by health insurers for making referrals to psychiatrists, and it's no wonder that primary care physicians write more than 70 percent of all antidepressant prescriptions in America.

You're all most likely in agreement or bored as shit; this is either preaching to the choir or delivering the world's worst sermon. But I'm just fuckin' sick and tired of hearing about children on medication who clearly don't need it, and hearing about people taking drugs without the necessary therapy that goes with them. If you're mentally unhealthy, which many people legitimately are, what makes you think the family doctor's off-hand prescription is gonna save the day?

I have no idea how to wrap up this ridiculous rant, so I'll just say this: Pharmies are fun to take recreationally, so keep making 'em, Pfizer. But get your fuckin' commercials off my telly and quit preying on America's youth. Otherwise, I swear I'll do all my "Silent P" business with Price Pfister and buy myself a new faucet.