Category Archives: Articles

A collection of articles from various sources on Prescription and OTC (over the counter) drugs.

“worse than Hitler” “pharma-whore”

A government adviser on the use of antidepressants has resigned after being called “worse than Hitler” and a “pharma-whore” in a campaign of harassment that he has accused colleagues of fomenting.

David Baldwin claimed that a fellow adviser helped to fan the flames of online abuse in a row over the effects of the drugs. The controversy began when he wrote to The Times in February to downplay the side-effects of coming off the drugs, saying: “In the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment.”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/drugs-adviser-david-baldwin-quits-after-being-branded-worse-than-hitler-in-online-abuse-row-srtqltmfs

Valium: What is it used for and why are people buying it on the street?

Harriet Williamson Wednesday 19 Sep 2018 8:12 am Last November, Christina Craig died after taking a fake Valium pill. The tablets were known as ‘Blue Plague’. She was the fourth in a group of six friends in Glasgow to lose her life to what she believed to be Valium.

Scottish police estimate that there could be millions of fake Valium pills on the streets. Why is there a thriving market for the drug? Why aren’t users getting it on prescription?

Valium, also known as Diazepam, is part of a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. It’s a sedative recommended for short-term treatment only because it can quickly become addictive.

Valium isn’t usually prescribed for longer than two to four weeks at a time, and some GPs are uncomfortable prescribing it at all. The NHS lists the side effects of benzodiazepines as including drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, vertigo, low sex drive, headaches and the development of a tremor.

After four weeks of use, benzodiazepines may start to lose their efficiency, meaning that you need a higher dose to get the same effect. The way Valium loses potency and the potential for addiction are two reasons why GPs don’t regularly prescribe the drug for long-term conditions like anxiety, as they did when it was first released. Valium was created by Leo Sternbach and released in 1963. It became one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the world, and between 1968 and 1982, it was the highest selling medication in the US. More than two billion tablets were sold in 1978 alone.

Anxiety and insomnia had previously been treated with barbiturates, which caused extreme withdrawal symptoms, were highly addictive and easy to overdose with. Benzodiazepines like Valium seemed like the safer and more effective option, and they became the prescription solution for every problem.

The drug was particularly associated with women, and in 1966, the Rolling Stones even wrote a song about it, entitled ‘Mother’s Little Helper’. It took a long time for the addictive nature and negative side-effects of benzodiazepines to be recognised, despite research in the 1980s linking the long-term use of this drug group to brain damage and calling the drug ‘more difficult to withdraw people from than heroin’.

The NHS is now supposed to prescribe benzodiazepines for a maximum of four weeks to curb the potential for addiction. However, some doctors are failing to stick to guidelines published more than 20 years ago.

Full Metro article

Patients who are becoming addicted to prescription drugs – ITV

VIDEO

They are powerful painkillers bringing relief to millions of people – but there is growing concern over the use of opioids.

There’s evidence that some patients are becoming hooked on them and many experts argue they are ineffective when it comes to reducing long term chronic pain.

Words can hurt those on benzodiazepines

There exists a large, mostly-underground, growing community consisting of those iatrogenically harmed by benzodiazepines. Guilty only of following doctors orders, these patients are marginalized and misunderstood. This has been enabled, at least in part, by poor terminology………

……….
Physical dependence and addiction are not synonymous (see: patient education materials that accompany some benzodiazepine prescriptions). Yes, physical dependence can manifest from both abuse and compliant use. But physical dependence can stand alone. Signs of its development — tolerance, interdose withdrawal, and/or withdrawal symptoms with dose reduction — are not an accurate indicator that addiction is co-occurring. So then why are terms like “addictive,” “addicted,” and “hooked” utilized by many experts and media outlets to describe what is actually prescribed physical dependence? I believe the answer is two-fold: (1) confusion (lingering from a history of bastardized language) or a lack of education; and (2) the media’s desire for a sensational headline. The latter alienates the as-prescribed population and comes at the expense of accurate reporting.
When examined objectively, it is obvious that this terminology approach is illogical.

It also has considerable cost in the following ways:

1. By providing a false sense of security to the prescribed physically-dependent population. Drug abusers know they are at risk of harm. Patients compliantly taking benzodiazepines, long-term (>2-4 weeks), often do not. Stories encountered about “benzodiazepine addiction” are dismissed as irrelevant and fall on deaf ears. Instead of an informed warning, patients and their prescribers are left incorrectly reassured that any problems with benzodiazepines lie solely with the user’s behavior as opposed to being inherent to the drug class itself.

2. It results in misdiagnosis and dangerous mistreatment. Physically dependent patients who do accurately identify symptoms as originating from their benzodiazepine may seek out or be referred to addiction-based “treatments,” like rehab or “detox,” if they are left under the impression that they are “addicted.” At such facilities, the “law of the instrument” often manifests when all patients are universally “treated” under the “addiction model,” consisting of abrupt discontinuation of any drug deemed “addictive,” irrespective of abuse history. This practice defies all respected benzodiazepine withdrawal guidelines (calling for slow, patient-guided tapers). The result is often disastrous, increasing the risk of severe symptoms (seizures, psychosis, suicidality, akathisia, etc.) and protracted neurological insult.

Similarly, in the outpatient setting, physically dependent patients mistaken for “addicts” are sometimes “fired” or have their prescription “cut off” by misinformed prescribers. For best outcomes, patients require understanding, patience, and withdrawal guidance that facilitates slow tapering, usually over many months and years.

3. It causes displaced blame. Compliant patients are too often on the receiving end of misdirected blame when they are mistakenly believed to be “addicted” to benzodiazepines. This literally adds insult to injury. Worse, it enables the problem to persist because fault is directed away from actual causes like prescribing practices which ignore well-documented long-term risks and harms, inadequate pharmacovigilance, lack of truly informed consent, etc. Since fault is assigned solely to patients, there is no impetus for change.

To tackle this terminology hurdle effectively, clinicians, educators, the media, etc. need to present benzodiazepine issues in a way that makes clear there are four distinct problems: (A) adverse effects; (B) iatrogenic physical dependence (including tolerance and interdose withdrawal) and subsequent withdrawal reactions; (C) post-withdrawal (protracted) neurological insult; and (D) addiction/misuse.

Collectively, these encompass all potential complications but each has individual problems deserving of their own platforms. Prescribed harm advocates are attempting to spotlight the first three (A-C), those being the most common yet most unrecognized and overlooked. Doing so proves difficult, however, because there is a lack of meaningful discussion as a consequence of the language of condition D eclipsing everything. The dominant narrative is that everything falls under the addiction umbrella, regardless of whether that narrative applies. Case in point: cardiologist Dr. Christy Huff recently told her story of prescribed physical dependence to Xanax on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” (the news story referenced in the above tweets). Her story is a cut-and-dry case of elements A (adverse effects appearing after only a few weeks) and B (physical dependence that developed, as could be pharmacologically expected, shortly after being prescribed Xanax for insomnia), with no trace of D. Much to the chagrin of everyone championing for accurate benzodiazepine safety information, the newscast was riddled with addiction terminology. The narrator misrepresented Dr. Huff’s story, proclaiming she was “hooked” on the longer-acting Valium she’s using to taper. Meanwhile, the following caption trailed beneath her on-screen image: “Doctors warn of addiction risk from anti-anxiety drugs.” More inaccurate information. More false security. More misplaced blame.

Unfortunately, public commentary beneath the news segment on social media consisted largely of finger-pointing at the “addicts” for “ruining it for everyone else who takes them appropriately!” Another missed opportunity to warn the public with the message that Dr. Huff set out to convey — that anyone who takes benzodiazepines, even exactly as prescribed, is at risk for potentially severe adverse outcomes (physical dependence, painful and/or lengthy withdrawal, protracted neurological insult, etc.)

A popular children’s rhyme concludes, “… words will never hurt me.” But this isn’t just a case of hurt feelings over a botched news story or labeling people addicts when they aren’t. It’s much more serious than that. In this case, misapplied words do grave harm. Many people’s lives and health hang in the balance. By taking great care with the terms we use to discuss benzodiazepines, we can alleviate unnecessary suffering, provide the information needed for consent to be truly informed, and save as many patient lives as possible.

Nicole Lamberson is a physician assistant and serves on the medical advisory board, Benzodiazepine Information Coalition.

full document

J.J.’s story

4 years is nothing. 4 years is a black spot on a clean canvas that you can only really see if you step over those red rope barriers in museums that stop you from getting too close. But 4 years of depression and anxiety left my life paralyzed from the early teens onwards. It came in waves, waves of not being able to leave my bed, wishing I was dead, crying until my eyes were burning and my brain felt like it was under a hydraulic press.

Being 15 – noting that I’m 16 now – my mother was desperate. She was frustrated, blaming herself, my father, mostly just me, though. I couldn’t face going to school, so I missed most of the high school experience, I couldn’t even leave my room most days.

We tried aromatherapy. I had candles and drank herbal mixtures and dropped two drops of flower water onto my tongue a day. I had mouth sprays and scent sticks and special herbal chewing gum. That didn’t work so well.

We tried tapping, sort of like massage therapy. I’d tap areas of my body and tell it I will go to school tomorrow. I didn’t.

We tried therapy. My mother took me to a counsellor named Mindy who made me cinnamon tea. Later, I saw an Anne who let me play with the fidget toys she had in a box in the corner. Then I got to the top of the CAMHS waiting list and I saw a Sandra who brought in aromatic play-dough to make me feel more relaxed. Then I got to an Adrienne, who had a fun accent. After her came Linda, who said ‘breasts’ too much.

Then I got Dr Tom.
I’d done CBT – it hadn’t helped. I was missing my GCSEs due to anxiety – I was thrown deeper into depression. My relationship with my mother was angry yells and her being disappointed in me every time she saw me (or, that’s what it felt like to a 15-year-old).

I couldn’t live like this anymore.
Dr Tom explained, in much detail, that medication – Fluoxetine, 20mg – was a last-ditch effort to try to keep my 4 years of misery from becoming 5.

I’d had friends who’d benefitted from taking medication, so when I wasn’t opposed to the idea, my mother agreed. Desperate times and all that.

Dr Tom had explained the side effects to me, and how if they surpassed the two-week mark, I was to call his office immediately. Dizziness, nausea, suicidal thoughts. I was willing.

The first few days, I was dizzy. My head felt heavy and I felt like I was floating. No nausea, no suicidal thoughts.

A week later, I did get a dark cloud over my head. It didn’t last long, but it was there.

A week later, I’d tidied my room. The first time in months.

A month later, I looked up courses in local colleges. I didn’t cry about missing my GCSEs.

6 months later, I set up a board of aspirations and was slowly ticking them off.

A year later, I bought a pet budgie, whom I look after. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who couldn’t look after themselves last year.

When the time came to come off of my meds, I had no side effects. I was living. I was alive. I had plans, I didn’t look around and hate where I was in life. I was something. Not nothing. 4 years of dark at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly there was light. And it wasn’t a train coming right at me this time, I’d actually found the end of the tunnel!
I’ve been off Prozac for a few months by now. I dyed my hair the other day and laughed when it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.

When I was 13, if my hair wasn’t right, my anxiety would have me missing days of school to cry on my bedroom floor. My bird, Archie, is my best bud, and likes to sit on my shoulder. I volunteer at an animal rescue and walk the dogs. I used to cross the street when one was coming towards me. I want to learn sign language. I’m going to a concert next year. I go to a drama club. I take the train. I read books. I spend time with my friends. I smile at strangers. I’m not angry anymore.

Prescription drugs can be awful. It can turn something bad into something worse and make someone scared into someone scary.
But I’d been scared for so long.
And I’m not anymore. I’m unsure that I ever will be again.
Whatever prescription drugs are to you, I wish you luck, and remind you there is hope.
cool. peace.

Common painkiller prescribed to MILLIONS increases risk of a stroke

  • Taking the drug diclofenac also raises the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding

  • Diclofenac was banned over-the-counter in the UK due to heart concerns

  • It can still be bought from pharmacies in its gel form, such as Voltaren

A common painkiller that is prescribed to millions in the UK may increase a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by 50 per cent, research suggests.

A study of more than 6.3 million adults found that diclofenac, which is prescribed under the brand names Motifene and Diclomax among others, also puts patients at a higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding compared to other painkillers.

Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is approved for the relief of gout, severe allergic conjunctivitis, pain post surgery and arthritis in the UK.

Heart concerns caused British regulators to ban tablet forms of the drug from being sold over-the-counter in 2015. It can still be bought from pharmacies in its gel form, such as Voltaren, to relieve pain and inflammation.

On the back of the study’s findings, published in the British Medical Journal, the Danish researchers are calling from the drug’s UK ban to be expanded worldwide.

The scientists, from Aarhus University Hospital, said: ‘It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and reduce its use.

‘Dicofenac should not be available over the counter and when prescribed should be accompanied by an appropriate front package warning about its potential risks.’

The scientists analysed national registry data for millions of Danish adults.

Full story

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6133497/Common-painkiller-prescribed-MILLIONS-UK-increases-persons-risk-having-stroke.html

(Cough) One in seven patients experiencing negative side effects, study finds

Coughs cost the UK economy nearly £1bn a year in lost productivity and sick days, with a further £100m bill for the NHS in seeing patients who will get better on their own.

There is no evidence that medicines for persistent coughs have any benefit, and one in seven patients actually experience negative side effects, a study has found.

Swiss researchers comparing the medications against a placebo found no examples where they significantly sped up recovery or improved patient wellbeing in any of the other areas tested.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/cough-medicine-work-help-persistent-symptoms-weeks-asthma-a8531286.html

Anti-depressants doubles a child’s risk of suicidal behaviour.

Suicidal thoughts, attempts and self-harm increase in young people prescribed antidepressants, concludes study

Anti-depressants should be a doctor’s last resort when trying to treat children and adolescents with depression, according to the results of a new two year-long study.

The meta-analysis involved researchers conducting a systematic review of all available and relevant test data. Researchers examined 70 trials comparing antidepressants with placebos in order to find out how the use of antidepressants related to increases in suicide, suicidal behaviour and aggressive behaviour in young people.

In 11 of those trials, researchers found out that antidepressants doubled the risk of aggressive behaviour and suicidal behaviour in young people. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide thoughts and attempts, actual suicides and self-harming behaviour such as deliberately cutting oneself.

“There are still psychiatrists who deny that antidepressants can cause suicide in children, which is absolutely incredible,” Peter Gøtszche, the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre at Rigshospitalet who is the co-author of the new study, told Videnskab.

“I think it is irresponsible to use antidepressants in treating children and adolescents.”

Results no surprise
Anne Katrine Pagsberg – a clinical associate professor, senior researcher and medicine chief physician at the Child and Adolescent Centre, Capital Region Psychiatry at the University of Copenhagen Hospital – was not surprised by the results.

“We are very aware of this risk,” she said. “Especially for children and young people there has long been an awareness that there may be an increase in suicidal behaviour. All our patients are closely monitored and their families informed about the risks.”

Pagsberg said that the national guidelines for the treatment of children and adolescents suffering from depression recommend that antidepressants should never be ‘front-line therapy’ and should never be used as a stand-alone treatment.

“They must always be coupled with psychosocial interventions, and patients should always be closely monitored for side-effects.”

Self-harm may not equate to suicide
Pagsberg said that self destructive behaviour may not always be a sign of suicidal intent.

“Self-harm is a serious symptom, but a young person who cuts their arm is not necessarily suicidal,” she said.

No children or young people in the 70 trials actually committed suicide, but 3 percent of the children and young people taking anti-depressants exhibited suicidal behaviour, compared to 1 percent in the placebo group.

“The front-line treatment for children and adolescents with depression will always be psychotherapy,” said Pagsberg. “In cases of severe depression, we may need to try treatments using anti-depressants, but even then the psychotropics should never stand alone.”

http://cphpost.dk/news/anti-depressants-doubles-a-childs-risk-of-suicidal-behaviour-say-danish-researchers.html

Suicide- 87% on antidepressants

The stats also reveal that more than 87% of people were taking antidepressants at the time of death, while 44.6% were on drugs used in psychoses and related disorders.

New figures have revealed that almost three quarters of all suicides in Dundee were among men.

The latest statistics released by the NHS show that there were a total of 147 suicides in Dundee between 2009 and 2015, of which 109 were men.

The figures also show that the majority of men who committed suicide in the city were employed in senior positions, such as managers, while 43% of men who committed suicide were unemployed, disabled or living off their own means.

One Dundee dad who knows only too well the devastation and heartbreak caused by suicide is Phil Welsh.

Lee Welsh, 27, of the city’s West End, took his own life in August, leaving his friends and family devastated. Phil called for a crisis centre — similar to one in Edinburgh, which is open 24/7 and provides community based, emotional and practical support at times of crisis — to be set up in Dundee.

Phil told the Evening Telegraph: “Not until Lee died did I appreciate just how many men took their own lives.

“Lee’s death left our family heartbroken and we’re doing everything we can to stop this happening to other families.

“We would like to see a crisis centre set up in Dundee similar to the one in Edinburgh where people who feel suicidal can turn.”

The Tele previously told that Lee had battled mental health issues for almost a decade prior to his death.

Lee’s suicide prompted his parents to campaign for more action to help people with similar issues and following his death, the website Not in Vain for Lee was established.

He said: “If through this focus we can prevent one family from enduring the heartache we as a family are currently suffering, then Lee’s death will not have been in vain.”

Rob Burns, development manager of Dundee’s mental health service the Hearing Voices Network, said that the figures relating to men did not surprise him.

Mr Burns said men who have taken their own lives may not have spoken to anyone about the issues they are experiencing.

He added: “It is really quite frightening the number of people who take their own lives.

“We are very aware that up until now men have not been as willing to come forward to talk about their mental issues or other things that are concerning them as women have been.”

“I would think the men in Dundee who have taken their own lives have not previously spoken to anyone about their concerns.

“We are currently doing a lot of work to get men to open up, including taking on more male volunteer supporters.”

The majority of men — 64% — who took their own lives were also single, compared to just over 18% who were married or in a civil relationship.

The figures also revealed that 36 suicides took place within five years of discharge from a mental health service.

More on this story

https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/call-new-crisis-centre-dundee-help-folk-thinking-suicide/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Britain loses medicines contracts as EU body anticipates Brexit

Britain’s leading role in evaluating new medicines for sale to patients across the EU has collapsed with no more work coming from Europe because of Brexit, it has emerged.

The decision by the European Medicines Agency to cut Britain out of its contracts seven months ahead of Brexit is a devastating blow to British pharmaceutical companies already reeling from the loss of the EMA’s HQ in London and with it 900 jobs.

All drugs sold in Europe have to go through a lengthy EMA authorisation process before use by health services, and the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain has built up a leading role in this work, with 20-30% of all assessments in the EU.

The MHRA won just two contracts this year and the EMA said that that work was now off limits. “We couldn’t even allocate the work now for new drugs because the expert has to be available throughout the evaluation period and sometimes that can take a year,” said a spokeswoman.

In a devastating second blow, existing contracts with the MHRA are also being reallocated to bloc members.

Martin McKee, the professor of European health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has given evidence to select committees about Brexit, said it was a disaster for the MHRA, which had about £14m a year from the EMA.

The head of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry said it was akin to watching a “British success story” being broken up.

Mike Thompson, the chief executive of the association, said: “Clearly we’ve all been incredibly proud of the MHRA’s role over the last few years. They’d established themselves as one of the most respected regulators across all of Europe and industry. It’s been a British success story.”

The EMA said that because of the long lead-time involved in assessing medicines it could no longer award the lead contracts to British people since there was no guarantee they would be part of the EU after March 2019.

It is understood the MHRA bid for 36 EMA contracts this year but were only awarded two, and these were for drugs for which evaluation had already begun.

The situation is a stark contrast to 2016 when the UK was the lead assessor, known as the rapporteur, on 22 applications, and was joint lead or co-rapporteur on 19 multinational applications.

This made it the number one in Europe, with Germany’s regulator behind with 22 lead contracts but only 12 co-contracts.

…..

An MHRA statement said:

“We want to retain a close working partnership with the EU to ensure patients continue to have timely access to safe medicines and medical devices. This involves us making sure our regulators continue to work together, as they do with regulators internationally, and we would like to explore with the EU the terms on which the UK could continue to participate in the EMA.”

 

more on this story here