Saturday, December 18, 2004


Hugh Hewitt documents some of the insanity that is now going on about Celebrex (from Pfizer) and how it is such a "scandal" according to CNN and others. I agree with Hewitt, who comments, "Where's the scandal?"


Pfizer, has concluded from its research that Celebrex in higher doses results in an increase in cardiac problems. Instead of 1 out of hundred people getting these problems, it is actually 3 out of a hundred.

I mention this issue because it happens to be something that really irritates me--the reflex anti-pharmaceutical industry mentality that somehow seems to believe that drug companies want to kill all the people who purchase their products. Doesn't this seem absurd to you? What would be the point? The profit motive is not generally supportive of inducing death to paying customers. I mean, what possible gain would any company get from that?

The ridiculous reporting on issues in medicine in general--you know, the stories that intone that there is a "three-fold increase in deaths" and such--are designed to inspire fear, not information to the public. What exactly IS a "three-fold increase in deaths" anyway? Well, to judge that you have to go to the original study and see how the study was done (something that somehow never makes it into the news story). In Celebrex's case, the death rate went from 1 out of 100 to 3 out of 100. In other studies it might be 10 in 10,000 going to 30 in 10.000. In either case, the odds are that a person taking the drug WON'T die. But there is a slightly increased risk, which means that if millions take the drug, that increased risk will be evident.

Hello??? Newsflash: EVERY SINGLE DRUG ON THE MARKET - EVEN OVER-THE-COUNTER DRUGS - HAVE SIDE EFFECTS AND POSE RISKS TO ANYONE WHO TAKES THEM. Let's take aspirin, for example. Did you know that it can kill you if you take a modest overdose? That it can lead to disastrous internal bleeding (that can kill you)? I personally know some people who have developed irreversible tinnitus (ringing in the ears) from taking it? Yes, this is ASPIRIN for God's sake! I won't even go into Tylenol (acetophenamine)--but it can destroy your liver and is potentially kill you. So can Ibuprofen. So can any pill you take for any reason.

The Pharmaceutical industry in this country spends billions of dollars to develop drugs for all the things that ail us. They have to jump through the FDA hoops (I wonder if anyone has calculated how many lives are lost while waiting for cutting-edge drugs to make it through the absolutely insane FDA approval process? I would bet it is a THOUSAND times more than the number lost because of "bad drugs"). The drug companies get a bad rap for every single problem, no matter how idiosynchratic the reaction. It is ridiculous to expect that drugs must be 100% safe for 100% of the people who take them. Insisting on such an unrealistic goal is not only foolish, but counterproductive.

Our society is fast becoming completely risk-aversive. Like anything else in life, taking medication means weighing the pros and cons. There are risks to taking the pill and risks if you don't take the pill. In the case of Celebrex, many many people's lives have improved on a day to day basis because they are able to move around and function without pain. Let THEM make the choice as to whether the risk is worth it to them. Only the individual can make the decision whether the risk vs. the benefit is acceptable in their specific case.

Let's stop the witchhunt and give some credit where it is due. The pharmaceutical industry has made medicine in this country LIGHT-YEARS ahead of the rest of the world. Our life-spans have increased and our ability to actually FUNCTION in this increased lifespan has been due in part to their efforts. They are not by any means perfect in all that they do, but I, for one, do not begrudge them any profits they can make on the products they develop and test. All I ask of them is to give me the information about the risks, so that I and my doctor can make an informed decision.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds comments, "If a drug company did this it would be a huge scandal. But it's the government, so it's okay!"

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