'Big Pharma' may be just as dangerous as 'Big Brother'

Opinion

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Do not call your doctor! At least, not in response to the barrage of commercials sponsored by the big drug companies interested only in profits--but not your health! By all means call your doctor if you suffer health problems, but never mention the names of the pharmaceuticals being hawked on radio and TV.

According to Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and author of <I>The Truth About the Drug Companies<I>, 77 percent of all new FDA-approved drugs from 1998-2002 were "me-too" drugs, no better than drugs already on the market to treat the same condition. None were considered improvements.

Further, she says that the drug companies, which she calls "big pharma," have to show the FDA only that new drugs are "effective." They do not have to show that they are more, or even as effective as those being used for the same condition. Angell also states that Americans spent $200 billion on prescription drugs in 2002.

She goes on to say: "There is no question that publicly funded medical research, not the industry itself, is by far the major source of innovative drugs. ... At least a third of big pharma's drugs are now licensed or otherwise acquired from outside sources--including smaller companies from all over the world."

Unfortunately, according to the Chicago Tribune of Friday, Jan. 13, the FDA has adopted new rules to speed the process of drug discovery, loosening the reins on drug companies. The Tribune says: "The FDA will let researchers test small amounts of experimental drugs on people before clinical trials begin and before all animal studies are completed."

The more informed we are on the subject of pharmaceuticals which concern all Americans, the better our chances to make intelligent choices for the sake of our families.

Peggy Studney
Oak Park

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