Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A History (And Future) Lesson

When science, industry, and government collide, the results are often less than pretty. Aubrey Blumsohn gives a glance into several episodes, all of which apparently related to the date October 8 in various years. Either October 8 is a very bad day, or these incidents occur with regularity on many other days of the year as well. I strongly suggest (nay, I insist), that you educate yourselves over at the Scientific Misconduct Blog.

When done, feel free to head over to Furious Seasons and get a reminder about how the "patient advocate group" known as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill touted the second generation antipsychotics as life-saving. That's all fine and dandy, until one notes there is no data that schizophrenia outcomes have improved by a single iota since these drugs were foisted upon the public.

But don't worry, these miracle antipsychotic drugs are now prescribed for bipolar disorder, Mega-Watered Down Bipolar Disorder, autism, depression, and whatever else you can imagine. So, the gap in lifespan between people with schizophrenia and the rest of us continues to increase, yet these drugs are still pimped as a huge improvement over older treatments.

My Guaranteed Prediction: And when the next bandwagon of psychiatric treatments comes out, count on them to be touted as safer and more effective than the drugs that they are replacing. The same companies that are currently pushing atypical antipsychotics will eventually push other antipsychotic drugs and will then denigrate the very same treatments they now claim are life saving. NAMI and others that claim to advocate for patients will state uequivocally that the new treatments save lives and make the world a better place. The old treatments may even be labeled as causing dependence, which of course will not be true of the newer treatments.

Of course, at the anemic rate which psychiatric drugs are being developed these days, it may be a few years before the prior paragraph comes true, but come true it will. Mark my words. I have no special powers of prediction -- all one needs to do is notice a pattern and note that there are currently no real obstacles (beside having very few drugs in the pipleine) to the current script being replayed over and over again.

If you think the media or a clinical trial registry are going to fix things, consider yourself a sunny optimist.


Anonymous said...

Of course, at the anemic rate which psychiatric drugs are being developed these days, it may be a few years before the prior paragraph comes true, but come true it will. Mark my words.

The technical term that explains this is "amortization of patents." It may be worth looking at the introduction of new drugs, and comparing it to the expiration dates of older ones.

Drug companies have no obligation to the general public other than not (getting caught) breaking the law; their only legal obligation is to maximize their profits.

CL Psych said...


I believe you are correct. Why bother to introduce a drug that would cannibalize the profits of an existing drug? However, the patents have been running out on leading antidepressants for a few years now, leaving us with Lexapro, Effexor, and Cymbalta under patent. And Effexor's clock is running out.

I thus expect the script will be re-run with new antidepressants, even if they are essentially retreads of existing medications.

Funny how SSRI's were supposed to be fantastic because they worked selectively on serotonin (in theory), and now Lilly, which pioneered the serotonin selectivity hype in the USA with Prozac, is pushing Cymbalta hard because of its dual action of norepinephrine and serotonin.