Check out this first line from a news article in the Sept. 10 MedPage Today:
“Reports of drug-related injury, disability, and death sent to the FDA nearly tripled during an eight-year period beginning in 1998, according to an analysis of agency data.”
The title of the article is, “Pain Medicines and Immunomodulators Top List of Drugs with Adverse Events.”
We all know about Vioxx, the “miracle” arthritis med taken off the market for being too dangerous. But according to this article, drugs like Vioxx (generic name rofecoxib) only accounted for a “modest number” of the adverse events.
The real bad guys are drugs like oxycodone, estrogen – and I know you saw this coming – the interferon betas used to treat MS. Here’s a snippet from the article:
For example, oxycodone was suspected in 5,548 deaths, ranking it number one of 15 drugs linked to mortality. By contrast, rofecoxib [Vioxx] was suspect in 932 deaths and ranked number 14.
Estrogen, which was linked to 11,514 reports of serious injury or disability, earned the number one rank in that category followed by insulin with 9,549 reported adverse events. Inflixmab (8,754 events), interferon beta (8,320), and paroxitine (8,095) were ranked third, fourth and fifth followed in sixth place by rofecoxib, which was linked to 7,766 events.
Inflixmab is primarily used for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohns, and paroxitine is used to treat depression. Interferon beta – as most with MS know – is used in drugs that modulate the immune system, like Avonex, Rebif and Betaseron.
The article says that 17.3 percent of the adverse events involved death, 7 percent involved permanent disability (which I always find ironic – drugs that treat disabilities sometimes causing worse disabilities), and 75.7 causing what’s referred to as “serious” outcomes. The article also says adverse events from drugs like interferon beta products skyrocketed in the period from 1998 through 2005. But that makes sense – that’s around the time neuros started strongly recommending interferons for most people with an MS diagnosis, often without a frank and indepth discussion of the pages of possible side-effects.
I think people should have the right to choose to take a potentially harmful medication, as long as doctors objectively present all the benefit and harmfulness of the med. Like this: “Ma'am, this drug will wipe out much of your pain, but it may kill you in the process.” Sometimes pain is so bad that a choice between relief or death sounds pretty dang good.
But equally, people shouldn’t be press-ganged into taking dangerous drugs that may hurt more than they help. That’s not choice, that’s coercion.