When I co-founded the Public Citizen Health Research Group with Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe in 1971, he declared that this was his “last job.” The drug industry might have been advised to quiver. For through his Worst Pills, Best Pills books, newsletters and spectacular outreach via the Phil Donahue show, he has exposed by brand names hundreds of drugs with harmful side effects (worst pills) compared to drugs without such an unfavorable risk-benefit profile (best pills). In the nineteen seventies, he and his associates successfully advocated that many totally useless prescription and over-the-counter drugs be taken off the market.
Saving lives and saving consumers’ money—which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) neglected to do so often—was the mission of Dr. Wolfe and his dedicated colleagues. Citizen dues and donations are what maintained this lean and efficient watchdog.
In the historic annals of consumer groups correcting the false or deceptive corporate assurances associated with consumer products, no one has done more to expose Big Pharma’s mendacity. Sid Wolfe and his Health Research Group team made countless such corrections regarding hundreds of pharmaceuticals with hawk-like intensity and accuracy despite the drug companies’ obstructions and false denials.
I’m making this point because this week I received, along with many thousands of people, what has to be considered the most phenomenal offer to subscribe to Worst Pills, Best Pills News to “protect you from unsafe or ineffective medications.” At least eighty percent of all Americans take some kinds of pills during the year. Many of them may be taking just the kind of medicines that are actually making things worse for their bodies and minds.
This alert mailing is not about generalities. One insert lists “20 Pills you Should Never Take” (but only after you inform and consult with your physician). Here are their names: ACTOS, ARICEPT, AVANDIA, CELEBREX, CRESTOR, echinacea, glucosamine and chondroitin, LUNESTA, MIACALCIN NASAL SPRAY, MOBIC, QYSMIA, RELENZA, SEREVENT, SINGULAIR, SYNEPHRINE, TRICOR, TUSSIONEX, ULTRAM, VALIUM, VICTOZA, and 11 top-selling dietary supplements. You may react by saying “why has the FDA approved these drugs instead of taking them off the market?” To put it mildly, it is because the FDA is always behind in its work and too often has high-level regulators sympathetic to the powerful drug industry whose lobbyists are always swarming around the agency and the members of Congress who do its bidding.
In the amazing Health Research Group mailing, there is an eight page invitation that you won’t be able to put down. Here is a sample:
“Some drugs are not dangerous by themselves, but…they can be deadly in combination with other drugs. There are many dangerous combinations: insulin and INDERAL; PROZAC and trazadone; TAGAMENT and DILANTIN; DEMEROL and NARDIL; and CALAM SR and quinidine or LANOXIN, to name a few.
Here is more: “We’ve also seen cases where one doctor was prescribing a medication to treat symptoms that were being caused by another medication prescribed by another doctor! You’d be surprised how many drugs cause symptoms that are similar to these in patients with Parkinson’s Disease (CARDIZEM, amitriptyline, GEODON, HALDOL, PROZAC, REGLAN, chlorthalidone and RISPERDAL are among them), and how often people taking those drugs are then given other drugs to treat the parkinsonism symptoms caused by the first drug!”
Throughout the eight pages are statements by named patients regarding improvements in their painful symptoms after they got off these harmful medicines. Among some of the named medications was the notorious VIOXX which Dr. Wolfe warned about years before the FDA took it off the market.
Now, here’s the offer: for senior citizens, 14 monthly issues of Worst Pills, Best Pills News for $10, half of the regular price. (Made out to Pills News, PO Box 96978, Washington, DC 20090-0978.)
Does any of this sound like quackery mailings we all get so often? Banish the very thought. This is the most accurate information you’ll receive about your medicines. As the super-precise Dr. Wolfe guarantees: “If you are ever less than 100% satisfied with Worst Pills, Best Pills News…just cancel your subscription for a full refund of the subscription price.”
I’m giving subscriptions now to ten older friends who are taking medicines on the say-so of their prescribers. You know the saying, “trust, but verify.” There is one that is better: “do not trust, if you can verify.”
For directions on how to subscribe to the print or online version of Worst Pills, Best Pills News, go here.