Why is my government paying for drugs that France won’t touch?

The Premier of my lovely province here on the West Coast of Canada promised during our spring election campaign that her government would pay for prescription drugs or products to help British Columbians quit smoking. But a new report in The Tyee suggests that some of the drugs the province wants to fund are controversial.

One of them, varenicline (which is made by drug giant Pfizer and sold as Champix in Canada and Europe, or as Chantix in the U.S.) has been associated with suicides and severe psychiatric side effects.

In fact, here’s what the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, an American non-profit, said about varenicline in its October 2008 quarterly update:

“Varenicline accounted for more reported serious injuries than any other prescription drug for a second quarter, a total of 1,001 new cases, including 50 additional deaths.”

And the government of France last month announced that it will stop paying for varenicline because of serious questions around its safety. Continue reading

There’s a pill for that!

No matter what ails you, there’s a pill for it. And if nothing ails you, just wait. Pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs right now that just need a disease to treat. So let’s invent one!  It’s what Big Pharma watchers call disease-mongering. For example, we used to call it laziness, but now we know that it’s really a medical condition called Motivational Deficiency Disorder. And don’t even get me started on Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder!

Need to take a pill for something, anything? We’ve got drugs for everything.

The term ‘disease-mongering’ was first coined by author Lynn Payer in the 1992 book Disease Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick. Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath and David Henry then wrote this in April of that same year in the British Medical Journal:

“Pharmaceutical companies sponsor diseases and promote them to both prescribers and consumers.

“There’s a lot of money to be made from telling healthy people they’re sick. Some forms of medicalising ordinary life may now be better described as disease mongering: widening the boundaries of treatable illness in order to expand markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.

“The social construction of illness is being replaced by the corporate construction of disease.” Continue reading