I have written an article which appears in the ‘health and living’ section of the Irish Independent today; here.
The writing is all mine this time, so for anyone who doesn’t agree; it’s all my work and I stand by everything I said. There was a paragraph missing to do with antidepressants and miscarriages; I feel this is very important so I’ve left it in here. All stats were verified by Prof David Healy.
The level of ‘antidepressant’ prescribing has never been so high and yet the suicide rate is rocketing. Join the dots here if you dare and please don’t argue the recession point; I’ve heard it already. We’ve come through the famine, oppressive English rule, Centuries of emigration and barefoot children; for goodness sake, get a grip! The suicide rate has never been so high and the barefoot children are long gone; presumably dead from old age and natural causes, not by their own hand. Each year there is (at least) one antidepressant prescription per year for every man, woman and child in Ireland. If these drugs actually cure people; how come we once had less than 1 per 1000 of us depressed, and now it’s more than 1 in 10? In the year 2010 the cost of medicines in the health service was €1.9 billion. Have we all gone mad? Why do we need €1.9 billion worth of medication every year; were we all born with inherent defects that only the (billion dollar) pharmaceutical industry can fix? Wake up and smell the pharma coffee when you take that statin this morning! Is that antidepressant you just consumed keeping you happy or can you remember either way? Without doubt the most medicated Country in the world is the US; would it surprise you to know that the life expectancy in the US has fallen below that of Cuba?
In the latest revelation within the mental health arena (Oct 2012), the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a paper which showed that the risk of suicide (in the first year of treatment) for schizophrenia is extraordinarily high. For schizophrenia generally, you are 10 times more likely to be dead at the end of the first year of treatment than you were 100 years ago. Did you read that? 10 TIMES MORE THAN 100 YEARS AGO! Professor Healy (one of the authors) said “the actual risks of suicide (in the first year of treatment) were 100 times greater than those of the general population.”
Also this week, to much fanfare it has to be said, Minister Reilly said a “very good deal” was made with the Pharmaceutical Industry, to cut the State’s drugs bill by up to €400 million. This he said would benefit patients and the taxpayer. Right; excuse the cynicism here but that’s €400 million over 3 years, which is equivalent to a saving of €133 million a year. What’s €1.9 billion divided by €133 million? The Pharmaceutical industry may find this as amusing as I do; laughing all the way to the bank.
It amazes me that drugs with adverse effects such as suicide, depression, aggression and birth defects can be licenced by the Irish Medicines Board and yet the ‘free will’ of the pubic to medicate themselves is taken away by the banning of herbal remedies. I doubt if my son would be dead as a result of consuming a large dose of ‘Echinacea’. While I realise that all prescribed medications come with side-effects, we in Ireland are not afforded the same level of warning that other countries are. For example, all antidepressants come with a black-box warning in the US which signify that these drugs can have serious or even life-threatening adverse effects.
Of course herbal medicines are not without controversy either; St John’s wort, which has similar properties to an antidepressant, was widely known in the farming community to cause miscarriage and birth defects in cattle. Farmers took steps to prevent this drug from coming into contact with their animals; yet pregnant women are afforded no such warning. 1 in 10 pregnant Irish women are on antidepressants, leading to about 40 extra babies with significant birth defects and 200 extra miscarriages each year. So in the last 20 years, antidepressants have caused birth defects in 800 Irish babies and 4000 miscarriages.
I’m not entirely stupid; I know that some drugs can save lives and there will be people who say “the drugs have saved my life”. Who will speak for the dead people though, do they have a voice? €1.9 billion worth of drugs? Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that this is the biggest wheeze of the 21th Century. The number of people requiring medication is increasing every year. Will we eventually face a world where the majority of the human race will be ‘a bit mad ted’ and will therefore be the new class of norm? It could be seen as ‘the’ miracle of the 21th Century, where the meds are cast aside as the now normal ‘mad’ people don’t need them anymore; let’s all embrace the madness. It would surely be interesting to see what subsequently happens to the pharmaceutical industry; spontaneous combustion? Or just a frantic scrambling to find a way to convince people that medicating the ‘normal’ is actually now in Vogue? The old tale of ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind. Dreadful weather, isn’t it?