Saphris Approved By The FDA

Yesterday the Federal Food and Drug Administration as expected approved Saphris, manufactured by Schering-Plough of Kenilworth, New Jersey, for use in the treatment of psychosis and bipolar disorder. This was following the recommendation for approval the FDA received from its expert panel looking into the drug. Saphris joins a large and growing category of drugs, the atypical antipsychotic drug, developed according to the advertising pitch of the drug industry to have fewer side effects than the original antipsychotic drugs.

Unfortunately these atypical antipsychotic drugs have proven, if anything, far worse than the typical antipsychotic drugs that preceded them. People in treatment for serious mental illnesses studies have found to be dying on average 25 years earlier than the general population, and these atypical drugs have much to do with why this is occurring. Heart disease, excessive weight gain, diabetes and a number of other potentially fatal health conditions are associated with the use of these atypical antipsychotic drugs.

The idea that if the side effects of one drug are devastating, all you need do is to switch to another drug with fewer side effects is part of the problem. There is no perfect drug out there, and the notion that the solution to life’s problems comes in a pillbox is dubious at best. All antipsychotic drugs have the potential of doing harm to the person who takes them. If the person is less aware that this harm is taking place, this unawareness is not going to make that harm any less severe.

Saphris joins a growing family of drugs that includes Clozapine, Zyprexa, Respiral, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon. These are the drugs the drug industry came up with in large measure because the patents had lapsed on many of the generic brands such as Thorazine, Stelazine, Haldol, and Melleril. Although lessening side effects were the ostensible reason given for the development of these newer drugs, who could deny that the profit motive probably had even more to do with this proliferation of brand name chemical restraints?

Given the prevalence of biological psychiatric theory in professional circles, drug maintenance is often almost the only form of treatment offered by many Doctors of Psychiatry. This drug treatment, as has been suggested by research, may be one of the reasons why the mental health system is seen as so broken as it often is perceived to be these days. People in treatment for serious mental illness are not recovering, and one of the reasons they aren’t recovering is because of the drugs being used in treatment.

Alternatives to the treatment of serious mental illnesses by drugs have long existed, and some of these alternatives have proven even more effective than drug treatment. Conventional psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry interests are very closely bound together, not only with each other, but also to those of the Federal Food and Drug Administration. This has created a certain narrowness of methodology in their approach to the illnesses they would be treating. These alternative treatments have the potential for expanding this narrowness of methodology, and could prove very effective in helping to recover many a conventional psychiatrist from the ravages of an excessively rigid approach to practice.