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No psychiatric drugs, no side effects

A psychiatrist, one Dr. Pierre Chue, replies to an article in Canada’s Edmonton Journal with the claim that Some psychiatric drugs are low in side effects.

These newer treatments, such as ziprasidone or aripiprazole, mean people living with a mental illness now have medication choices associated with a decreased risk of problems such as weight gain or diabetes. It is important for patients to be aware of all their treatment options and not to avoid taking medications because they believe they all have the same side-effects.

Just to clarify matters, ziprasidone is more commonly referred to as Geodon, and aripiprazole is more commonly referred to as Abilify. Neither Geodon nor Abilify are free of nasty side effects. Pfizer, the makers of Geodon, recently canceled tests of that drug on children after repeated warnings from the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has expressed concerns about the side effects of Geodon, Seraquel, and other neuroleptic drugs when taken by children. Apparently the severity of Geodon side effects can cause a problem…with children anyway. Abilify is being marketed as the drug to be used for depression when nothing else works. Abilify is a neuroleptic drug more typically used in the treatment of psychosis. When drugs such as Abilify are marketed for other uses than that for which they were intended, without FDA approval, this practice is called “off label” prescribing, and it is a fraudulent use of the drug. Abilify has been approved for use in the treatment of depression, but this begs the question as to what harm is being done a patient by such prescription practices. Few side effects or many side effects, neuroleptic drugs have been known to damage the people who take them.

The article this Dr. Chue was reacting to bore the heading Psychiatric drugs linked to a host of deadly side effects. Now which drugs cause the least side effects and which cause the most is not the kind of information most mental health consumers are given. A question arises here as to whether this doctor is any different. Another question is whether this doctor is receiving kickbacks from Pfizer, the company that makes Geodon, or Bristol-Myer Squibb, the company that makes Abilify. Such ties might also influence the names of the drugs he would be throwing out there as having less side effects.

The article in question deals with metabolic syndrome. Some psychiatric drugs are known to change people’s metabolism in a way that induces many life threatening health conditions, from heart disease to diabetes. The subject of this article was a Canadian study involving people in mental health treatment.

At the start of the study, researchers measured waist circumference, blood pressure, blood fats and other markers of metabolic syndrome — the name for a grab-bag of health problems that increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to die from, and three times as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people without the disorder. They also have up to a nine-fold greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

At the start of the study, 11 per cent of patients met diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome, similar to the general population. This increased to about 17 per cent after two-years of followup.

The conclusion of the article is very presumptive.

“These are medications that are taken for years, if not lifelong, because depression and bipolar disorder are not illnesses we can cure. They’re illnesses we can treat.”

So runs Dr. Valerie Taylor’s argument.

If we can still search for a ‘cure’ for cancer, despite the devastating consequences of such a diagnosis, why would “mental illness”, if, and this is a big if, if it were a ‘disease’, be any different? Why would ‘treatment’ be opposed to ‘cure’? Shouldn’t the application of ‘treatment’ work in a ‘curative’ fashion? I don’t see why we would be encouraging hopefulness for cancer sufferers and their relatives while pushing complete hopelessness and futility on people in mental health treatment and their relatives.

I suggest Dr. Taylor do a study of the consequences of long term psychiatric drug prescription on a person’s chances for completely recovering from a serious mental illness diagnosis. I think that if Dr. Taylor were to do so, then she might come to an altogether different conclusion.