Sept, 9 2000
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"My People Perish for Lack of Knowledge..."
Bupropion hcl, marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as a smoking cessation aid under the trade name of Zyban and as an antidepressant under the trade names of Wellbutrin IR and Wellbutrin SR, is considered by many to be a modern day "magic bullet." Unbeknownst to millions is the fact that its recipients, upon ingestion, have unknowingly been entered into a deadly game of Russian Roulette, without recourse.
When attempting to communicate what we who have suffered the adverse effects of this drug have experienced when seeking help from within the medical community, having had the misfortune of losing at this "game", one would be inclined to say it is rather akin to Alice's account of having taken her own particular potion. Both her experiences and ours defy the imagination. Like Alice, we are forever trying to find our way home, dependent on characters who by and large are deaf, dumb and blind to our particular plight. Of course Alice's adventures exist in the world of fiction, her romp through Wonderland paling in comparison to our particular journey into a world of confusion, terror, and mistreatment bordering on the verge of absurdity. Ours is all too real and anything but an exercise in imaginative escapism. Just how does one go about even beginning to attempt to describe the virtually indescribable - our experiences of traversing a terrifying, insane-making unknown landscape, whilst wrestling with the mind-boggling eccentricities of the characters we encounter in our own peculiar "Wonderland"?
Having been thrust into this realm of the "unreal" nearly three years ago, I believe that a synopsis of my journey, a short summary of another victim's struggles, others' debilitating "realities", and a hefty dose of but a portion of the truth surrounding this drug and the pharmaceutical industry at large may serve to provide a glimpse into the sense of abandonment, helplessness, frustration and ensuing rage inherent to my own and my fellow prisoners' virtual banishment to this particular unearthly abode.
Though my experiences constitute the fodder of a horror story I wish on no one, many of my fellow citizens' accounts are even more unsettling. They have not even been afforded the luxury of having had the drug considered to be at the root of their escalating illnesses (oftimes strictly psychological) and/or disabilities, which have all too often cost them their careers, their homes, their families, and their sanity, in addition to their health. Due to the ingenious documented manipulation and actual falsification of vital risk versus efficacy information presented to prescribing MDs through numerous clinical trial publications, company sponsored extravagant vacation/"symposiums", pharm rep "stealth bomber" tactics, and misleading, vastly incomplete information spoon fed the unsuspecting public via electronic and print media direct to consumer advertising, we all are left to fending for ourselves. More often than not we live tottering on the razor thin, terrifying edge of near despair. Others who believe firmly the drug to be the cause of the unconscionable loss of their loved ones, covered extensively in the press, are summarily dismissed; many who've buried friends and family do not even suspect the drug to be the brilliantly disguised culprit lurking behind their unwarranted horrific submersion into the icy depths of grief and sorrow.
Though our stories are as individual as each one of us, we nonetheless share the common bond of having been thrust into an existence that defies the imagination, the following brief serving to challenge the reader to step into our world, mercifully for just a moment in time; unlike us, afforded the luxury of retreat from their unsettling revelations. For it is only through the willingness to "enter in" that anyone could possibly entertain the stark realities that we must deal with every waking hour of our lives and, yes, cannot escape from even in our dreams and accompanying nightmares. You are invited to step into our poison induced world, one overseen by characters more ingenious though just as confounding as the Mad Hatter himself; a land where as a rule we have been systematically relegated to the outer limits of human decency simply because we can't be neatly labelled nor explained away by the medical community who for a number of reasons comfortably remain "in the dark." This synopsis will attempt to "explain" our way into the consciousness of anyone who may be courageous enough to see the truth, despite it's assault upon their comfort zone. It will illustrate that our world is indeed an account of fact, not fiction, as so many have unconscionably attempted to convince themselves and we victims as we have struggled to survive in this wilderness - a wilderness I personally refuse to be banished to and am firmly committed to expose…
Let the Games Begin - "Buyer Beware"
By the FDA's own admission only an estimated 1% to 10% of adverse drug reactions to pharmaceuticals are ever reported and of those that are recognized and reported, 90% are first filtered through the manufacturers themselves. Given these facts and the aforementioned, it comes as no surprise that the true statistics have yet to be accurately accounted for in order to discern the actual amount of people being seriously harmed, (nor in what myriad of ways, short or long term), or killed by the drug. At present the FDA has admitted that they are not capable of estimating adverse events incidence numbers. The United States GAO has verified this fact and stated there is no mechanism in place to ascertain the long-term deleterious effects of marketed pharmaceuticals.
After hundreds of hours of research, access to a less than 18 month MEDWATCH report showing 1153 reports listing numerous deaths, including spontaneous abortions, and serious health injuries citing bupropion as the primary suspect drug - (including, but not limited to birth defects, a multitude of varying seizures and convulsions attendant with physical damages, cerebrovascular accidents, cardiovascular accidents, unexplained deaths, various serious neurological disorders, and psychiatric disturbances, each report often citing multiple serious complications), - many hours dedicated to communications with other victims, and my own experiences with the medical community, I am of the firm conviction that it is only once the factual truth about this drug is revealed that justice and humanity will be served. Only then will anyone who has had or will have the unconscionable misfortune of being adversely effected by it be afforded the right to be acknowledged as victims - disabled, sick individuals deserving of medical attention and validation of having incurred drug induced injuries - before they die or literally lose their minds from it's effects and the indescribable emotional toll they take, facilitated by ignorance, and concerted greed driven, ego-saving propaganda and denial.
I am not alone in my assertions. In both Britain and Canada, bupropion marketed as Zyban is being aggressively investigated as the possible causative agent in several unexplained deaths. Much media attention has been focused around Zyban and its alarming effects around the world since its introduction in the late 90's. After only five months on the market in UK, the MCA, responsible for drug safety, had recorded 1,300 adverse event reports, including strokes in connection with the drug's usage. Glaxo's response has been that the incidents of stroke could be related to smoking. To date Zyban has illicited further UK media attention and scrutiny for its association with 19 deaths due to major cardiovascular events, suicides, brain disorders, and an asthma attack. Over 3,457 reports have come in from people who have reported such symptoms as fits, chest pains and depression as suspected side effects. Speaking in defense of the drug, Dr. Michael Fiore of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention headquartered in the US, asserts that every drug has a risk, maintaining clinicians and patients must weigh that "small risk" against the benefits, neglecting to note that both clinicians and patients are largely unaware of the extent of the truly serious liabilities of the drug. Fiore is included in a list of individuals who have served as consultants for, given lectures sponsored by, or conducted research sponsored by Glaxo. Dr. Peter Fletcher, an expert in medicine and former assessor to the Committee on the Safety of Medicines, has called for an urgent investigation of the drug. He contends anything associated with the deaths is "bad news", noting Zyban deaths to be a high number even for an anti-cancer drug. "We are getting close to the point where the cure is worse than the disease," he warns.
I assert that in a very real sense we victims are modern day lepers, exiled to the island off "see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil." Perhaps this is so because were our unsettling existence acknowledged to be the result of our shared poisoning, too many would be forced to awaken from their comfortable slumber, demanding a re-examination of the entire medical-community-pharmaceutical-dynasties' oftimes questionable incestuous relationships. Exclusive of serious problems in purportedly "factual" media coverage of medicines, growing concern within medical circles is focusing in on "overly cosy relationships" which may be affecting professional independence and research integrity itself. Medical literature is filled with articles expressing concern over industry funding of clinical research, raising doubts as to the validity of positive findings and the downplaying, if not downright cover-up, of serious attendant safety liabilities of the drugs under investigation. Noting the difficulty in finding independent reviewers to write about antidepressants in particular (bupropion included), former New England Journal of Medicine editor, Marcia Angell, cited the problem to be due to many psychiatrists' links to companies selling them. In addition, financial ties between study authors and sponsoring drug manufacturers have been illustrated to produce more favourable findings, as opposed to the less favourable study findings of those who had no such ties to the industry. As reported in an article by the Medical Journal of Australia, the bottom line is companies are seen to be buying the goodwill of researchers, Angell concurring the practice one "which is a very valuable commodity" for drug manufacturing. US Secretary for Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, has stated that academic investigators increasingly have commercial links with trial sponsors or personally hold patents over the therapies being trialed, creating major ethical dilemmas.
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