“My company’s responsibility is to its shareholders, not the customers.”
- Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals on MSNBC
Unfortunately, some of the world’s largest drug dealers have been less than honest about some of the side effects of their products.
For instance, the state of Oklahoma has been pursuing a $270 million dollar lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceutical, Johnson and Johnson, Allergan and other major pharmaceutical companies for misrepresenting such drugs as Oxycontin.
This drug addicted thousands if not millions to opioids, creating the largest number of overdose deaths ever, tripling from 1999 to 2017.
The number of deaths actually dropped U.S. life expectancy by nearly a year.
One of the reasons for this problem was misleading information on just how dangerous these drugs were, and the real danger was covered up for years.
Is the pharmaceutical giant Upjohn setting up our country for another round of problems but this time with benzodiazepine (known as benzos) drugs such as Xanax?
The drug was tested for its ability to control anxiety.
In the trial, which was supposed to be two months, with one month of tapering, the drug worked well for the first month, but then the benefit ended, and all the symptoms got worse in the tapering phase.
Instead of writing this drug off as a failure, the study only looked at the data from the first month of the trial when the drug was working.
And the study ignored all the potential problems of long-term addiction that were evident when nearly every patient who didn’t get the placebo had a worsening of their anxiety symptoms when they tapered off the drug.
This cherry-picked study summary was widely distributed to doctors who started writing scripts to the 40 million Americans who suffer from some form of anxiety.
Sales increased by 67%.
What has been the result?
The number of overdoses by benzos has quadrupled from 2002 to 2015. Nearly 30% of all U.S. overdose deaths involve benzos.
The market for legal benzos is $3.8 billion a year with 13.5 million scripts written for it.
Some are bracing themselves for the next opioid crisis to come in the form of benzo problems.
Valium and other tranquilizers were popular in the 1960s and ‘70s but fell out of favor because of the addictive nature of the drugs.
Because benzos work by binding to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and increasing their activity which calms the brain down…at least temporarily.
The brain seems to quickly compensate by lowering its own natural calming mechanisms, which means the users need to keep taking the benzos to stay calm.
But when people start realizing they have become addicted or are suddenly cut off by their doctor or changes in government regulation, they find out just how bad the withdrawal is.
Sudden withdrawal creates a problem a week to 10 days (Xanax because it is short action may have withdrawal symptoms in 1-4 days) after the last dose.
And the withdrawal can be severe.
Many experience horrific nerve pain throughout the body because the GABA receptors suddenly have no supply and the brain becomes hyperactive.
Ten to 15% of long-term users will probably develop full-scale addiction problems, but most will have some difficulty when they quit taking the drug.
Many experts say these drugs should not be stopped suddenly but slowly tapered off. And the tapering can take years and is still painful.
But one of the reasons for the problems with heroin and fentanyl deaths skyrocketing in the U.S. was that the government decided there were too many people taking the drug and abruptly cut off the legal supply forcing people into the black market where they started taking heroin and fentanyl, leading to the overdose crisis.
We could be on the edge of another crisis if the government does the same thing with benzos.