By John Carey
It is part of the American dream to put a dollar into a company stock today, and get lots of dollars back when you sell. The only modifier to this dream by some is an aversion towards “sin” stocks avoiding companies that make alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, guns or provide gambling.
But when I suggest that you pitch drug-companies into this same sin-bucket you probably think I´m joking. But I´ll let you in on my reasoning, which includes numerous lawsuits against the companies, lying by the company executives to market their drugs under false pretenses for profit´s sake, and drugs pushed on the public which knowingly harm more people with the side-effects than they ever help.
All drugs have side-effects! Taken for a short time to cure something worse, it is a beneficial exchange. But drug companies can´t make the huge profit for an antibiotic you take for two weeks as they can for a “mental-health” pill you take every day for the rest of your life!
With the first group of antipsychotics marketed, drug companies freed many people from the state hospitals. But one debilitating side-effect of these drugs (like Thorazine, Haldol and Prolixin) was that they caused involuntary, repetitive, and purposeless movements. In the 1990s, newer drugs called atypical drugs (like Clozaril, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon and Risperdal) largely replaced the older meds and were marketed (at eight to twenty times the cost of the prior drugs) as causing fewer involuntary movements, but they have their own side-effects such as weight gain, diabetes and early death.
Tens of thousands of people sued Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca, saying that their drugs, Zyprexa and Seroquel, gave them diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels. Eli Lilly reports having paid $1.2 billion to settle over 30,000 lawsuits.
In 2008, Alaska sued Eli Lilly for the medical costs of Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. One of Eli Lilly´s top executives sent an email encouraging Lilly to promote Zyprexa for a use not approved by federal drug regulators (known as “off label”) and while doctors can prescribe a drug “off label”, it is against federal law for a drug company to encourage this practice. Alaska settled with Lilly for $15 million and now other states are going after this legalized drug pusher. (Global sales of Zyprexa approached $4.8 BILLION in 2007.) Lilly also faces 1,200 cases as well as a federal probe over its marketing tactics.
Janssen’s Risperdal got FDA approval to expand the use of the drug to address adolescent schizophrenia, the irritability of autism in kids and for bipolar disorder. In 2006, it was the most heavily prescribed psychiatric drug in New York´s Medicaid kids program, given to 17,393 children. It is also blamed in lawsuits nationwide for side-effects including diabetes caused by weight gain, Parkinson’s-like movement disorders and gynecomastia, in which males grow breasts which have to be surgically removed.
The pharmaceutical companies have made astronomical profits since promoting the atypicals to treat mental disorders. Since the drug companies couldn´t claim that the atypicals were better than the old drugs, they paid doctors to say so. This brought about a widespread false belief that the newer medications were safer and worth the additional billions of dollars in taxpayer money to make these the states´ preferred drugs of choice. Since then, the life expectancy of people treated in community mental health centers has plunged to a point twenty-five years LESS than the average due to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease as a side-effect of these drugs. (For comparison sake, being homeless cuts ten years off your life expectancy.) Chuck Areford said in a 2008 article titled “Antipsychotic Drugs are Doing Harm” that this “ must be ranked as one of the worst public health disasters in U.S. history.”
Drugs Marketed Under False Pretenses
If you are the CEO of a company, a large part of your multi-million dollar compensation is tied to how well the stock does during your tenure. This has led the companies to promote their drugs much like the rest of Madison Avenue promotes cars or the latest perfume. However, while the brand of car you drive doesn´t adversely affect your health, which psych drug you take to hide your problems does.
The entire basis for the use of psychotropic drugs is a THEORY, not a fact! The media presents it as a fact that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. However, even the psychiatric bible clearly states that the cause of depression and anxiety is unknown. Jeffrey Lacasse, a doctoral student co-authoring a study on this is quoted as saying, “ there are few scientists who will rise to its defense, and some prominent psychiatrists publicly acknowledge that the serotonin hypothesis is more metaphor than fact.”
In 2006 4-year-old Rebecca Riley died of an overdose of psychiatric drugs that had never been approved or tested for children. She had been taking drugs for ADD and bipolar since she was two years old and died with four prescription drugs in her system. Her heart and lungs were damaged due to prolonged abuse of the prescription drugs.
Cheyenne Delp, a five year old, died in 2004 while on five prescription medications. One of the anti-depressants required that she undergo an EKG to determine if her heart was healthy enough for her to take it. The child psychiatrist, Dr. Saran Mudumbi, testified that Cheyenne was out of control and that she suffered from paranoia, depression and anxiety.
One of the main psychiatrists pushing treatment of children with psychatric drugs is Dr. Biederman who has financial ties with fifteen drug companies and serves as a paid speaker or adviser to half of them, including Eli Lilly & Co. (Zyprexa) and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Risperdal).
A drug is approved by the FDA for narrow uses, but gets tried off-label on hard-to-treat conditions and the drug company´s sales force stokes up this usage until the research catches up years later that shows the initial enthusiasm was unfounded. With the limited schizophrenic and bipolar market for the atypicals, the drug companies marketed them as safer than their predecessors They came to be tried beyond the approved uses for nursing-home residents, prisoners, and children younger than six years old. Total U.S. sales for this class of drugs reached $13 billion in 2007, doubling the sales just five years earlier.
Research by three universities says long-term use of anti-psychotics offers “no long-term benefit for most patients.” And while anti-psychotic medication is not licensed to treat dementia it is being given to 100,000 elderly patients in England to keep them manageable! Studies show that these drugs increase the risk of strokes and other harmful side effects. One study showed that after 3½ years, 60% of the Alzheimer´s patients given a placebo were still alive while only 28% of the group given the anti-psychotic medication were.
While an estimated 30-60% of U.S. nursing home patients are placed on antipsychotics, at the Bronx´s Providence Rest nursing home, the staff give massages to the patients. Utilizing this therapy, the nursing home has cut its use of antipsychotics to 2-3%, the lowest rate of any nursing home in New York!
The drug companies funded the committees which set up the state plans for defining which drugs to use for which treatments. Drug company profits then soared because the atypicals were listed as the first three choices over the older generic drugs. The states´ medical costs for patient care also soared! Now that the links to the drug company funding and the terrible side-effects have become known, nine states have sued Eli Lilly, four sued Janssen, and two sued AstraZeneca. Dozens of more states have teamed in a joint investigation, seeking billions of dollars in restitution for money they say they overpaid for atypicals through Medicaid.
In Minnesota alone, since 2002, drug companies have given $88 million in gifts, grants and fees to Minnesota doctors and caregivers. Several states, including Pennsylvania, are suing some drug makers for promoting their drugs beyond approved uses and commissioning “ghost-written” articles to increase sales
Drug companies fund and support front groups like NAMI and CHADD and programs such as TeenScreen, in order to create a demand for their products covertly. These groups may not promote drugs directly but rather they promote disorders, legitimizing mental illnesses that have never been validated as true medical diseases. Drug companies cannot make these claims directly but accomplish the same goal through these other groups and programs. TeenScreen, an invention of psychiatrist (with drug company connections) David Shaffer, is a screening program asking children as young as 9-years-old questions like, “Have you often felt very nervous when you´ve had to do things in front of people?” and “Are you Hispanic or Latino?” Based on their answers, TeenScreen refers them to mental health “professionals”, who inevitably decide that these children have symptoms defined as “mental disorders”, writing prescriptions for antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs for children with no objective medical testing. TeenScreen´s staff and advisory board are loaded with ties to Big Pharma. See: http://www.teenscreentruth.com/teenscreen_advisory_board.htm. TeenScreen´s Director, Laurie Flynn was formerly at the helm of NAMI, which received over 11 million dollars in drug company funding from ´96 to ´99: Janssen ($2.08 million), Novartis ($1.87 million), Pfizer ($1.3 million), Abbott Laboratories ($1.24 million), Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals ($658,000), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($613,505) and Eli Lilly $2.87 million.
In 2008 researchers using the Freedom of Information Act, dug out information on Prozac that shows it is no more effective than a placebo! The study included clinical trials that Eli Lilly chose not to publish when they studied the drug. The data showed that patients had improved – but those on the placebo improved just as much! (The only exception was in the most severely depressed patients.) 40 million people take this drug, earning tens of billions of dollars for Eli Lilly.
Is it the same sin to give capital to Playboy as it is to molest a woman? That is a question that only you can decide (with perhaps help from your pastor), but it doesn´t take much of a leap to imagine someone viewing porn and then going out and committing rape. You aren´t on the corner selling crack but you are just as guilty if you gave the crack dealer $10,000 to finance his supply.
Who knows what potentials for bad hearts, mis-wired brains and early deaths these drug companies have caused our society in their profit-search for a daily-pill-solution to what ails us? If putting money ahead of people´s lives and preying on those needing real help doesn´t make you a sin company, I don´t know what does.
So whether you now agree that pharmaceutical company stocks belong in the sin-stock category, or you simply believe that there are just too many liabilities for these companies to be good investments, either reason is enough to remove them from your portfolio forever.
Neither the author of this article nor his family will profit financially in any manner from drug stocks losing value.