Pharma Profits Can Kill You

Once again we find prescription drugs at the center of debate — and we patients are the ones who will be hurt by it. (so what else is new?)

The AP, including the Washington Post, Forbes , TV news and others are reporting that three pharm drugs approved for anemia have been promoted and used to “help” cancer patients when they feel run down from chemotherapy treatment. Orthopedic surgeons have also prescribed it for post-surgical recovery. Turns out, patients have died from “off use” of these drugs. Plus, according to the AP, “The Food and Drug Administration pointed to recent studies that found using too much of the drugs increased the risk of death, blood clots, strokes and heart attacks in patients with chronic kidney failure. In other studies, patients with head and neck cancer had more rapid tumor growth if they used higher-than-recommended doses.”

The most easily understood illustration of the problem is this: Procrit, manufactured by Ortho Biotech (Johnson and Johnson) is promoted in ads and commercials on TV, in magazines and other places — to the public — “find the strength you need” after chemo. It doesn’t say it wasn’t approved for post-chemo. It doesn’t say it was developed and approved for anemia. It promotes itself to cancer patients who have weakened systems, are run down, and are desperate to feel normal again.

Patients see those ads, and ask their oncologists about a shot that will help them get their energy back. The oncologist — who also will profit by giving the drug to the patient — is more than happy to give it a try. (Read previous blog posts about oncologists who profit from chemo.)

Patients — heed this warning. Doctors want you to get better. They want you to heal. But more important to them is paying their mortgages. And big pharma has only one goal: to profit. Their only interest in keeping you alive is that they can sell MORE drugs to you.

You can’t compete with that within THEIR systems. You have to advocate for yourself.

Those anti-anemia drugs may be good drugs, and they may help a lot of people. But any drug, when used for an unapproved, “off use” purpose, can be dangerous. It’s up to us as sharp patients to be sure the drugs prescribed for us are the right drugs for the right problem.

Next time your doctor prescribes any drug for you — whether it’s an antibiotic, or a chemo infusion drug — ask your doctor, “Is this drug approved for what is wrong with me?” and “Is this the recommended dosage for my problem?”

If the answer is no — or even if the answer is yes, but with qualifiers, then begin doing some of your own research. You can find links to drug information at: If you find discrepancies, discuss them with your doctor.

Don’t let anyone’s profit motives be responsible for your death or debilitation.

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Trisha Torrey
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