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Sunday, September 11, 2005

A draft of my column for next week

 Lifesaving and Lifestyle Drugs
“Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today.”


-Zager and Evans (In the Year 2525)



A recent  New England Journal of Medicine showcased an  article entitled, “Good Enough for Government Work” by Harvard Medical School Professor  Jerry Avorn M.D.


 It is critical of the Food and Drug Administration.


The phrase, “Good enough for government work” implies that the government has lower standards that private industry.


Government standards ought to be higher than private business.  Government  is funded by all Americans  and created  to help people.


The FDA ought to have especially high standards.  They deal in life and death.


 The FDA is supposed to be our watchdog but has become the pharmaceutical company’s lapdog.    


You  see  many stories about  the FDA being  cozy with the drug companies they are supposed to be regulating.  


People at the  FDA need to remember  they are messing with people’s lives.


Several of my friends died because the FDA allowed drugs like Redux and Vioxx  onto  the market.


They took the drugs because the FDA said they were safe.  They were not.


 I don’t know how the bureaucrats who made  decisions that  killed people  can  sleep at night.


 I guess they  load  up on the new insomnia pills.


Ahorn discussed  how the FDA needs to distinguish between “lifestyle” and “live saving” drugs.


The big money for the drug companies are in “lifestyle” drugs.


Since there men who will  pay big money for  Viagra  and  people  who  want pills that to  lose weight, there is a big incentive for drug companies to give people what they want. 


Just look at their  television advertising.  You don’t see ads for pills that save lives. 


The companies spend their  advertising dollars pushing pills to help your sex life.


There are millions  who want to romp around like people  in the Levitra and Cialis ads.  There are only a limited number of people who need to buy  cancer drugs.


The FDA ought to focus  their attention on  approving  lifesaving drugs.  You hear stories  of  people going to foreign countries for medicine  because the FDA is too slow to approve  drugs  that can save lives.


 That should never happen. 


If a drug allows a person to live longer,  the FDA ought to act  quickly to make sure the lifesaving drugs get to the  people who need it.  


Lifestyle drugs should not  come on the market  until  the FDA is   sure that they  WON”T kill somebody. 


The chance for billions of dollars  in profits caused the pharmaceutical companies to push diet drugs onto the market  before they were proven safe.  Their friends in the FDA let it happen.


It looks like the FDA did the same thing  with Vioxx.


The large   jury verdict against Vioxx  was a message to the world.   It was 12 ordinary people  saying that we need to stop handing out  drugs that kill people


Ed Norton’s character in the movie, “Fight Club” was a guy who worked for a automobile manufacturer and  tried to figure out if it was a cheaper to recall a defective  product or stay quiet and try to settle any  injury claims that come up.


I suspect a similar decision making process goes on at drug companies.   They walk a line between making big profits  or doing  things carefully  in a manner that saves lives.


Without proper regulation and oversight, the companies are  going to fall to the temptation of quick money.  There is too much pressure from stockholders and competitors.


It is the FDA’s job to keep the drug companies in line.


We also need  to focus  ourselves on not using lifestyle drugs.  


I have a terrible time controlling my weight and always looking for a quick answer.  I took Redux and would be  tempted by another diet pill like it. 


It would simpler than switching to a low stress life with proper diet and exercise.


A doctor told me that  people are falling into the trap that Elvis Presley did, where he  needed pills to wake up, sleep and get through the day.


Drug companies are pushing pills that can control everything we think, do and say.  We need the FDA to watch them.


We also need to stop and think before we pop that next “lifestyle” drug.



Don McNay is the President of McNay Settlement Group where we practice a lifestyle of making our clients money.   You can write to him at or read other things he written at





Don McNay