Tuesday, October 2, 2012
"A Pill for Every Ill" sums up the extreme reliance on drugs that has become an integral part of today’s lifestyle. One only has to turn on the TV or the radio to hear an endless recitation of the latest drugs being promoted to overcome every kind of human ill. Also invariably there is a rapidly recited and de-emphasized list of the many harmful side effects of each one. This denial of risks is not always successful: witness the scandal that broke in late 2005 around the drug giant Merck & Co., in connection with their arthritis drug VIOXX. At first Merck publicly admitted that worldwide some 16,000 people had died in the two or three preceding years of the drug’s side effects, and withdrew VIOXX from the market. Remarkably enough, Merck & Co. had for some years published the life-threatening side effects and warnings concerning this drug in the Physicians’ Desk Reference book (PDR). As the enquiries widened, Merck eventually had to admit that some 55,000 people had died of the side effects of a drug they had taken to ease the pain of arthritis. But the truly scandalous fact is that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the killer drug back on the market, claiming that its benefits exceeded its risks.