This morning two newsfeeds came to my attention. One came from an open letter from Mental Health America, a non-profit organization. Mental Health America stated its agreement with the FDA not the extend the black box warning label of suicidal ideation risk across all age groups (not just children and teens) to antidepressants after recognizing that antidepressant use may actually lower suicide ideation in elderly adults.
Mental Health America then stated its disappointment with the FDA for extending the black box warning label of suicidal ideation risk of antidepressant use to age 25. The organization’s position is that 90% of suicides occur from untreated or undertreated depression. This extended warning label may discourage treatment in individuals suffering from depression and mental illnesses who may benefit from antidepressants.
The other came from Eli Lilly, a drug company. Eli Lilly responded formally to its portrayal on December 17, 2006 by The New York Times as deliberately down-playing the risks of Zyprexa. The company addressed the research done by the company to specifically look at diabetes risk from Zyprexa, the gross misinformation that The New York Times communicated to the public by taking a sliver of “leaked information” from more than 11 million pages of internal documents relating to Zyprexa risks, and the lack of awareness from the media that could be caused in patients who depend on Zyprexa for managing serious mental conditions.
These two news stories represent another side of what has been well-publicized, well sensationalized stories in the last few years. Antidepressants and suicide risks. Drug companies as evil doers who rip off patients to line their own pockets. Some of us don’t even want to learn the side that disagrees with the judgments we hold against someone or something.
Those of us who choose to only see drug companies as greedy grubs may refuse to see how other parties (example: litigation lawyers) who make handsome riches off these lawsuits may play a role in the rising cost of healthcare, or accept the reality that leaking confidential documents is in itself unethical and illegal. Those of us who subscribe to the extreme portrayal of prescription drugs as money makers for drug companies don’t readily embrace the reality that drugs always come with risks, and some negative publicity can actually discourage patients who are already non-compliant with their medication treatment to have a better excuse not to take drugs that keep their conditions stable (thereby leading to a train wreck health disaster that ultimately requires higher healthcare costs, when the patient gets hospitalized).
Truth is more complicated than the news that sell stories, but we often hear a one-sided story. Just as we can all benefit from critically questioning the information that we receive from the side we are told by the media to perceive as “evil”, we can benefit from critically questioning the source of all of our information, including sources who look to influence us and line their own pockets not with drug profits, but with advertising profits.
Statement of Conflicts of Interest Jane was employed in the pharmaceutical industry in the past. She is currently an independent consultant and provides medical affairs consulting and advisory service (see MSL Institute website) to the industry. Jane holds no drug company stocks.
Jane has suffered from depression and has personal experiences with several antidepressants and treatment modalities (see mental health website).