Monday, September 24, 2012

Re: Apocalypse Pharmaka*

A View From Afar

Is there any difference between the way the witches ‘paltered with’ Macbeth ‘in a double sense’ and the way drug companies do with me, or rather with you? At least the witches showed him all the data which is more you can say for the drug companies.”
Standing on the outside, after struggling to get inside a failing system for so long... Well, it feels like watching a series of thermonuclear explosions occurring on the sun while standing on the moon. But one has to be careful about confirmation bias.

But then again...
In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug – antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on – then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin. These cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce your risk of having a heart attack and are prescribed in very large quantities. This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.”
You've been duped. I know, I know. It hurts. It turns out that BigPharma learned its lessons from Psychiatry and Psychology: build a model, stress that model, hyper-medicate. Deny any possibility of problems. Meanwhile the problems escalate as we cling to the notion that our laws, our ways of looking at medicine, and at life are in fact right as everything spirals outwards.

Let's take a moment step back, though. Because what's happening can be understood, you just need to consider the following:
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in the face of a widespread and dangerous exploitation of patients with mark ups on drugs of the order of 400 and 500 per cent, the creation of an advertising industry that sold beauty rather than health, product labeling that was grossly fraudulent, and a lack of effective treatments, there was a push to regulate the pharmaceutical industry.

Industry protested but the first regulations were put in place in the United States in 1906 and a series of regulations followed in other countries. It is now clear that a predictable consequence of regulation is to foster a growth in company size as the companies that survive put an apparatus in place to manage their regulatory requirements and this is built into the cost of drugs while other companies go to the wall...”
“The initial thrust behind the regulation of drugs was patient safety. The first call was for an accurate labeling of the contents of products, aimed at empowering consumers. During the 20th century there was a steady push towards some specification of the efficacy of drugs. This interest in efficacy was originally a safety issue. If a drug didn’t have efficacy it couldn’t be safe.
The emergence of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) bolstered the argument that demonstrating efficacy was important and a requirement for controlled trials was built into the last set of regulations we have had, the1962 Food and Drugs Act. But far from improving comparative safety, this development has led to a comparative efficacy market that has had adverse consequences for safety.
As with all other regulatory developments, in 1962 the changes followed on a drug safety crisis, involving the sleeping pill thalidomide. This crisis fed into more general concerns about the pharmaceutical industry. The upshot was a series of changes. One involved the incorporation of controlled trials to determine efficacy. A second lay in a decision taken about the patent status of pharmaceuticals. The third development lay in making new medications available on prescription only.
Just as earlier regulations led to company complaints but also a predictable increase in company size and the emergence of the pharmaceutical companies we know today, so there has been a predictable set of consequences to the 1962 regulations. But there has also been a confluence of changes that created a unique market that few have noticed and none has taken fully into account.”
- “Dancing as fast as we can: the crisis in healthcare.

Meanwhile, in his “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” Healy makes another interesting comment:
Recent estimates suggest companies spend over $50,000 per annum on marketing to each and every doctor in the United States – possibly considerably over $50,000. Despite this, there is not a single medical course on earth that teaches doctors about pharmaceutical company marketing.

Has this marketing done anything to erode the skepticism of doctors? In 1960 doctors rarely had patients on more than one drug at a time and the drugs that were used were for the most part only used for a limited course. Until the early 1990s, the recommendations for antidepressants were for a three-month course, now patients are told they are like insulin and will have to be consumed for life. Now an increasing number of every doctor’s patients are on 10-15 drugs indefinitely. Doctors in other words are consuming several thousand times more drugs than they once were. Left to their own devices few of a doctor’s patients would ever take 10-15 over the counter drugs at the same time for indefinite periods no matter what the supposed benefits.
Caricature of Mesmer treating his patient. Stolen uprentantly.

Some of today's more interesting marketing tricks come from hypnosis techniques, particularly the ones favoring suggestion. These techniques have their roots in the theories of Franz Anton Mesmer. In 1784, a French commission of the practitioners in the arts of medicine concluded that his theories on Animal Magnetism were wrong. Well, actually, that's wrong to say. The commission actually was in disagreement over whether Mesmerism worked or not, with one member siding with Mesmer. The decision to censure Mesmer and his experiments and treatments is presently believed to have been more for the purposes of politics, particularly as revolutionary fervor heated up in France.

The result of this, and with (in the same year!) Puysegur discovering “Somnambulic Sleep,” also called “Magnetic Sleep” in some circles. Mesmerism flooded into less mainstream markets, even being adopted by various groups of occultists prior to the rise of the Theosophical society and the Golden Dawn. A man named Dr. Johann Malfatti de Montereggio took up Mesmerism to increase his medicinal expertise, but also applied it to some of his other studies: namely, occultism. Malfatti ended up combining Mesmerism with very early Theosophy to produce a very early Westernized view of the subtle body in his Anarchism and Hierarchy. I will be discussing some of his life, although his work is very hard to find, in a forth-coming post currently entitled “The Arch-Materialized Wizard, The Rosicrucian, & the Assassin.” (Malfatti, for the record, is the assassin. Or at least, he very probably was one for the state of Vienna.)

In occult circles, with the exception of Franz Bardon, Paschal Beverly Randolph appears to have been one of the last individuals to teach Mesmer-based techniques to practitioners and encourage them for scrying and other interesting experiments. In the scientific community, James Braid introduced the words “Hypnotism” and “Hypnosis” to the medical community, whereby Mesmer's early experiments were repacked based largely on the hypnotic state and suggestion. Since then, the field has grown enormously and continues to do so today.

Today some of the best advertisers, if not all of them, appear to have some knowledge of how to create images and sets of words directly meant to affect the person seeing them. This problem continues at an unprecedented rate: just watch some T.V. and take note of all the elements involved in commercials involving anti-depressants. One of my recently seen favorites involves a cartoon woman telling a story about her depression. The depression, in this case, is illustrated in the ad by a blue frowning umbrella who follows her around where-ever she goes, even after she discusses going on her medication. The idea is to leave the viewer with the impression that depression is abnormal, and more importantly, never goes away.

It's generally understood that Depression is something everyone will fear at one point or another in their life, and that stress factors and other events in life culminate in it. What's less understood is that the primary drugs on the market to treat depression do not always work, have adverse risks attached that Doctors and Patients do not know about (because the companies making them hid those results), and that we are continually spewing more and more of them out at a very alarming rate, while repeating the mantra we've been told by our Corporate Overlords: “These drugs are safe. No reason to be alarmed. It's just a chemical imbalance.”

In this case the chemical is Serotonin, and there are issues with it's overtreatment. In an interview with Counter Punch that is very revealing (it's from 2001, back when the BigPharma companies were harassing Mr. Healy for speaking out about the risks of suicide for Prozac patients; we now pretty much know that what they've been doing is systematic) with Healy:
RG: How do Prozac and the other SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Paxil cause suicidal ideation ("We can make healthy volunteers belligerent, fearful, suicidal and even pose a risk to others," you wrote in the June 2000 Primary Care Psychiatry. "People don’t care about the normal consequences as you might expect. They’re not bothered about contemplating something they would usually be scared of)?
DH: There is a greater difference between Prozac and other SSRI’s on the one side and placebo on the other side in the rate in which they cause agitation, than there is between Prozac and the other SSRI’s and placebo and the rate at which they get people who are depressed better(i.e. the SSRI’s cause more agitation in testing subjects than sugar pills, but they also tend to outperform sugar pills at getting depressed people better). The fact that companies have chose to market them as antidepressants rather than agents that cause agitation is a business decision rather than a scientific matter. It is certainly not one that was "ordained by God." You could say that the fact that some people who are depressed get better is a side effect.
These drugs are drugs that primarily work on the serotonin system. There is no evidence for any abnormality in the serotonin system in people who are depressed. There are however variations in the serotonin system in people who are depressed. There are however variations in the serotonin system in all of us so that some of us will have quite different effects from these drugs than others. It would have been a relatively simple matter to do work on this 10 years ago to find out which of us were more likely to have problems with the drug than which of us were more likely to do well on them.

We can stop what's happening now. But it will be hard work and contingent on people in America becoming more aware of what is happening. We also need to put a stop to the Citizen's United rulings that brought about the ability for these massive companies to influence our laws. Second, we need to alter how we approach drugs in general. We need to gain an understanding, as a culture, as to what they do and how they work – and why. This includes witches' discussing the flying ointments and potions. It's no longer cool to mis-class deliriant effects as “hallucinations,” nor to play the “it's all spiritual!” card. There are biological effects the ointments have. These tie in with the spiritual potentials of the plants. They go hand in hand, and trying to dissect them from one another is how we ended up in the absolutely horrifying predicament of losing knowledge. Yage is a spiritual drug, used in South America for spiritual purposes, and it works because the chemicals in the plants work with our own unique biosystem.

Wade Davis, in Plants of the Gods, writes that:
The pharmacological activity of the hallucinogens arises from a relatively small number of chemical compounds. While modern chemistry has been able, in most cases, successfully to duplicate these substances or even to manipulate their chemical structures to produce novel synthetic forms, nearly all such drugs have their origins in plants. In the plant kingdom, they occur only among the advanced flowering plants and the more primitive spore-bearing fungi. Most are alkaloids, a family of about 5,000 complex organic molecules that also account for the biological activity of most toxic and many medicinal plants. These active compounds may be found in various concentrations in different parts of the plant-root, leaves, seeds, bark, and flowers -- and they may be absorbed by human body in a number of ways, as is evident in the wide variety of folk preparations. Hallucinogens have been smoked or snuffed, swallowed fresh or dried, drunk in decoctions and infusions, absorbed directly through the skin, placed in wounds, or administered as enemas.”
Before that he states:
The standard scientific explanation, trial and error, may well account for certain innovations; but at another level, it is but a euphemism disguising the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries...

The problem with trial and error is that the elaboration of the preparations often involves procedures that are exceedingly complex or that yield products of little or no obvious and immediate value. Banisteriopsis caapi is an inedible, nondescript liana that seldom flowers. True, its bark is bitter, but scarcely more so than a hundred other forest vines. An infusion of the bark causes vomiting and severe diarrhea, hardly conditions that would encourage further experimentation. Yet not only did the Indians persist; they became so deft at manipulating the various ingredients that individual shamans developed dozens of recipes, each yielding potions of various strengths and nuances for specific ceremonial and ritual purposes.

The Indians have their own explanations, rich cosmological accounts that from their perspective are inherently logical: sacred plants that had journeyed up the Milk River in the belly of anaconda, potions created by primordial jaguar, the drifting souls of shaman dead from the beginning of time.”

I'll leave you with that.

*I want to thank Gordon, and a fellow I'll call MM for referencing me to Healy. I've had concerns about some of this shit for years.


Rose Weaver said...

Thanks for the references as well. Like you, I've had deep concerns about this for years due to personal experience. Time to stop the madness.

Gordon said...

Hooray! 'Apocalypse Pharmaka' has gone offsite.

Some fantastic and alarming info here.

Quick. Tag somebody else. :)