What do we do when we don’t feel ourselves? Go to the doctor, feeling sorry for how we feel? And the possibility of them prescribing medication that will help us feel better? This has long been the process for me but I have the added intervention that I don’t particularly like doctors too much. Not as a person, you see, but as a legalised drug pusher! I jest, but at times it feels like this.
There are genuine reasons why we are prescribed medication and I am far from qualified to be able to question their logic. However, what do they actually know about what they are giving to us? Is the pharmaceutical industry just a playground for research and money making?
What is medication for?
The British National Formulary (BNF) is a drug guide that is to help GP’s et.al to look for the best medication in helping us to get better sooner. Where does the medication come from and how does it reach our mouths? What I understand about the pharmaceutical industry is that there are four stages that are followed before a drug reaches human consumption.
The first is to ensure that it is cost effective due to a rigorous research and development process where many considered drugs do not meet the standards required. This is a process that can last many years and cost a nine-figure amount before it hits the pharmacies. The research will take into account the many facets that are available such as plant, animal and fungi compounds to ensure they can be used to facilitate the new drug.
Before being released to humans, there are numerous tests that the compounds are subject to including computer-based models, cells or indeed animals. Only a handful will make it this far and for those that do, they are then ready to be tested on humans. In the UK, the MHRA will approve any medication before the testing on humans actually happens and includes the submission of a Clinical Trial Application (CTA) which will be scrutinised by scientists and medical professionals ensuring that all the required research has been applied to the product, before allowing it to be tested on humans.
If the CTA is accepted, there are then three phases that have to be followed in relation to the testing of the drug. Phase one will test the drug on a small number of people and again, if successful, will then be tested on a larger number of people to ensure the correct dosage is administered, and how it should be taken (orally, intravenously etc). The process then moves to a larger audience to reaffirm the findings in phase two.
There are a few more areas that must be considered but in a nutshell, this is the process. As documented earlier, this process can cost the pharmaceutical companies billions of pounds to reach the stage where it is deemed safe for human consumption. And as we know, pharmaceuticals are massive corporations who need to make a profit.
Billions of pounds are invested in finding the right ingredients to develop their products and the length of time it takes can be years. In spite of this, at the end of the day, a profit needs to be made and if you look at the sort of profits that these massive companies generate, it may make you wonder at what cost these medications are to the NHS or private healthcare companies. Indeed, the profit margins are so much that they are able to absorb massive fines for malpractice which I believe, is commonplace across the globe. When looking at this type of information from years passed, it is staggering to see just how much the fines are handed down, and what little impact it makes upon the companies themselves. To me, they are gambling with our lives to line their own pockets, and do not care about the welfare of others.
This morning I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘Prescription Thugs’ and it contains somewhat shocking revelations regarding the pharmaceutical companies that occupy the globe. The detail that was put into the film incorporated journalists, a former pharma rep, ‘victims’ of addiction to prescribed medication and sort of strengthened my thoughts that we are really just customers to the massive pharma machine.
Over the last eighteen months, I have had at least three different medications to ‘help’ with the diagnosis from the gp, consultant, crisis team etc at a cost of approx £8 per item. Every month I would pay the pharmacist dutifully, the £24 required so over the course of twelve months, it would have cost me £288. Not a great deal of money but imagine if there were 20m prescription drug users in the UK, with a minimum of three items, at a cost of £8 per item?
This figure is approximate, of course, but all the same staggering to me. I understand that there is a need for medication but over my lifetime, I have seen drugs prescribed for many ailments but do we actually need them? For me, I don’t believe any of the drugs I have taken have helped me whatsoever. To my nearest and dearest, they have seen changes in my personality which have not been good. More importantly, it has perhaps been the cause for many a psychological issue that I have encountered in my 49yrs on this earth.
The list of drugs below are for a range of illness/conditions/diagnosis but I have looked into the side effects and the possible damage it could do or has done to me.
My Medication and its benefits?
There are a few medicines that I have taken over the years and looking at just one randomly, it is worrying to think that for all the good intentions, it can increase the inducing of other medicines to treat the side effects of the original – what a self-perpetuating situation.
Sertraline – An anti-depressant provided by the GP and one of the stipulations is not to take the medication if ‘you are allergic to sertraline or any of its ingredients’. I don’t think I have ever been asked if I was asked if I were allergic to a medication prescribed to me. How would I know?
Below are possible side effects:
4. Possible side effects
Like all medicines, Sertraline Tablets can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.
Nausea is the most common side effect. The side effects depend on the dose and often
disappear or lessen with continued treatment.
Tell your doctor immediately:
If you experience any of the following symptoms after taking this medicine, these symptoms
can be serious.
- heart attack, light-headedness, fainting, or chest discomfort which could be signs of changes in the
electrical activity (seen on electrocardiogram) or abnormal rhythm of the heart.
If you have inflammation of the pancreas causing severe upper stomach pain often with
feeling or being sick
- A condition in which skeletal muscle is broken down, releasing muscle enzymes
and electrolytes from inside the muscle cells (Rhabdomyolysis).
- If you have a decrease in white blood cells, which help fight infections (you may notice
more infections e.g. sore throat, mouth ulcers and fever).
- Decrease in clotting cells (you may bruise or bleed more easily)
- If you develop a severe skin rash that causes blistering (erythema multiforme), (this can
affect the mouth and tongue). These may be signs of a condition known as Stevens
Johnson Syndrome, or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). Your doctor will stop your
treatment in these cases.
- Allergic reaction or allergy, which may include symptoms such as an itchy skin rash,
breathing problems, wheezing, swollen eyelids, face or lips.
- If you develop yellow skin and eyes which may mean liver damage.
- Cases of suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviours have been reported during sertraline
therapy or early after treatment discontinuation (see section 2.).
- If you experience agitation, confusion, diarrhoea, high temperature and blood pressure,
excessive sweating and rapid heartbeat. These are symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome. In
rare cases, this syndrome may occur when you are taking certain medicines at the same
time as sertraline. Your doctor may wish to stop your treatment.
- If you start to get feelings of restlessness and are not able to sit or stand still after you
start to take Sertraline Tablets. You should tell your doctor if you start to feel restless.
- If you have a fit (seizure).
If you have a manic episode (see section 2 “Warnings and precautions”).
- The following side effects were seen in clinical trials in adults.
- Very common (may affect more than 1 in 10 people):
Insomnia, dizziness, sleepiness, headache, diarrhoea, feeling sick, dry mouth, ejaculation
Common (may affect up to 1 in 10 people):
- Chest cold, Sore throat, runny nose, decreased appetite, increased appetite,
depression, feeling strange, nightmare, anxiety, agitation, nervousness, decreased
sexual interest, teeth grinding, shaking, muscular movement problems (such as moving a lot, tense muscles, difficulty walking and stiffness, spasms and involuntary movements of muscles)*, numbness and
tingling, abnormal taste, lack of attention, visual disturbance, ringing in ears, palpitations, hot flush, yawning,
abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, upset stomach, gas, rash, increased sweating, muscle pain, erectile dysfunction, chest pain, back pain, joint pain, menstrual irregularities, malaise,weakness, fever, weight increased, injury.
Uncommon (may affect up to 1 in 100 people):
- gastroenteritis, ear infection, tumour, hypersensitivity, seasonal allergy, low thyroid hormones, psychotic disorder, thinking abnormal, lack of caring, hallucination, aggression, feeling too happy, paranoia, involuntary muscle contractions, abnormal coordination, moving a lot, amnesia, decreased feeling, speech disorder, dizziness while standing up, passing out, migraine, enlarged pupils, ear pain, fast heartbeat, heart problem, bleeding problems (such as stomach bleeding)*, high blood pressure, flushing, blood in urine, nose bleed, tarry stools, tooth disorder, inflammation of the oesophagus, tongue problem, difficulty swallowing, haemorrhoids, increased saliva, tongue disorder, burping, eye swelling, purple spots on skin, face oedema, hair loss, cold sweat, dry skin, hives, itching, osteoarthritis, muscular weakness, muscle cramps*, muscle twitching, night-time urination, unable to urinate, increase in urination, increase in frequency of urination, problem urinating, urinary incontinence,
vaginal haemorrhage, sexual dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, chills, weakness, thirst, increased in liver enzyme levels, weight decreased.
Rare (may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people):
- diverticulitis, swollen lymph glands, decrease in clotting cells*, decrease in white blood
cells*, high cholesterol,low blood sugar, increase in blood sugar levels, low blood salt* physical symptoms due to stress or emotions, drug dependence, sleepwalking, premature ejaculation, endocrine problems*, coma, abnormal movements, difficulty moving, increased sensation, sensory disturbance, sudden severe headache (which may be a sign of a serious condition known as Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS))*,
gradually progressive visual field loss (glaucoma), tear problem, spots in front of eyes, double vision, light hurts the eye, blood in the eye, problems controlling blood sugar levels (diabetes), slow heartbeat, poor circulation of arms and legs, closing up of throat, breathing fast, breathing slow, difficulty talking, hiccups, blood in stool, sore mouth, tongue ulceration, mouth ulceration, problems with liver function, skin problem with blisters, hair rash, hair texture abnormal, skin odour abnormal, bone disorder, decreased urination, urinary hesitation dry vaginal area, red painful penis and foreskin, genital discharge, prolonged erection, breast discharge, hernia, drug tolerance decreased, semen abnormal, problems with clotting, increase in blood cholesterol levels, relaxation of blood vessels procedure, unequal sized pupils, abnormal laboratory tests, breast enlargement, skin
reaction to sun, vision abnormal and progressive scarring of the lung tissue (Interstitial Lung Disease), terrifying abnormal dreams.
Why are we ill?
I look at the list of possible side effects of a ‘rigorously’ tested drug on humans and think to myself, ‘if I take this medication, what other medication will I need to compensate for my original illness?’
The above is the medication I have taken over time. All of these will have side-effects that may increase your chance of taking more medication to combat the side effects. Have a look and see if anything resonates with you.
My journey with medication has come to an end. I don’t want to put these poisons in my body anymore because effectively, that’s what they are. My body belongs to me while I stay on this earth and although with great intentions, do the doctors really know what they are supplying us with?
The future for me is to understand my body more. What does it need to survive, what makes it work at its optimum level? This is by no means an easy task as I would prefer never to be ill again but I suppose there is a quick fix, as opposed to a reliance on them. The medication that has been part of my life was never really understood why it was needed. I plied my body with the medication where the information the doctor had, was in a book provided by the government, in which, the information was provided by the pharmaceutical companies. The government will make a fortune in tax revenue I’m sure, and the pharma companies, well, they will continue to make billions at our expense.
A conspiracy, perhaps? Or is it a large-scale drug deal where we are all the unsuspecting victims?