NEWS

Drug cartels at cost to consumer

Simple painkillers or vitamins might seem to be relatively harmless to the health and therefore harmless to advertise, but recently in the United States a widely available pill used to treat fingernail infections – the fourth most popular pill sold by a major pharmaceutical firm – was linked to 16 cases of liver failure, 11 of which ended in death. About 10 million Americans had taken the medication following a widespread advertising campaign that cost the manufacturer 236 million dollars. In the USA, it is legal to advertise medications. In Greece is strictly forbidden by Law 2328/95. At least in theory, for in practice such advertisements appear in radio and television commercials, scientific journals and magazines – yet more proof of the chaos prevailing in the control of medications in this country. A survey by Experimental Pharmacology Laboratory at Athens University’s Medical School of all the medications advertised over the summer on television showed that the law is not being observed and that advertising and marketing are reaping large rewards for the pharmaceutical industry. Kathimerini has been given access to the list of these medications (all prescription drugs) advertised on television. They include: – A laxative, a drug needed by more and more people due to increasing stress levels and poor nutrition, which can however, lead to colic, electrolytic disturbances, dehydration, dizziness, intestinal problems and dependency. – A cold remedy, widely available, that is considered dangerous if used for extended periods. Contra-indications include rhinitis, glaucoma and allergy. Side-effects include fatigue, weakness, migraines, panic attacks, blood pressure disturbances and severe catarrh after cessation of use. – A commonly used strong analgesic. There are clear contra-indications for renal and liver failure and serious side-effects including anemia, itching and hypoglycemia. – A bronchial decongestant, advertised as a cough remedy (which it is not), that can cause ulcers, gastric hemorrhage, nausea, headaches and skin rashes. It should only be used under medical supervision by those who have a history of tuberculosis or ulcers, or during pregnancy and lactation. – A treatment for skin and nail infections, not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. Side-effects include liver problems and the extremely dangerous Stevens-Johnson syndrome. – Retinol (vitamin A) and various other vitamins whose side-effects include vitamin overdose, an increase in endo-cranial pressure, fatigue, anorexia, dizziness, headache, alopecia and menstrual problems.