Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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September 25, 2003

Purple Prozac Prescribed for PMS

Jenny Thompson of the Health Sciences Institute in Baltimore tells us how the money-making pharmaceutical machine maximizes profits - at our expense.

Most of the highly profitable drugs extend their lifespan by a hefty two and a half years at the end of their "useful life". It only takes a simple, slight change, even only in name and packaging, to register a drug for a new use, usually accompanied by - you guessed it - a price rise!

And what's more, Prozac, the controversial addictive drug cited for inducing suicide tendencies in those taking it, has been re-named Safarem and is now sold to women for their irritability prior to menstruation.

Artwork by Emma Holister. Click on image to enlarge

- - -

The Color Purple

Health Sciences Institute e-Alert

September 23, 2003

Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where you could get paid a higher salary just because you liked vanilla more than chocolate? Or you could become a star just by fluffing your sofa cushions?

I know, it sounds completely absurd. But for patent drugs, scenarios like these are surprisingly common.

A new beginning

First some history. As you know, the poor drug companies spend many years and many millions (or billions) of dollars creating a new drug. Then as soon as a patent is granted and the product is launched, all these upstart generic drug companies come along, and like circling sharks they wait for the patent to expire. As soon as it does, the generics hit the market and undercut the price until they start selling more of the product than the former patent holder does. At that point what do the drug giants have to show for all their efforts? Just a few billion dollars in profits and a drug they can no longer call their very own.

But before you start to feel too sorry for them...

There's a nice little loophole they can put to use that extends the life of a drug's patent for two and a half years. And when the drug is a popular, high-profile product, that can mean a very lucrative final run at huge profits before the final bell rings.

Playing dress up

The loophole is simple and effective: Claiming that their drug has a new use or a newly added chemical property, the drug company applies for a patent extension. Now that may sound reasonable, but consider this: the patent can even be extended if the only change is a new packaging of the drug. When the extension is granted the "reformulated" drug has 30 additional months of peak earning power before the generics close in for the kill and bring the price down to earth.

Of course, patents can be extended only if the FDA approves the reformulated drug. But this would appear to be a mere rubber-stamping formality. Just look at the numbers. Between 1989 and 2000, a full two-thirds of all the prescription drugs approved by the FDA were nothing more than modified versions of existing drugs. And some of them weren't even modified - they were identical to drugs already on the market. Meanwhile, only a scant 15 percent of the drugs approved during that period could be considered genuinely "new."

Naming names!

Among the popular reformulated drugs currently on the market there are some brand names I'm sure you'll recognize. The allergy drug Claritin, for instance, was reformulated to become Clarinex. Prilosec, an ulcer medication, became Nexium - the purple pill. And (this is my favorite) Sarafem, prescribed for relief of premenstrual irritability, is a pink and lavender capsule that is otherwise identical to one of the true celebrities of prescription drugs: Prozac. Prozac! So they made the pill prettier and got a new slogan, forcing users to pay patent prices for two and a half more years. (I wonder how these irritable women would react if they had any idea they were actually being given Prozac.)

All of this information comes from a 2002 research report from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes improvements in health care access, management and quality.

The report also found that the so-called "new" drugs with modified formulas were priced much higher than the drugs they replaced. In other words, the drug giants take their star performers, dress them up in their Sunday best, and then jack up the prices - all with the formal blessing of our friends at the FDA.

Keeping it real

There's currently a bill pending in Congress (Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act) that would close these patent loopholes and give our pocketbooks a little relief. But if history is any judge, don't expect the pharmaceutical companies to come out the losers.

So if you must rely on a prescription drug, ask your doctor about the specific history of the drug. Otherwise you might get Prozac, renamed and dressed up in a colorful new and more expensive package.


See also related articles

Psychology Today - Better than Prozac

Prozac Nation? Is the Party Over? - by Richard C. Morais, 09.06.04 Forbes Magazine

Giant Floating Purple Pills
Are those creepy prescription-drug commercials on TV trying to kill you?

Disorders made to order: pharmaceutical companies have come up with a new strategy to market their drugs: First go out and find a new mental illness, then push the pills to cure it.

Anti-competitive practices

PROZAC BACKLASH - Trouble in Prozac Nation
"Woody's death was the most out-of-the-blue, out-of-character death," she told FORTUNE recently. "He had no history of mental illness." Kim Witczak, who lives in Minneapolis, has sued Pfizer, alleging that Zoloft induced the suicide and that the company failed to warn about the drug's potential to cause perilous side effects.

Fluoxetine: Prozac Affects Babies, Sexual Function, Report Says

Ten drugs to avoid



posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Thursday September 25 2003
updated on Friday December 3 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Prozac Approval Flawed: Suicide Link Was Known Before FDA OK
The British Medical Journal has apologized to Eli Lilly for implying in a recent article that scientific documents about Prozac's side effects had "gone missing" during a legal case some years ago, as reported by BBC today. But here is the important data that almost get drowned out by the noise over a largely irrelevant point: Eli Lilly, as the maker of Prozac, has been aware of serious side effects... [read more]
January 28, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Vioxx, Celebrex, Prozac: Bush Medical Malpractice Bill To Shield Pharma
Tucked away "like a gleaming diamond in proposed legislation to curb malpractice lawsuits is a provision that would give an unconscionable degree of protection to firms responsible for drugs or medical devices that turn out to be harmful", says New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in his latest editorial, A Gift for Drug Makers. The provision is set to prohibit judges from awarding punitive damages if a drug has received... [read more]
January 16, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Pharma Promotion Dishonest - Slanted Reporting of Paxil, Prozac Studies
Pharmaceutical manufacturers cannot promote the use of drugs for other uses than those approved for the label, however it has become normal practice to dishonestly slant the reporting of scientific studies to suggest such unapproved use of drugs or to hype the supposed benefits of certain medicines, while hiding their adverse effects. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Paxil, released on its company Web site the reports of clinical tests... [read more]
June 15, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Prozac-Driven Violence: Time To Act?
Prozac, like other drugs of its class, has been linked to both suicides and to bouts of violence - unprovoked shootings in schools and tragedies that have left families and indeed nations shocked, but it seems the FDA is less than willing to change things. Warnings on drug labels were reluctantly introduced last year, but some of these have been watered down since then. Bush is pushing for widespread testing... [read more]
April 04, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Eli Lilly Knew Prozac Causes Suicides, Violence - FDA Closed Both Eyes
Prozac, called fluoxetine by generic name, is a psychiatric drug prescribed to over 50 million people including millions of children. The drug was linked to increased suicides and violence as early as 1988, in a recently emerged document. Apparently the evaluation was known to Prozac's maker Eli Lilly as early as the 'eighties, but was never even given to the FDA. This is the preoccupying picture that emerged just days... [read more]
January 01, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Pharma Lobbies to Drug Kids in Schools - Citizens Resisting
Pharma interests have united with mental health organizations to push through legislation that would require mandatory testing and forced administration of drugs to kids in schools - without their parents' consent. Rep. Ron Paul, MD has introduced a bill that would prevent such an eventuality. If you live in the United States, please read on to see what you can do to protect your children. Remember school shootings? Many of... [read more]
May 11, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger




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