I came across this article recently published in the Toronto Star Opinion Section by Carol Goar. It is to the point, excellently written, and in my opinion, a must read by every woman. I wish to extend my thanks and appreciation to Ms. Goar for the effort she has made to educate us.
What the Pill bottle doesn’t tell you
The Toronto Star
Fri Sep 18 2009
Women in Canada learned to be wary of the drug industry long ago.
In the 1930s and ’40s, expectant mothers were encouraged to take a synthetic hormone called diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages. Years later, they discovered they had put their
daughters at risk of vaginal cancer, breast cancer and infertility.
In the late 1950s, the drug industry marketed thalidomide, a sedative so safe it could be sold over the counter to pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. Their children were often bornwith heartbreaking deformities.
In the 1970s, thousands of women were fitted with a Dalkon Shield, an intrauterine device they were assured was safe and effective. In fact, it caused serious pelvic infections and made childbirth impossible for many users.
Then came a succession of harmful drugs and medical devices: silicone gel breast implants; Depo-Provera (a contraceptive that caused irreversible bone deterioration); and hormone replacement therapy.
With each scandal, women became more vigilant, more organized and more determined to protect themselves.
In 1998, a handful of activists formed Women and Health Protection, a national network of academic researchers, medical practitioners and consumers. It applied successfully for funding under Ottawa’s Centres of Excellence for Women’s Health program.
It has just published its first book: The Push to Prescribe.
The 227-page compilation of essays aims to educate women, prepare medical and nursing students for the pressure they will face from drug makers, provide doctors with the kind of research they seldom get from their professional associations, counter the reassuring rhetoric of
the pharmaceutical industry and hold federal regulators to account for allowing dangerous products on the market. The book was 10 years in the making. It covers everything from the loopholes in Ottawa’s drug
regulations to the unexplored consequences of dumping pharmaceutical products into the ecosystem.
One trend that particularly worries Anne Rochon Ford of York University, who spearheaded the project, is the increase in drugs for dubious ailments such as social anxiety, restless legs, overactive bladder, premenstrual irritability and hot flashes. Not only are these medications a waste of money, they can do long-term harm.
Canadian women pop fewer pills than their American counterparts. But that could soon change. Pharmaceutical manufacturers in the United States are allowed to advertise freely. They spend $5 billion a year promoting prescription drugs that promote sexual confidence, alleviate life’s stresses and disappointments, manage out-of- whack cholesterol, get rid of unwanted weight and solve a host of other problems.
In Canada, pharmaceutical makers are prohibited from advertising prescription drugs to consumers. But CanWest, a Winnipeg media conglomerate, has launched a legal challenge, arguing that Ottawa’s ban violates its constitutional right to freedom of expression. The case is
working its way through the courts.
There is also a quieter threat. For years, federal officials have been whittling back the safeguards in the Food and Drugs Act. In 1996, they permitted “disease awareness” advertisements, which describe a medical condition and encourage people to talk to their doctor about treatment. In 2000, they allowed “reminder” advertisements, which mention a drug by name but don’t explain what it does. “Canadians are often surprised to hear that advertising of prescription drugs to the public is illegal because we see much of it,” says Barbara Menzies of the University of British Columbia, who wrote the essay on drug advertising. The pharmaceutical lobby, which is powerful and amply financed, isn’t likely to stop peddling questionable new pills. The government, which believes disease prevention is a personal responsibility, isn’t likely to improve its regulatory defences.
But women are no longer willing to swallow every wonder drug that comes along. They saw what happened to their mothers and grandmothers.