The risks of government-approved medicines

The FDA and other government bureaus continue to endorse harmful drugs.

Hadley Gustin

When people get sick, they go to their doctors, trusting that these physicians have the wherewithal to diagnose their ailments and prescribe medications for proper treatment. Rarely do patients question the accuracy of the doctorâÄôs judgment or the safety of the drugs given to them. However, with an increasing number of drugs coming under scrutiny for their damaging effects to the human body, it is absolutely necessary that Americans start probing their health care providers about the security of the practices and products they sanction. According to Merck & Co., one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, âÄúGardasil is the only human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of HPV.âÄù In spite of this, âÄúas of January 2010, there were more than 17,000 reports of adverse reactions regarding this vaccine. Among them are 59 deaths, 18 of which were among girls under the age of 17,âÄù as reported by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. For several years now, Merck has advertised a critical need for this medication. âÄúIn girls and young women ages 9 to 26, Gardasil helps protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 75 percent of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90 percent of genital warts cases. [It] also helps protect against 70 percent of vaginal cancer cases.âÄù Recently, Merck began marketing the Gardasil drug to men, as well. The company says that âÄúin boys and young men ages 9 to 26, Gardasil helps protect against 90 percent of genital warts cases.âÄù The statistics cited in Gardasil ads are clearly meant to induce caution and concern in the minds of the general public, encouraging them to seek protection from HPV, cervical cancer and genital warts by receiving the three Gardasil injections. On the other hand, Dr. Joseph Mercola, a nationally renowned osteopathic physician, says that âÄúAlthough there are 6 million cases of HPV each year, just 2 percent of the patients in a recent study were infected by the kinds of HPV that put them at high risk for developing cervical cancer. You need to be aware that if you eat right, exercise and keep stress in your life under control, your immune system is typically healthy enough to clear up the vast majority of HPV infections.âÄù Many Americans have not been exposed to these alternative notions and thus adhere to the arguments made by Merck, physicians and the government that Gardasil is essentially the only way to combat HPV, cervical cancer and genital warts. The reality is that in order to capitalize on the high potential of this medication, âÄúthe Food and Drug Administration [accepted MerckâÄôs request on] Dec. 1, [2005 for a] fast-track review process,âÄù according to Aaron Smith, a staff writer for CNN. In addition, the government strongly considered an appeal by Merck lobbyists that would require all girls in elementary schools to receive the vaccine. In the end, though, this initiative did not pass. It is important to realize that adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals such as Gardasil, now-restricted weight-loss supplement Fen-Phen, and Vioxx, a toxic pain reliever, do not only affect humans, but animals also. Many dog owners may be familiar with the over-the-counter pet remedy Sentry Pro XFC. This medicine is meant to repel fleas and ticks from the bodies of canines. As asserted by the cover of the Sentry Pro XFC box, the drug carries âÄú5-way protection [by killing] fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, flea eggs and flea larvae.âÄù Thus, plenty of people with dogs have rushed to try this seemingly effective medication. The results, however, created a storm of controversy with numerous consumer reports being filed for bad reactions to Sentry Pro XFC. In Lisa Wade McCormickâÄôs article âÄúEPA to Release Findings on Pet Flea, Tick PowdersâÄù on consumeraffairs.com, pet owner Celia K. of Greenville, N.C., said, âÄúI purchased Sentry Pro XFC from PetSmart and applied it to my two dogs âÄî lab and boxer. That evening, the lab experienced neurological side effects âÄî his body jerked every 15 seconds. The following day, my boxer experienced uncontrollable leg jerking.âÄù In addition to the complaints and negative side effects from Sentry Pro XFC, another flea and tick powder for dogs that has caused many consumers to criticize and object is SergeantâÄôs Gold Flea and Tick. Like Sentry Pro XFC, this product has caused adverse side effects like chemical burns, seizures, shaking, drooling and paralysis. Sure enough, none of these symptoms are listed anywhere on the box. Today, the majority of Americans have unwavering faith in the status quo and believe that anything stamped âÄúgovernment-approvedâÄù is 100 percent safe and intended for the well-being of the general populous. Nevertheless, time and again, it is proven by unfortunate reactions âÄî sometimes death âÄî that government bureaus âÄî namely the FDA, EPA, and USDA âÄî are more concerned with releasing new drugs to the market than with the health and security of the people they serve. A paradigm shift in education is the only way to combat this issue, and luckily, there are several different methods that can be pursued. Society can start lending more credence to holistic doctors, and the University of Minnesota, for its part, should invite the discussion and debate about holistic medicine. Hadley Gustin welcomes comments at [email protected]