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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big Pharma asks you to trade your heart for your brain

About a decade ago, "atypical" antipsychostic drugs -- such as Risperdal, Seroqueland, Clozaril, Geodon, Zyprexa and Abilify -- flew in on a wave of hope.

But now it looks like they've unleashed a wave of disaster. In the process of helping your brain, these drugs just may stop your heart.

Some trade, huh?

These drugs, used to treat extreme "psychotic" behaviors including those found with bipolar disorder (also called manic depressive illness) and agitation in elderly patients with Alzheimer's dementia, were marketed as "safer" solutions to the "typical" antipsychotic drugs (such as Haldol and Thorazine) that had been in use since the 1950s, and had been linked to heart disease, tremors and other movement disorders.

Turns out, all these new drugs did is add a few billion dollars to the bottom lines of the companies that sold them.

A new study from the Vanderbilt University Medical School found an increased risk of sudden cardiac death from current users of both atypical and typical antipsychotic meds. Interpretation: the atypical drugs didn't make a darn bit of difference.

The study looked at the effects of typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs for tens of thousands of Tennessee Medicaid patients over the course of 15 years. The scientists found users of either class of drugs were twice as likely to die of a heart attack as those who weren't taking the drugs.

You might read that and conclude that the atypical drugs are just as dangerous as the typical drugs. From where I'm sitting, they're actually quite a bit more dangerous. Research has already linked them to an increased risk of diabetes.

It's another case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." These newer drugs are asking you to make the same trade as the older ones – your heart for your brain. Do you want to treat your bipolar disorder if it means, for example, doubling your risk of a fatal heart attack?

I'm not convinced you need to make that choice. If you're on one of these antipsychotic drugs, particularly if you suffer from heart disease or diabetes, I'd recommend you talk with your doctor about your treatment options. There are natural cures running the gamut from fish oils to B12 that have shown success with some of the same conditions treated by these drugs.

Dr Jon Ingilis

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