Letters re Influence of Pharmaceutical Companies in New Zealand

Some of you may have already seen these letters published in the Sunday Star times. A statement on the influence of drug companies on the way we are buying and using prescription medicines. I have also inserted a link to the article to which  Dr John Read is writing about. Surely independent advisers are necessary? Here are the letters below, one from Dr John Read, and another from Janette Saxby an alcohol and drugs clinician.
 
The first one was in the July 25th edition – reproduced here (I couldn’t find it online)
 
“DRUG COMPANY LINKS”
  A responsible response from the Ministry of Health to your article, “Flu Experts linked to drug firms”(July 18), might have been to consider an audit to determine how many other advisers were in the pay of drug companies. Instead, one of its deputy director-generals is reported to justify the use of such advisers because New Zealand is too small to find experts independent of commercial influence. Even in the US, however, the majority of “experts” employed by their FDA have links to the pharmaceutical industry.
 
An audit might start with mental health, where the pharmaceutical industry has effectively lobbied governments to purchase ever larger numbers of very expensive, but minimally effective, psychiatric drugs. Prescriptions of antidepressants and antipsychotics continue to grow, despite research showing that both have little benefit compared to placebo pills and have serious adverse effects. The fastest growing drug group, however, is methamphetamine-type stimulants for children with severe difficulty concentrating and sitting still, the side effects of which include an average of one centimetre a year reduced growth.
 
The Ministry should not be naive and ensure the advice they receive is uncontaminated by commercial interests.
 
                                        Dr John Read
Psychology Department
University of Auckland.
  
In todays Sunday Star times was a letter backing Dr John Read’s submission.
 
PRESCRIPTION DRUG POSER”
Dr John Read of Auckland University’s Psychology department suggested ( letters to the editor July 25) that the government has been lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry to provide ever-increasing numbers of psychiatric drugs. He states that some of the drugs are expensive and only minimally effective. He is frighteningly accurate in his assessment and cites the increase in both anti-depressant and also stimulants for children are not effective and in some cases, quite detrimental. Working in mental health in this country and in particular in working with youths, I was astounded at how quickly drugs were prescribed to those under 18, despite there being very little evidence for their efficacy.
 
Not only are anti-depressants being over-prescribed, so the reliance on prescription painkillers is growing. Substance abuse is not just limited to alcohol and cannabis but prescription pain medication is a growing problem in this country.
 
I am grateful that he shares his insight not only with the public through this forum but also has influence over students studying psychology at Auckland University and in future we may see some more enlightened practice with less reliance on drugs.”
Janette Saxby
Alcohol and Drugs clinician
Waikuku Beach Canterbury
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