Posts Tagged ‘Psychotropic Drugs’

The Depressing News About Antidepressants

February 5, 2010

Sharon Begley
Newsweek
February 3, 2010

Although the year is young, it has already brought my first moral dilemma. In early January a friend mentioned that his New Year’s resolution was to beat his chronic depression once and for all. Over the years he had tried a medicine chest’s worth of antidepressants, but none had really helped in any enduring way, and when the side effects became so unpleasant that he stopped taking them, the withdrawal symptoms (cramps, dizziness, headaches) were torture. Did I know of any research that might help him decide whether a new antidepressant his doctor recommended might finally lift his chronic darkness at noon?

The moral dilemma was this: oh, yes, I knew of 20-plus years of research on antidepressants, from the old tricyclics to the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that target serotonin (Zoloft, Paxil, and the granddaddy of them all, Prozac, as well as their generic descendants) to even newer ones that also target norepinephrine (Effexor, Wellbutrin).

But ever since a seminal study in 1998, whose findings were reinforced by landmark research in The Journal of the American Medical Association last month, that evidence has come with a big asterisk. Yes, the drugs are effective, in that they lift depression in most patients. But that benefit is hardly more than what patients get when they, unknowingly and as part of a study, take a dummy pill—a placebo. As more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding, that suggests that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.

Hence the moral dilemma. The placebo effect—that is, a medical benefit you get from an inert pill or other sham treatment—rests on the holy trinity of belief, expectation, and hope. But telling someone with depression who is being helped by antidepressants, or who (like my friend) hopes to be helped, threatens to topple the whole house of cards. Explain that it’s all in their heads, that the reason they’re benefiting is the same reason why Disney’s Dumbo could initially fly only with a feather clutched in his trunk—believing makes it so—and the magic dissipates like fairy dust in a windstorm. So rather than tell my friend all this, I chickened out. Sure, I said, there’s lots of research showing that a new kind of antidepressant might help you. Come, let me show you the studies on PubMed.

It seems I am not alone in having moral qualms about blowing the whistle on antidepressants. That first analysis, in 1998, examined 38 manufacturer-sponsored studies involving just over 3,000 depressed patients. The authors, psychology researchers Irving Kirsch and Guy Sapirstein of the University of Connecticut, saw—as everyone else had—that patients did improve, often substantially, on SSRIs, tricyclics, and even MAO inhibitors, a class of antidepressants that dates from the 1950s. This improvement, demonstrated in scores of clinical trials, is the basis for the ubiquitous claim that antidepressants work. But when Kirsch compared the improvement in patients taking the drugs with the improvement in those taking dummy pills—clinical trials typically compare an experimental drug with a placebo—he saw that the difference was minuscule. Patients on a placebo improved about 75 percent as much as those on drugs. Put another way, three quarters of the benefit from antidepressants seems to be a placebo effect. “We wondered, what’s going on?” recalls Kirsch, who is now at the University of Hull in England. “These are supposed to be wonder drugs and have huge effects.”

The study’s impact? The number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled in a decade, from 13.3 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005.

To be sure, the drugs have helped tens of millions of people, and Kirsch certainly does not advocate that patients suffering from depression stop taking the drugs. On the contrary. But they are not necessarily the best first choice. Psychotherapy, for instance, works for moderate, severe, and even very severe depression. And although for some patients, psychotherapy in combination with an initial course of prescription antidepressants works even better, the question is, how do the drugs work? Kirsch’s study and, now, others conclude that the lion’s share of the drugs’ effect comes from the fact that patients expect to be helped by them, and not from any direct chemical action on the brain, especially for anything short of very severe depression.

As the inexorable rise in the use of antidepressants suggests, that conclusion can’t hold a candle to the simplistic “antidepressants work!” (unstated corollary: “but don’t ask how”) message. Part of the resistance to Kirsch’s findings has been due to his less-than-retiring nature. He didn’t win many friends with the cheeky title of the paper, “Listening to Prozac but Hearing Placebo.” Nor did it inspire confidence that the editors of the journal Prevention & Treatment ran a warning with his paper, saying it used meta-analysis “controversially.” Al-though some of the six invited commentaries agreed with Kirsch, others were scathing, accusing him of bias and saying the studies he analyzed were flawed (an odd charge for defenders of antidepressants, since the studies were the basis for the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drugs). One criticism, however, could not be refuted: Kirsch had analyzed only some studies of antidepressants. Maybe if he included them all, the drugs would emerge head and shoulders superior to placebos.

Kirsch agreed. Out of the blue, he received a letter from Thomas Moore, who was then a health-policy analyst at George Washington University. You could expand your data set, Moore wrote, by including everything drug companies sent to the FDA—published studies, like those analyzed in “Hearing Placebo,” but also unpublished studies. In 1998 Moore used the Freedom of Information Act to pry such data from the FDA. The total came to 47 company-sponsored studies—on Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Serzone, and Celexa—that Kirsch and colleagues then pored over. (As an aside, it turned out that about 40 percent of the clinical trials had never been published. That is significantly higher than for other classes of drugs, says Lisa Bero of the University of California, San Francisco; overall, 22 percent of clinical trials of drugs are not published. “By and large,” says Kirsch, “the unpublished studies were those that had failed to show a significant benefit from taking the actual drug.”) In just over half of the published and unpublished studies, he and colleagues reported in 2002, the drug alleviated depression no better than a placebo. “And the extra benefit of antidepressants was even less than we saw when we analyzed only published studies,” Kirsch recalls. About 82 percent of the response to antidepressants—not the 75 percent he had calculated from examining only published studies—had also been achieved by a dummy pill.

The extra effect of real drugs wasn’t much to celebrate, either. It amounted to 1.8 points on the 54-point scale doctors use to gauge the severity of depression, through questions about mood, sleep habits, and the like. Sleeping better counts as six points. Being less fidgety during the assessment is worth two points. In other words, the clinical significance of the 1.8 extra points from real drugs was underwhelming. Now Kirsch was certain. “The belief that antidepressants can cure depression chemically is simply wrong,” he told me in January on the eve of the publication of his book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Anti-depressant Myth.

The 2002 study ignited a furious debate, but more and more scientists were becoming convinced that Kirsch—who had won respect for research on the placebo response and who had published scores of scientific papers—was on to something. One team of researchers wondered if antidepressants were “a triumph of marketing over science.” Even defenders of antidepressants agreed that the drugs have “relatively small” effects. “Many have long been unimpressed by the magnitude of the differences observed between treatments and controls,” psychology researcher Steven Hollon of Vanderbilt University and colleagues wrote—”what some of our colleagues refer to as ‘the dirty little secret.’ ” In Britain, the agency that assesses which treatments are effective enough for the government to pay for stopped recommending antidepressants as a first-line treatment, especially for mild or moderate depression.

But if experts know that antidepressants are hardly better than placebos, few patients or doctors do. Some doctors have changed their prescribing habits, says Kirsch, but more “reacted with anger and incredulity.” Understandably. For one thing, depression is a devastating, underdiagnosed, and undertreated disease. Of course doctors recoiled at the idea that such drugs might be mirages. If that were true, how were physicians supposed to help their patients?

Two other factors are at work in the widespread rejection of Kirsch’s (and, now, other scientists’) findings about antidepressants. First, defenders of the drugs scoff at the idea that the FDA would have approved ineffective drugs. (Simple explanation: the FDA requires two well-designed clinical trials showing a drug is more effective than a placebo. That’s two, period—even if many more studies show no such effectiveness. And the size of the “more effective” doesn’t much matter, as long as it is statistically significant.) Second, doctors see with their own eyes, and feel with their hearts, that the drugs lift the black cloud from many of their depressed patients. But since doctors are not exactly in the habit of prescribing dummy pills, they have no experience comparing how their patients do on them, and therefore never see that a placebo would be almost as effective as a $4 pill. “When they prescribe a treatment and it works,” says Kirsch, “their natural tendency is to attribute the cure to the treatment.” Hence the widespread “antidepressants work” refrain that persists to this day.

Drug companies do not dispute Kirsch’s aggregate statistics. But they point out that the average is made up of some patients in whom there is a true drug effect of antidepressants and some in whom there is not. As a spokesperson for Lilly (maker of Prozac) said, “Depression is a highly individualized illness,” and “not all patients respond the same way to a particular treatment.” In addition, notes a spokesperson for Glaxo-Smith-Kline (maker of Paxil), the studies analyzed in the JAMA paper differ from studies GSK submitted to the FDA when it won approval for Paxil, “so it is difficult to make direct comparisons between the results. This study contributes to the extensive research that has helped to characterize the role of antidepressants,” which “are an important option, in addition to counseling and lifestyle changes, for treatment of depression.” A spokesperson for Pfizer, which makes Zoloft, also cited the “wealth of scientific evidence documenting [antidepressants’] effects,” adding that the fact that antidepressants “commonly fail to separate from placebo” is “a fact well known by the FDA, academia, and industry.” Other manufacturers pointed out that Kirsch and the JAMA authors had not studied their particular brands.

Even Kirsch’s analysis, however, found that antidepressants are a little more effective than dummy pills—those 1.8 points on the depression scale. Maybe Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and their cousins do have some non-placebo, chemical benefit. But the small edge of real drugs compared with placebos might not mean what it seems, Kirsch explained to me one evening from his home in Hull. Consider how research on drugs works. Patient volunteers are told they will receive either the drug or a placebo, and that neither they nor the scientists will know who is getting what. Most volunteers hope they get the drug, not the dummy pill. After taking the unknown meds for a while, some volunteers experience side effects. Bingo: a clue they’re on the real drug. About 80 percent guess right, and studies show that the worse side effects a patient experiences, the more effective the drug. Patients apparently think, this drug is so strong it’s making me vomit and hate sex, so it must be strong enough to lift my depression. In clinical-trial patients who figure out they’re receiving the drug and not the inert pill, expectations soar.

That matters because belief in the power of a medical treatment can be self-fulfilling (that’s the basis of the placebo effect). The patients who correctly guess that they’re getting the real drug therefore experience a stronger placebo effect than those who get the dummy pill, experience no side effects, and are therefore disappointed. That might account for antidepressants’ slight edge in effectiveness compared with a placebo, an edge that derives not from the drugs’ molecules but from the hopes and expectations that patients in studies feel when they figure out they’re receiving the real drug.

The boy who said the emperor had no clothes didn’t endear himself to his fellow subjects, and Kirsch has fared little better. A nascent collaboration with a scientist at a medical school ended in 2002 when the scientist was warned not to submit a grant proposal with Kirsch if he ever wanted to be funded again. Four years later, another scientist wrote a paper questioning the effectiveness of antidepressants, citing Kirsch’s work. It was published in a prestigious journal. That ordinarily brings accolades. Instead, his department chair dressed him down and warned him not to become too involved with Kirsch.

But the question of whether antidepressants—which in 2008 had sales of $9.6 billion in the U.S., reported the consulting firm IMS Health—have any effect other than through patients’ belief in them was too important to scare researchers off. Proponents of the drugs have found themselves making weaker and weaker claims. Their last stand is that antidepressants are more effective than a placebo in patients suffering the most severe depression.

So concluded the JAMA study in January. In an analysis of six large experiments in which, as usual, depressed patients received either a placebo or an active drug, the true drug effect—that is, in addition to the placebo effect—was “nonexistent to negligible” in patients with mild, moderate, and even severe depression. Only in patients with very severe symptoms (scoring 23 or above on the standard scale) was there a statistically significant drug benefit. Such patients account for about 13 percent of people with depression. “Most people don’t need an active drug,” says Vanderbilt’s Hollon, a coauthor of the study. “For a lot of folks, you’re going to do as well on a sugar pill or on conversations with your physicians as you will on medication. It doesn’t matter what you do; it’s just the fact that you’re doing something.” But people with very severe depression are different, he believes. “My personal view is the placebo effect gets you pretty far, but for those with very severe, more chronic conditions, it’s harder to knock down and placebos are less adequate,” says Hollon. Why that should be remains a mystery, admits coauthor Robert DeRubeis of the University of Pennsylvania.

Like every scientist who has stepped into the treacherous waters of antidepressant research, Hollon, DeRubeis, and their colleagues are keenly aware of the disconnect between evidence and public impression. “Prescribers, policy-makers, and consumers may not be aware that the efficacy of [antidepressants] largely has been established on the basis of studies that have included only those individuals with more severe forms of depression,” something drug ads don’t mention, they write. People with anything less than very severe depression “derive little specific pharmacological benefit from taking medications. Pending findings contrary to those reported here … efforts should be made to clarify to clinicians and prospective patients that … there is little evidence to suggest that [antidepressants] produce specific pharmacological benefit for the majority of patients.”

Right about here, people scowl and ask how anti-depressants—especially those that raise the brain’s levels of serotonin—can possibly have no direct chemical effect on the brain. Surely raising serotonin levels should right the synapses’ “chemical imbalance” and lift depression. Unfortunately, the serotonin-deficit theory of depression is built on a foundation of tissue paper. How that came to be is a story in itself, but the basics are that in the 1950s scientists discovered, serendipitously, that a drug called iproniazid seemed to help some people with depression. Iproniazid increases brain levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Ergo, low levels of those neurotransmitters must cause depression. More than 50 years on, the presumed effectiveness of antidepressants that act this way remains the chief support for the chemical-imbalance theory of depression. Absent that effectiveness, the theory hasn’t a leg to stand on. Direct evidence doesn’t exist. Lowering people’s serotonin levels does not change their mood. And a new drug, tianeptine, which is sold in France and some other countries (but not the U.S.), turns out to be as effective as Prozac-like antidepressants that keep the synapses well supplied with serotonin. The mechanism of the new drug? It lowers brain levels of serotonin. “If depression can be equally affected by drugs that increase serotonin and by drugs that decrease it,” says Kirsch, “it’s hard to imagine how the benefits can be due to their chemical activity.”

Perhaps antidepressants would be more effective at higher doses? Unfortunately, in 2002 Kirsch and colleagues found that high doses are hardly more effective than low ones, improving patients’ depression-scale rating an average of 9.97 points vs. 9.57 points—a difference that is not statistically significant. Yet many doctors increase doses for patients who do not respond to a lower one, and many patients report improving as a result. There’s a study of that, too. When researchers gave such nonresponders a higher dose, 72 percent got much better, their symptoms dropping by 50 percent or more. The catch? Only half the patients really got a higher dose. The rest, unknowingly, got the original, “ineffective” dose. It is hard to see the 72 percent who got much better on ersatz higher doses as the result of anything but the power of expectation: the doctor upped my dose, so I believe I’ll get better.

Something similar may explain why some patients who aren’t helped by one antidepressant do better on a second, or a third. This is often explained as “matching” patient to drug, and seemed to be confirmed by a 2006 federal study called STAR*D. Patients still suffering from depression after taking one drug were switched to a second; those who were still not better were switched to a third drug, and even a fourth. No placebos were used. At first blush, the results offered a ray of hope: 37 percent of the patients got better on the first drug, 19 percent more on their second, 6 percent more improved on their third try, and 5 percent more on their fourth. (Half of those who recovered relapsed within a year, however.)

So does STAR*D validate the idea that the key to effective treatment of depression is matching the patient to the drug? Maybe. Or maybe people improved in rounds two, three, and four because depression sometimes lifts due to changes in people’s lives, or because levels of depression tend to rise and fall over time. With no one in STAR*D receiving a placebo, it is not possible to conclude with certainty that the improvements in rounds two, three, and four were because patients switched to a drug that was more effective for them. Comparable numbers might have improved if they had switched to a placebo. But STAR*D did not test for that, and so cannot rule it out.

It’s tempting to look at the power of the placebo effect to alleviate depression and stick an “only” in front of it—as in, the drugs work only through the placebo effect. But there is nothing “only” about the placebo response. It can be surprisingly enduring, as a 2008 study found: “The widely held belief that the placebo response in depression is short-lived appears to be based largely on intuition and perhaps wishful thinking,” scientists wrote in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The strength of the placebo response drives drug companies nuts, since it makes showing the superiority of a new drug much harder. There is a strong placebo component in the response to drugs for pain, asthma, irritable-bowel syndrome, skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, and even Parkinson’s disease. But compared with the placebo component of antidepressants, the placebo response accounts for a smaller fraction of the benefit from drugs for those disorders—on the order of 50 percent for analgesics, for instance.

Which returns us to the moral dilemma. In any year, an estimated 13.1 million to 14.2 million American adults suffer from clinical depression. At least 32 million will have the disease at some point in their life. Many of the 57 percent who receive treatment (the rest do not) are helped by medication. For that benefit to continue, they need to believe in their pills. Even Kirsch warns—in boldface type in his book, which is in stores this week—that patients on antidepressants not suddenly stop taking them. That can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, including twitches, tremors, blurred vision, and nausea—as well as depression and anxiety. Yet Kirsch is well aware that his book may have the same effect on patients as dropping the magic feather did for Dumbo: without it, the little elephant began crashing to earth. Friends and colleagues who believe Kirsch is right ask why he doesn’t just shut up, since publicizing the finding that the effectiveness of antidepressants is almost entirely due to people’s hopes and expectations will undermine that effectiveness.

It’s all well and good to point out that psychotherapy is more effective than either pills or placebos, with dramatically lower relapse rates. But there’s the little matter of reality. In the U.S., most patients with depression are treated by primary-care doctors, not psychiatrists. The latter are in short supply, especially outside cities and especially for children and adolescents. Some insurance plans discourage such care, and some psychiatrists do not accept insurance. Maybe keeping patients in the dark about the ineffectiveness of antidepressants, which for many are their only hope, is a kindness.

Or maybe not. As shown by the explicit criticism of drug companies by the authors of the recent JAMA paper, more and more scientists believe it is time to abandon the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of not digging too deeply into the reasons for the effectiveness of antidepressants. Maybe it is time to pull back the curtain and see the wizard for what he is. As for Kirsch, he insists that it is important to know that much of the benefit of antidepressants is a placebo effect. If placebos can make people better, then depression can be treated without drugs that come with serious side effects, not to mention costs. Wider recognition that antidepressants are a pharmaceutical version of the emperor’s new clothes, he says, might spur patients to try other treatments. “Isn’t it more important to know the truth?” he asks. Based on the impact of his work so far, it’s hard to avoid answering, “Not to many people.”

With Sarah Kliff

2009 in review: A year of FDA censorship, Big Pharma crimes and celebrity drug deaths

January 12, 2010

Mike Adams
Natural News
Friday, Jan 1st, 2010

2009 has been a crazy year for health and medicine. It was the year that Congress rammed through a mandatory health “reform” bill that violates the U.S. Constitution in forcing all Americans to buy government-mandated products and services from greedy corporations. Although it hasn’t been signed into law yet, the very fact that it has been passed by both the House and the Senate is alarming: America is just one signature away from becoming a medical dictatorship.

But that’s not the only big health news that happened in 2009. In all, 2009 was a year of corruption, scientific fraud and health freedom oppression. Here are some of the highlights:

The FDA

The FDA was hit hard in 2009 was accusations of corruption and criminal behavior. In January, the FDA’s own scientists accused management of committing crimes (http://www.naturalnews.com/025298_t…). And in August, the FDA abandoned even the appearance of standing up for safety by declaring that mercury fillings are safe for everyone (http://www.naturalnews.com/026822_m…).

In order to protect its authority and boost Big Pharma’s sales, the FDA also went after numerous natural health companies in 2009. Stephen Heuer was arrested by the FDA in January (http://www.naturalnews.com/025347_n…), and by June, the FDA had threatened to seize all natural products that boost immune health and protect against the swine flu (http://www.naturalnews.com/026473_t…).

The FTC also joined the tyranny bandwagon, engaged in a war of threatening tactics against a ministry selling anti-cancer herbs (http://www.naturalnews.com/025303_t…) and ultimately ordering them to lie to their customers about their products (http://www.naturalnews.com/026970_t…). The FTC even went after Dr. Weil, threatening him with arrest and imprisonment for daring to accurately describe the immune boosting effects of the astragalus herb (http://www.naturalnews.com/027303_t…).

Topping off the year of tyranny and oppression, in December the FDA staged an illegal kidnapping of herbal formulator Greg Caton who was threatening the cancer industry with his anti-cancer salve products made from Ecuadorian herbs (http://www.naturalnews.com/027750_G…).

Big Pharma corruption

2009 was also a bad year for Big Pharma. All kinds of new findings came out that show the dangers of pharmaceuticals. For example, did you know that HRT drugs shrink women’s brains? (http://www.naturalnews.com/025354_d…)

The drug industry was also shown to be engaged in blatant scientific fraud. AstraZeneca, for starters, taught its sales reps how to lie to doctors (http://www.naturalnews.com/025744_d…), and throughout the pharmaceutical industry, many clinical trials were exposed as being entirely fraudulent (http://www.naturalnews.com/025833_B…).

On the researcher side, Big Pharma scientist Dr. Scott Reuben was caught fabricating 21 studies (http://www.naturalnews.com/025852_a…) — most of which were widely quoted by other doctors to push dangerous pills onto children. Also in 2009, Pfizer actually admitted to committing felony crimes over its marketing of Bextra (http://www.naturalnews.com/026963_P…).

Merck was found to have created a “hit list” of doctors targeted for destruction — doctors who were speaking out against the safety of the company’s drugs (http://www.naturalnews.com/027116_M…). The company was also busted over its hiding of data about the dangers of Vioxx (http://www.naturalnews.com/027582_M…).

Not to be out-frauded by Merck, Pfizer paid a record $1.3 billion fine in 2009 for intentionally misbranding its drugs (http://www.naturalnews.com/027276_P…).

Similarly, the Dept. of Health and Human Services was caught backing a medical device “review board” that was actually led by a dead dog (http://www.naturalnews.com/025955_h…).

Big Pharma destroys the environment

Big Pharma was also caught destroying the environment throughout 2009. In India, for example, drug companies were caught dumping toxic pharmaceuticals into rivers (http://www.naturalnews.com/025415_w…).

Not surprisingly, lots of studies published in 2009 revealed that fish are contaminated with pharmaceutical chemicals (http://www.naturalnews.com/025933_p…).

Pharmaceuticals are even contaminated with chemicals themselves, we discovered. Some medications, for example, contain phthalates that “feminize” young boys (http://www.naturalnews.com/027514_p…).

Psych drugs and shootings

The psych drug industry received yet more bad news in 2009 as its drugs were shown to be even more dangerous than previously thought. ADHD drugs, in particular, were found to cause all sorts of bizarre side effects including making children hallucinate (http://www.naturalnews.com/025433_d…). Speaking of children, the FDA went out of its way to actually approve antipsychotic drugs for children (http://www.naturalnews.com/026429_h…), opening the doors to even more mass drugging of our nation’s youth.

Thanks to the psych drug industry, there were of course more shootings in 2009 (http://www.naturalnews.com/025826_a…) and more sudden deaths from Ritalin (http://www.naturalnews.com/026459_a…). Both the Orlando and the Ft. Hood shooters were also linked to psychiatric drugs (http://www.naturalnews.com/027425_d…).

Food dangers

2009 was also a huge year for findings about the contamination of the food supply. High Fructose Corn Syrup (”liquid Satan”) was found to be contaminated with mercury (http://www.naturalnews.com/025442_m…), and “natural” soy protein was found to be bathed in toxic hexane solvents (http://www.naturalnews.com/026303_h…).

Infant formula was routinely found to be dangerous to infants, including a finding that infant formula was contaminated with hexane (http://www.naturalnews.com/026315_h…). It was also revealed in 2009 that the USDA openly allows e.coli-contaminated meat to be sold as hamburgers (http://www.naturalnews.com/027414_d…). (They can also legally be made with beef from cows that are fed chicken feces.)

Also in 2009, the “Smart Choices” food labeling gimmick was revealed as a total fraud (http://www.naturalnews.com/027077_n…), discrediting Tufts University and its hilarious nutritionist who thinks processed sugary cereals are good for you.

Celebrity news

On the celebrity side, in 2009 Michael Phelps got caught smoking a bong (http://www.naturalnews.com/025489_s…), Oprah stirred up trouble by recommending KFC chicken dinners (http://www.naturalnews.com/026234_O…), Michael Jackson was killed by FDA-approved pharmaceuticals (http://www.naturalnews.com/026511_c…), and Patrick Swayze was killed by chemotherapy (http://www.naturalnews.com/027030_c…).

Actress Brittany Murphy was killed by “acute pharmaceutical toxicity” after taking a lethal combination of FDA-approved prescription drugs that nobody thought to test in combination (http://www.naturalnews.com/027781_B…).

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a very visible vaccine promoter, was also scrutinized for his financial relationship with a vaccine technology company that hilariously denied having anything to do with vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/027451_D…). NaturalNews readers conducted research on the company in question (SIGA Technologies) and found a huge amount of evidence linking the company to vaccines (including patents). (http://www.naturalnews.com/027483_S…)

On the bright side, I was fortunate to be able to conduct interviews with several courageous, outspoken celebrities including Jane Goodall (http://www.naturalnews.com/027714_J…) and Suzanne Somers (http://www.naturalnews.com/027526_S…).

Health freedom

Health freedom was under a major assault this year as sellers of raw milk found themselves targeted in state-run sting operations (http://www.naturalnews.com/027675_r…).

In order to try to enhance health freedom, I worked with the Life Extension Foundation (and other groups) to create the Health Revolution Petition (www.HealthRevolutionPetition.org), which offers a freedom-based health care reform system that restores health freedom and even would help save America from financial destruction by sharply reducing sick-care costs. It has so far been signed by over 35,000 people.

The H1N1 swine flu

Of course, no overview of 2009 would be complete without covering the Swine Flu scam and the ensuing mass vaccination con. We covered this in numerous articles: Why vaccines harm children (http://www.naturalnews.com/025595_v…), 10 things you’re not supposed to know about vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/026717_s…), and how tissue from diseased African monkeys is used to manufacture vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/026779_s…).

A leaked memo, never covered in the mainstream media, even revealed that the swine flu vaccine was linked to paralysis (http://www.naturalnews.com/026866_s…). It wasn’t long before the vaccine was linked to other dangerous side effects, too, and it eventually put one young athlete in a wheelchair (http://www.naturalnews.com/027473_G…).

The vaccine propaganda relied on a barrage of false and misleading statistics, so I published a popular story exposing the statistical fraud used to promote these vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/026955_s…).

Swine Flu propaganda was nothing short of astonishing in 2009, and part of that propaganda included information urging consumers to avoid using herbs, vitamins or natural products to protect themselves. Remarkably, even the Natural Products Association got in on the disinformation campaign (http://www.naturalnews.com/026215_n…). The mainstream media, of course, pushed the pro-vaccine hype to new levels by lying to their viewers and readers on a regular basis (http://www.naturalnews.com/027055_s…).

By mid-October, it was obvious that swine flu vaccines were outright quackery (http://www.naturalnews.com/027239_v…). Further supporting the idea that vaccines are based on total fraud, doctors, journalists and health authorities refused to answer ten commonsense questions about flu vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/027258_v…) — questions that remain unanswered today. And nobody — including the CDC or WHO — dared recommend vitamin D as a way for people to prevent swine flu infections (http://www.naturalnews.com/027385_V…).

The FDA did, however, allow Cocoa Krispies cereals to make claims for boosting immunity. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027387_C…)

At the same time, the public soon learned that the conventional drug being pushed for swine flu — Roche’s Tamiflu drug — was complete quackery too (http://www.naturalnews.com/027734_T…).

The fizzling out of H1N1 swine flu didn’t stop President Obama from declaring a national emergency by late October (http://www.naturalnews.com/027323_s…). This “emergency” was entirely fabricated, of course. The only real emergency taking place was the loss of money by drug companies who were unable to sell their swine flu vaccines as profitably as they had hoped.

Deadly Merck vaccines

On the vaccine front, Merck was under extreme fire for its Gardasil cervical cancer vaccines. We promoted a petition to investigate Gardasil-related deaths (http://www.naturalnews.com/025646_G…), and we published stories about young girls who died after receiving Merck vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/027151_c…). One girl suffered permanent brain damage after a Gardasil injection (http://www.naturalnews.com/027188_N…).

In October, 2009, a top Gardasil researcher went public with information warning about the dangers of the vaccine (http://www.naturalnews.com/027196_c…), but she immediately retracted her story after being pressured by… guess who?

By the end of 2009, it was revealed that long-time head of the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding, had been in discussions with Merck about taking the job of president of Merck’s vaccine division. She soon accepted that job and now works at Merck. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027789_D…)

This leap of such a high-profile government executive to a top position in Big Pharma underscored the ongoing “revolving door” between industry and government.

Making the vaccine topic even more convoluted in 2009, Baxter shipped vaccines materials containing live avian flu virus to 18 countries (http://www.naturalnews.com/025760_B…).

New information came out in 2009 about the link between autism and vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/027178_v…), and autism rates continued to skyrocket even while the conventional scientific community denied any and all links to pharmaceuticals or vaccines (http://www.naturalnews.com/027175_v…).

The mammogram scam exposed

2009 was also a terrible year for the mammogram industry, which found itself unable to hide the truth about its “detection” scam any longer. The world learned that mammograms cause cancer and actually harm more women than they help. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027742_m…)

Suzanne Somers bravely spoke out in an exclusive NaturalNews interview where she told the full truth about the dangers of mammograms and the fraud of the cancer industry (http://www.naturalnews.com/027526_S…).

The cancer industry, not surprisingly, still refuses to answer the 21 questions I posed in a widely-read article about the mammogram scam: http://www.naturalnews.com/027549_m…

The cancer industry was also pounded by new research showing that chemotherapy causes long-term neurological damage. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027600_c…)

Profiteering was a big theme in the cancer industry this year. One drug company announced it would start selling a new cancer drug that costs $30,000 a month (http://www.naturalnews.com/027705_c…).

CT scans and medical imaging procedures were also exposed in 2009 as Americans learned the truth about how dangerous they are to your health (http://www.naturalnews.com/025767_c…). It turns out that being subjected to multiple CT scans is a lot like standing in the blast radius of an atomic weapon (http://www.naturalnews.com/027648_C…).

Health care reform

The health care reform debate took a turn for the worse in 2009 as nutritionally illiterate lawmakers passed a health care reform bill that seemed designed to bankrupt America (http://www.naturalnews.com/026628_h…) and destroy U.S. jobs (http://www.naturalnews.com/026643_h…).

While there was lots of talk about how to reform health care, the entire debate turned out to be nothing but a scam to force Americans to buy into rip-off conventional medicine services and insurance scams. All the important conversations about real health care reform never took place (http://www.naturalnews.com/026887_h…).

The entire future of America looked rather bleak as accelerating national debt collided with increased sickness and disease. In assessing the situation, I published a widely-read article about the “New Mr. America” — diseased and bankrupt. (http://www.naturalnews.com/026693_d…)

Following that, I posted a highly popular special report called Nutrition Can Save America! in which I laid out a plan for saving America by unleashing the healing power of food and natural remedies across the population. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027569_n…)

AIDS myths exposed

2009 was also the year in which the AIDS myth was exposed by a breakthrough documentary called House of Numbers (http://www.naturalnews.com/027355_A…).

It turns out that conventional AIDS theories are based on complete hogwash, and all a person really needs to prevent AIDS is a strong, healthy immune system (http://www.naturalnews.com/027354_A…).

The legal front

In 2009, Big Pharma sought to win blanket immunity for all drugs, but the U.S. Supreme Court surprisingly shot down the idea (http://www.naturalnews.com/025778_S…).

Throughout 2009, the courts continued to order parents to poison their children with chemotherapy (http://www.naturalnews.com/026283_c…). Young cancer patient Daniel Hauser was poisoned (virtually at gunpoint) by chemotherapy doctors acting on court orders (http://www.naturalnews.com/026305_m…).

Technology and DRM

On the technology front, Amazon.com pulled a huge Big Brother event by remotely deleting copies of the book 1984 from users’ Kindle devices. NaturalNews responded by calling for a boycott on the Kindle (http://www.naturalnews.com/026804_D…).

We’ve since learned that the Kindle’s security has been hacked, allowing users to copy off all their Amazon Kindle books as PDF files (yet another victory for the hackers over Big Brother).

Subatomic physics and the search for the God particle

In the realm of subatomic physics, 2009 was the year that people really started talking about the new Large Hadron Collider (a supercollider) and the search for the Higgs Boson particle. I wrote several important commentary pieces on this topic, explaining why there’s no such thing as a Higgs Boson “particle” (http://www.naturalnews.com/025486_H…),

Also in the realm of science, 2009 was the year that U.S. Navy researchers finally admitted that cold fusion is, indeed, quite real, reversing decades of denials about this “free” energy technology which has been suppressed since 1989 (http://www.naturalnews.com/025925_c…).

Wake up, people!

In 2009, I also tried to educate people about the linguistic trickery used by modern medicine (http://www.naturalnews.com/025396_d…), but this topic turned out to be far too advanced and not many people “got it.” This led to the publication of a very popular article asking why smart people are so stupid when it comes to issues like vaccines, nutrition and vitamin D (http://www.naturalnews.com/026843_h…).

In an effort to try to share natural health knowledge with the world, I personally built and launched the world’s largest online encyclopedia of quotes from natural health authors, called NaturalPedia (http://www.naturalnews.com/026902_N…).

Positive news

Also on the good side, our non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (www.ConsumerWellness.org) handed out numerous grants to schools and education centers around the world that invested the money in teaching children (and some adults) about gardening, self-care, healing foods and more. Here are links to some of the awards we gave out:
http://www.naturalnews.com/025235_f…
http://www.naturalnews.com/025391_n…

And here are a few of the success stories from this grant effort:
http://consumerwellness.org/GrantSu…

Natural remedies revealed in 2009

We covered lots of news about natural remedies in 2009. Here are just a few of the ones we published on NaturalNews.com:

* Grapeseed extract kills leukemia cancer cells
http://www.naturalnews.com/025248_c…

* Vitamin D halts growth of breast cancer tumors (http://www.naturalnews.com/025495_c…)

* Blueberries lower cholesterol (http://www.naturalnews.com/025866_b…)

* Resveratrol prevents cancer and heart disease
http://www.naturalnews.com/025977_r…

* Astaxanthin is a natural anti-inflammatory nutrient
http://www.naturalnews.com/026325_a…

* Natural anti-viral remedies can protect you from swine flu
http://www.naturalnews.com/026378_a…

* Yellow pea protein lowers blood pressure
http://www.naturalnews.com/026406_b…

* Vitamin D lowers health care costs
http://www.naturalnews.com/026770_V…

* Selenium helps prevent cancer
http://www.naturalnews.com/027158_s…

* Cinnamon helps prevent diabetes
http://www.naturalnews.com/027168_c…

* Garlic treats high blood pressure
http://www.naturalnews.com/027195_g…

* Chaparral treats cancer
http://www.naturalnews.com/027247_c…

* Omega-3 oils beat depression
http://www.naturalnews.com/027285_o…

* Oregano oil eliminates parasites
http://www.naturalnews.com/027333_p…

* Magnesium prevents heart disease
http://www.naturalnews.com/027392_m…

* Cabbage stops stomach ulcers
http://www.naturalnews.com/027454_c…

* Acupuncture reverses infertility
http://www.naturalnews.com/027467_a…

* Colloidal silver works better than antibiotics
http://www.naturalnews.com/027474_c…

* Green tea prevents brain disorders
http://www.naturalnews.com/027757_g…

2009 in summary

Well, there you have it! Those are the highlights of what NaturalNews covered in 2009. It was a year of outrageous quackery, FDA tyranny, censorship and criminal acts on the part of the pharmaceutical industry.

At the same time, it was also a year when more people finally woke up to the dangers of mammograms and CT scans. NaturalNews readership climbed substantially through 2009 as more people got turned on to the truth about natural remedies and the healing power of nutrition.

The FDA and Big Pharma is now increasingly under fire as a result of the events of 2009, and I suspect that in 2010 and beyond, the pharmaceutical industry is going to find itself under increasing scrutiny as more and more of its criminal operations are exposed.

But don’t expect the mainstream media to have anything to do with that. All the really smart reporting is now happening on blogs and independent news sites. The mainstream media continues to play its “Truman Show” game of broadcasting a fictional reality to the people, hoping no one will notice what’s really going on.

Thank you for reading NaturalNews in 2009, and we have a lot more in store for you in 2010 and beyond! With your help, perhaps we can see some real breakthroughs in health freedom in 2010. One day, we might even get to witness the arrest and criminal prosecution of Big Pharma’s top executives who are guilty of crimes against humanity for continuing to wage chemical warfare against the people (while poisoning the environment at the same time).

Big Pharma paid $500,000 to Chicago psychiatrists who used children as guinea pigs

December 27, 2009

E. Huff
Natural News
Friday, Dec 18th, 2009

A federal lawsuit has been filed against pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for its role in paying Chicago psychiatrist Dr. Michael Reinstein nearly $500,000 over the course of a decade to conduct research and to promote its anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel. Reinstein is being accused of wrongfully preying on thousands of mentally-ill patients in order to rake in profits for AstraZeneca.

Reinstein has a long history of working with AstraZeneca, receiving regular payments for speeches he would make across the country promoting the drug. AstraZeneca was also paying a for-profit research company, Uptown Research Institute, who in turn was paying Reinstein consulting fees for his services.

Cited in the lawsuit was the fact that Reinstein would continually prescribe roughly double the amount of drugs other psychiatrists would prescribe for the same conditions. When patients would report their pain and suffering due to the tremendous side effects of such drugs and their abnormally high dosages, Reinstein would largely ignore their concerns.

Other accusations include illegitimately prescribing Seroquel for various other conditions, including losing weight, despite the fact that studies show the drug actually causes weight gain. Reinstein was found to have made numerous false claims about Seroquel in promotional material, claims that would result in the destruction of people’s lives and health.

When all was said and done, more than 1,000 patients a year received Seroquel prescriptions from Reinstein at a cost of $7.6 million to taxpayers. It is unknown how many billions of dollars AstraZeneca has made from the widespread efforts of Reinstein in promoting the drug nationwide for all those years.

Despite all of his wrongdoings, Reinstein is not even a defendant in the case. AstraZeneca, the perpetrator which funded Reinstein, is the defendant in the lawsuit. While both Reinstein and AstraZeneca appear guilty of unethical and illegal behavior, AstraZeneca is rightfully bearing the brunt as it knowingly continued to fund Reinstein and rake in the profits of his misconduct.

The case brings up an important issue that plagues the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical money trail is never transparent, leading to questionable study results and improper marketing tactics. There is no accountability in the drug sector and this entire segment of the economy seems to be driven by deception and greed. Until people begin to demand restitution, the corruption will continue.

As We Say in Brooklyn – “Not For Nuttin'”

November 7, 2009

Doc here: Just a little aside from my usual focus on the Immunization debacle. With the very recent tragedy in Fort Hood the other day – I felt compelled to get these videos out there again. Don’t be surprised to find that the accused shooter – a psychiatrist – was on some type of psychotropic drug himself. When this is found to be the case – forget all about the so-called Muslim connection. Don’t let the government turn this into another ‘terrorist’ action that it can use to justify yet ‘another war’ – this time – Iran! And – even more importantly – if you or anyone you know is on one of these ‘killer’ drugs – GET OFF THEM NOW!!!! Don’t put yourself in a position of becoming another psychotropic drug statistic failure. There are alternatives available. Comments???