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Before I went to work this morning I caught the end of a segment on CNBC that had two people debating the FDA and pharmaceutical industry. One of the participants was Dr. Peter Lurie, M.D., Deputy Director, Public Citizen's Health Research Group — and what he said made me almost incoherently angry.
It's several hours later now, so I've calmed down enough to attempt to respond rationally to this arrogant lunatic. (Ah, it would seem I'm still a little worked up about it…) Here's a transcript of the relevant portion of the debate; you can also watch the video:
I go apoplectic at comments like "Vioxx was never any better than aspirin" and "those doctors are wrong" because this is personal, this is family. My sister took Vioxx before it was withdrawn and it has been hell trying to find a suitable alternative. Dr. Lurie's insistence that aspirin is a substitute for Vioxx, even after being reminded that some people can't take aspirin, is a shocking position for a medical doctor to take.
(It's also revealing that Dr. Lurie backpedaled twice during his comments — first about heart attacks and then then about clinical trial data. Did he keep suddenly remembering he's on television, and not safely preaching to his choir?)
Here's an addendum to the earlier article my sister wrote, explaining what happened with the additional medications she's had the "opportunity" to try since Vioxx was pulled:
There are a lot of pain relief medications, sure. But that doesn't mean they're interchangeable. Some people can't take certain drugs, and the fact that my sister has had to take pain medications for most of her life has given her an unusually long time to develop resistance or an allergy to particular drugs and to whole classes of drugs.
If a new drug provides "the same benefit" through different chemistry, that is an improvement. If a new drug provides "the same benefit" while reducing side effects, that is an improvement. If a new drug provides "the same benefit" through a different form of application (e.g. oral instead of injected, or topical instead of oral), that is an improvement. If a new drug proves "the same benefit" while reducing dosing frequency, that is an improvement.
All the differences between drugs that Dr. Lurie, M.D. is so quick to dismiss are important. This is a matter of life and death, and someone with a title like Deputy Director of the Public Citizen's Health Research Group should behave like he cares about the people he pretends to represent.