What’s Ailing America? There is a Drug For That!

I am running the risk of this blog becoming a running commentary on the state of medicine in the US, but this article from Mother Jones at least is peripherally related to food issues.

Doctors Are Prescribing Amphetamines for Binge Eating

Did you know that there is a mental disorder called “Binge Eating Disorder?” Perhaps you didn’t realize it because it is a brand new disorder, appearing in the DSM only in 2013. The new disorder is getting lots of publicity because now there is a drug to prescribe for it, Vyvanse, manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Shire. Vyvanse is the only drug that is currently marketed for this ‘disorder’, and the company is widely publicizing the news that you might just have this–therefore ask your doctor about Vyvanse.

…Shire, a pharmaceutical company that, in January, won FDA approval to market a drug called Vyvanse to treat BED. Vyvanse is a Schedule II federally controlled substance—meaning that it’s acceptable for medical use but has high potential for abuse—and it’s the only drug that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for BED. Last year, Shire spent over $2.5 million on raising awareness among doctors about BED; by 2020, the company expects Vyvanse prescribed for BED to bring in 200 to 300 million dollars per year.

It is a common marketing ploy…develop a drug, then invent a syndrome that it is necessary to take it for. This drug is an amphetamine.

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So what is BED?

BINGE EATING DISORDER was first described in 1990 by a psychiatrist named Robert Spitzer. At a meeting to discuss which diagnoses should be included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the bible of the mental health field that classifies each recognized mental illness and its symptoms—he noted that some patients regularly binged, but didn’t fall into the category of bulimia because they didn’t purge. Over the next two years, Spitzer led a landmark study finding the practice of uncontrollable, distress-inducing binges to be a common, untreated problem among individuals participating in weight loss programs—one that some binge eaters likened to an addiction. The evidence led the DSM committee to include BED, defined as binges featuring “impaired control” at least twice a week for at least six months, as a disorder that was “not otherwise specified.”

How big a problem is this? Is it even a real problem? According to the people that make the new drugs it is a problem so severe that they applied for emergency approval of their product.

In January of this year, Shire’s application to the FDA went through an expedited approval process without the usual consultation from an outside advisory board; an FDA spokesman told me this was because Vyvanse had already been approved for ADHD, and there was no existing treatment for BED. The application was based on two studies, both similar in content to the first, and both led by scientists who, between 2013 and 2014, received a combined $60,000 in consulting and travel fees from Shire. A company spokesperson told me that the studies were controlled and double-blinded, and Shire does not “believe the results were in any way compromised.”

Your government is all about speedy relief. The FDA quickly approved this drug because of the lack of drugs for this newly invented disorder. We deserve this kind of rapid action from our regulators, don’t you think? If there are any problems with this drug they will be discovered when large quantities of US citizens begin really testing it for problems.

I have a real problem with the FDA. If you are a long time reader you will know that the Food part of the FDA ‘approves’ every new food additive invented by food manufacturers. They don’t test anything for safety, they let industry do it and report the results. There are no second checks on this approval process. They have even allowed unapproved ingredients into foods and supplements because there were ‘no known’ safety issues. Let the customers test these ingredients for safety. Meanwhile we live our lives innocently assuming that if it is being sold it must be safe. Having a crappy regulator is worse than having no regulator at all. It gives the public a false sense of security. If you knew how little is checked you would know that you should do all of your own checking.

Or, you start boycotting all processed foods, supplements, and drugs the way that I currently do. The only safe processed food, IMHO, is the one you leave on the supermarket shelf. It is not so hard to live on foods you make yourself out of ingredients you can recognize as food. If you have to open a box or bag or bottle to get at the ‘food’ it contains, you are literally placing your health at risk.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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