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January 9, 2005 - The New York Daily News (NY)

Scariest Drugs Are Legal Ones

By Denis Hamill

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

In 1969, as a hippie kid at Woodstock, I sat in the mud with a score of Brooklyn pilgrims from Prospect Park's Hippie Hill listening to festival organizers shouting over the loudspeakers to the 400,000 zonked-out druggies, "Beware of the brown acid, man! If you've dropped the bad brown acid, report immediately to the medical tent, man!"

And the stampede was on.

Judging by recent events, you get more truth from drug culture than pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration.

On three separate holiday-related occasions, I was sitting around gabbing with friends in Brooklyn and Queens and one of the first topics to arise was the reluctant revelations by the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies that they are literally killing us by the tens of thousands with these deadly prescription drugs they are hawking with less conscience than streetcorner dope pushers.

One young woman had taken Accutane, which we now learn may cause liver damage and birth defects as well as promoting suicide. But, hey, it gets rid of acne!

I spoke with one guy who has been on Prozac for years for his depression, only to learn that Prozac promotes violence toward others and suicidal tendencies - an anti-depressant that sends people to roof ledges to ask, "To be or not to be?"

Eli Lilly and Co. had data to this effect for 15 pill-pushing years, told the FDA, and they both kept it as secret as the books of a Colombian cocaine cartel.

When the tsunami body count in Asia reached about 140,000, it was revealed that Vioxx had caused some 139,000 heart attacks. It also was revealed that Celebrex and Bextra might make the ticker stop, but hey, your corpse might have fewer colon polyps.


We're trying to locate some 4,000 Americans missing in the aftermath of the tsunami, but we might find just as many in the parking lots of drugstores.

When I hung out on Hippie Hill in the late 1960s, the drug dealers of that open-air pharmacy had more honor. Goofballs went for three for a buck. Last week, it cost me $50 to renew my prescription for 30 anti-allergy Zyrtec pills. That's about a buck and a half a pill to keep me from sneezing around my cats. And I didn't even get a buzz out of it to ease the pain.

And speaking of pain, if you've been gobbling painkillers to treat the headache all this deadly news is causing, be warned that more than 70% of patients who take painkillers such as Ibuprofen damage their small intestines.

And if this gives you insomnia, and you're taking Ambien, the most popular legal goofball on the market, fuhgeddaboudit! It causes amnesia. It's been reported that people who take Ambien at night can't remember their final waking hours the next morning, and so we've created a nation of zombies, like Ed Norton sleepwalking into Ralph Kramden's apartment at night to raid the fridge.

I'm telling you, drug dealers like Tony Montana, as portrayed by Al Pacino in "Scarface," have more honor.

It's not an unfair comparison. Listen, under pressure from the all-powerful pharmaceutical lobby that spends about $150 million a year in Washington, the FDA accelerated the crystal meth "speed" epidemic in the country by deregulating two chemicals - pseudoephedrine and ephedrine - that are crucial to brewing this poison.

But what the hell do you expect when that lobby, called Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, hires retiring Louisiana Republican U.S. Congressman Billy Tauzin as its new $2-million-a-year president? In his last election, this good ole boy took $91,500 in campaign contributions from drug companies, then authored the new Medicare bill that is a windfall to the pharmaceutical industry.

A cynic might even suspect that the untold thousands of old people killed by these deadly prescription drugs under this plan might be just what the doctor ordered to save Social Security.

Tauzin is barred from lobbying Congress for a year, but he can legally tell underlings who to see and what to say on Capitol Hill, and he can make campaign contributions, attend fund-raisers and schmooze with old congressional cronies. Part of his job is to push new and dangerous drugs for FDA approval and downplay the killer side effects of drugs like Vioxx, Accutane, Prozac, Celebrex.

He also will be leading the charge in favor of tort reform so that the estates of people who are killed by these legal dope dealers in the pharmaceutical industry cannot sue.

There is not yet a pill to correct these governmental ills. And this being Washington, not Woodstock, do not expect Tauzin to warn American citizens who took the brown acid to report to the medical tent.

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