And I thought it was Ozzy’s fault

After giving all of you a literal dose of humor and hyperbole the last couple days, it’s time to get back to some serious issues. (I could hear the groans from here.)

This news item caught my interest because I happen to be a user of Singulair, between that and Advair I no longer suffer ill effects from the asthma that’s plagued me from time to time in my life. Some others may not have felt their life was worth continuing after taking the medication though:

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is investigating a possible link between Merck’s best-selling Singulair and suicide.

FDA said it is reviewing a handful of reports involving mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the popular allergy and asthma drug.

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Merck has updated the drug’s labeling four times in the past year to include information on a range of reported side effects: tremors, anxiousness, depression and suicidal behavior.

FDA said it asked the Whitehouse, N.J.-based company to dig deeper into its data on Singulair for evidence of possible links to suicide. The agency said it has not established a “causal relationship” between Merck’s drug and suicidal behavior. An agency spokeswoman said the review was prompted by three to four suicide reports it received since last October. (Emphasis in original.)

Seems like a good place to put the fold, so I will.

And wouldn’t you know it, after I talked about owning shares in Exxon/Mobil the other day, I also own a handful of Merck shares too. Apparently I’m a financial Typhoid Michael, but I digress. These are some pretty serious charges to be laid down without so much as a clinical trial for proof. It falls into the same category as carrots cause suicide because these “three to four” people who committed suicide also ate carrots within the last year.

Within three months, something tells me that I’ll be watching TV and some law firm will be advertising the class-action lawsuit against Merck: “Has someone in your family committed suicide while they were taking the asthma drug Singulair? You could be part of a large cash settlement…” Merck’s already been tangled in courts over Vioxx, another medication I took briefly with no ill effects.

Trial lawyers love drug companies because the media for years has encouraged Americans to have a Pavlovian response of hatred for Big Pharma. In almost any legal case, the drug manufacturers have to play from a tremendous disadvantage because trial lawyers can easily whip up sympathy for victims while convincing juries that these drug companies which have all kinds of money to purchase commercial time on network television for their newest wonder drug are too greedy to give the plaintiff a fair settlement and should be slammed with punitive damages too.

Certainly drugs can be expensive. While the co-pay for my three-month supply of Singulair runs $50, the actual retail price is $419. But how many employees, scientists, and test subjects did Merck pay during the years of study and trials to make sure Singulair worked effectively and was safe? (Yes, you can be paid to be a guinea pig for clinical trials, and it’s a nice chunk of change.) Singulair happened to be a hit but there’s countless misses out there, drugs you never heard of because they failed at clinical trials or couldn’t be mass-produced effectively.

It’s just another example of mass hysteria over a product that’s been proven effective and safe, probably to set up more political pressure to do something about the drug companies. If you’re like me and take Singulair daily, keep it up. I expect you’ll be back tomorrow to read what I have to say then.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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