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What you read on a drug's label may not be the full story

Assistance and Advice signsDo you remember Vioxx? This medication from drug maker Merck was on the market for several years as the great new fix for arthritis, menstrual, and acute pain.

But Vioxx started to be linked to thousands of heart attacks, strokes and deaths. Merck denied any problems with the medication until two different studies at last forced it to pull Vioxx off the market in September 2004.

Or what about Celebrex? Like Vioxx, it is a “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug” or NSAID. It’s marketed for the same uses. It too, has come under fire due to studies that suggest an increased risk of heart attack and stroke from use. In August, drug maker Pfizer paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle a shareholder class-action lawsuit that alleged it had concealed safety risks associated with Celebrex and another one of its pain medications, Bextra.

The Pfizer suit accused the drug maker of concealing test results dating as far back as 1998 that raised red flags about the safety risks of these two drugs. Bextra was pulled from the market after the Vioxx recall, but Celebrex is still available.

One of the latest class of medications to come under fire for their side effects are the statins used to reduce blood cholesterol levels. These include brands like Lipitor, Mevacor, and Crestor.

And we’ve written before about the risks of liver damage from over use of acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol and found in cold remedies like Sinutab and Contact Complete.

Negative research is regularly not published

Suppressing or at least neglecting to publish negative test and trial results is all too common. The CBC recently published a story about how Canadian universities and research hospitals are among the worst offenders. They aren’t necessarily deceiving consumers by intent, it just hasn’t been a priority to publish results that are negative or at least deemed “uninteresting.”

Researchers at the University of Oxford recently studied the data from TrialsTracker. This online tool identifies trials from the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s database that haven’t published results two years after the end of a trial.

According to the CBC, the Oxford team found that half of all registered clinical trials fail to publish their results, and studies with negative or non-significant results are twice as likely to be unpublished.

But we as consumers need to know, so we can make informed decisions about what we put in our bodies. Knowledge is power.

Don’t be deceived by a false sense of safety – take action

The important lesson to take from these examples is that you can’t always take at face value what a manufacturer says about their drug. Financial considerations can cloud an ethical responsibility to come clean about the downside of a medication that may have taken huge sums of money to develop. In other instances, trial data simply goes unreported because researchers have no incentive or sense of urgency to report it.

What can you do?

Start by considering how you can avoid using a drug in the first place, or at least for the long term. Take action to improve your health – exercise, eat better, consider non-invasive forms of treatment that can reduce or eliminate your need to rely on a medication like Chiropractic care.

As we have said before, when it comes to pain, pills only mask the problem. They don’t address its root cause.

If you have a problem, come see if we can help. If it’s another lifestyle issue related to your weight, diet, or level of physical activity, we can refer you to other health and wellness practitioners in the Kanata area that we have come to trust.

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