FDA issues warning over asthma drugs

By Calvin Palmer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today called for warnings on some asthma drugs, saying they should not be used without other asthma controllers.

Four long-acting beta-agonists – Foradil, Serevent, Advair and Symbicort – can increase the risk that asthma symptoms will worsen and lead to hospitalizations and even death.

While these drugs are helpful for some patients, the way they act may also mask symptoms that can trigger serious asthma attacks.

The FDA ordered new warning labels, saying the drugs should be used for the shortest possible duration and only in conjunction with other medications such as inhaled corticosteroids.

These four drugs are produced by major pharmaceutical companies — GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Glaxo and Novartis – who have also been instructed to carry out further studies about the use of long-acting beta-agonists in combination with inhaled corticosteroids.

It would appear that drugs posing a major risk have once again been thrust on unsuspecting patients via the pharmaceutical companies’ partners in crime – doctors.

As a reasonably intelligent layperson, I have to ask whether doctors for all their god-like status really have a clue as to what is going on all of the time. Why is it that they seem so quick to jump into bed with drug companies to push the latest wonder medications?

After the recent Viox and hormone replacement therapy scandals, it seems drug companies, and to a lesser extent the regulatory bodies, are so eager to get drugs to market that thorough testing does not seem to be all should be.

The drug companies spend millions of dollars each year on TV advertising, telling us all to ask our doctor about using such and such a drug. It seems to me that money would be better spent on ensuring that these drugs are completely safe.

Perhaps the public is to blame and the drug companies are only acting to comply with the public’s desire for drugs to fix every complaint and fix them now.

Science having raised public expectations to provide solutions to problems cannot always be trusted to deliver.

Warnings like those issued by the FDA further tarnish the reputation of science, already diminished as a consequence of all the junk science that sets out to prove someone’s pet dislike.

Those scientists engaged in junk science to try and substantiate alleged health risks, such as those from second-hand and third-hand cigarette smoke would be better employed testing drugs that provide real benefit to people, to ensure those benefits are free from life-threatening risks.

But where is the sense of power and control of people’s lives in that?

[Based on reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.]

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