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Wednesday 7 March 2018

Acomplia. What happens to all the 'Wonder Drugs' and 'Miracle Cures' of conventional medicine?

Two quite distinct things can usually be guaranteed about conventional medicine.
  1. Medical science will regularly tell us about new wonder treatments, new miracle cures, that will transform the treatment of this or that disease - in a few years time.
  2. The rates and incidence of every chronic disease rises to epidemic levels, on a regular basis, and there is a crisis in its ability to cope with these levels of sickness.
They are, of course, mutually exclusive. If the first comes to fruition the second will not materialise. If the second materialises, the first cannot be true.

So let's look at one of these wonder drugs - Acomplia. Acomplia, or Rimonabant, is an obesity drug that works by reducing people's appetite for food. The Guardian confirmed in an article (mentioned again below) that the drug "was hailed as a wonder drug after the first bursts of publicity from its French manufacturer, Sanofi Aventis, because it not only promoted weight loss but was also said to help people stop smoking."

Patient hopes raised, then dashed!

In June 2007 the magazine, What Doctor's Don't Tell Us (WDDTY) outlined evidence that this drug, hailed as a new 'wonder' drug when it got a licence in Europe in June 2006, increased the risk of suicide. It said that the drug 'sailed through' the approval process in Europe, had been used in the UK for a year, whilst at the same time the FDA in the USA had not approved the drug.

Acomplia (called Zimulti in the USA) was hailed as a 'miracle drug for people who were seriously overweight. The WDDTY article said that one study discovered that one-third of people on the drug lost 10% of their body weight, and 60% lost a less impressive 5%. Apparently, what the study did not say was that everyone in the trial was also on a low-calorie diet, and virtually everyone put the weight back on once they stopped taking the drug.

The Guardian caught up with this story on 25th June 2008 ("Weight-loss drug banned in US gets NHS go-ahead"). It said that the drug, refused a licence in the US because of fears over depression (as well as suicide) had been approved by NICE for use in England and Wales - if only for severely overweight people. It said that a study published in the Lancet in November 2007 showed that patients on the drugs were 40% more likely to suffer mental health problems than those taking placebos. A NICE spokesman is quoted as saying

               "It is out there and it is being used. What we have done is put it in the context of how and when it should be used. It is very much last line."

So a new 'wonder drug' was reduced to a 'a last line' within two short years! The Telegraph also published the story on 25 June 2008, but did not mention that the drug had not been approved in the USA. It did say, however, that

               "In 2006 more than one million prescriptions were written for obesity drugs at a cost of £47.7m and this is expected to rise as a result of the new guidance. Doctors and campaigners welcomed the move saying it will improve the health of thousands of people".

Patient hopes raised, pharmaceutical profits raised!

Finally, and incredibly within 4 months of NICE clearing Acompia, and just over two years of being hailed a "wonder drug", it was withdrawn. The Daily Mail (24 October 2008) said that its use had been suspended "over concerns that it may be linked to suicide and sudden death". It said that 100,000 Britons had used the drug, and that 2.500 adverse reactions had been reported.

Patient hopes raised, but they suffer further health damage as a result!

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) commented that the drug had proved less effective in 'real life' than in clinical trials. Patient hopes raised in the 'science' laboratory but dashed in real life. So it had been decided to suspend the licence for Acomplia as:

               "New data from post-marketing experience and ongoing clinical trials indicated that serious psychiatric disorders may be more common than in the clinical trials".

So Acomplia demonstrates better than most pharmaceutical drugs the many aspects of the hopelessness of medical science and drug regulation, which in the interests of selling drugs raise hopes, but lead only to further patient damage.
  • The NHS resorts to a drug for a condition that would be better treated via life-style and dietary treatment.
  • The drug is significantly less effective than the trials (the medical 'science' funded by the pharmaceutical industry) suggested.
  • The full side effects of the drug remain unknown through all the 'scientific' drug testing, the regulator process, the licensing, and the prescription of the drug.
  • The side effects turn out to be considerably more serious than the original condition or illness.
  • And a drug thought to be unsafe in one country (the USA in this case) is considered to be perfectly 'safe' in others (indeed, most of Europe) - before it is withdrawn there too.
There is no such thing as a wonder drug, or a miracle cure, there never has been, and there probably never will be (on the basis that future performance is best predicted by past performance). So the next time the mainstream media, or your doctor tells you about a remarkable new treatment - run a mile, very, very quickly!