I just read a blog entry titled “Disposeable soldiers“.  It’s one of those things that wakes you up and makes you ask “Can this really be happening?”.  The pathetic answer is “Yes, It can.”

According to an investigation reported on Good Morning America The Veterans Administration is up to it’s eyeballs in a scandal involving testing drugs on war veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The case that’s blowing the lid off of this mess involved James Elliott, a former US Army sniper.  You’d think that suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be enough to deal with.

Three years after he was diagnosed with PTSD he was recruited to take part in an anti-smoking study involving the drug Chantix for $30 a month.  Some months after he started taking it he suffered a return of Iraq combat nightmares and stopped sleeping.

That was only the beginning.  He also suffered from a whole range of side effects of the drug in the form of “Neuropsychiatric behavior” which includes “anxiety, nervousness, tension, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted and completed suicide.”

One day after having a few beers he “snapped” and went out with his gun, daring the cops to shoot him.  Police stopped him with a tazer.  Three weeks later the VA informs veterans in the Chantix study about the side effects of the drug.  Information that they had for three months.

The part that should have heads rolling is the fact that the VA knew about the side effects of Chantix weeks earlier.  There had even been an FDA warning (pdf) about it.

The VA claims it did all that it could and acted as fast as it could.  Dr. Miles McFall, co-administrator of the VA study was quoted as saying “This didn’t justify an emergency warning at that level” What’s really mind numbingly stupid is the fact that the VA has no intentions of stopping the Chantix experiments.  Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania said he was stunned by the VA’s decision to continue the Chantix experiment as well we all should be.

On the same level of “anything in the name of profits”, Pfizer, the company that makes Chantix says that “the benefits of Chantix outweigh the risks”.

I’ll grant that quitting smoking is a good idea.  I’ve done it myself and anyone who smokes is doing themselves and everyone around them a favor by quitting.  However I cannot understand why it would be considered worth the chance of becoming suicidal or having other dangerous psychopathic symptoms.

Simply put, the VA needs to be forced to stop the Chantix testing, be held accountable for the damage caused by it and pay for the treatment the test subjects are going to need to return to a normal life.

Then there’s Pfizer.  As soon as it was discovered that Chantix had these side effects the stuff should have been scrapped, production and testing halted, and all stock of the drug destroyed.  The FDA should have required all of this as soon as it knew about the side effects.  But of course, therein lies the problem.

The FDA is, for all intents and purposes, in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies that it’s supposed to be regulating.  It relies on them to provide test results of the products that they want approved when the testing should be done by an independent entity that owes no allegiance to any pharmaceutical companies and stands to gain or lose nothing from the results of the testing.  Perhaps then that testing could become reliable.

In the meantime, there’s something like 140 veterans out there still taking Chantix and the VA has no intention to stop the testing.  Sure looks to me like maybe Pfizer is running the VA.  Several things need to happen to fix this mess.

First up, this testing has to stop immediately.

Second, all VA drug testing programs need to be re-evaluated and I’m thinking that most of them would be better off scrapped.

Thirdly, The VA owes an apology to the veterans that it has used, abused, and treated like guinea pigs and lab rats.

Fourth, several high ranking people in the VA need to be fired and perhaps prosecuted.

Technorati Tags: suicide, suicidal thoughts, drug testing, iraq war, stop smoking, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, veterans, Chantix, vets, Neuropsychiatric behavior, shell shock, side effects, afghanistan war, James Elliot, veterans administration, disposable heros, good morning america, PTSD

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