PHARMA/POLICY/POLITICS: The FDA remains in tatters

It’s time to dip into the murky waters of the FDA once more. This is a classic tale of politics intruding into an agency that should have science as its prime motivator. Here’s the story summarized so far.

The FDA has barely had a full time official commissioner since the start of the Bush Administration. Mark McClellan was officially head for a brief while in 2003, but he barely had time to look embarrassed on 60 Minutes when asked why Canadian drugs weren’t safe enough for Americans before he nipped off to the rather more rarefied atmosphere of CMS — where he’s much better suited.

Meanwhile before, after (and basically during) McClellan’s time at FDA, the acting commissioner has been Lester Crawford. Some cynics have noticed that there are a few clouds over Crawford. He was involved in some pretty close to the wind activities when he was in charge of Food Safety (ironically this weekend, there’s more suspicion about the Administration covering up a second case of Mad Cow).  But more recently there’s been much fuss over both his personal affairs (i.e. was he or wasn’t he abusing his power to forward the career of a female colleague with whom he was having a close relationship) and, much more importantly, about his being behind the non-approval of Barr Labs’ Plan B emergency contraceptive.

Robert Steeves has written convincingly on Why Plan B went down.  Essentially Crawford overruled a scientific committee which voted overwhelmingly that Plan B (an emergency morning-after contraceptive) was safe and effective.  So it won’t go on the market. Of course, any time you hear anything to do with "safety" in reproductive health care in this country, your ears should prick up. There are allegations that information was withheld from the Senate Panel investigating this. Whether that’s true or not, David Hager the physician who apparently has Crawford’s ear and was a one of the few dissenters on the panel, appears to be a certifiable loon. Yup, he attributes all his research skills and influence to God and is not shy about telling the world about it.  However, his ex-wife is not shy about telling the rest of the world about Hager’s at the least inhumane and at most criminal treatment of her — including paying her (at first) and then forcing her into types of sex that many on the Christian right probably think of as against God’s law and should be banned (although they all probably indulge in private…OK that’s my last direct slam on the Fundamentalists in this piece).

At any rate, it’s good to know that the future of contraception in this country is in such stable and rational hands. And overall of course the whole thing is a payback from Crawford to the Christian right for supporting his appointment. 

As a result, three Democrats on the panel are going to hold up Senate confirmation of his nomination even though it got out of committee — even with Ted Kennedy supporting him. (Kennedy says that FDA needs a leader of some kind to remove uncertainty). The real joke is that one of those delaying his vote is an even more extreme member of the Christian right, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (ironically like Hager another ObGYN obsessed with sex, although in his case it’s rampant schoolgirl lesbianism) who thinks that the FDA should be printing warning labels on condoms because they aren’t effective enough preventing disease (and of course Coburn probably thinks that people shouldn’t be having sex anyway).

This might all be fun and games in an inside baseball kind of way if the issues at hand weren’t so damn important. Since the Vioxx scandal there is no trust of anything the FDA says about drug safety, and it’s fairly clear that the FDA leadership at least has basically been in PhRMA’s pocket. We’re now even getting whiff of a bigger scandal about the contentious link between mercury and autism. I won’t even pretend to look at the science behind that, but it’s safe to say that the Robert Kennedy article that has reignited this fuss wouldn’t have had nearly so much press if the FDA commanded more respect, and if the allegations that it covered up studies on behalf of the pharma industry — as essentially it did in the cases of Vioxx and Celebrex — weren’t so believable.

The final piece of the puzzle rest with now famed FDA whistleblower David Graham. With maverick Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in his corner, he is taking aim at the newly appointed FDA safety panel. Essentially, instead of creating an external review board with the power to pull drugs from the market, the FDA has created an internal panel to which insiders like Crawford control all the appointments. FDA needs to be seen to be scientific and neutral, but that’s not happening. For example, the advisory panel that voted to continue sales of Celebrex and narrowly voted to allow Vioxx to return to market was shown to be filled with scientists with drug company ties, and that when they were excluded the tallied votes would have been very different. This may be what big pharma thinks it wants, but it’s not what is good for the country or for that matter for the future of big pharma. We need an FDA that is beyond reproach or politics.

Instead we have a series of government agencies, with the FDA being a prime example, where whistleblowers are needed to maintain standards of honesty and dignity; something our Dear Leader said he was going to bring back to the White House (ha, ha). And the whistleblowers are being treated pretty badly, even if they do have the protection of an influential Senator.  (If you want more look at this article and editorial from PLoS about the treatment of whistleblowers)

Given that there are other Presidential appointments in deep trouble, and that a Supreme Court fight is about to start that will get nasty very quickly, one cynic has suggested to me that Crawford will be confirmed without a vote as a recess appointment. In any event, the politicization of every government agency has now produced a situation where the politicians, the bureaucrats and the industry are conspiring against the public. This is bad for business, bad for health care, and bad for America.

23 replies »

  1. Dear Wendy,
    There are SO MANY problems with this drug that I have only heard a few! I am sorry about your Father. Is he still on Klonopin? I don’t know how to persuade a loved one to stop taking it. Does he know the difference in his personality? Sometimes we KNOW but deny that it’s a problem.
    Please elaborate on your problem with your Dad and yourself.

  2. this drug has ruined my whole family. my father was on this drug and it made him a mean person. i know this is what changed him and noone will believe me. He was a kind, loving father my whole life until this drug. i would like some help with this also

  3. Dear Laura,
    Having to go through withdrawal at all is disgusting! The FDA doesn’t care either! I have emailed them about the Benzos, sent my story. But to no avail! They don’t care (notice that the addictive meds, ie Klonopin, are the cheapest) so I don’t know what they’re getting out of it! Or the drug companies! The Doctor does sound like the typical Shrink. They don’t have to experience withdrawal and definitely have no idea what it feels like! Horror!
    Check out whether the Statute of Limitations has run out in your case. It is very hard to sue the Doctor, if that’s at all what you are planning at all. It might be futile!
    I don’t know what to do about the INJUSTICE regarding the Benzos and how they wreck peoples’ lives! I’ sure you read all the letters. People have suffered, lost their jobs, lost their mind and lost their loved ones! It is TRULY UNFAIR and someone surely be accountable for it! But WHO! Unfortunately, at this point, NO ONE. Please write letters to anyone you can think of that your story may have an impact upon. Even your local newspaper. I even notified the makers of Klonopin, but got nowhere there.
    Please let me know if you make any progress in your quest for JUSTICE! I SURELY agree with you there! Klonopin is certainly a 4-letter word!

  4. Dear Terry,
    Your story is heart wrenching.! This shows you graphically the power of the Benzos!
    First off, I would sue the Doctor. He is truly at fault. Then send your letter to the FDA. The trouble with suing Doctors is that it is very difficult to get any satisfaction. Doctors have a lot of POWER. Get a Personal Injury lawyer and see what he/she thinks. The statute of limitations hasn’t run out (I don’t think, so call the lawyer as soon as possible. Get the records from the Hospital and anything about the autopsy, if she had one. But PLEASE CONTACT A LAWYER!!
    My heart goes out to you!
    Please write to me again and let me know of your progress.

  5. I am happy I found this page to read. I am so sorry that I had to read the horror…you all have suffered so much. I have been addicted to klonopin for 14 years. Like you all, I had no idea that my body was addicted. In the end, I was taking up to 3-5mg daily, prescribed 3 mg daily.
    It’s been 8 months and I’m 1/2 way through withdrawal. my doctor now is an ass, (really!) and knows nothing of benzo withdrawal.
    I truly want to ge off of these for life and I know I will….i’m doing pretty well, although it’s quite rough at times.
    I really want to take comeone to court over this . There needs to be justice.
    Thee NEEDS to be compensation and justice.
    Anyone want to e-mail me about it….feel free.

  6. My daughter Tawny passed away on 04/27/08.
    Here’s her story. While in a rehabilitation center (successful completion) in March of 2008,in the presence of her therapist, she informed her physician that she was addicted to benzodiazepines. At which time she requested he not prescribe them to her any longer.
    On 4/22/08 said physician prescribed my daughter Ativan again. He was also prescribing her 2 other type CNS suppressents, Xanax and Roaxin(benzodiazepines). She passed away in the early morning hours of 04/26/08 after having an overdose amount of Ativan in her system and her body was discovered by a neighbor in her apartment on 04/27/2008.

  7. Dear Dan,
    I am on Atarax (Hydroxyzine) for anxiety. It is also an antihystamine (sp?). I don’t know the state of my anxiety right now, but it seems that when I do go off of Atarax, I become nervous, I can suggest trying this drug. It is non-addictive and perfectly harmless.
    If you wnat to get off of Klonopin, just wean yourself off of it very slowly. 6 months or so (or more), but ask your Doctor. You need to give your body enough so it’s not expecting more. Remember, Klonopin is addictive, so you need to watch any sign of withdrawal.In the Hospital they gave me Ativan for a while (I don’t realy remember how long) and then introduced Atarax.
    Hope this helps!
    .05 mgs 4 times a day was enough to make me really addicted, enough to send me into a horrible withdrawal. I consider Klonopin as a deadly drug because I could have died from a seizure during withdrawal.

  8. Kristina, thanks for posting this info on your blog. While I might perhaps disagree with SOME of your descriptions — like describing 5.mg 4x a day as a “deadly” dose — but totally agree with 98% of what you’re saying.
    I have CFIDS — have had it for almost 10 years now. At first I was prescribed klonopin (or clonazepam) after an anxiety attack where I KNEW something was wrong and I couldn’t seem to control it. Went to the ER at almost midnight, and they prescribed it — for a short period.
    I was then put on an antidepressant that zombified me for a few months, but that was fine I guess, as I needed the “rest”.
    But klonopin was prescribed off and on, and I was able to take it off and on for a few years…until I lost my job and ran out of money.
    That huge stress — in addition to being ill in the first place — had my doctor recommending getting back on clonazepam. I’ve been taking it daily for about 3 1/2 years 1.5 mgs a day, and I want to get off of it.
    (I tried the vailum protocol recommended by the benzo expert Ashton, and was very close to quitting, but that’s right when I ran out of money.)
    ANYWAY, I’m wondering what drug free alternatives you’ve found that really help. I’ve experimented with the amino acid GABA, and also some combination supps like “True Calm”, but wonder if mineral replacements and other supps might help???
    I just read on another site that klonopin depletes glutathione, minerals, vitamins, and lowers WBC’s, RBC’s, etc.. — all the things one’s body needs for a healthy immune system and healthy brain function!
    What to do???
    Any non-drug suggestions?

  9. Dear Jayne,
    Your story is powerful! And frightening! It seems like you don’t know which way to turn! You had problems on Klonopin and had problems off! What a dangerous dilemna!
    20 years is a long time to be hooked! Have you ever tried going off it very slowly to avoid withdrawel. Safely, it would probably take 6 or 8 months to get it out of your system. Have you talked to a GOOD doctor about your addiction? One you can trust?
    I will never be on Klonopin again. I take NO addictive medications now. Atarax (actually an antihystamine, but works for anxiety)is safe.
    Please let me know how things are going.


  11. Dear Linda,
    I would be glad to join you in a class-action suit against the makers of Klonopin!
    Kristina Zallinger

  12. I need help. Klonopin ruined my life. I was in such a fog, I lost 2 jobs, sold my condominium, and angered the hairdresser who gave me a short haircut, which emphasizes my sparse hair and gives me a male appearance. I want to sue the doctor and the makers of klonopin, if anyone will join me in a lawsuit. Please help-I am now destitute and have ruined my family.

  13. Hello Wendy,
    Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I was touched by your story. It made me cry. I understand what a lousy, insensitive Shrink is. I’ve seen them all. They want the bucks and don’t care about the patient. I’d find a new one if you can. How many have you been to? Are there enough choices in your Community? I don’t have a clue how to connect with a good one—–unfortunately you have to take your chances. Most of them should be turned into the AMA and whipped! I finally have a good one. She’s an APRN. She is great! Asks what I think about taking a certain medication. Has not a huge ego! She cares about me.
    You’ve got to get your dosage stabilized. If you take it, make sure it is managed correctly. I you go off of it make sure you do it slowly. About six months to be safe. It’s terrible that we have to make these decisions ourself. After all, that’s the Doctor’s job, isn’t it? It sounds like you’ve been through HELL! Remember, you have something to say about the meds you are taking. Maybe your GP could refer you to a Psychiatrist. Unfortunately, you have to keep on trying until you find a good one.
    I haven’t heaerd of anyone being on Klonopin for Bipolar. Have you tried Neuronton or Zxyprexa? Please write again and we’ll see what we, the Patients, can figure out. I will now keep up with your correspondence.
    Take care and don’t be so scared, if you can. You just need options, which a good Shrink can give you.
    I’ll be glad to communicate with you for as long as it takes.
    Kristina Zallinger

  14. Your stories made me cry, I’m still crying. I’m so frightened. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been on Klonopin 4mgs for 1 1/2 years. I was so depressed coulnd’t function. Was put on 24 different medications for both depression and bipolar. None did me any good could not tollerate side effects made me more depressed.
    Went off all meds including Klonopin. I did not tell my Doctor, who I hated, bitch. I went crazy for 4 months. No sleep just was hysterical all the time for 4 months. Couldn’t take it any more. Went to a different Dr. put me back on Klonopin 4 mgs. Like an idiot I took it. I wish I didn’t.
    Now on a different psy. my third psy this year. He tried me on a few more meds and none worked, either allergic or made me worse. So no meds for bipolar but keeping me on Klonopin. I wanted to go off so bad. I just started cutting down myself. Very slowly. Went from 4 mgs to 2 1/4 (in quarters over 2 months). Finally I told this Dr. I want off of klonopin. He said go straight to 1 mg take half in morning and 1/2 at night. What an Idiot!!!!! Still cutting by quarters. But now I’m stuck at 1 1/2. Might not sound too bad 4 to 1 1/2 in 3 months but I’m in hell. Can’t lower. If I do I get manic one day and severly depressed (suicidal) the same day or the next. So I went back to 1 1/2 from 1 1/4.
    Please give advice. I can’t go back to same Dr.and I agree congnitive doesn’t work.
    Thank you Kristina Zallinger for your story. I don’t feel so alone.
    Wendy Brown

  15. With another class action court case begun (June 2007) by parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, I think the bigger scandal is that so little is being done by politicians and the media to investigate this issue. Since this blog was first started (June 2005) the number of children diagnosed with ASD has risen from 1 in 166 to 1 in 150. Why is this epidemic not constantly in political debates, media coverage, and the blogosphere?

  16. With another class action court case begun (June 2007) by parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, I think the bigger scandal is that so little is being done by politicians and the media to investigate this issue. Since this blog was first started (June 2005) the number of children diagnosed with ASD has risen from 1 in 166 to 1 in 150. Why is this epidemic not constantly in political debates, media coverage, and the blogosphere?

  17. Klonopin withdrawal was hell for me even though I did it gradually under a stupid neurologists non-caring care. AFter the last dose I develop a severe case of rebound insomnia. I did not sleep for at least 21 nights. The insomnia went on for 6 months. Insomnia was the least of my problems due to klonopin ever being presribed. Going off klonopin caused severe clinical depression, mania and suicidal tendancies. All because instead of being told to go for psycotherapy for anxiety problems doc pushed the klonopin mothers little helper pill. I urge all to stay away from klonopin and all other benzodiazapines they are very dangerous drugs. It took seven months of therarpy, 9 months of almost no sleep before I felt human again. IT WAS HELL! They tried several anti-depressants, bipolar medication including depakote which made me loose hair, none of it worked what did was cognitive behavior therapy. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that a pille will make you happy. It is a crock.

  18. First of all, Klonopin does not create a “high”. It was initially prescribed for me by Psychiatrists for the treatment of Anxiety,a disorder I share with Bi-Polar. I was taking 0.5 mgs four times a day, under Doctor’s care.
    The point of my blog is to prevent patients from not realizing how deadly this drug can be. It IS addictive when given out at such a quantity. The erroneous behavior, on the part of the attending Doctor, was to try to take me off my dosage of Klonopin in one month. Then the consequences were my suffering from withdrawal, which definitely could have killed me via seizure. I have friends who take a small dose for anxiety and some of the reasons you do. They are not addicted at 1/2 .05 per day or as needed for management of their problem. They, most-likely, are not in imminent danger. For them and you it works. I still cannot endorse the drug or the other that I have listed. They all CAN be addictive if wrongly prescribed by the Doctor. In my case, I should have been more aware of the dangers of taking Klonopin, because,as you know, we have to be on top of the drugs we ingest. Certainly my Psychiatrists through the eight year stint with it did not offer information about the dangers.
    I am still emotionally scarred by my experience and I believe that my article expresses this understandable state of mind. Even writing this response to your letter is difficult. I still feel residual pain. That was 4 years ago.
    I am glad that you are doing well.
    Kristina Zallinger

  19. I shattered my pelvis and broke my back. I fell 26 feet and several other bones were broken as well. The doctor in charge of the emergency made the bad decision of not sending me to a hospital with a hip surgeon and as a result I have a badly aligned hip. They also totally blamed the back pain on the pelvis until at my insistence, an MRI revealed the 2 fractured vertebrae and the disc problems. Eventually I will need surgery for the back problems, but my pelvis is never going to change. I take Oycontin for the chronic pain and have for the last 4 years. I have never ran out and have never needed anyone else’s meds to make it to my next refill. One of the differences between dependence and addiction is not being able to make it from appointment to appointment without overusing your medication or using it for reasons other than prescribed. For me this drug has been a life saver. I work normally and suffer considerably less than I would without it. It is oblivious that by reading the blog above that there is a bias against the government and the FDA in particular. Yes these drugs are potentially addictive, however used as prescribed that problem is far outweighed by the benefits of their use, I know. I don’t experience any kind of “high” from taking my medication as it has long since passed, and my dosage has not needed to increase because it honestly controls my pain so it is tolerable, it doesn’t take it away nor does it cure it, my body does not “crave” them either. I hate to say this but the abuse is in the hands of the user, and anyone that is taking someone else’s medicine because they used theirs in half the time it should have lasted shouldn’t be blaming their doctor. Of course that is the way it is now, blame someone else and bipolar’s seem very good at doing this. Any of this class of drugs can be abused, but why prevent those of us that are benefiting from them from having them? I agree she shouldn’t be given anything with the POTENTIAL for addiction; it is not necessarily a forgone conclusion that everyone that uses these correctly will become addicted. There are way too many success stories to allow a few to ruin it for the rest. I would not take this if it were not absolutely necessary and I ask myself that question everyday, it is funny that what you were taking was ok for 8 years and then suddenly it was the doctors fault when there were problems, maybe he or she could have handled it better, I cannot make that assumption without all or even some of the facts. I am sure I will be added to the list of conspirators against you, but I am just a chronic pain sufferer that has found relief in these drugs and I am thankful that there are still doctors that will have the compassion to prescribe them even though it leaves them vulnerable.

  20. jrmunch,
    You sound like a Shrink. I do believe that the Doctor is 100% responsible for their dispensing of medication, but you seem to minimalize the drug Klonopin itself. And the other addictive drugs. Why blame the drug? It is addictive, as are the others, and is definitely in the category of licensed street drugs. This is wrong. The Doctor is still prescribing, what I consider, a dangerous and potentially fatal pill. Also, with due respect, you had to have been there.
    I could tell you other stories (personal and friends) where Doctors have failed to watch blood levels which made us go toxic—poisoned by Psych meds. Death could have occurred there as well. These experiences should be directly involve the negligence of the Doctor. The drug itself is not dangerous on it’s own. But abuse in the hands of the Physician make these meds dangerous. My friend was in a coma for two months and was read the Last Rights because of her toxic experience with Lithium. The Doctor was not checking her blood levels. Ultimately she (the patient) was blamed for the wretched experience, they said, because of her history of drug abuse. Doctors often blame the patient for their (the Physician’s) fumbling inadequacies. I am sure, in some cases, they have an enormous ego and will not admit they are wrong. Also, in my experience, Shrinks stick together, again not admitting that their fellow Doctors could be held responsible for any medical foibles. I know from experience. I could go on…and on…
    Kristina Zallinger

  21. Why do you blame the drug Kristina? It is your doctor who holds 100% of the responsibility for what you went through. Like you said you found out later, you should have been tapered over a six month period. If your doctor was not sure how long to taper you over, they should have consulted with someone (such as a pharmacist) about how long to taper. Also, your doctor should have someone covering them on their vacation.

  22. For All Who Know and Those Who Don’t,
    Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine, Hydrocet, Percodan, Percoset, Hydrocodone, Lorcet, Lortab, Vicoprofen, Zydone, Darvocet, Klonopin, Xanax, Vallium, Ativan, Halcyon—–all of these are dangerous legal addictive prescription drugs approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and apparently the drug companies themselves. Yet people get “hooked”on these “medications”. Critics blame the patient for becoming addicted. The patients don’t take more of the pills because they want to, but because their body craves the drugs—–hence addiction. It seems that in most cases the patient is the one responsible for the addictive state that they are in and the doctor often does not take full responsibility for the end results. I know this is true because I suffered through the consequences. I will elaborate on this subject later on in this letter describing the experience I had with Benzodiazepines–Klonopin specifically. At any rate, I blame the drug. Many doctors hand them out freely. It isn’t okay to be taking illegal drugs like Heroin, Cocaine or “Crack”, but it is all right to poison yourself with prescription drugs. Klonopin, by the way, can be bought on the street. I was told by a high school student that individuals in his school take it before exams to make the ” going” not so rough, and that it is a readily available drug. Is something wrong with this picture?
    Some of these perfectly acceptable prescription medications are handed out by doctors for ailments such as anxiety, for panic attacks (extreme anxiety), pain, as an component for Bipolar disease and other physical and mental health issues. I have found that there are safe alternatives to dispensing addictive drugs— a non-addictive counterpart. It would be much more advantageous for the drug companies to explore this direction rather than dispense the medications which turn patients into addicts. I have a friend who is taking Klonopin and is going through her monthly prescription in two weeks and is stealing from her mother’s supply. Does this ring true in the form of illegal drug addiction? Is there not something wrong there? It is also interesting to note that Klonopin is a fairly inexpensive drug, so drug companies and their profits have no excuse. They are not making enough money from it’s sales.
    I really don’t have to go through the information regarding the drug company’s’ outrageous costs for people’s much needed pills or other forms of medication. I cannot stress enough the life and death situation which could occur if a person is unable to afford these medications for their mental and physical health. I have another friend whose monthly income comes from her teacher’s fund, as she worked many years to reach this status of income. She receives $2000.00 per month and is not eligible for any program to subsidize her medical needs. This is not much of an income to live on. She is poor and yet has to pay for medications “out of pocket”. This situation is inexcusable. Some medications (such as one of mine, for instance) cost more that $300.00 per month. Without these drugs, being Bi-polar, my friend could lapse into a deep depression or swing into mania. Sometimes she cuts back on her dosages to save money. This is totally unacceptable and dangerous to her health. What about other really poor people? They go without, thus threatening their health and welfare. Yet it happens everyday due to unfair insurance compensation for medication costs and higher profits to the drug companies. This is truly unfair to patients who depend on drugs for their medical well-being. Death could occur. But perhaps this is not enough to grasp for those with good insurance plans or the higher echelon. Do you have any awareness of this situation facing too many of the Nation’s citizens? In most cases, I think not.
    I had been taking Klonopin for eight years to treat anxiety. I was naive about this medication and how it could consequently affect my mind and body, as prescribed. I was taking .05 milligrams four times a day which is apparently, as I learned much later, a deadly dose. At one point down the line my therapist and my doctor decided to take me off of this drug because I had in the past been addicted to alcohol, which I used as self-medication to ward off the effects of my Bi-polar mania. This was before being diagnosed and put on medication. I definitely agreed that I didn’t want to be on Klonopin any more for those reasons. My doctor at this time set up a plan to bring me off the drug slowly (in his estimation) so I would not suffer the effects of withdrawal (not that he would know what it’s like). He had me on a schedule of lessening and cutting pills in half and then quarters;all this in one month. Then he went on vacation. Somewhere into this process I started to feel horrible withdrawal symptoms where I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I could not reach the doctor (they wouldn’t interrupt his vacation–later to find out that for some of it he was in town). The therapist I had was useless as I got worse and worse while taking less medication, as prescribed. At one point, because of withdrawal, I even lost track of my schedule. Believe me, I have been told by a former heroin addict who also “kicked” Klonopin, that Klonopin was far more difficult to “kick” than heroin. Plus, you can die while having a seizure if taken off too quickly. Having trusted the doctor (after all, he is a doctor and would know these things), I later found out that I should, because of my eight-year stint with Klonopin, have been given a six-month or more regimen rather than one. At any rate, not knowing what to do, I entered the Emergency Room in two New Haven Hospitals, but to no avail. It seemed like nobody knew what drug withdrawal was. On my own, I bought some Tylenol PM to try to fight off the symptoms as well as help me sleep. Too much of that “over the counter” could have caused some damage. I had contacted my Pharmacist hoping that he could fill my dwindling prescription. There were no refills, as is standard procedure for a controlled substance. But, of course, the Pharmacist couldn’t accommodate me, as he would have to get a doctor’s approval and my doctor was on vacation . I was desperate and continued to walk around the streets of New Haven in withdrawal. I was popping Tylenol PM as if it were candy, trying to control the effects of my horrible dilemma. Finally I took a cab to one of the Hospital Emergency rooms and they asked me if I wanted to detox from Klonopin. They asked me as if I were a doctor, and as the conditions were, could make that decision for myself. Can you imagine detoxing from an F.D.A approved medication? I might as well been and addict off the street. Consequently they took me in an ambulance to one of the New Haven Mental Health facilities. It was there that they took me slowly off Klonopin as I writhed in pain and was acting like a raving maniac for over a week because of it. ( Incidentally, some of this behavior occurred when taking the medication over the years, altering my personality ). Finally the conditions subsided and I began an anti-addictive medication to control my anxiety. Thank God it was over.
    Thus is my story about my life-threatening experience with Klonopin. The doctor (who was finally back from vacation) had the audacity to say that I wouldn’t have “died” but “could have had a small seizure or something”. Have you ever heard of a small seizure? At any rate, I fired both my doctor and my therapist.
    I would definitely want to see these dangerous pills off the market! The F.D.A. should be ashamed of themselves, promoting harm to life and limb. They could, and probably have, murder on their hands.
    Kristina Zallinger
    358 Orange At.
    Apt. 514
    New Haven, CT 06511
    (203) 777-8313
    I am sending this letter to many people, some of which will probably say the email isn’t relevant to their position in Government. This is not exactly true. Education of such a horrid circumstance should be key to everyone. For all I know, one of your family members may be taking one of these drugs; or yourself.
    September, 2005

  23. //the politicians, the bureaucrats and the industry are conspiring against the public.//
    Scary. 🙁
    In my humble opinion, the American people are somewhat schizophrenic about whistleblowers. On the one hand people want knowing insiders to have the courage and character to warn them of problems and prevent disasters. These people heroically resist the Culture of Fear, put the public good before their own careers and families, and have the discerning judgment to know that Just Following Orders is no excuse. These heroes are also the ones who are big enough to admit when they’ve been wrong, apologize when warranted, and don’t stand on bad decisions just to look like strong decision-makers.
    These heroic whistleblowers may be villainized and set up, but if you watch their stories on TV, they always prevail. Friends stick by them, the truth comes out, they slap the evidence down in from of the corporate CEO, and their lawyer makes their client out to be a candidate for the Messiah in court.
    Now for reality. In reality, everyone hates a tattle tale. Anything an employee is automatically cause for suspicion because the unfairness inherent in corporate hierarchical structure leads to weird politics. And if people are suspicious of employees, they outright disregard ex-employees. A person could have the purist motives in the world, and there would still be a way to question them. All those qualities that are admired as good character in myth and in the movies are regarded as stupidity in real life: people who try to be honest and see all sides are regarded as unsavvy, bereft of common sense, utterly lacking in political/social skills, and prey for the sharks. When a whistleblower comes along, everyone nods sagely about why that person got voted off the island. God forbid that whisleblower actually admit to uncertainties or mistakes while they’re at it.
    You would think with the big corporate corruption spectacles of Enron and Worldcom, the public would want to defend and protect whistleblowers. However, my sense is that public is just more interested in villains. It’s also easier to speculate on what’s wrong with an individual than what’s wrong with a corporation, where responsibility is diffused among faceless paper-pushers. Bashing an Omarosa is a lot more fun than cheering on the underdog (especially when no one is really sure who the underdog was until they see the movie).
    Whistleblowing makes very little sense unless you are person with no family, nothing to lose, and a willing to sacrifice yourself to the cause. As pointed out above, whistleblowers have to deal with retaliation at work (throwing away their investment in those relationships and maybe their entire career), then they have to suffer from corporate smearing and public scrutiny, and then they may even have to go through the expense and hassle of being sued (those champion lawyers you see in the movies don’t tend to offer their services if they aren’t going to be paid). Friends and family will hold the whistleblower back. Whistleblowing is simply irrational for most people. It’s a suicide mission, even with laws written to protect and encourage whistleblowers. The problem is that the peer pressure and Realpolitik is on the side of the corporations (and government agencies).
    If people really want character to prevail over conformity, then they should ask whether they are promoting the conception that Lies Work. When corporate executives shred the files, when PR people craft their message, when lawyers try to make up a case where none exists, they are all following the beat of the Machiavellian drum. This is the beat that tells people they are chumps if they don’t lie. That people will take advantage of them if they tell the truth. That “everyone else is doing it”, so it’s not only okay, it’s stupid not to. Hey, according to Scientific American, lying is a skill:
    So all those heroic, humble people of integrity that Stand Up to the System and save everyone from the Enrons of the world…they just have poor social skills and no common sense.