When the government suddenly announces a recall, or even talks about pulling a product from the shelves, it’s normal to assume that some unexpected defect has recently been discovered. Maybe the feds have noticed that a car’s airbags don’t deploy during a crash, or that a certain brand of fish tank is prone to spontaneous implosion. Whatever the case, you’re inclined to think that some new information has come to light that necessitates the recall. And in most circumstances that’s true.
But there is one industry —Big Pharma — that has consistently been the exception to this rule. This is an industry that happens to enjoy a lot of special treatment from the federal government, including immunity from lawsuits. In the pharmaceutical industry, a recall doesn’t necessarily mean that some catastrophic defect has just been identified. Instead, it often means that there’s been a known problem for a very long time — one that’s been deliberately hidden from the public, until finally it’s impossible to deny any longer. After COVID, most of the country realizes that this kind of thing can happen. What they might not realize, because there’s a mountain of propaganda designed to hide this fact, is how common this is.
Here’s the latest example. Right now the pharmaceutical industry is debating whether to issue one of the biggest recalls in modern history. The recall would affect a wide array of over-the-counter cold medicines, including some products bearing the brand names Mucinex, Tylenol, Sudafed, NyQuil, and Benadryl. The reason? According to the government, these products don’t work. At all.
To be clear, as we’ll explain in a second, some Benadryl and Sudafed products still work, according to the government. We’re talking about a certain but very popular subset of these over-the-counter products that use a specific ingredient. At the same time, if you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people who have consumed these products over the past decade, this is a big headline. You paid money for a product that you thought worked, on assurances from the government and Big Pharma. You then ingested this product, based on those assurances. And now you’re being told that these pills had all the effectiveness of eating a cookie and drinking some warm milk.
One of the first questions you’d think to ask, under these circumstances, is when exactly the regulators and the pharmaceutical companies figured out that these products are completely ineffective. If you listen to most news reports on this subject, you’ll be left with the impression that some new information came out. That impression would be completely wrong, but it’s what they’re presenting. Here, for example, is CBS News:
What’s left unmentioned in that report is that this significant alleged defect in these drugs — the fact that they don’t do anything — has been widely known for years. It’s not new information. Nearly a decade ago, in 2015, researchers at the University of Florida said they found conclusive evidence that many non-prescription decongestants didn’t work. “Scientific evidence continues to show that the most popular products on the market containing phenylephrine are ineffective.” (Phenylephrine, to be clear, is used in certain drugs like over-the-counter Sudafed. It’s not used in the brand of Sudafed you have to get from the pharmacist.)
The researchers continued: “We think the evidence supports that phenylephrine’s status as a safe and effective over-the-counter product should be changed. We are looking out for the consumer, and he or she needs to know that science says that oral phenylephrine does not work for the majority of people.”
This was back during the Obama administration. The findings raised a lot of uncomfortable questions, such as: Why would the FDA approve a drug that’s effectively a placebo? Why were regulators still allowing Big Pharma to sell it? Why were people continuing to buy drugs that didn’t do anything? And where are the prosecutors? Isn’t it fraud to advertise products that don’t work? Shouldn’t there be penalties for making billions of dollars off of something that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
By refusing to do anything about phenylephrine, the federal government dodged all of these questions. They also helped cover up their role in causing the problem in the first place. You rarely hear this discussed, but the supposedly useless ingredient in question, phenylephrine, wasn’t always used in medications like Sudafed. Twenty years ago, the key ingredient in the most popular form of Sudafed was a very different decongestant called pseudoephedrine. This ingredient, we can be reasonably confident, actually works.
But in 2006, the federal government made it a lot harder to get “real Sudafed” with this ingredient. Congress passed a law effectively requiring people to undergo background checks before they could walk out of the store with it. “Real Sudafed” was no longer an over-the-counter medication. The justification for this restriction, ostensibly, was stopping people from using the ingredient to make meth. We’ll be taking a lot of dangerous drug kingpins off the streets, they told us.
Once Congress passed that law, Big Pharma needed an alternative. Most customers don’t want to wait in line for a pharmacist every time they need a decongestant. So they’ll leave the CVS without making a purchase. So very quickly big pharma came out with a new form of Sudafed using a different ingredient, called phenylephrine. Big Pharma, and the federal government, told us it was the best of both worlds. This new form of Sudafed can’t be used to make meth. At the same time, we were assured, it’s just as effective as real Sudafed.
Shortly after that law was passed, there were reasons to doubt the narrative that the government was pushing. For one thing, because of all these changes, a lot of innocent people were arrested for no reason. One of them was named Tim Naveau. He was charged with a federal crime for buying too much Claritin. He wanted to get some extra pills for his son, who was going away to camp. In response, local officials arrested the man. They didn’t care that he wasn’t making meth. They charged him anyway. They said he was collateral damage in the larger meth war, which this legislation would help the federal government win.
Nearly two decades later, we learn that nothing we were told turned out to be true. For one thing, meth has never been easier, or cheaper, to obtain in this country. It’s not coming from domestic meth labs, for the most part. Instead it’s coming from Mexico, across a border that the federal government has deliberately left open. And on top of that, according to the government, the substitute Sudafed and related drugs were not effective, as we were promised. It’s useless. The new narrative is that Big Pharma made billions of dollars every year selling products that did not work. They knew it. The federal government let them do it.
Why are they telling us now? Is anything they’re telling us true? That’s a question we can’t answer, because both Big Pharma and federal regulators have lied so routinely, so consistently, that there’s no reason to take anything they say at face value. If recent history is any indication, it’s probably not a good sign. Normally when the federal government says a drug doesn’t work, there’s two possibilities.
The first possibility is that they’re trying to drive up sales of some other drug. We saw that during COVID: “Don’t take that therapeutic; it’s horse tranquilizer. Take our shot instead.” In the case of these decongestants, there’s long been a push to require prescriptions. In various states, activists and politicians have said it’s not enough to hide these decongestants behind the counter, and to track their sale. They say it’s necessary to require people to get a prescription first. This has been going on for a while. Here’s one report in Indiana from a decade ago, for example:
So this is the first possibility for why they’re pulling these drugs. Maybe it’s part of a larger effort to shift these decongestants to a prescription model, so that more people are seeing doctors and pharmacists — and there’s more money being made by everyone involved.
That’s one theory. The other possibility is that the FDA’s fraud simply couldn’t go on any longer, because the evidence that they’re lying about these drugs’ effectiveness was becoming too overwhelming. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t exactly be the first time something like that happened. It was just a couple years ago that the FDA unanimously approved an Alzheimer’s drug called Aduhelm that didn’t work. This is one of the most expensive drugs available on the market. It costs more than $50,000 per year, per customer.
But the approval process didn’t go as smoothly as the FDA and the drug maker, called BioGen, would have liked. Several of the FDA’s experts resigned in protest after the agency approved Aduhelm, even though there was no evidence it did anything to treat Alzheimer’s. Here’s one of the experts who quit:
As you just heard, the entire premise of the drug was that you can cure Alzheimer’s by removing so-called “sticky plaques” in the brain. But it later emerged the research supporting that theory, which appeared in Nature magazine, was doctored. On top of that, serious side effects of the drug emerged, including brain bleeding.
So why did the FDA approve the drug? It turns out the agency had a close relationship with the drug company, BioGen, throughout the approval process. This relationship, Congress later determined, broke the FDA’s own rules. But it worked out for BioGen.
We see this phenomenon again and again. The federal government tells us that a drug works, and that they know exactly how it works. By the time we find out they’re lying, the drug company has made a ton of money. We saw something similar happen with SSRIs. For decades, we were told that low serotonin levels were linked to depression. Therefore, SSRI’s would fix that problem by allowing more serotonin in the brain. Even as mass shootings and depression and suicide rates all went up, we were assured by Big Pharma and the media that SSRI’s were working. That was what the science said, and if you disputed it, you’re a troglodyte. It only emerged last year that, in fact, low serotonin isn’t linked to depression at all.
Somehow that wasn’t a major scandal. SSRIs — which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — were never pulled from the shelves, even though the official position of the scientific community is that low serotonin doesn’t cause depression. There were no massive class-action lawsuits that bankrupted the companies that made billions of dollars from these SSRIs, just as BioGen hasn’t been held accountable for its worthless Alzehimer’s drug, and just as no one in the Sackler family went to prison for lying about the addictiveness of opioids.
For all those reasons, we can assume Big Pharma and the government will continue to lie to us. If they don’t face consequences, they have no reason to change what they’re doing. That’s why, at this moment, our political leaders are gearing up for a new round of COVID decrees. These decrees have already arrived in Canada, where public health officials are now calling for children as young as six-months-old to receive COVID shots.
There are no clinical trials or studies that demonstrate that it’s safe or necessary in any way to give COVID shots to six-month-old children. Not a single one. And, to be honest, even if they had conducted trials, there would be reason to doubt those, as well. We are now at the point where, whatever the class of drug we’re talking about — whether it’s Alzheimer’s treatments, COVID shots, SSRIs, even decongestants — you can assume you’re being lied to. If you consume drugs that Big Pharma and the federal government are pushing, you’re running the risk that ten or twenty years from now, you’ll learn what it’s actually doing, and what the actual side effects might be. Whatever you take, and whatever your kids take, you simply have to factor that doubt into the equation. You have to keep in mind that, if something bad happens down the line, you’ll be told it’s breaking news, and that no one could have seen it coming. Even though the people who made the drug, in fact, knew it was coming.
Is this an ideal situation from a public health perspective? Of course not. But it’s the system we have. And if there’s any upside to the news this week, it’s that no one — not even people who are just shopping for a decongestant — can deny it anymore.