Scream

Arthur Janov, the pioneer of Primal Scream therapy, recently passed away. Here are some thoughts about the context in which developed his therapy…

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Fifty years ago, in 1967, the California-based Arthur Janov was operating in a strange mental health environment.

That year Scottish therapist R.D. Laing published The Politics of Experience, which questioned orthodox therapies. Psychologist Timothy Leary’s psychedelic experiments were publicly called out in the pages The New Republic. In 1967’s The President’s Analyst, James Coburn played a psychotherapist more than willing to seduce his attractive female patients. Disenchanted, he eventually leaves Washington, D.C. to settle in a hippie commune. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was finally acting on the 1963 Community Mental Health Act. In 1966, the first Community Clinic opened. By 1967, 53 more opened across the country.

Arthur Janov, with degrees from UCLA and a PhD in Psychology from Claremont Graduate School and sporting a shock of curly hair, created Primal Therapy in 1967. Tapping into the California counterculture and appealing to celebrities with his avant-garde approach, Janov created an unconventional therapy that resonated throughout the 1970s and beyond.

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Antiestablishment undercurrents challenged the American love affair with mental health expertise at this time. Debate was rife. It took place over psychiatric nosology (a fancy way of saying the classification of mental illnesses), scientific legitimacy, and the value of evidence-based diagnosis. The debate focused on the forces of modernization, psychopharmacology, (de)institutionalization, and social psychiatry.

There was significant chatter about mind control: The Manchurian Candidate. LSD brainwashing. MK ULTRA. This latter state-sponsored and well-funded CIA project, of course, included trippy research on behavioral therapy, chemically-induced brain concussions, brain wiping, hypnosis, extrasensory perception, cutting-edge polygraph techniques, sleep research, and on and on and on.

Ex-patient groups, whose members referred to themselves as ‘survivors’ or freed ‘slaves,’ garnered more attention. All this tumult was regarded as a “child of its rebellious, anti-establishment times.” Yet intra-professional restlessness was far from new, and it carried into the 1970s.

A majority of mental health experts recognized that the system was in disarray, a jumbled mess that President Jimmy Carter had to reform. To this end, Carter, who embodied for many the limits and austerity of the era initiated a presidential commission to investigate mental health in the U.S.

The term radical fluctuates from era to era and individual to individual, but this historical moment was definitely unique. Thinking about the 1960s-1970s probably conjures up images of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton’s Black Panther Party, which was organized in October 1966 and challenged the status quo by activating and channeling African-American disenchantment – in addition to forming coalitions with domestic and foreign organizations. Yet, the 1970s also calls to mind the Weather Underground, a homegrown terrorist organization intent on fomenting revolution, and which detonated a series of bombs in 1970.

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Biopsychiatry, antipsychiatry, and a host of alternative therapies rose against this backdrop. Amid these changes, Arthur Janov pioneered and championed primal therapy with his 1970 book, The Primal Scream: The Cure for Neurosis. It was a form of therapy in which patients entered extreme emotional states to allow for the jettisoning of any deep-rooted “Primal Pain” experienced in childhood. In addition, the method was often accompanied by shouting and screaming. These “post-Primal” patients would attain a genuine normality, thereafter occupying healthy, neurosis-free bodies.

As indicated in the title of his book, he did not shy away from the curative and indeed the transformative nature of his therapy. In a series of books between 1970-1972, including The Anatomy of Mental Illness and The Primal Revolution, Janov contended that patients who concluded his therapy effectively would overcome the diseased state common to most people. He suggested, too, that his therapy offered physical cures. Repression, in Janov’s estimation, stunted physical development, and successful Primal Therapy would enable the natural growth of breasts, hair, and hands.

Janov, born and raised in California, had worked as a psychotherapist for the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and Veterans Administration, among other places, when in 1967 he developed his theory. It was an atmosphere of questing energies and transformation in California, and one that also gave rise to Transactional Analysis and other New Age ideas.

Janov’s therapy struck a chord with the countercultural set and other Americans hungry for alternative approaches to the mainstream establishment. Finding the limelight, he went on mainstream television programs, called traditional psychiatry a hoax, and told how of how the establishment scorned him. His papers could not get published, and his colleagues walked out on his presentations. The press hated him, too, he said. Undeterred, Janov pronounced “Primal therapy is THE therapy, nothing can stop it.”

He cagily played around with themes of intergenerational antagonism, repression caused by postwar society, and the ways in which physical experiences and emotions as trumped neutral reasoning; more than that, he touted altered states of consciousness and the more specific view that personal (and perhaps national) liberation depended upon the violent overthrow of corrupt systems. These altered states, however, did not include pot, LSD, or MDMA, and had to be reached without any artificial aids. Janov fully rejected the use of illegal intoxicants, uninhibited sexual activity (“free love”), and transcendental meditation.

Seeking out altered states was not a pathway to fulfilment in his view but rather an unconscious compulsion of an unwell mind. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who of course experimented with many substances, underwent Primal Therapy in 1970 after The Beatles disbanded —and, along with a “primal concept album” John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band (1970), helped popularize the therapy.

In assessing the mental health landscape and Primal Therapy of the 1970s, Alfred Yassky, the Executive Director of the American Psychotherapy Seminar Center, based in Manhattan, held that the tectonic plates of mental health shifted. Americans were different. The therapeutic geography had perceptibly altered. As he put it, Americans are becoming alienated and are hungering for a sense of meaning, identity, happiness, and even salvation, we are wanting more from therapies and therapists. One way of putting it is that in many ways psychotherapy has taken over the function of religion. Therefore, the therapist is supposed to take over the function and roles of shaman, guru, wiseman, minister, rabbi, or priest. We are expected to help with spiritual matters on the one hand and scientific on the other…

Primal Therapy, which shone brightly until the 1980s, helped to fill that gap.

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The mental health arena in the 1970s witnessed several new entrants, with the rise of patient groups, new therapies tailored for mass consumption, and the continuance of psychedelic psychiatry. Patient-consumers could dip toes into New Age medicine, and draw from the fountain of naturopathy and homeopathy, as well as Eastern-influenced medicine or teachings from sources like the Esalen Institute in California.

They might sample alternative mental health therapies, including Primal Scream Therapy or Transactional Analysis, or find psychic solace in the form of new religious movements. Primal Scream, in short, filled a void for many Americans. It let them shriek and wail to their heart’s content.

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For more short pieces on strange therapies and radical mental health, see below.

This piece is about radical psychiatry and pacification in the 1960s

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/hiddenpersuaders/blog/agents-of-pacification/ 

This article is about Transactional Analysis and its founding in the 1960s

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-30/september-2017/harnessing-fierce-energy-counterculture

Slightly different, this piece is about heroin and end-of-life discussions in the 1980s.

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/39/E1231.full.pdf+html

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Disability and the Welfare State

Following party conferences, it seemed worthwhile to raise the issue of disability politics and the welfare state. The topic is tackled by Dr Jameel Hampton. As he describes it: “Created during and after the Second World War, the British Welfare State seemed to promise welfare for all, but, in its original form, excluded millions of disabled people.”

His recent book examines attempts “to reverse this exclusion.” Considering the recent emergence of the history of disability in Britain as a major area of research, the book can add to the conversation.

According to C Norris, in Oxford University Press’ This Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory,  “Disability and the Welfare State in Britain is a remarkable achievement. Hampton’s excavation and elucidation of archival material related to the Disability Income Group, as well as other key players in the debates over disability and statutory welfare in Britain in the twentieth century, is both important and impressive.”

* Dr Jameel Hampton teaches at Liverpool Hope University (hamptoj@hope.ac.uk)

 

Heroin in the hospice: opioids and end-of-life discussions in the 1980s

Which drugs should be available for people nearing the end-of-life and suffering pain? What are the limits of appropriate opioid use in modern medicine and within society? The story of heroin in palliative care during the 1980s remains largely untold, and it’s one thoroughly infused with politics, social values and cultural norms of the time.

I write about this in my forthcoming book and in the newest edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Here are the highlights.

1. In 1979, a celebrity doctor and syndicated columnist, Kenneth Walker, who wrote under the pseudonym W. Gifford-Jones, launched a nationwide campaign to legalize heroin (diacetylmorphine) for Canadian patients with terminal cancer.
2. This story showcases how the politics of pain, opioid addiction, and proper end-of-life therapies present enduring challenges in Canadian society, challenges which remain vital today
3. The early 1980s was an historical moment that saw a renewed discussion of opioids in end-of-life care, but also a time in which the prescribing of strong opioids such as oxycodone began to increase in the United States and Canada.
Please read my full article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Harnessing the Fierce Energy of Counterculture

Mental health knowledge and practice was highly contested in the 1960s and 70s. Struggles over homosexuality and radicalism, drug use and replicable drug trials, were part of a unique countercultural moment. These were wild times. Transactional analysis, developed by Eric Berne and Claude Steiner, was also part of this fiercely energetic moment.

In January 2017 Claude Steiner (pictured above), a clinical psychologist, passed away in California. According to his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Steiner’s last words were, ‘Love is the answer’ and ‘I’m so lucky’. He had led a long and full life, and left behind an important legacy in psychology. Steiner was a founder of the Radical Therapist Collective, protested at American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association meetings, and edited a collection of Readings in Radical Psychiatry in 1975. Steiner also published a short children’s story called The Warm Fuzzy Tale in 1969 and Games Alcoholics Play in 1970. In 1974, he followed these books up with Scripts People Live, which was a bestseller in the United States. Most importantly, Steiner was influential in developing and popularising transactional analysis.

Steiner was born in France, relocated to Mexico, and then moved to California in 1952 to study physics. But in the aftermath of atomic explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and seeing how physics was associated with nuclear weapons, he rejected the field. The link to bombs and bomb-making put him off. Transferring to psychology and eventually obtaining his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1965, he became a close associate of Eric Berne. Set against the backdrop of a topsy-turvy mental health landscape, it is clear that their story had an important impact on psychology – during a unique moment in time – through the creation of transactional analysis.

The full article can be read here

Enjoy. And I’ve written similar work on the 1960s and mental health:

with Social History of Medicine…

https://academic.oup.com/shm/article-abstract/27/1/104/1707848/Therapy-Means-Political-Change-Not-Peanut-Butter?redirectedFrom=fulltext

and Hidden Persuaders…

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/hiddenpersuaders/blog/agents-of-pacification/

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Fracture

Playing soccer has been a hobby/passion/thing to do for the majority of my life.

There’ve been no significant injuries to speak of. Until now.

So let’s talk about ‘the knee’ and pain.

new brace and crutches

A reckless and ridiculous challenge during my last game resulted in a minor fracture of the knee – and some major sit-on-my-butt time.

(Probably best that I go no further in describing the tackle, lest my blood begins to boil once more.)

So, I’ve got a near future filled with crutches, an immobilizer brace, ice, anti-inflammatory drug. Luckily, the future doesn’t hold surgical interventions! For now.

A swollen left knee

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Treatment for dummies (like me):

The treatment depends on the type of fracture. If you have an open wound with the fracture (I didn’t!), you may need treatment to control bleeding or prevent infection. You may need surgery to:

1) Remove all small fragments of bone
2) Wire the kneecap fragments together, if possible
3) Remove the kneecap if it has shattered
4) Your provider may put your leg in a brace, splint, knee immobilizer, or cast to keep your knee from moving while it heals.
5) Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medicine.

**

Pain medication? Well yes. I have been using Extra Strength Advil. And the occasional beer. Sometimes I think I need something stronger. Other times, no.

The National news last night discussed the rise of the opioid crisis and located one of the hot zones in Ohio. The story by Vik Adophia was powerful, well-conceived and executed.

(It’s worth noting that the state of Ohio is suing 5 major drug companies for precipitating the opioid epidemic. The manufacturers of the prescription painkillers are: Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc unit, a unit of Endo International Plc, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd’s Cephalon unit and Allergan Plc.)

Here are some of the top stories related to pain and opioids in the past few days.

Trump declares opioid abuse a national emergency in U.S.

Drug industry faces ‘tidal wave’ of litigation over opioid crisis

Canadian health advocates eye Portugal’s drug model to combat opioid crisis

Record number of drug-related deaths, as opioid crisis hits UK

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After the knee injury, I immediately thought of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

So what’s the future hold…

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I also thought of Kobe  Bryant’s injury history. And as you can see – the Mamba’s knees featured regularly.

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Stay tuned for periodic updates.

CFP Cannabis: Global Histories

19-20 April 2018
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

In cooperation with Wellcome Trust

The Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare would like to invite papers for Cannabis: Global Histories at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow) on 19-20 April 2018.

One outcome of the recent Alcohol and Drugs History Society meeting (ADHS) in Utrecht was enthusiasm for a ‘histories of cannabis’ workshop/conference to gather together the increasing number of scholars researching the topic.

Paper proposals should be based on unpublished research and should include a 300-word abstract, including a brief CV (2 page maximum). The deadline is 1 September 2017. Participants would then be asked to submit papers of c.7000-8000 words by 15 January 2018. This will enable pre-circulation of papers and also early work on editing a collection of papers for publication.

The geographical location and timeframe are open, while topics may include but are not limited to:

policy and legislation
health outcomes
trafficking and terrorism
comparative approaches
myths
science and evidence
the rise of big cannabis
art and culture

Large Indoor Marijuana Commercial Growing Operation With Fans, Greenhouse, Equipment For Growing High Quality Herb. Cannabis Field Growing For Legal Recreational Use in Washington State

 

Deadline for Proposals: 1 September 2017
Deadline for Papers: 15 January 2018

Please send your submissions or queries to :
Caroline Marley: cshhhadmin@strath.ac.uk or
Lucas Richert: Lucas.Richert@strath.ac.uk

Dried Buds

Cancer controversies and traditional medicines

Today I write for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post.

The story of cancer patient Ric Richardson, a Métis man from Green Lake, challenges us to think about patient autonomy, medical traditions and Saskatchewan health care.

Just as crucial, his story forces us to reconsider the use and acceptance of traditional Aboriginal knowledge — not only in medicine but in society more broadly.

The full story can be read here:

http://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/cancer-controversies-and-traditional-medicines 

Agents of Pacification, Agents of Change: Radical Psychiatry in 1969

Check out my new piece with Hidden Persuaders. Check it out and get transported back to Miami, 1969!

Donald Trump’s FDA and the ‘United States of Oxy’

How will the pharmaceutical industry be impacted under the Trump administration? Who’s the new FDA Commissioner? How will e-cigarettes be effected? How will the opioid crisis be impacted?

Trump’s FDA and “the United States of Oxy”

By Lucas Richert

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be headed for a major overhaul under the Trump presidency and the agency’s new head, Scott Gottlieb. At a recent meeting with pharmaceutical industry leaders, President Trump asserted that “we’re going to be cutting regulations at a level that nobody’s ever seen before.” His most recent statements, made at a White House confab, echoed loudly throughout the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Just talk? It’s tough to say, yet supporters of pharmaceutical deregulation have long wanted to reduce bureaucracy and lessen oversight of drugs and devices. Critics, by contrast, contend the drugs market could be destabilized and public health undermined. The tricky task will be to strike the proper balance of speed and safety, as well product innovation and consumer protections.

An American drugstore, circa 1963. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Scott Gottlieb, a physician and regulator recently approved to lead the agency by the US Senate in a 57-42 vote, pledged he would lower prices, reduce approval times, and fight the widespread abuse of opioid painkillers. This kind of addiction, said Gottlieb, was “a public health crisis of staggering human and economic proportion.”

This rhetoric and attempted reforms at FDA are not new, but the devastating painkiller crisis certainly is.

Opioids

Gottlieb’s critics noted that he was too closely tied with the pharmaceutical industry to tackle the opioid epidemic. “We are suffering this public health epidemic because big pharma pushed pills they knew were dangerous and addictive, the FDA approved them, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) told reporters. The United States had been turned into the “United States of Oxy,” Markey added.

The FDA approved OxyContin, a powerful opioid to treat severe pain, such as in the case of patients with terminal cancer. With mild pain, though, the FDA deemed the dangers of addiction too great, and has not allowed the marketing of Oxy for such pain.

Not able to solve the opioid alone, the FDA nonetheless will play an important role. He has made this case quite forcefully. However, Gottlieb’s critics (mainly Democrats) have pointed to his past views on the regulation of opioids. In particular, he has suggested that policies restricting pharmacies and drug distributors might burden innocent patients.

This will be one of the defining issues of his career.

E-cigs

The Food and Drug Administration’s move in May, 2016 to crack down on e-cigarettes brought regulation in line with existing rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. This had been highly anticipated after the FDA issued a proposed rule over two years ago.

“Millions of kids are being introduced to nicotine every year, a new generation hooked on a highly addictive chemical,” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell stated during the announcement of the new rules. She asserted, too, that health officials still didn’t have the scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes can help smokers quit, as the industry asserts, and avoid the known ills of tobacco.

The Trump administration recently approved a delay in the FDA’s e-cigs guidelines. It was a decision that divided officials in the public health establishment. And it’s undoubtedly true that several Trump administration officials, including FDA chief Gottlieb, have connections to the e-cig and tobacco industry.

From March 2015 to May 2016, according to Bloomberg, Gottlieb was a director of Kure Corp., a Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm that distributes e-juices and vaping pens in coffeehouse-style lounges known as vaporiums. Of course, he had a financial interest in the company as of March, according to financial and ethics disclosures, and promised to sell his stake if confirmed as head of the FDA.

“How to regulate e-cigarettes is one of the most critical questions on tobacco regulation that the FDA is going to be facing in the coming years,’’ said Vince Willmore, a spokesman for Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Vaping will also be a significant issue for Gottlieb and the FDA. Getting the regulation right matters – not just in the U.S., but places like Glasgow and Vancouver.

FOR MORE ON E-CIGARETTES:

Why aren’t we regulating e-cigarettes?

Do We Regulate E-Cigs, Ban Them, or What?

Red Tape

The writer Matthew Herper suggested recently how “talk of speeding up [drug] approvals for serious diseases first gained traction in the early 2000s.” Actually, the trend extends much further back. Debate about quickening drug approvals has a complex and compelling history.

The FDA under President Ronald Reagan, for instance, offers a useful tool to evaluate the Trump administration’s approach to the FDA and the drug industry.

In mid-January, as Mr. Trump awaited his inauguration and the transition team worked furiously to establish his cabinet and select suitable agency nominees, the FDA generated serious debate. Trump met with Jim O’Neill, a venture capitalist, and a close friend of PayPal’s Peter Thiel. He met with Balaji Srinivasan, a cofounder of genetics testing firm Counsyl.

Both men subscribed to the idea – now conservative doctrine, according to Forbes – that the FDA prevented a flood of new drugs from hitting the market. Neither held an M.D., which has been for years a prerequisite for the FDA’s top job. Yet, by 20 January the frontrunner for the Commissioner’s job was Gottlieb, who had made it known publicly he believed the FDA should trim bureaucratic red tape and approve drugs in a speedier fashion.

Trump ultimately settled on Gottlieb, whose selection was welcomed by the pharmaceuticals sector. His ties to industry were questioned by Democrats, but the vote wasn’t close.

The Gipper’s FDA

Ronald Reagan, whether as a candidate or later President of the United States, did not desire the dismantling of the FDA, but neither did he trust it. In his optimistic view, its authority, like that of many other regulatory agencies, simply needed curtailing.

In 1975, he told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, that the FDA was hurting Americans, yet also made clear he did not wish to totally “eliminate the responsibility of the FDA…”

The problem, as Reagan saw it, rested in the restriction of freedom of choice for American consumers, since the agency had established itself “as the doctor and decided that they will tell us what medicines are effective.”  He felt that a degree of regulation was necessary to protect Americans from each other, but the FDA had overreached and, as bureaucracies do, went beyond “protecting us from poisonous or harmful substances…”

In 1980, the Republican presidential ticket of Ronald Reagan and George Bush promised to change Washington. President Jimmy Carter represented failure, Republicans argued, be it botched rescue attempts and helicopter crashes in the desert, the loss of the Panama Canal, or an impotent economy. The jaunty and upbeat Reagan succeeded in shifting the policy discourse about the size and scope of federal government programs; harkening back to halcyon days, he moved the conversation about which government program to launch (or expand) to how much of a program’s or agency’s budget ought to be cut.

In 1981, the debate about drug regulation continued to polarize people; finding a middle ground was often difficult, and as the new administration took power, the outgoing FDA Commissioner Goyan articulated a consensus-oriented, centrist approach to drug regulation. Think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute promulgated changes to the FDA’s mission as a means of unleashing the once-mighty American pharmaceutical industry. This would fuel the U.S. industry and the greater economy.

For some, the FDA transcended presidential politics and ideology.  It protected all Americans – conservative and liberal – as it carried out its duties. “My view,” said the bearded, grey, and somewhat feisty Jere Goyan, “is that government regulation needs to strike a balance between preserving the maximum freedom for individuals while at the same time establishing the rules that are needed for us to live together, to survive as a society.”

Jere Goyan and President Jimmy Carter. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

By voting for Reagan, Americans indicated they wanted “modifications” to the current models – reform rather than removal. “It would be a mistake,” Goyan argued, “a tragic one, to interpret the election results to mean that the public wants a lessening of the standards that provide the foundation for the food and drug industries in this country, standards that make our food and drug supply the best in the world.”

Often, his approach went unheeded, overwhelmed by disputes about individualism and consumer choice and bureaucratic incompetence. One the one hand, many Americans regarded FDA staff members “as a bunch of demented bureaucrats running amok,” even though the agency’s “balanced” regulation of drugs was both “socially valid and moral.”

On the other hand, the president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association illustrated an alternative. Lewis Engman felt that taking medicines, like smoking cigarettes, was a matter of personal choice. “Any time you interfere with the basic market system,” he said in 1981, “you’re in trouble…the consumer is his own best guardian.”

Impossible as it was to know how the new president would transform the FDA in early 1981, political pundits, economic analysts and pharmaceutical industry insiders suggested that Reagan meant less regulation, which meant industry growth. The President of the National Association of Retail Druggists (NARD), Jesse M. Pike, sent a congratulatory letter to Reagan. It emphasized how delighted NARD was to see him in the White House and just how his regulatory reform beliefs would be good for business. In Pharmaceutical TechnologyJames Dickinson wrote, “everyone expects life to be easier for industry under the new Reagan Administration.”

Apparently, the Washington cocktail circuit was rife with speculation about the new administration repealing the Kefauver-Harris 1962 drug efficacy requirements – a move that would further enhance prospects for industry growth. This was nonsense, according to knowledgeable policymakers and reporters. Still, the fact that the notion was even bandied about, however fancifully, represented a substantial change in the debate about drug regulation.

Reagan promoting Chesterfield, circa 1952

The press envisaged a pharmaceutical industry boom in the near future. Newspapers reported how “The Drug Business Sees a Golden Era Ahead” and that pharmaceutical associations were positively giddy. Rep. James Scheuer (D-NY) publicly denounced the agency’s over-cautiousness and emphasized the need for immediate reform. It was risk averse, to the detriment of sick Americans. Moxalactum, he argued, was an American-made antibiotic for pneumonia used by Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia – yet it was not available in the United States. The narrative Scheuer framed was that the FDA was protecting Americans to death – and this before the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Mounting enthusiasm about pharmaceutical growth in the wake of the Reagan election was palpable. Reports indicated that the pharmaceutical industry and investors were confident about the future – a golden era – in this new regulatory climate. There was bullishness about drug stocks in general, and many predictions that pharmaceutical companies would start to generate more and more earning in 1981 and 1982. Overall, these stories proved to be accurate.

Ronald Reagan, however, had pledged in 1980, with trademark sincerity, not to gut the FDA. Rather, he made oblique references to the agency’s storied history and resorted to prosaic comments about the danger of hidebound power-hungry bureaucracies. “There’s a certain amount of regulation that is always necessary to protect us from each other,” he told CBS’s Walter Cronkite. “And that I recognize. We don’t want to, for example, eliminate the responsibility of the FDA…”

Much can be gleaned from Reagan’s public statements about the Food and Drug Administration, but they fail to reveal the entire picture. On May 20, 1986, Reagan described a meeting between Paul Laxalt, Jack Dreyfus, and himself. Dreyfus, who had “spent $50 mil. of his own money” was attempting to have the epilepsy drug Dilantin approved and found a roadblock in the form of the FDA. According to Reagan’s personal diary: “The villain in the case is the Fed. Drug Admin & they are a villain.”

 Red Herrings and Empowered Patients

Under the Trump administration, will the FDA play the villain role? President Trump will build on earlier Republican efforts to streamline the agency, whether these took place during Reagan or Bush presidencies. He has promised to remove barriers for overseas drugs and support ‘Right to Try’ laws, which will attempt to provide access to unapproved drugs. Indeed, some of these measures may help patients. And the Trump administration will be the right track if it can safely accelerate drug approvals, promote production and use of generics, and lower drug prices through increased competition.

Gottlieb and others have suggested they would radically restructure the drug approval process –  even if that remains something of a red herring argument. QuintilesIMS Institute, among various other organizations, have determined that the total time between patent and approval has dropped 31% since 2008. Yale researchers hold that the FDA is already considerably faster than Europe and Canada when it comes to approving drugs.

Another area of regulation that ought to be monitored closely is advertising. Every other nation besides the US and New Zealand has concluded that advertising powerful drugs for treating complex illnesses makes no sense when your target market lacks the qualifications to fully grasp the risks. How will powerful painkillers be regulated in the years ahead.

The drug industry wants to empower patients, to invest them in the writing of prescriptions. Looking ahead, it will be important to watch the administration’s and FDA’s role in faciliating this.

FOR MORE ON PATIENT ACTIVISM

Quarrelsome cannabis in the UK

Trimming Down: The Debate over Weight Loss Drugs and the Push for a Leaner FDA, 1979-2001

“The [industry] idea is that consumers are central players in their health management and therefore have a right to be informed of different drugs,” Lewis Grossman, a specialist in food and drug law, told the Los Angeles Times.

Yet, the practice of medicine should not be placed in the hands of amateurs and junk scientists. In the post-truth era, however, when an opioid epidemic soars and drug prices are hitting Americans in the pocketbooks, these “facts” could be lost in the noise.

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Thanks for reading. For more, please follow the blog.

Lucas Richert is a Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, UK). He is the author of Conservatism, Consumer Choice, and the Food and Drug Administration during the Reagan Era. He’s currently at work on a second book, tentatively called Strange Medicines: Drugs, Science, and Big Pharma in Culture.