My article last week about the fake photo at VegSource.Com generated quite a bit of discussion and a flurry of e-mails sent to yours truly. But for the record it is important to note that the sloppiness with the truth extends beyond Photoshop antics — the VegSource article that accompanied that fake photo contains the most basic of errors.
If a group is going to accuse the pharmaceutical industry of lying about medical research, you would think that such a group would want to do a minimum of research on the subject. Instead VegSource seems to have relied on the standard cutting and pasting from animal rights fact sheets for their information.
How else to explain this obvious falsehood in the VegSource article,
But they won’t talk to a credible researcher who might point to information like the fact that the combination of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine (or “phen-fen”), prescribed by thousands of doctors to combat obesity, was tested on animals for years, and deemed safe for humans.
Only someone who has done no research at all about phen-fen could possibly write such an absurd sentence.
First of all, “phen-fen” was not “a combination of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine.” Rather it was a combination of phentermine with either fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine (a small percentage of patients were on all three drugs.) It was the combination of phentermine with one of the two fenfluramine drugs that caused dramatic weight loss. You’d think VegSource could at least get something as straightforward as that correct.
Second, phen-fen was not tested extensively on animals. Both drugs had been separately approved and used in the United States as appetite suppressants for decades. The combination therapy, however, was an off-label prescription that didn’t require animal testing and became widespread only a few years before both drugs were pulled from the market.
Finally, the animal testing done on both drugs indicated, in fact, that there were risks to the way in which the drugs were prescribed in combination. Specifically, both drugs were only approved for relatively short term uses. Fenfluramine especially was approved only for very short-term use not to last beyond several weeks. When phentermine was approved, the FDA indicated that there was no data available on how safe the drug would be after periods of use longer than 1 year.
One FDA study of phen-fen users found that the study group had been on the combination therapy an average of 9 months, meaning most of those patients had been taking fenfluramine far past the recommended safe time period and a significant number of people had been taking phentermine for more than a year.
It is a little absurd to blame animal safety data for hazards encountered from off-label prescribing. But that’s par for the course from a group that can’t even accurately report what drug compounds were involved.
“Animal Experimentation Is Good!”
How Industry Front Organizations: Try to Twist Public Perceptions. VegSource.Com, June 4, 2001.