Editorial Note: This is the final part of Laurie Oakley’s series on Pharmaceutical Rape. All six parts with better imagery (no-one is enthusiastic about the Martin Shkreli images) and extra text are available here as a PDF Download.
Pharmaceutical violence is a social issue as well as medical problem that demands a social response and medical intervention. To address what is now an ongoing human rights catastrophe and to help survivors recover from what has happened to them, it is important that we shift all of our focus to the systems that perpetrate pharmaceutical rape. We need to ensure that full responsibility is taken for the practices that lead to these iatrogenic harms. The essential way of assuring systemic change is to have an organized community response. This can occur through petitioning for a governmental task force, the enactment of new legislation, remedial actions through the courts, the initiation of comprehensive educational programs, new training protocols for health care providers, and various community-based efforts. Government officials, the courts, educational systems, medical professionals, and the public need to work together in order to bring about systems accountability. As we begin to fully recognize how pharmaceutical violence affects all parts of society, we can develop comprehensive responses as well as individual approaches to end all forms of pharmaceutical violation. Patients along with supportive doctors can come together to make this happen.
A medical ally is someone who commits to working toward ending the systemic practices that perpetuate pharmaceutical violence. An ally becomes willing to:
- Educate oneself on the full scope of corporate pharmaceutical influence in government, academia, healthcare (including front groups), and the media;
- Listen to and learn from the stories of people who have experienced harms;
- Examine one’s own beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions about medical and mental healthcare systems, and the role of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical companies in healthcare;
- Recognize potential feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness and work toward understanding what might lay beneath them, taking time to grieve/heal as part of the process;
- Learn strategies for challenging the speech, behaviors, policies, and institutional structures that perpetuate iatrogenic outcomes via pharmaceutical influence;
- Act collaboratively with survivors to change the systems that support pharmaceutical rape and pharmaceutical rape culture.
Hubs for support and activism
The RxISK Community
RxISK is an organization committed to breaking the silence around the social injustice of pharmaceutical violation. It is a go-to website for reporting and researching the adverse effects of medicines for patients, healthcare providers, and pharmacists. It is also a place where people can tell their stories, find support, and learn from the stories of others. The Data Based Medicine organization that sponsors RxISK was formed by an international team of medical experts who recognize the dangers inherent in medicine when public access to clinical trial data has not been granted by the multinational pharmaceutical companies. RxISK is a free, independent drug safety website where prescription drugs can be researched to see what side-effects have been reported in the 5.9 million reports submitted to the FDA, Health Canada, and RxISK. Users are able to download a RxISK Report to take to their doctors to discuss whether the effects they are experiencing might be linked to the prescriptions they are taking.
Mad In America
The Mad In America (MIA) Online Forum was launched in 2012 and is a growing international community of people interested in a plethora of topics surrounding the rethinking of psychiatry, including psychiatry’s embrace of medication prescribing. Central to MIA’s mission is to provide a platform for the voices of those with lived experience within psychiatry, voices that have historically been stifled. MIA offers professional continuing education (CEUs) and continuing medical education (CME) courses that are based on research that is free from commercial interests. Topic areas include psychiatric medications, long-term effects, and alternatives that promote long-term recovery and better overall outcomes. The project operates under the non-profit umbrella of The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.
Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation
The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation (GRIEF) is a 501(c)(3) organization specializing in helping people who are dealing with grief. The organization is headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California, with locations in Canada, England and Sweden. Its mission focuses on disseminating accurate and helpful information about grief and the possibility of recovery from the impact of death, divorce, and other significant emotional losses. Grief Recovery outreach programs are facilitated by individuals who become certified specialists in this particular method and groups can be made available in all parts of the world.
Because the Institute’s founders, John James and Russell Friedman, recognize that sadness and grief are predictable and natural human responses to loss, they have spoken out against the medicalization of grief that often leads to the use of pharmacological treatments soon after a loss.
I include Grief Recovery here because of the significant losses many of us have experienced as a result of taking prescribed medications: the loss of health, loved ones, careers, dreams, trust, sense of safety, and more. Whether through the Grief Recovery Institute or some other method, it’s important that we take time to grieve. By joining with others who are also grieving we break our isolation and, not insignificantly, our sharing may inform others of risks in medicine everyone deserves to know about.