Monday, July 12, 2010

Obesity, ignorance, and the world's largest drug cartel

The Associated Press: FDA to review first of 3 new weight loss drugs
USDA Report: Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages

No, no, NO!  Why should this even be an option?  Leave it to the American pharmaceutical companies to make it their very duty in life to get people hooked on "miracle pills" for literally the most minor of "ailments", even though most of these medications prove to be addictive and come with scary side effects.

The so-called obesity "epidemic" in our country has created many concerns in recent years, not only in the healthcare arena, but in the political world as well.  The number of fat people has risen greatly, and the costs of medical care for these people takes a significant chunk out of everyone else's healthcare budget, and with our economy the way it is, governments are looking to cut the fat.  Our nanny-state legislators see fit to tax, regulate, and ban certain ingredients in food as well as entire products, such as soda, which is currently being taxed in a handful of states, with several more states and the federal government considering similar taxes for the future.  Michelle Obama has even made childhood obesity the target of her "First Lady Mission" (or whatever it's called).  But is obesity really the medical problem it's been played out to be?  Should we be offering pills for this?  And the even bigger political question: why should all consumers be taxed for these goods when obese people are the minority?  Isn't that taxation without representation?

 First I'll target the taxes...most governments that are choosing to place fees on soda are also extending the extra charge to any beverage containing sugar...that means Gatorade, <100% fruit juice, and even chocolate milk.  The inclusion of sports drinks particularly frustrates me; in my youth I was a very competitive swimmer, and consistently purchased Gatorade in massive volumes for grueling 3-day meets.  Luckily the tax wasn't in effect back then, or else I would have been charged for partaking in activity that encourages the exact opposite of obesity!  This is the main problem: that the fees are nondiscriminatory--you could be Paris Hilton and the "obesity tax" would still apply.  This leads to an age-old democratic problem: taxation without representation.  If obese people are the minority, why should I be taxed if I'm physically fit?  Haven't I earned my right to drink some soda by working out and leading a basically healthy lifestyle?  My answer is yes.  While studies have been done to determine whether or not the tax could actually reduce consumption and/or obesity in general, the point remains that the entire populace should not be penalized for the acts of few, and I expect to see more uprising on the subject in the future in states where the tax has gone into effect.

As far as obesity as a medical ailment goes, I strongly disagree with the notion that being overweight is a sickness.  While it most definitely leads to severe health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, etc., I feel like people have forgotten that obesity is one of the most preventable of all medical problems.  There is no substitute for balanced diet and exercise.  The only exception I acknowledge is the rare case in which gastric-bypass surgery is needed to fix pre-existing digestive problems.  By subsidizing irresponsible lifestyle choices and classifying poor diet as an "epidemic", America has sent the message that there is no cure for fat, which there most definitely is and has been since the dawning of our species.  Whether or not these people want to take the initiative to stay fit, it's not the government's duty to control aspects of the food industry, nor should it be the taxpayer's duty to foot the bill for their thoughtless and preventable "condition".  It's the sole responsibility of parents and individuals to eat right and get at least minimal physical exercise--we owe it to our bodies.

The medications set before the FDA for consideration this week are even scarier than I imagined.  According to the AP article above, two of the three proposed treatments are a mixture of amphetamines and anti-convulsants.  Oh yes, that sounds extremely healthy for a person that already displays lack of personal control.  Since when is it okay for police to roll around impounding marijuana while highly addictive amphetamines are praised by federal agencies and mass-produced by big pharma?  Patients in research studies of these drugs had high dropout rates because of memory and cognitive impairment.  That really sounds like something people should be taking in the morning before they drive to work.  Furthermore, obesity pills of the past have faced lawsuits and recalls for high risk of heart attack, permanent liver damage, and even anal leakage (gross).  If these medications are approved by the FDA, it will prove just how short-sighted and profit-driven our federal agencies and beloved pharmaceutical corporations really are--they're the largest drug cartel on the planet, operating 100% legally within our borders and getting people hooked on pills and rushed to the ER for fatal overdoses by the thousands.  They'll continue to do this as long as Americans keep messing up their bodies and looking for the easy way out.  I've got a solution for America's obese: Get off the couch and put the McDonald's down.

On a brighter note, check out this pharma company from the UK who has just landed on our turf and has some REAL ideas on effective medical treatment: GW Pharmaceuticals--Creator of Sativex 



  1. Actually I sent an email to you, but it said there was an error, so I dont know if you recieved it. Perhap's I done something incorrect. But it was more detail concerning what I commented about in the last posting of your's.

    Thank You ......

  2. I must admit to being a little puzzled at the intensity. I can understand your objecting to such drugs being subsidized with tax money (if that's the case), but if the side effects are not too bad and are understood by the patient, shouldn't weight-loss medications be an available option, just as a matter of freedom of choice?

    It's true that adequate self-discipline could solve this problem for most people, but that kind of self-discipline is very difficult for many people to achieve. We're evolved for an environment where food was more often rare than abundant, and gorging during times of plenty was a survival adaptation. Our instincts are mal-adaptive for an environment with a permanent abundance of food.

    I do agree with you that taxing certain foods is overkill (and it probably doesn't reduce consumption much, anyway). Maybe there should be a "fat tax" -- $X per pound over optimal BMI, say.:-)

  3. "I feel like people have forgotten that obesity is one of the most preventable of all medical problems. There is no substitute for balanced diet and exercise."

    My registered nutritionist cousin would agree that there's no substitute for exercise and eating well - we need to get "diet" out of the equation. Since she works in conjunction with mental and physical health professionals in treating patients with eating disorders, I'm not sure she'd agree that obesity is all that preventable. There are simply too many factors that enter into it just as there are too many factors that define eating disorders.

    For at least the second year in a row a study documents that with the exception of one state, the top six with the highest rate of obesity are here in the south. All you have to do is sit out in a Burger King lot and watch families waddle out. Papa Bear with his gut hanging out over his pants. Mama with her t-strap shirt rolling up her 7-months-pregnant-looking belly. Jr. and Sis with those adorable little chubby legs that rub against each other. They're all carrying supersizers and they're all waddling.

    The difficulties in educating these people about eating nutritionally while feeling satisfied is equivalent to turning the nation's economy around.

  4. I agree with both of you that, medically, obesity can be a complex issue. But my main problem is the universal nature of "obesity regulation" programs and taxes and the relatively dangerous nature of the new drugs in question.

    Soda taxes/sugar taxes are not yet in effect in every state, but even some of the taxes we pay into the general fund will go to "fight obesity", and the non-obese have no say in the matter.

    I will contend that some people find it harder than others to stay in shape, but making it everyone's political and economic burden and introducing more addictive amphetamine-based drugs into the legal drug market is not good for our country.

    Prescription drugs like these are extremely unsafe compared to natural human alternatives such as minimal exercise and a minimally balanced diet. Offering quick-fix "diet pills" to the public does not encourage people to live healthier lives, it's just another easy way out, if you want to risk the cognitive impairment, increased risk of heart attack, and addiction.

    Laziness breeds laziness, in my opinion.

  5. I agree with you about diet pills but I feel the same way about supplements. Talk about a rip-off industry and a potentially dangerous one.

    But we all have to pay taxes for things we may or may not use - parks, schools, public transportation, etc. - that's just the way it is in a democracy.

  6. I'm cool with democracy and most of the things on my dime, but I and most other fiscal "conservatives" see the constant panhandling of the government for shady agendas like this one as a threat to democracy itself.

    The government puts their hands out and we're just supposed to pay "because they say so". Time for them to stop taking up ridiculous charity causes and stick to governing--something they've proven to be horrible at.

  7. I disagree with your simple solution. The actual cause of the epidemic is something the government should address - because the industry clearly will not. I'm sure big business thinks things are fine the way things are. They created the problem, now they've created the "solution".

    The real problem is High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is an ingredient in practically every single processed food in the grocery store. Which makes it incredibly hard to avoid, especially if you are a lower income person -- because HFCS is cheap -- due to our government's subsidizing of corn production.

    I don't know how concerns about the health of the nation translates to a "ridiculous charity cause". The government always has, and will continue to, use tax policy to reduce bad behaviors and encourage good ones. Which is as it should be.

    Before we consider any new taxes, however, I believe that corn subsidies should be done away with. Not only are they responsible for the obesity epidemic, but have also had a devastating impact on Mexican corn farmers.

  8. What about taxes on cigerettes and alcohol?

  9. People seem to think I don't understand the concept of behavior taxing...*sigh* please read the article closely and you will see that I am referring to specific flawed aspects of this practice in regards to a very, very preventable health issue, and yes, common obesity is VERY preventable, I will never step down from that belief.

    dervish - Not sure what you disagree with...the actual root causes of obesity are what should be regulated by the government, not the consumption of finished-product goods that are purchased by people from all walks of life. If the gov't were to regulate manufacturer's use of HFCS and other dangerous fatty ingredients, the ingredients would never be passed along to the consumer in the first place.

    tnlib - That's pretty off-topic, as this deals with food items that everyone eats, rather than toxic and addictive substances that actually pose a more immediate health risk to ALL users. Not everyone who drinks soda is obese, as a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say the majority of soda-drinkers are not. That being said, why should my food items be taxed if my use of them is not dangerous/in excess?