Last Night’s TV – Horizon: Pill Poppers

by Lynn Connolly

This latest Horizon film was of particular interest to me since my heart and lung disease was caused by a prescription drug.

When I first found out that the drug I was prescribed for the annoying-but-not-fatal Restless Leg Syndrome, I was horrified as I delved deeper into the manufacturer’s data about clinical trials.

I discovered that I had been incredibly naïve, and this edition of Horizon confirmed that. I had assumed that when our GP writes a prescription for us, the drug we’re given is ‘safe’. It’s not necessarily at all.

Of course we’re all familiar with the Thalidomide scandal but I had thought – before I found out otherwise – that something like that couldn’t happen in our modern age. Wrong. It happens all the time.

When I read that the particular drug that I was given was “awaiting post-marketing data”, what that effectively means is “we’re just waiting to see how many of the human guinea pigs out there die.”

My naivety about trusting prescription drugs has now of course vanished, and if I needed further persuasion to never trust a pretty coloured tablet again, it was further validated as we heard in this film that effectively, a bunch of chemicals are lined up and a particle of some disease or another lobbed at them…

Anything that has a reaction is further refined and pharmaceutical fingers are crossed – hoping for not too many lawsuits and/or deaths – as the latest wonder drug is issued forth.

We’re in a giant lab us pill popping Brits, and we’re the often dispensable rats.

However, as was argued in a segment of this film, if drug manufacturers waited until they were 100% sure of what their drug might do, no new drugs would ever be issued, therefore, no ‘miracle’ drug for some.

It’s really all a big lottery; Viagra started its life as being a palliative drug for heart disease patients, but when a lot of those taking it began to get erections that wouldn’t go away, presto, another marketable use turned up.

Ritalin is of course famous for being used for ADHD in children but, again, as a result of lab ratting us – or ‘post-marketing data’ – it was found to improve concentration in people who don’t have the disorder, so students are now taking them like Smarties.

But one shocking fact still remains; for each and every drug produced, the long-term effects will only be known when they’ve been in general use for a long, long time.

As one scientist put it, “The difference between a drug and a poison is basically the dose.”

Sobering and shocking stuff…

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.