How Poisoning Has Become The New Standard of Care
What does the 4 billion dollar a year blockbuster Alzheimer's drug donepezil (trade name Aricept) have in common with insecticides, chemical weapons and venom? Quite a lot more than consumers taking them have been lead to believe.
As a member of the chemical class known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors donepezil interferes with the cholinesterase enzyme, preventing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down, resulting in an increase in both its levels and duration of action.
While this can result in a temporary increase in memory, there is currently no definitive proof that use of donepezil or other similar agents slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, 21% of patients on this medication discontinue within 12 months due to serious adverse side effects
Donepezil is considered a reversible or non-competitive cholinesterase inhibitor, and therefore will not be as toxic as the reversible competitive or noncompetitive inhibitors of cholinesterase which kill insects and humans through their neurotoxic effects. The problem, however, is that – as is the case with virtually all FDA-approved, novel and patented chemical drugs – it is evolutionarily and biologically unprecedented, representing a classical case of repackaging one of a drug's many "side effects" as a "therapeutic action." After all, Alzheimer's disease, or any neurodegenerative condition, is not caused by a lack of any drug. In other words, the very premise upon which Alzheimer's is treated with donepezil is bankrupt at the outset.
In 2010 the World Health Organization published a report which looked at over 71,000 documented cases of drug-induced seizures between 1998 and 2006 and found that donepezil was a major contributing factor in 8.4% of them.
Seizures represent the tip of a massive iceberg of adverse effects. Another classical side effect of organophosphate insecticide poisoning is bradycardia (arrhythmia), a well documented side effect of donepezil.
What is so outrageous about the present situation is that non-patentable, inexpensive and relatively safe alternatives to intrinsically neurotoxic drugs like donepezil not only exist, but have been confirmed through clinical research.
Take gingko biloba as an example. In 2006 the European Journal of Neurology published the results of a 24-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study showing an extract of this plant was as effective as donepezil for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease:
Our study suggests that there is no evidence of relevant differences in the efficacy of EGb 761 [gingko biloba] and donepezil in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's dementia, so the use of both substances can be justified. In addition, this study contributes to establish the efficacy and tolerability of the Ginkgo biloba special extract E.S. in the dementia of the Alzheimer type with special respect to moderately severe stages. Source