Chew on This: FDA Embraces Big Pharma; Takes Aim at Big Gum


I was minding my own business, drinking a large cup of coffee in fact when I chanced upon a story May 8th in the USA Today.  “WASHINGTON (AP) — Wrigley says it is taking a new caffeinated gum off the market temporarily as the Food and Drug Administration investigates the safety of added caffeine.”  I spit up.  Really?  Major Tranquilizers, Amphetamines, Benzodiazepines, and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors have all been approved by the FDA for the treatment of so-called “mental illness.”

These drugs are being prescribed to youth, some as young as 3 and 4 years of age.  My Big League Chew is more dangerous than Uncle Jim’s Seroquel or my big brother’s Adderall?  I asked my nephew if he could sell my double pack of Big Red at college for the same kind of cash he’s getting for his “extra” Ritalin.  He laughed and said, “No way, that stuff will kill you!”

Glancing at my Java suspiciously, I read on.  “Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner of foods, said Wrigley’s decision to stop production for now “demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health.”  Guh!  Where is the “real leadership” and “commitment to the public health” of Big Pharma?  Where’s the FDA’s concern for documented, life-threatening, life-altering “side effects” (really just drug effects) of psychiatry’s magic bullets?

Feeling queasy now and a little light headed I attempted to finish the article, “Major medical associations have warned that too much caffeine can be dangerous for children, who have less ability to process the stimulant than adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it has been linked to harmful effects on young people’s developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.”  UGGGH!  Through the nose this time.  What’s the AAP say about the harmful effects of Concerta, Depakote, Trazadone and Risperdal on young people’s “developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems”?

If you really think caffeinated gum is more dangerous than the currently prescribed drugs to treat “mental illnesses” this piece isn’t for you.  If you agree with me that this theater of the absurd is too much, grab your Double Mint and comment below. 

USA Today Story



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. You’re right, it’s absurd, insulting even. The side effects and warnings on risperidone for children plainly advise things like “your child may have difficulty climbing stairs”…not to mention endocrine havoc and all the rest.

    Regulating gum, huh?

    Thanks for the phrase Big Gum – that’s a good one! (Out of curiosity, who is Wrigley owned by now? Oh, Mars, Inc.)

    Here is Big Gum’s parent company, Big Candy:

    Mars, Incorporated is an American global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products with US$30 billion in annual sales in 2010, and is ranked as the 3rd largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes.[2] Headquartered in McLean, unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, US,[3][4] the company is entirely owned by the Mars family. Mars operates in six business segments in the US: Chocolate (Hackettstown, New Jersey), Petcare (Franklin, Tennessee), Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (Chicago, Illinois), Food (Los Angeles, California), Drinks (West Chester, Pennsylvania), and Symbioscience (Germantown, Maryland).[5][6]

    Symbioscience sounded suspicious and interesting. So, I looked a little further, and I found their home page. Apparently Symbioscience is an industry that works on canine DNA testing, cocoa flavenols, and artificial horticultural substrates.

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  2. The whole thing is a joke! I was prescribed dextroamphetamine because clomipramine made me sleepy.

    Needless to say, Big Pharma has a history of putting profits ahead of people that goes back at least more than 100 years. The FDA is infiltrated by them, so are policy makers from both sides of the aisle. What happens is that psychiatry gives Big Pharma the perfect specialty: a shaky, but legal, foundation that offers only “medication for life” as its “treatments”.

    When people lament that Big Pharma is retreating from psychotropic drug development because it is difficult, they are completely missing the point. The only reason Big Pharma has been on the defensive lately on this matter is because every singly big manufacturer of psychiatric drugs has had to pay millions or billions of dollars to settle civil and criminal charges relating the marketing of psychiatric drugs. While Big Pharma is happy to pay the fines from shareholder money as part of making business, its executives are not willing to go to jail, so they might have reached the conclusion that if they continue to work in this shaky field, it’s only time before one of them does.

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    • Exactly! Big Pharma and psychiatry have climbed into bed together. Drug reps from the big drug companies state that they refer to psychiatrists as (excuse my language but it’s their choice of word and not mine) drug whores. I think that tells us all we need to know about all of this.

      I agree. It’s time that the CEO’s of these drug companies get to spend a little time in prison for the atrocities they’ve perpetrated on humanity.

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  3. This has to be the height of absurdity! The big white elephant sitting in the corner is laughing his head off pointing his white trunk at the FDA suckers who themselves think they are fooling the public with their pseudo concern for them. Excuse me while I take a slurp of coffee and laugh with the elephant. 😉

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  4. In 1978, when I first saw the inside of a Department of Veterans Affairs psych ward, the two major subjects of contention between patients and staff were cigarettes and coffee. Both of these products made the patients more alert, which made the jobs of the staff more difficult.

    Crude attempts at behaviour modification were made by the staff using these products in a scheme of reward and punishment, but when these attempts failed, a total prohibition was instituted for the “health” of the patients.

    Today, the veterans are served only decaffeinated coffee and those who enter with a smoking addiction are prescribed “the patch” at a cost to the Government of about $26 per day. Headaches from caffeine withdrawal in new arrivals are also treated with FDA-approved prescription medications.

    Now, if we could just get a handle on why the veteran suicide rate is so high?

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    • I saw the same kinds of stupidities going on in the private hospital where I was held that you’re describing here. If everyone *behaved themselves* and were docile and compliant they got to go out and have a smoke break. Since I don’t smoke I piped up and asked what kind of an incentive I would get for *behaving* and being compliant? I got an ugly look from all the staff! The staff let the patients have real coffee early in the morning but then forced decaf on everyone later in the day. Some of the patients began making raids on the bags of regular coffee supply and hid it around on the unit. We made our own coffee and we’d pilfer it out during the day, pretending to use the decaf the staff handed out. They couldn’t figure out why the patients were in such good spirits in the afternoon! In the state hospital where I finally ended up they make the patients drink only decaf and they control the making of the coffee! Smarter than the staff of the private hospital!

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  5. David,

    Sometimes this all seems like Wonderland:

    “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


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  6. The article has a nice North Korean touch about it: “Citizens rejoice! Government and Industry are working together for your safety!”

    Faith R. makes an interesting point, though: Big Food is just as big and bad, if not bigger and badder, than Big Pharma. So that makes me think that this caffeinated gum was probably not selling and they were going to pull it anyway, but that’d be a commercial failure which makes company executives look bad. Much better to throw a bone at the FDA, who gets to pretend they are actually doing something for public health; Mars gets to look all caring and enlightened and can continue with the business of selling beautifully packed blends of salt, fat, sugar and possibly carcinogenic chemicals without any objections from the FDA. I know, it’s paranoia, but at least it keeps me entertained.

    By the way, they forgot to mention in the article: anyone getting jittery from sudden caffeine withdrawal must contact their doctor for a safe prescription of benzodiazepines.

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