A Short History of Tardive Dyskinesia

By Robert Whitaker: For Complete Post, Click Here…

On November 15, Mad in America published a report on the marketing of two new drugs for tardive dyskinesia (TD), Ingrezza and Austedo, which cost up to $7000 per month and are being touted as “breakthrough medications.” The report provided an in-depth look at the financial influences present in their development and marketing, and told of how these expensive new medications are really “me-too” compounds, with little benefit over an existing generic used to treat TD symptoms.

Given that TD is a disorder caused by antipsychotics, there is an obvious outrageous element to this story: the pharmaceutical industry is now profiting by developing drugs to treat the harm caused by its own products.

There is another aspect to this story, one that can be dug out from the scientific literature, that needs to be known. TD is regularly presented as a disorder of involuntary movements, and thus a dysfunction of the basal ganglia. But this common conception of TD obscures a more devastating truth: TD should be understood as drug-induced brain damage that leads to a global decline in brain function. The motor dysfunction is often accompanied by an increase in psychotic symptoms, a decline in cognitive function, and an increased risk of early death.

Moreover, while the new drugs may reduce the visible manifestations of TD—the tics, spasms, and other motor abnormalities—they do nothing to repair the brain damage caused by antipsychotics. Indeed, an examination of the “mechanism of action” of the TD drugs reveals that they can be expected to worsen brain function over time. These drugs impair the normal functioning of multiple neuronal pathways in the brain.

This is the latest chapter in a long-running story of medical harm on a grand scale, to which psychiatry—and our society—has mostly turned a blind eye for decades. History is repeating itself, and to a tragic end.

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