Thousands of Gulf War veterans who complained of memory and concentration problems, rashes, headaches, and muscle pain following their return from Kuwait and Iraq were suffering from a real illness and weren’t just feeling the aftereffects of combat stress, according to a new congressionally mandated report. The report broke with most earlier studies by concluding that two chemical exposures were direct causes of the disorder: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, given to troops to protect against nerve gas, and pesticides that were used — and often overused — to protect against sand flies and other pests [Los Angeles Times].
One-quarter of the 700,000 U.S. troops who took part in Operation Desert Storm have reported symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, according to the report, which fails to identify any cure for the malady. It also notes that few veterans afflicted with Gulf War illness have recovered over time [CNN]. The report calls for at least $60 million in new federally funded research on the syndrome and potential treatments.
The antismoking drug Chantix was considered a wonder drug for about 18 months; the drug helps people quit smoking by both reducing nicotine cravings and decreasing the pleasure derived from tobacco. Then the reports of scary side effects started leaking out. In November 2007 the Food and Drug Administration announced that the drug had caused suicides, psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations. A wonder drug no longer, Chantix began to be perceived as a crazy pill.
Yet despite the growing concerns over the drug, a recent investigation has shown that the Veterans Affairs (VA) department continued to test Chantix on veterans who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the aftermath of the revelations, Congress has called on the VA to immediately suspend the studies, and the agency is now sending letters to about 33,000 veterans who are taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix, warning them about possible side effects, including thoughts of suicide [AP].