Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Prozac Nation, UK. Doctors Overdosing The People

Hundreds of thousands of people in Britain are being prescribed powerful anti-depressants that they may not need because doctors are using the pills as a "quick fix" solution to mild anxiety problems, according to a report published today.

Desperate shortages of NHS counsellors and therapists mean that over-worked GPs often feel they have no option but to hand out anti-depressants to people who may only need an outlet for discussing their problems. Eighty per cent of GPs admit that they are over-prescribing drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat when patients may simply need someone to talk to.

The research reveals the extent to which Britain has become a "Prozac Nation", with more than six million people now taking pills to prop up their mood. Campaigners said the level of drug-prescribing had reached alarming levels, while some patients said they had been handed pills "as if they were sweets".

The survey of 250 GPs by Norwich Union Healthcare found that eight out of 10 admitted that they were over-prescribing anti-depressants, and three-quarters said they were handing out more of the drugs than they did five years ago.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Bizarre sex case gets 5 years in prison

As reported in the Stamford Advocate

A Bridgeport man who plead guilty to charges related to his impersonation of a doctor and conducting gynecological exams was sentenced Friday to 10 years, suspended after five years, according to the Connecticut Post's detailed reports. Barry Lichenthal also was ordered to make $6,000 in restitution to the state and register as a sex offender. Lichenthal, 59, has plead guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault, practicing medicine without a license, first-degree larceny, reckless endangerment and practicing pharmacy without a license. He was arrested in April 2003.

State officials suspended the medical license of Lichenthal's wife, Dr. Liane Leedom, a Trumbull psychiatrist. She was accused of misleading patients into believing that her husband was a licensed physician and allowing him to examine female patients. Leedom, 42, was arrested in January on charges of allowing Lichenthal to illegally run the clinic while she was gone. Her case is pending in Hartford Superior Court.

Leedom was medical director of Noah's Ark Foundation, a methadone treatment center. She also ran a mood disorder clinic.

(See also this report from WFSB)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Eli Lily under investigation for psych drug marketing practices

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the marketing practices of Eli Lilly and Co., the drugmaker said on Thursday, the most recent in a slew of probes into sales practices by big pharmaceutical companies. Lily said the investigation likely targets promotional practices for its best-selling product, the $4.3 billion-a-year schizophrenia treatment Zyprexa, as well as antidepressant Prozac.

Federal and state investigators in Pennsylvania have been particularly active in pursuing drugmakers and other health-care companies that might be engaging in improper practices to boost their profit.

Other drugmakers in recent years have had to pay sizable fines to settle allegations that they had bilked the federal Medicare and state Medicaid insurance programs for the poor and elderly by overcharging for their products.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Ohio's Mental Health System broken

The Enquirer on cincinatti.com has been investigating the Mental Health System in Ohio. They found that Ohio's system for treating children with mental illness is entrenched in bureaucracy and plagued by abuse.

See the full report here Among other things, they found:

• To get public help, thousands of parents who can't afford treatment give custody of their kids to the government.
• Some children sent to treatment centers are abused, molested, overdrugged or left to live in wretched conditions.
• No one's in charge. Two state agencies and hundreds of county agencies confound even the people running them.

Gov. Bob Taft acknowledges that Ohio's mental health system doesn't work for thousands of families.

Of course, some suggest funding more of the same old thing that got them into trouble in them first place

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Animals may be the future's therapists

60 psychiatric patients will work on Norwegian farms in order to determine the theraputic effect on patients who spend time working with farm animals.

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture informed that the project is directed by Agricultural University of Norway (NLH) and University of Oslo and the goal is to establish the effect of animal contact has on people with psychiatric illnesses. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, taking care of farm animals and working on a farm is a part of the treatment for the 60 patients who are participating in this new project.

Sounds better than being cooped up in a ward someplace. Dealing with a part of the real world, in a peaceful environment. who would have thought?

Read the full report here

Monday, March 22, 2004

FDA issues suicide caution for antidepressants

As reported on CNN

Patients on some popular antidepressants should be closely monitored for warning signs of suicide, the government warned Monday in asking the makers of 10 drugs to add the caution to their labels. Although the Food and Drug Administration's investigation into the possible suicide connection initially focused on children given the drugs, its warning is aimed at both adult and pediatric use of the pills to alleviate depression.

See the FDA public advisory here

See the FDA Information Page here (lots of info)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Banned 'sex' psychologists still at large

Disgraced Australian psychologists whose registrations have been cancelled for having sex with patients are still treating troubled clients. The failed practitioners are using legal loopholes to practise as counsellors, despite being struck off the Psychologists Registration Board.

A Herald Sun investigation has found a Fitzroy psychologist who had sex with a woman he was treating for marriage difficulties is now a relationship counsellor.

Paul Francis Mott was struck off four years ago for having an affair with a 30-year-old flight attendant who he was seeing for marriage problems. Mr Mott, who was also treating the woman's husband, accepted payment from the couple throughout the two-year affair. Mr Mott, 57, now advertises his marriage and family counselling business in the Yellow Pages and says he treats at least 10 regular patients every week.

Counselling is an unregulated industry and medical qualifications are not required to practise.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Playing Doctor on TV - Dr. Phil as PsychoEntertainment

As seen in this Salon article

When Neal David Sutz walked through the Paramount studio gate, he was looking forward to seeing a psychologist he respected, talk show host Phil McGraw. Sutz didn't know he was about to get caught in the awkward intersection of entertainment and counseling where "Dr. Phil" holds ground.

A mental health activist who himself had undergone treatment, Sutz hoped to attend a taping and connect with McGraw afterward to enlist his help in a public information campaign. Instead, the Mesa, Ariz., paralegal student was stopped short by paperwork. He and other would-be audience members were asked to sign a waiver attesting they didn't suffer from mental illness and weren't under psychiatric care.

The waiver also said that McGraw's statements shouldn't be considered therapy or a substitute for any form of therapy. Talking to a show representative, Sutz was told he could attend but couldn't talk to Dr. Phil or participate in the show -- for Sutz's own protection.

He left instead. The incident, which occurred last fall, has weighed on him; so much for "Doctor" Phil, he said in an interview.

The disclaimer signals "that his advice is not real medical, psychological advice at all," said Sutz. "It is pure entertainment and he should stop insinuating that it is anything but that, especially not real counseling."

Monday, March 15, 2004

Woman seeks penalty for therapist who molested her.

A Horror Story in which a woman cannot get her justice against the psych who molested her

GREENSBORO NC -- On the surface, it appeared to be a case against all odds: a woman who suffered from mental illness and said she had 80 personalities suing a respected therapist and college professor and challenging the state board assigned to watch over him.

Even the lawyer who took Angela Spell's case originally had trouble believing her claim: From 1996 to 1999, Greensboro psychotherapist and licensed nurse Daniel Longenecker had sexually exploited her. And the N.C. Board of Nursing had taken no disciplinary action in response to her complaint.

But Spell's story never changed -- that Longenecker had sex with her, that he made her eat feces, that he confessed their relationship to a friend of Spell's, that the nursing board never interviewed her for its investigation. The deeper attorney Phyllis Lile-King looked, the more convinced she became that Spell was telling the truth. Spell won her lawsuit when a jury found Longenecker liable for violating a state law called the Psychotherapist-Patient Sexual Exploitation Act

Now Spell is taking on another fight: trying to convince the nursing board about her allegation that it has a sexual predator in its midst. Seven months after Spell won a $176,000 civil court judgment against Longenecker, neither the N.C. Board of Nursing nor UNCG, where he teaches nursing, has done anything to limit his professional contact with the public. A nursing-board official says there was no credible evidence of Spell's claim in 2000, when she filed her first complaint. Since that time, Spell won her court victory, and, along with her current therapist, filed a new complaint urging a new investigation. But Donna Mooney, the board's director of discipline, said that the board's position hasn't changed.

She said the board takes all complaints seriously. But she wouldn't discuss details of its investigation or whether investigators contacted Spell, who said she was never interviewed about the complaint.

UNCG hasn't launched an investigation either. A lawyer for UNCG said the school won't discipline Longenecker -- who didn't return numerous phone calls -- unless the nursing board takes action. So, Longenecker continues to teach. One of his classes this semester concerns treating patients with psychosocial problems. He continues to supervise students working as interns. And he continues to have UNCG's permission to treat psychotherapy patients in his office on campus -- permission the university could withdraw at any time. UNCG attorney Skip Capone called Longenecker an exemplary faculty member who has received good evaluations from students and no complaints of wrongdoing. Because Spell isn't a student and because the exploitation that was the subject of the lawsuit didn't take place on campus, there's little the university can do, he said.

Spell, who lives in Trinity, wonders whether anyone will punish Longenecker. She fears he will harm others if someone doesn't discipline him. "He has issues he needs to deal with before he treats patients who have psychiatric diseases," said Spell, 45, who agreed to let the News & Record publish her name.

Longenecker's attorney said last week that he will try to appeal the jury's verdict, even though the deadline for filing an appeal passed in September. Randy James of Winston-Salem said he will ask the N.C. Court of Appeals for a provisional appeal because Longenecker's previous lawyer let the deadline pass. James said Longenecker strongly denies Spell's claims. "She has a history of (medical) issues herself," James said. "There's nothing else in his background to suggest these allegations are true."

The jury ruled unanimously that Spell was entitled to $60,000 for sexual exploitation, $16,000 for personal injury and $100,000 in punitive damages. The jury agreed, however, that she didn't suffer severe emotional distress. Spell has seen none of the money. Longenecker's malpractice insurer, the Chicago Insurance Company, says it isn't responsible for the verdict because his policy doesn't cover sexual abuse.

If the insurance company doesn't pay, Lile-King said she will try to collect the money from Longenecker.

Spell and Lile-King say no one representing the board has contacted them. Neither woman is satisfied that the board has taken the complaint seriously or that the board has properly investigated the original complaint, filed in 2000. The board closed the case without taking action. Spell insists she never was interviewed by investigators.

Despite Spell's frustrations that no one has punished Longenecker, she said she's the healthiest and happiest she has been in years. She's working as a pharmacy clerk in a drug store, and though she has maintained her nursing license, she's taking a refresher course to catch up on medical developments in the 12 years since she practiced.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

County mental health department further in the red

After cutting 45 jobs and setting up a special fund to deal with a $1.7 million deficit last year, the Mendocino County Mental Health Department is reporting that it will likely be almost $1 million further in the red this year. Mental Health Director Beth Martinez will ask the county supervisors to allow her to make more cuts in the department right away.

Infighting in the Field of Psychiatry

They have been called assassins and parasites. They receive hate mail from the proponents of a variety of popular psychotherapies. The president-elect of the American Psychological Association has accused them of being overly devoted to the scientific method. But the ire of their colleagues has not prevented a small, loosely organized band of academic psychologists from rooting out and publicly debunking mental health practices that they view as faddish, unproved or in some cases potentially harmful.

In 1988, a group of researchers, concerned that the American Psychological Association, the dominant professional organization, was not placing enough emphasis on science, split off and formed the American Psychological Society. The society now counts close to 15,000 members.

"These guys are sort of the Ralph Naders of psychology," said Dr. David Barlow, director of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University.

Dr. Richard McNally, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has conducted research on repressed memories, E.M.D.R. and other problems, said he had received threatening letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls from angry practitioners.

Read the full article from the New York Times.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Psychiatric Survivor to Receive Prestigious Disability Leadership Award

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is pleased to announce that international human rights lawyer and disability rights advocate Alison Ashley Hillman will receive a prestigious 2003 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Award for emerging leaders with disabilities. The award presentation, which includes a $10,000 cash award, will take place at AAPD's Third-Annual Leadership Gala on March 16, 2004, at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans and Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta will deliver keynote remarks, and a host of Congressional leadership will also be part of the program.

After receiving her bachelor's degree with distinction from Cornell University, Alison Ashley Hillman was handcuffed and taken to the psychiatric ward of her local hospital. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and rotated in and out of a locked ward for five months. Allison faced bankruptcy and was on food stamps, Medicare and SSI -- she also was forced to abandon her dream of becoming an international human rights lawyer. For two more years, she struggled and experienced first-hand the vast barriers that people with psychiatric disabilities face, including obstacles in finding employment, accessing healthcare and suffering debilitating stigma and discrimination.

Allison struggled, but survived. She also received her law degree cum laude from American University's Washington College of Law in 2002, and fulfilled her dream of becoming an international human rights lawyer. After graduation, she was awarded a New Voices Fellowship to work with Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI). New Voices is a national leadership development program that helps nonprofit organizations recruit creative and diverse "new voices" in the field.

Through this fellowship, Alison now manages MDRI's Americas Advocacy Initiative, where she works for the international recognition and enforcement of the rights of people with mental disabilities. In this capacity, she confronts and addresses the very barriers she experienced.

Allison hopes that the groundbreaking cases she is currently working on will establish legal precedent in the Inter-American system that recognizes and enforces the rights of people with mental disabilities, and also help illustrate that community alternatives are needed for people with mental disabilities and effortless detention in psychiatric facilities is inappropriate.

Alison's goals are to empower consumer-driven support and advocacy organizations through workshops in advocacy, human rights of people with mental disabilities, documentation of human rights violations, and the establishment of a small grants program for consumer-run advocacy organizations. Ultimately, she hopes to end the institutionalization of people with mental disabilities and aims to establish their right to appropriate treatment in the community.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Oregon doctor's license suspended for signing marijuana cards

A doctor who signed nearly half of all the medical marijuana cards in Oregon was suspended from practicing medicine on Thursday.

Dr. Phillip Leveque, 81, said Thursday he has signed more than 4,000 cards for people with crippling disorders who want to smoke pot to alleviate their pain. He had two offices in Portland and traveled frequently along Interstate 5 to mass meetings in hotel conference rooms with patients seeking the card.

By the time of his suspension Thursday, Leveque had authorized roughly 40 percent of all the cards issued in Oregon since the state became one of nine in the country legalizing pot for medicine in 1998. Leveque was under scrutiny since 2002, when the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license for 90 days and fined him $5,000 for signing cards without first seeing patients face-to-face. Sometimes, he reviewed descriptions of patients ailments sent by fax.

Several Oregon physicians hired by the board as consultants raised concerns about Leveque's practices, according to board executive director Kathleen Haley. They found he approved cards for patients with psychiatric disorders and prior histories of drug addition for whom marijuana was not appropriate, and recommended smoking pot for conditions that could in no way benefit from the drug, Haley said.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Psychiatrist's Husband molested Wife's patients

The husband of a Trumbull, Conn. psychiatrist has admitted impersonating a doctor to molest his wife's patients, and now faces five years in prison. Barry Lichenthal, 59, plead guilty earlier this week to fourth-degree sexual assault, practicing medicine without a license, and reckless endangerment. Police say Lichenthal worked under the name of Doctor Michael Taylor at his wife's Bridgeport drug clinic, the Noah's Ark Foundation. He will be sentenced March 26.

Anti-depressants 'cause bleeding'

Elderly people and those with a history of bleeding disorders have been warned of the risk of taking certain types of anti-depressants. Experts say a group of anti-depressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs may predispose some people to internal bleeding.

Writing in the Drug and Therapeutic Bulletin, they said the drugs should not be given to 'at risk' groups. Britain's Department of Health has said clearer warnings were being considered.

See the full report in this BBC News item