Thursday, May 31, 2007

Suicide Weatherman was on an AntiDepressant Cocktail

Another case where a person who committed suicide was also on a heavy mix of antidepressants and other drugs. Recent reports from the FDA have raised concerns about the side effects of mixing such powerful drugs, which can make a person more vulnerable to such self destructive impulses. As reported here

On the day he fatally shot himself, popular meteorologist John Winter told his wife, Karen, he had been having an affair, according to records released Tuesday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Winter, 39, also shared his secret with his close friend and business partner, Bobby Fontaine.

Fontaine told Winter that he could get through it. Karen Winter also was on the line.

"Everybody's human, and that's what I told him," Fontaine said Tuesday. "I was more concerned about Karen at the time. Karen said they could work it out."

But Winter seemed to be without hope - and also deeply affected by his grandfather's suicide about a year and a half earlier.

Last month, the News Channel 8 morning weatherman committed suicide at his Lithia home.

Fontaine, the TV station's technical director, told deputies that Winter "felt that he was an embarrassment and that his wife would not forgive him," according to records.

Karen Winter did not return a call for comment Tuesday evening.

Fontaine said he had seen signs that Winter might be involved with another woman, but when he initially asked him about it, "he said there was nothing going on. Emphatically," Fontaine recalled Tuesday. "I give people benefit of the doubt."

In a separate call, Winter and Fontaine were talking when Winter told Fontaine that the police were there so he had to go, Fontaine told sheriff's deputies. When deputies got inside Winter's house, they heard a gunshot and then discovered him dead in the garage with a .45-caliber pistol lying in his lap. His right hand was partially on the gun, according to the records.

He had struck his right temple, the report says.

Winter left a note. An open Bible rested on the kitchen counter. Also on the counter were his watch, wallet and wedding ring.

He was wearing a gray T-shirt, green shorts, white socks and black Nike sneakers.

A funeral notice for his grandfather was on a weight bench in the garage.

Fontaine said he was called by another employee at the production company he and Winter owned together, Big U Productions. The employee said she had just hung up with Winter, and he sounded suicidal. She called 911 from Pinellas County.

During the call, the woman repeatedly told the operator that she didn't know whether she was doing the right thing by calling. She wanted to keep the call as private as possible.

"He just seems very down, very depressed, very full of anxiety and stress," the caller said.

The call lasted about eight minutes.

Fontaine decided to go to Winter's house. On his way there, he was called by Karen Winter, who asked him to go to the house. Then he was called by Winter, who wanted to make a three-way call with his wife.

Fontaine told deputies that Winter said he wanted to end it all. Fontaine and Karen Winter tried to talk him out of it and told him he could get through it, the report says. Winter talked about his grandfather, "Bop-bop," who had committed suicide a year and a half ago, and said "if it was good enough for Bob-bop, it was good enough for him," the report says.

In an interview Tuesday, Fontaine said he knew how close Winter was with his grandfather. After his grandfather's suicide, Fontaine said, Winter talked about death.

Winter seemed more anxious, Fontaine recalled.

Fontaine said his son died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said. He does not characterize it as suicide. Winter "knew Mr. Fontaine's feelings on suicide and that's why he was trying to talk him out of it," the report says.

The autopsy report reveals that Winter was on four medications: sleep aid Sonata, anxiety drug alaprazolam, antidepressant lexapro and pain medication hydrocodone.

"A combination of a lot of medication probably didn't help the situation," Fontaine said Tuesday.

He said he misses his friend dearly.

English Professor labels Dyslexia a Phony Disease

One clever wit once said that if you consider how stupid the average human is, remember that half the people are stupider that that. A professor in England has come forward with the notion that Dyslexia is simply a made up disease to coverup the problems of being below average when it comes to learning to reading. You know that this will be politically incorrect, and is sure to be controversial. As seen in this report

They get extra time and help with their schoolwork when they are diagnosed with the condition.

However, according to Professor Julian Elliott, of UK's Durham University, dyslexia is 'just a middle-class way to hide stupidity', reported The Daily Mail.

Dyslexics are said to have impaired short-term memory, which affects their ability to read, write, spell and do maths.

Often classified as a 'disability', the condition manifests itself in childhood and progresses into adultood.

A leading educational psychologist, Professor Elliott has conducted research on dyslexia for more than 30 years.

He claims that there is no evidence to identify dyslexia as a medical condition and that parents categorise their children as dyslexic to avoid having them labelled as low-achievers.

'There is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence. After years of working with parents, I have seen how they don't want their child to be considered lazy, thick or stupid.'

'If they get called this medically diagnosed term, dyslexic, then it is a signal to all that it's not to do with intelligence.'

In the UK, one in 10 people are said to be dyslexic, including 375,000 school children.


Professor Elliott also said that the symptoms of dyslexia should be rediagnosed simply as a 'reading difficulty'.

He claimed that dyslexic university students often get an unfair advantage by getting extra time for their studies.

He added that other students who get diagnosed as dyslexics in assessement tests often fake the condition simply to get up to £pounds;10,000 ($30,000) worth of aid, including laptops and extra books.

But Mr Elliott's study has been questioned by supporters of the condition.

Mr John Rack, head of research and development at the charity, Dyslexia Action, told The Times: 'There is ample evidence that dyslexia exists across the spectrum, and the argument that there is no consistent means of identifying it is one cited by people who don't know enough about the subject.'

However, other experts seem to be lending credence to Professor Elliott's findings.

According to Dr Michael Rice, a dyslexia and literacy expert at Cambridge University: 'There is a sense of justification (among parents) when children are diagnosed. It gets the children off the hook of great embarrassment and personal inadequacy.'

Other lecturers have also complained about students 'milking the system' by faking dyslexia.

One UK lecturer claimed: 'On one degree course I teach, about one quarter of the students get help with their coursework and other assistance because they have this label. You become quite cynical.'

Delaware State Senate panel releases bill on sexual abuse suits

While the first apparent target of this bill are wayward priests, the fact that others such as wayward psychiatrists would also be covered under this proposed change in the law is a very good thing. we cite the recent case in California of the infamous psychiatrist Dr. William Ayers as an example where there are many potential victims who are outside the statute of limitations there. As reported in the Daily Times

After a five-hour hearing Tuesday in which the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington warned of possible ministry cutbacks and an industry representative warned of the potential for higher-cost or nonexistent insurance coverage, the House Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 to release a bill that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.

In all, the committee heard eight hours of comment on the bill, including a three-hour hearing May 10.

S.B. 29, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, has far-reaching implications for victims of child sexual abuse, most of whom have been unable to sue their abusers because of Delaware's two-year statute of limitations. Many sexual abuse victims require decades before they come to terms with the offense enough to tell anyone, and some never do, experts say.

In addition to eliminating the two-year time limit, the bill would provide a two-year window during which claims previously barred by the statute could be filed. Institutions that allowed the abuse to occur through gross negligence also could be sued.

Catholic pastor in favor

The Rev. Richard Reissmann, pastor of St. John the Baptist-Holy Angels parish in Newark and a Diocese of Wilmington priest for 44 years, urged lawmakers to pass the bill unamended to correct a statute of limitations he says is "unjust." Reissmann has been an advocate for victims for years.

"We must give the courageous ones the opportunity to make their case," he said. "If we as a society place money, power or privilege as superseding justice, then we are a society that has become tepid, weak and immoral."

Wilmington dentist Dr. Tom Conaty urged lawmakers to pass the bill unamended.

"The 150,000 Delawareans whose lives have been ruined by these reprehensible criminals have had enough," Conaty said. "Don't let another year go by without bringing them to justice."

Steven Abrams, 43, traveled from Los Angeles to support the bill, saying California's decision to allow previously barred cases enabled him to sue a psychiatrist he says sexually abused him as a boy.

His case prompted dozens of other alleged victims of the doctor to come forward with claims of abuse that stretched back almost 40 years, and law enforcement officials found enough recent evidence of continuing abuse to arrest the 75-year-old man.

"I came to Delaware in the hope that you will pass the same kind of legislation so predators can be exposed and kids will be healed," Abrams said.

A $41 million jury verdict last month against a Norbertine priest accused of abusing a former Archmere Academy student during the 1980s has church officials and leaders of some nonprofit organizations concerned about opening court doors to previously barred cases.

Anthony Flynn, attorney for the Diocese of Wilmington, said the diocese supports a change to the statute of limitations -- perhaps 25 years after a person turns 18, or perhaps allowing suits against cases that date to 1987, consistent with Delaware's criminal statute.

"The diocese is looking for some recognition of the legal and practical problems of simply eliminating the statute of limitations," he said.

Impact on diocese

The diocese would feel the greatest impact of the bill, Flynn said, and in light of the $41 million verdict it expects the bill to produce more lawsuits and fewer settlements. That would cut into ministries.

"The Diocese of Wilmington has an obligation to those victimized by clergy to help them heal," he said. "If that is a significant financial burden on the diocese, so be it. ... But the impact on ministry is undisputable."

George Krupanski, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, said any organization that knowingly allowed abuse to occur should be shut down. But, he said, records do not exist that would enable his organization to investigate or defend itself against allegations of incidents that might have occurred decades ago. He urged limits to the retroactive part of the bill.

Matthew C. Doyle, commercial marketing executive for the Zutz Group insurance firm, said only a handful of insurers will write supplemental coverage for sexual abuse and molestation liability in Delaware. He predicted that such coverage would be prohibitively expensive for some groups, and some organizations catering to youth and children would be forced to shut down for lack of insurance.

Lying psychiatrist committed patients

From the Asian News

A psychiatrist who lied about his qualifications worked in a top Manchester hospital for 16 months.

Dr Kelvin Chatoor told Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust that he was under investigation by the General Medical Council over irregularities on his CV when they hired him but no effort was made to find out any more details.

Chatoor took part in sending 23 patients to secure accommodation or sectioning and gave powerful drugs to hundreds of vulnerable people when he worked as a locum consultant psychiatrist at Manchester Royal Infirmary. It was only in October 2006 when Chatoor, aged 40, from Cheadle Hulme, showed them the list of charges he was due to face that they sacked him. Chatoor had made a serious of claims on his CV:
  • That he had passed a Bachelor of Science degree with first class honours, when he dropped out before finishing his course;
  • That he trained as a psychiatrist in Australia when he had only trained as a radiologist;
  • That he was employed as a trainee psychiatrist when he had worked as a general accident and emergency medic;
  • That he was a trainee psychiatrist in London for four months, when his psychiatric ward job lasted only a month.
  • He also falsely claimed to be a member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

Chatoor had gained a basic medical degree in Trinidad, then worked in hospitals there and in Australia before coming to England in August 1999. After working in general medicine, his first psychiatry job was in 2001. Chatoor has now been struck off by the GMC.

Fitness to practice panel chairman Dr Linda Buchanan told him: "Over a lengthy period, you repeatedly exaggerated your experience in psychiatry to your own selfish advantage.

"The panel is concerned that, despite your formal admissions, you do not appear to show insight into the fact that there was a potential for patient harm."[...]

A leading health lawyer is calling for an independent inquiry and believes the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust could face a flood of legal actions.

Manchester solicitor Robert Lizars, who has specialised in mental health law for more than 30 years, said: "The trust's approach smacks of professional secrecy and complacency."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Attacks on menatl health staff rise at Western State Hospital, Psychiatric drugs blamed.

From a much longer article, as reported here Of course, the drug company reps say "not our problem, not our fault"

Violence has been a growing problem at Western State Hospital for years.

If present trends continue, one in four of the Lakewood mental hospital’s more than 1,700 workers can expect to be assaulted by a patient in 2007, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.

For years, hospital administrators have blamed the violence on familiar causes: not enough staff members, not enough money and increased societal violence that leads to the admission of more-violent patients. But they don’t have the data to back up those assertions.

A News Tribune analysis of drug-prescribing trends at Western since 1999 finds another possible factor: Western is giving more patients psychiatric drugs with side effects that can include extreme agitation and aggression.

The drugs include newer antidepressants and newer anti-psychotics dubbed atypical anti-psychotics.

The newer drugs, which are expensive compared with older, generic alternatives, have been heavily promoted at the hospital by the pharmaceutical companies that make them. Sales representatives for those companies have logged about 1,200 visits to Western since late 2003, when administrators began tracking their activity.

Concerned about their influence on prescribing patterns, the hospital in March banned all drug company representatives from visiting the campus to meet with doctors.

Randy Burkholder, an associate vice president for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Washington, D.C.-based drug industry lobby group, acknowledged The News Tribune analysis, saying it’s a “great idea” to discover more about the impact of pharmaceuticals through original investigation.

“There may be something there, there may not be,” he said about the findings. But he cautioned that the analysis doesn’t prove cause and effect. Instead, it just hints at a possible association. Only additional research can make that determination, Burkholder said.

The link between changes in drug use at Western and recent increases in violence “is very plausible,” said Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and an expert on the side effects of anti-psychotic drugs who is on the faculty at Eastern University, outside Philadelphia.

“There is a significant relationship between restlessness and agitation induced by medicine and the propensity for violence,” Kruszewski said.

Western has never studied the idea that changes in drug use could contribute to increased violence, said Dr. Roger Jackson, the hospital’s acting medical director and an employee there since 1993.

Western is not alone in that regard.

“This has not been adequately studied” at any psychiatric hospital, Kruszewski said. “Most studies done on (psychiatric) violence assume violence is secondary to the illness or the surroundings, or because of lack of staff, money or social structures.”

Those assumptions, which have dominated internal and state agency violence studies at Western for more than a decade, do not hold up under analysis.

Since 1999, the staffing ratio of ward workers to patients has improved from 1.18 workers for every patient to 1.34 workers per patient in 2006.

Funding has increased about 50 percent overall – going from $106 million in 1999 to $156 million in 2007 – and has kept pace with medical inflation.

Hospital administrators don’t offer statistical evidence that society has become more violent, leading to a more violent patient population. Meanwhile, violent crime in the areas from which Western draws its patients has dropped significantly, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

What does correspond with the increase in violence is the roughly 35 percent increase since 1999 in the use of drugs that a hospital pharmacy handbook and drug experts say are more likely than similar medications to induce agitation and aggression, The News Tribune analysis indicates.

By the end of 2006, there was roughly one order for these drugs for every patient at Western.
Also with the article is this list

Here are some anti-psychotic and antidepressant drugs more likely than others in their class to cause agitating side effects such as restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. Taken as a group, there has been about a 35 percent increase in orders for these drugs at Western State Hospital since 1999. There’s also been a steady increase in assaults on workers over that time. Western averages about 900 patients a day.

Atypical anti-psychotics

Drug Manufacturer Orders on Dec. 6, 2006

Risperdal Janssen 307

Geodon Pfizer 118

Abilify Bristol-Myers Squibb 82

Typical anti-psychotics

Haldol Ortho-McNeil, generic makers 98

Prolixin Bristol-Myers Squibb, generic makers 26

Navane Pfizer, generic makers 6


Zoloft Pfizer, generic makers 74

EffexorWyeth, generic makers 38

Prozac Eli Lilly, generic makers 37

Wellbutrin GlaxoSmithKline, generic makers 22

Cymbalta Eli Lilly 20

Lawmakers Want to End Big Pharma Recruitment Schemes

Another investigative article by Evelyn Pringle

Federal lawmakers are stepping up the pace to put a stop to the pharmaceutical industry's customer recruitment schemes used to boost the sale of psychiatric drugs by tugging at heartstrings in promoting mental health screening programs as suicide prevention tools.

On May 18, 2007, US House of Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), a physician by calling, introduced a federal legislative bill HR 2387 that would block federal funding for any mandatory mental health screening programs. At last count, 12 other members of the House were listed as co-sponsors of the bill.

First of all, contrary to the lie that the industry is trying to sell the pubic, there is no epidemic of child suicides. There are roughly 50 million school-age children in this country, and according to the June 16, 2006, Washington Post, there were only 1,737 suicides by children and adolescents in 2003, the last year for which national statistics are available.

In addition, experts have said over and over that screenings do not work. A March 28, 2002 paper, "Suicide in the United States," by Jane Pearson, PhD, chairman of the National Institute of Mental Health Suicide Research Consortium at the time, states: "[W]hen researchers have tried to predict suicide using as many known risk factors as possible, they are still unable to predict who will and who will not commit this act."

In the paper, she also verifies a real danger that screening critics are concerned about, in stating that, "a prevention program for high-school aged youth found that participants were more likely to consider suicide a solution to a problem after the program than prior to the program."

According to Dr Nathaniel Lehrman, former clinical director of Kingsboro Psychiatric Center, in Brooklyn NY, in the paper, The Dangers of Mental Health Screening, "No matter how we define mental illness in children or adults, it cannot be found by simple screening."

"Nobody can, by merely looking at someone else, or even on the basis of a pen and pencil questionnaire," he says, "differentiate the transient emotional disturbances we all have from those which last longer."

Dr Lehrman also says screenings won't prevent suicide because those who are contemplating it usually won't tell. "Only when gross insanity exists can "mental illness" be recognized on inspection - and then we need neither experts nor screening," he states.

"There are as many causes of depression as there are people suffering from it," he explains

"Troubled people can indeed benefit from good mental health care," he advises, "But good treatment requires addressing voluntarily a patient's unique individual problems."

"For this, screenings are unnecessary," he adds.

The drugs marketed with the screening programs are the new generation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs), including Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro and Luvox, which were falsely promoted as more effective than the older class of drugs in treating depression while the increased risk of suicide by patients taking the drugs was concealed.

The other drugs are the new class of atypical antipsychotics with brand names of Zyprexa, Risperdal, Clozaril, Abilify, Seroquel and Geodon. It should be noted that the atypicals were FDA approved for the limited use of treating adults with schizophrenia and manic episodes of bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression, the most serious of all mental illnesses.

These new drugs obviously do not work. A June 2005 study lead by researchers from Harvard Medical School, funded mostly by the National Institute of Mental Health, found that although there has been a dramatic rise in the treatment of mental disorders over the past decade, there had been no corresponding drop in the rate of suicidal thought and behaviors in adults.

The study pointed out that there had been a huge increase in the use of antidepressants during the 10-year period studied, but the rate of suicidal ideation, gestures and attempts has not changed at all.

Dr Barry Duncan, author of "What's Right With You," also says, "rates of depression have not changed for thirty years," and, "suicide rates, despite the millions taking antidepressants, have not reduced."

Dr Duncan points out that more than 150 million prescriptions worth $14 billion were written for antidepressants in 2003 alone.

However, evidence continues to mount that shows SSRIs are linked to suicide. On May 25, 2007, MedPage Today reported a study that found young suicide victims were significantly more likely to have SSRIs in their bloodstream than were young homicide or accident victims.

"In an analysis of 'unnatural' deaths recorded by the Virginia Medical Examiner's Office for 1987 through 2003," MedPage wrote, "Antony Fernandez, MD, and colleagues, found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor venlafaxine appeared significantly more often in post-mortem toxicology of suicides than of accident or murder victims."

This latest study echoes a report by records researcher Ken Kramer that found most child suicides in Florida were by children who are already on psychotropic drugs. Mr Kramer analyzed every autopsy and toxicology report on every child suicide in the state of Florida from 2000 to 2004.

"The majority," Mr Kramer says, "had already received psychiatric drug treatment even with the FDA warnings that say these drugs can cause mania, suicide, psychosis, worsening depression and even homicidal thoughts."

A recent March 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office on Pediatric Drug Research states: "About two-thirds of drugs that are prescribed for children have not been studied and labeled for pediatric use, placing children at risk of being exposed to ineffective treatment or incorrect dosing."

Off-label refers to prescribing drugs to treat conditions other than those approved by the FDA and listed on the label. It can include prescribing drugs to unapproved populations, such as children or the elderly, or in higher doses than specified on the label.

It is illegal for a drug maker to promote off-label uses, but doctors are allowed to prescribe a drug for any use they choose. However, almost without exception, the lawsuits now pending against psychotropic drug makers accuse the companies of influencing doctors to prescribe the medications for off-label uses.

Critics say this profit-driven drugging of patients recruited with screening programs has got to stop, because a whole generation of Americans are becoming disabled right before our eyes, and lawmakers should realize that the government is going to have to pay to care for these disabled people for life and not just their medical care, but for their very existence.

Linda Hurcombe, author of "Losing a Child: Explorations in Grief," admits that her concerns about mental health screening programs arise from a personal tragedy. She is a US citizen living in the UK where prescription drug advertising is illegal, but her daughter fell victim to drug advertising while she was visiting the US.

"A few years ago my undepressed teenage daughter saw an antidepressant ad on American television," Linda explains, "and on her return to our rural home she went to her doctor and asked for the drug."

"It took her about eight minutes to persuade the doctor," Linda says, "followed by 63 days of descent into chaos which ended in her suicide by hanging."

"As far as patient advocacy is concerned," she notes, "it is alluring to an increasingly health-aware public to demand more knowledge."

"But what sort of 'knowledge' is likely from a gaggle of marketing moguls?" she points out.

"We must give the marketing men and women their due," Linda says, "as they medicalize the human condition from the cradle to the grave."

"Disturbing examples," she points out, "include toddlers taking mint-flavoured Prozac for bipolar disorder, antsy kids being calmed with methamphetamines, people diagnosed with 'intermittent explosive disorder' [read 'anger'], being medicated instead of addressing the causes of the stress in their lives."

Linda has a new book, "Depression: healing emotional distress," coming out soon.

Even with the limited approved uses for atyicals, last year drug makers sold more than $15 billion in antipsychotic drugs, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lilly's Zyprexa generated $4.4 billion in sales last year, and Johnson & Johnson's Risperdal had sales of $4.2 billion. Sales of Abilify climbed 41 percent to $1.3 billion.

Some of the known adverse events associated with these drugs include rapid weight gain and high blood sugar levels which are risk factors for diabetes, and disfiguring tics, dystonia which produces involuntary, often painful muscle contractions, heart attacks and sudden death in elderly patients.

Sales figures are so high because the makers of atypicals have doctors prescribing the drugs for all kinds of unapproved uses. On May 10, 2007, the New York Times reported that when Anya Bailey developed an eating disorder at 12 years old, her mother took her to a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota who prescribed Risperdal.

Risperdal is not approved for treating eating disorders or any disorder in 12 year olds.

Anya gained weight, the Times noted, but within 2 years, she developed a crippling knot in her back the result of a nerve condition called dystonia, and now receives regular injections of Botox to unclench her back muscles and she often wakes up crying in pain.

The Times reported that the mother was surprised to learn that her daughter received a drug for a treatment not approved by the FDA, but was more surprised to learn that the psychiatrist who supervised Anya's care received more than $7,000 from 2003 to 2004 from Risperdal maker Johnson & Johnson, in return for giving lectures about one of the company's drugs.

These new drugs are being fed to so many people in all age groups for uses not approved by the FDA that experts say its often impossible to determine whether a symptom is caused by a mental disorder or a side effect from a drug.

Dr Elliot Valenstein, PhD, author of "Blaming the Brain", says, "It is now difficult to find mental patients who have not had a history of drug treatment, and as a result many of the brain abnormalities found in these patients are probably iatrogenic, that is, produced by the treatment rather than being the cause of the disorder."

"It is well established," he advises, "that the drugs used to treat a mental disorder, for example, may induce long-lasting biochemical and even structural changes, which in the past were claimed to be the cause of the disorder, but may actually be an effect of the treatment."

Dr Lehman warns that the screening programs will "harm thousands of Americans by giving them stigmatizing diagnoses which can follow them for the rest of their lives, and then drugging them."

In some cases, patients, including children as young as 2, are being given SSRIs, atypicals and ADHD medications all at the same time in drug cocktails that would make any patient act crazy. And when the weird behaviors start, the dosages of the drugs are increased and often another medication is added to the mix to treat the "new strange behaviors" which are actually side effects from the drug cocktail.

The serious side effects associated with these drugs are only now being revealed to the public and health care providers because the drug companies concealed studies that showed the adverse events had occurred in their own clinical trials years ago.

Also, the drug makers are starting to pay dearly for a decade of illegal marketing practices and the concealment of the adverse effects of the drugs.

For instance, to date, Eli Lilly has spent more than $1 billion to settle out of court with about 26,000 Zyprexa victims, with still more litigants waiting in the wings. Zyprexa has been linked to serious side effects, including diabetes, hyperglycemia and pancreatitis.

The company is also facing lawsuits by 10 states and 4 class actions, filed on behalf of shareholders, charging Lilly with fraud in promoting the off-label sale of Zyprexa while concealing its side effects.

Zoloft maker Pfizer's March 2007 SEC filing states in part, "A number of individual lawsuits have been filed against us in various federal and state courts alleging personal injury, including suicide and suicide attempt in certain cases, as a result of the purported ingesting of Zoloft."

Pfizer will no doubt be facing more lawsuits in the near future because Zoloft has now been linked to life-threatening birth defects in babies born to mothers who took the drug during pregnancy.

Antidepressants Slice and Dice Brain

As seen on News with Views

Imagine a lobotomy...A saw cracking your skull, followed by a surgical knife slicing and dicing a large portion of your brain - the portion responsible for helping you cope with all the nastiness in the world. You know, things like the exorbitant income tax which makes you work four months out of every year just to pay Uncle Sam. Or that invisible tax called inflation that ensures a lifetime of capitalistic slavery for you and your children. Or, the millions of helpless infants who are stabbed with vaccines and subsequently suffer from autism.

Without the ability to cope, a lobotomy would surely open the doors to all kinds of craziness from the nastiness in the world....depression, suicide, and murder become a reality...And this is exactly what an SSRI (antidepressant) can potentially do at the molecular level - remove that portion of your brain that helps you cope...Maybe that is what happened to 81 year old Jordan Stone.

Thirteen days after taking the SSRI Prozac, on April 28, 2003, Jordan's wife of 56 years, Kathy, found his lifeless body hanging from a beam in a back room of their shop. Not depressed at the time of his appointment, Jordan was given a free sample of the antidepressant for "chest pains!" Apparently, a pretty drug rep convinced Jordan's doctor that Prozac could be used for these types of "off-label" purposes. By FDA standards, this is totally illegal. But those standards are never enforced by the consumer watch dog turned Big Pharma lap dog. Regardless of what they are prescribed for, a chemical lobotomy is a real and present danger to SSRI users.

SSRI's strive to increase the levels of a "coping" molecule known as serotonin in the brain. It helps us FIND happiness when it's covered in an avalanche of nastiness. SSRI's attempt to boost serotonin by "selectively" stopping the "reuptake" of it among brain cells. This is where the whole SSRI acronym came from - "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor." It's a slick name that seems to hypnotize medical doctors into prescribing submission, but its a really stupid idea.

Nothing is selective in the body. While trying to block the reuptake of serotonin, SSRI's can also prevent its release. The areas of the brain responsible for release and reuptake are so damn similar (after all, they work on the same molecule) that an SSRI isn't smart enough to understand which one it is supposed to work on. So it does what any dumb drug would do, it blocks both. The end result: no coping molecules in the brain. Deep sadness, fear or anger can set in. This was observed in the early studies performed on SSRI's, but test subjects were allowed to drop out or mask the pain that comes with a chemical lobotomy using pain killers and/or muscle relaxants. This served as an easy way for Big Pharma to hide the detrimental effects of SSRI's - FDA approval ensued, and so has the ripple effect of suicide.

Truth doesn't stay hidden forever. FDA is proposing a "black box" warning to outline the risk of suicide among all antidepressant's such as Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. If it were a nutritional supplement, jail time would result for manufacturers...But not for Big Pharma, they just get a "black box" warning on their products...Watch dog turned lap dog.

SSRI's block another coping molecule in the brain, dopamine. It's the molecule that lets you FEEL happiness. When you make love to your wife, win a marathon, or tell your micro-managing boss at work to shove it, dopamine yields the feelings of love, accomplishment and victory. It's also the molecule that keeps you protected from Parkinson's disease. Aside from being a zombie, the Harvard School of Public Health recently warned that due to lack of dopamine, people taking antidepressants are nearly twice as likely to suffer from Parkinson's compared to those not taking them.

By removing serotonin and dopamine from the brain, users can't FIND or FEEL happiness courtesy of a lobotomy - minus the saw and surgical knife. Instead, they become buried in the avalanche of nastiness...And if you can't find or feel happiness in life, what's the point? What's gonna stop you from snapping your neck or spraying bullets on your classmates?

Thanks to pretty drug reps, off-label drug pushing and the FDA approval of antidepressants, chemical lobotomy and its ripple effect is here, but not here to stay... if the People's Chemist has anything to say about it. Use Mother Nature in place of dangerous drugs.

Supplements that aid in a chemical process known as "methylation" help coping: folic acid, trimethylglycine and methylsulfonyl methane are among them. These vital substances can be obtained naturally from whey isolate protein, spinach, sunflower seeds, shellfish, and beets. For severe depression, the essential amino acid and natural serotonin booster L-tryptophan (not 5-HTP) is a much safer alternative than SSRI's. It is readily available and it won't accidentally remove your coping skills and throw you into suicide or rage. Exercise and minimizing sugar are of course vital lifestyle habits for ensuring proper state of mind. Send an email to for a free workout.

Avoiding drugs and relying on Mother Nature to help us cope will ensure that we rise above the nastiness in the world and strive to and make it a better place…We can start by saying no to prescription drugs, especially SSRI’s.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Psychiatrist charged with murdering her own daughter

As seen here

A woman charged with murdering her teenage daughter at their family home in Kilkenny on 26 November 2006 has appeared before Dún Laoghaire District Court.

Lynn Gibbs, 46, a psychiatrist from Killure, Gowran, County Kilkenny was charged last week with the murder of her 16-year-old daughter Ciara.

Her father, Gerry, and her brother, who had just returned from an overnight trip, discovered her in the bath, but attempts to resuscitate her failed.

Mrs Gibbs was also found collapsed near her daughter’s body.

She was remanded in custody at Mountjoy Women’s Prison and is due to appear before court on June 22.

Medical experiments to be done without patients' consent

Granted this is not in the line of psychiatric crime. But the ethics questions raised by this project are troubling. From the Houston Chronicle

The federal government is undertaking the most ambitious set of studies ever mounted under a controversial arrangement that allows researchers to conduct some kinds of medical experiments without first getting the patients' permission.

The $50 million, five-year project, which will involve more than 20,000 patients in 11 sites in the United States and Canada, is designed to improve treatment after car accidents, shootings, cardiac arrest and other emergencies.

The three studies, organizers say, offer an unprecedented opportunity to find better ways to resuscitate people whose hearts suddenly stop, to stabilize patients who go into shock and to minimize damage from head injuries. Because such patients are usually unconscious at a time when every minute counts, it is often impossible to get consent from them or their families, the organizers say.

The project has been endorsed by many trauma experts and some bioethicists, but others question it. The harshest critics say the research violates fundamental ethical principles.

The organizers said the studies are going forward only after an exhaustive scientific and ethical review by the National Institutes of Health, which authorized the funding in 2004, and the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the first phase about a year ago and the second phase six months ago.

The first experiments, involving nearly 6,000 patients, focus on people who are in shock or have suffered head injuries from a car crash, a fall or some other trauma.

About 40,000 such patients show up at hospitals each year, and the standard practice is to give them saline infusions to stabilize their blood pressure. For the study, emergency medical workers are randomly infusing some patients with "hypertonic" solutions containing much higher levels of sodium, with or without a drug called dextran. Animal research and small studies involving people have indicated that hypertonic solutions could save more lives and minimize brain damage.

The next experiment, which will involve about 15,000 patients, is designed to determine how best to revive those whose hearts suddenly stop beating. About 180,000 Americans suffer these sudden cardiac arrests each year.

Emergency medical workers often shock these patients immediately to try to get their hearts started again. But some do a few minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation first. Researchers want to determine which strategy works better by randomly trying one or the other — both with and without a special valve attached to devices used to push air into the lungs during CPR. That study is expected to start next month.

"We will never know the best way to treat people unless we do this research. And the only way we can do this research, since the person is unconscious, is without consent," said Myron Weisfeldt of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is overseeing the project. "Even if there are family members present, they know their loved one is dying. The ambulance is there. The sirens are going off. You can't possibly imagine gaining a meaningful informed consent from someone under those circumstances."

Before starting the research at each site, researchers complete a "community consultation" process. Local organizers try to notify the public about the study and gauge the reaction through public meetings, telephone surveys, Internet postings and advertisements and through stories in local media. Anyone who objects can get a special bracelet to alert medical workers that they refuse to participate.

The project proceeds only after also being vetted by a set of local independent reviewers known as an institutional review board. Another group of independent advisers known as a data safety monitoring board will periodically review the study for any signs of problems.

Despite such oversight, some previous similar projects have sparked intense debate. Most recently, a study testing a blood substitute called PolyHeme was criticized for putting patients at risk without consent.

In fact, concerns raised by the PolyHeme study and others prompted the FDA to launch a review of the entire program that permits experiments to be done without consent in emergency situations.

"The ethics and policy concern is how you balance the streamlining of research to get the best information to treat patients against the moral imperative to get consent," said Nancy M.P. King, a bioethicist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "The emergency consent exception is supposed to carve out a very narrow window. What's been happening is that narrow window seems to be expanding."

Some bioethicists say the new research is more ethical than some of the earlier studies in several ways, including that patients are not being denied highly effective therapies. Most patients who receive the current treatments do not survive.

"I understand why there might be concerns, but I think ethically this is permissible," said Arthur Derse, a bioethicist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, which refused to participate in the PolyHeme study. "The treatments we currently have are unsatisfactory."

But others say that the studies could be done by finding patients or family members who are in a position to provide consent, even though that might make such studies more difficult.

"This just seems like lazy investigators not wanting to try to get informed consent in situations where it is difficult to get it, so they say it is impossible," said George Annas, a Boston University bioethicist. "I don't think we should use people like this."

Annas was particularly disturbed that children as young as 15 might be included in the research.

"Suppose a 15-year-old child is in the back of a car that is in a terrible accident," Annas said. "The EMTs arrive and say: 'We are doing an experiment with two techniques. We think they are about equal. Is it okay if we flip a coin to see how we treat your son? Or would you rather we just give him the treatment we think is best?' Unless you think all parents would have the EMTs flip a coin, consent here is necessary."

Others are concerned patients may be getting experimental therapies that could turn out to be inferior to standard treatments.

"The most promising experimental medical interventions have often been shown to be less effective than standard treatment," said Kenneth Kipnis, a University of Hawaii bioethicist.

The "community consultation" process has also come under fire.

"Community consultation is intended to be a collaboration with the community of potential subjects, not just letting them know what the plan is," said King, the Wake Forest bioethicist.

But Weisfeldt at Johns Hopkins said the critics would be unhappy under any circumstances.

"Some people object to the whole concept of doing any study whatsoever without permission," Weisfeldt said. "We try to explain all the layers of approval we've gone through and that this is the only way we can do the kind of research that could save many more lives in the future."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Settlement in psychiatric care lawsuit

A man seeks help, and doesn't get it. From the Herald Online in Rock Hill, SC

The family of a Rock Hill man who killed himself after being denied admission to Piedmont Medical Center will receive $1 million from the hospital in a lawsuit settlement, according to court documents.

Swain Walter Wright Jr., a 71-year-old father of two, was homicidal and suicidal in December 2001 when he twice sought admission to the psychiatric unit at PMC, the lawsuit says. He hung himself from a tree in his back yard, according to the lawsuit.

Wright's family sued Tenet Healthcare, the parent company of Piedmont Medical Center; Amisub of South Carolina, which does business as Piedmont Medical Center; Dr. Bruce H. Lobitz; and Lynn Murphy, a registered nurse and an employee of Amisub.

Tenet Healthcare and Lobitz later were dropped from the suit.

Amisub, a subsidiary of Tenet Healthcare, will pay $1 million, according to the suit, filed by attorneys Joey Wright and Johnny Felder.

"The family hopes that the tragic loss of their father will cause changes to be made regarding admission of psychiatric patients seeking help at the emergency room of Piedmont Medical Center so that this does not happen to anyone else," Wright said.

Swain Wright had struggled with the death of his wife of 38 years and his retirement after 40 years with Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co., Joey Wright said.

"He had never had any psychiatric problems," Joey Wright said. "It is felt that if Mr. Wright had received appropriate counseling, he would have been able to deal with his problems."

Charles Miller, PMC's chief executive officer and president, referred questions to Spartanburg attorney Billy Gunn. He could not be reached for comment.

At issue in the lawsuit was Swain Wright's request for treatment in PMC's psychiatric unit. [...]

The suit is the second one settled by the hospital since March 19. The family of Herbert Cogan received $1.77 million in a wrongful death lawsuit after he was given the wrong drug because of a doctor's error.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Incessant disease mongering turns Americans into profit-generating guinea pigs for Big Pharma

An interesting opinion piece by Mike Adams, as seen on NewsTarget

Disease mongering - the practice of pushing disease in order to sell more drugs - has become so routine and so successful in modern medicine that drug companies actually depend on inventing new diseases as a way to ensure future profits. It's not enough to sell drugs to people who are truly sick, you see. Big Pharma cleverly figured out that they could sell even MORE drugs if they simply invented new diseases and convinced people they needed pharmaceuticals to treat those diseases.

The FDA, always happy to serve the profit interests of Big Pharma, went right along with the ploy and legalized television and magazine drug ads in 1997. Since then, drug sales have skyrocketed, drug company profits have ballooned, and fictitious disease diagnoses have proliferated at an alarming rate.

Diseases such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder are completely fictitious, invented by a panel of psychiatrists with a simple vote. Conditions like "high cholesterol" aren't diseases at all (they're simply descriptions of blood chemistry), and artificially lowering high cholesterol with statin drugs has been scientifically found to offer absolutely no net health benefit whatsoever. Breast cancer is so frequently misdiagnosed that for every one woman helped by cancer screening and treatment, ten are harmed by it (click here for the story), and Restless Legs Syndrome is so routinely marketed and hyped that people who hadn't even heard of the disease two years ago now think they need patented chemicals to treat it.

By any honest assessment, pharmaceutical medicine today is all a grand hoax. (Click here to read my article exploring the massive "hoax" of drug advertising.)

In a
recent CounterThink cartoon, I decided to show what goes on behind the scenes at Disease Mongers, Inc., a firm hired by drug companies to invent, package and market new diseases that can be used to sell more drugs.

The fascinating thing is that the cartoon is not a parody. Drug companies actually do hire firms to invent diseases (although they aren't called, "Disease Mongers, Inc."), and people really do sit around dreaming up disease names that they think might be swallowed by the public, the media and the FDA.

Inventing new diseases is child's play

How easy is it to come up with a fictitious disease or disorder that the public will think is real? It's incredibly easy! I even wrote a web tool that will generate new diseases for you at the click of a button. Simply visit my Disease Mongering Engine and you can get filthy rich inventing your own fictitious diseases starting right now!

I'm not the only one who has come up with hilarious ways to make fun of disease mongering by the drug industry. Justine Cooper created an entire website dedicated to a fictitious disease and a fake drug for treating it. The site,, claims to be a patient education site for Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder, or DSCDAD for short.

Not surprisingly, the public bought it, and she has been contacted by hundreds of people wanting to know where they can buy the drug to treat their DSCDAD. (Didn't they get the drug name, "Havidol?" As in, "Have it all!") Even some members of the media fell for the hoax, reporting DSCDAD as a real disease requiring treatment with Havidol.

In another parody on YouTube, artists created a fake commercial for, "Motivational Deficiency Disorder" (formerly known as just being plain lazy) and recommended drugs for treatment. Click here to see the video yourself.

Back in 2005, I even made up my own list of fictitious diseases, including Obsessive Hosiery Dislocation Disorder (i.e. losing your socks in the laundry). Click here to read my full list of fictitious diseases.

A nation of hypochondriacs

The bottom line in all this? Drug advertising has turned America into a nation of hypochondriacs. By simply inventing some disease name, then getting easy FDA approval for a drug to "treat" it, drug companies can create a billion-dollar market where none existed previously. All they have to do is convince everyone they're sick or diseased, and given the complete lack of medical skepticism among consumers, doctors and regulators these days, that's frighteningly easy.

This fraudulent Big Pharma recipe for making money is so effective that the industry is now increasingly focusing on marketing diseases. If a so-called "disease" can be swallowed by the gullible mainstream media, and believed by brainwashed doctors and consumers, then drug sales will automatically follow.

Getting people to believe there's something wrong with them, of course, is amazingly easy. Why? Because everybody's life is in turmoil at one time or another. There's not a person alive who doesn't feel pressure, or anxiety, or challenges, or failures sooner or later. Drug companies want you to believe those feelings are diseases when, in reality, they're just part of life.

Drug companies essentially want to diseasify every emotion, habit and experience of human living. Falling asleep and waking up -- once regarded as natural human behaviors -- are now pharmacologically regulated with profitable drugs. Pregnancy is now considered a medical condition, and new HPV vaccination efforts go to such extremes that they "preemptively treat" a disease that a young girl might someday possibly get decades later.

What's next: Mandatory "treatment" for everyone

And until this drug cartel is stopped, the situation will only get worse. Soon, mandatory mental health screening programs will sweep across America, and anyone who displays independent thinking, creative ideas or even the slightest hint of stress might be carted off to a mental institution where they will be forced to undergo brain chemistry "rebalancing" at the whim of a psychiatrist who earns a commission on every pill he forces you to swallow.

Sound far-fetched? Don't jump to innocent conclusions. You probably have no idea how far Big Pharma will go to turn human beings into customers. Drugging the entire nation with patented chemicals is only part of the goal. The real goal is to drug everyone with multiple drugs that don't treat or cure anything, but only "manage" symptoms while keeping people alive long enough to keep them paying. Remember The Matrix? Today, the United States is inching ever closer to a Medical Matrix, where consumers are enslaved in a system of chemical control in order to turn a human being into profit machine.

If you think there's anything resembling "health" or "care" in our modern health care system, you're dangerously underinformed. The system is an out-of-control profit-accumulating machine that, right now, harms far more people than it helps. It has become a corporate empire where profits, not patients, come first. And drug companies now exercise astonishing degrees of control over the FDA, the USDA, the DEA, medical schools, doctors, media outlets and non-profit groups.

The way out

How do we end this medical madness? First, we've all got to come to our senses and stop believing every mood, habit or challenge in our lives is caused by some mysterious disorder. People need to start taking responsibility for their own behavior and stop blaming fictitious diseases (or bad genes) when things don't work out the way they want.

Secondly, we've got to end the ridiculous practice of direct-to-consumer drug advertising. There is absolutely no justifiable reason why prescription drugs should be marketed directly to patients on television. It is only allowed because it is profitable, not because it serves any scientifically justifiable function in society.

And third, it's time to conduct a serious investigation into the crimes against America that have been committed by top FDA officials. These bureaucrats have deliberately neglected their responsibility to the American people and have, instead, sought to protect and expand drug company profits, no matter who gets harmed or killed in the process. FDA officials have attacked natural health remedies, outlawed perfectly safe herbs and supplements, and have in fact conspired with drug companies to bury evidence demonstrating the dangers of their FDA-approved pharmaceuticals (among other crimes).

It's time we cleaned house at the FDA and prosecuted the criminals currently in charge there. We need a Nuremberg trial for the FDA where the crimes against humanity that have been committed by the agency are made public and accounted for.

If we don't put an end to this absurd disease mongering epidemic that is sweeping the world, it won't be long until we wake up and find ourselves chemical slaves of an all-powerful drug cartel that runs government, medicine, media and education. The time to stop drug companies is NOW, before they gain an even tighter grip over the laws, regulations and information outlets that dominate society today.

If we end this medical madness now, and outlaw drug advertising while prosecuting the criminals responsible for overmedicating America, we may have a chance at a better future with drastically reduced health care costs. It's going to take courage, honesty and ethics to get this done, but the alternative is to lose our nation to a dark future of medical tyranny, bankruptcy and despair.

Conventional medicine, as practiced today, has truly become the No. 1 obstacle to the health of the American people. Get medicine out of the way, and we would all be healthier, happier and better off.

Docs fire back on drug pushing - and have a point

seen in the New Sentinel

Conventional medicine took a beating last month after several recent studies highlighted the cozy connections between physicians and sales reps for drug companies.

One article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that virtually all doctors have some type of relationship with makers of drugs and medical devices, and it often involves free office meals and drug samples.

Another report, "Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors," provided a unique glimpse into drug companies' playbook. This article, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, detailed in first person how pharmaceutical sales reps use flattery, favors, fake friendships and freebies to manipulate unwitting doctors into prescribing their drugs.

"Every word, every courtesy, every gift, every piece of information provided is carefully crafted, not to assist doctors or patients, but to increase market share for targeted drugs," wrote co-author Adriane Fugh-Berman, an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University. As you might expect (and hope), many good doctors resented being portrayed as naive and shallow. In fact, some said, often it's not the drug reps who are the hardest pushers; it's the patients.

That's because direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising, banned throughout the developed world except in the United States and New Zealand, is working like a charm. I've never understood why anyone would ask for some of these drugs after hearing the list of side effects, but spending on such marketing has surged to $5 billion annually. And studies show that doctors are more likely to prescribe drugs when patients ask for them by name.

The ads aren't just a free-speech issue. Proponents argue that they strengthen the health-care system because they help us take control of the situation, they de-stigmatize conditions such as depression, and they provide useful information about diseases and treatment so we can have informed conversations with our doctors.

But what happens is that aggressive direct-to-consumer ad campaigns push drugs that aren't needed or are more expensive than equally effective drugs or lifestyle changes. They medicalize conditions previously considered normal. They can be misleading; about a third of them don't contain references supporting their medical claims, according to UCLA researchers.

Or they're simply wrong. Last year a commercial for the antidepressant Zoloft featured a listless creature and a voice-over that said depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. "Zoloft," the ad said, "works to correct the imbalance."

But critics charged that the claim that depression is caused by a "serotonin imbalance" is unsubstantiated by scientific research. Yet it has been repeated so many times that people believe it's true, something that could lead to overreliance on these drugs for depression treatment, according to an article in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

In some cases, ads increase sales of drugs that later are discovered to be dangerous, as in the case of Zelnorm, the medication used to treat conditions of irritable bowel syndrome. Last year, Zelnorm was honored as one of the best prescription drug ads by IAG Research, a company that rates TV ad effectiveness. The "tummies" campaign, which turned women's bellies into billboards, was credited with boosting sales growth to $561 million in 2006.

But then - oops! The drug was pulled off the market because federal officials concluded that it could increase risks of heart attacks and strokes.

If you're having a flashback to Vioxx, that's because the same thing happened. After Vioxx was withdrawn from the market because of links to heart attacks and strokes, a study showed that more than 70 percent of patients who were prescribed arthritis drugs such as Vioxx didn't really need them in the first place. These patients could have used "non-prescription alternatives" or older, cheaper medications.

Cases like these illustrate why some health and consumer groups want such advertising banned. Congress is considering legislation to force the drug industry to delay advertising newly approved prescription drugs to give physicians more time to review safety and efficacy.

But delays won't address ad content - often deliberately vague about who is at risk of disease - nor the fact that doctors get most of their education about new drugs from drug companies themselves. Delays also don't protect consumers from the power of advertising. Buying the wrong brand of toothpaste may have a minor health consequence. But taking a prescription drug, which your doctor is more likely to prescribe because you asked, can raise serious health issues. Drug ads are of little educational value, and they minimize the benefits of nutrition and lifestyle changes. They also, ultimately, give pharmaceutical reps another way into a doctor's office: through you.

Friday, May 25, 2007

State of Ohio puts Cleveland Psychiatric Unit on probation in rape probe

From the Akron Beacon Journal

The state has placed the inpatient psychiatric unit of University Hospitals of Cleveland on probation following allegations of two rapes and two sexual assaults against patients on the same day, the Ohio Department of Mental Health said Friday.

The allegations against an outside agency employee were turned over to police for investigation and a suspect was taken into police custody, according to the probation letter sent to University Hospitals. The attacks against four patients are alleged to have occurred May 11.

The state warned University Hospitals that it must make changes to provide a safe environment for patients.

Probation won't prevent the unit from admitting patients, state agency spokeswoman Laura Wentz said.

University Hospitals said it was proud of its care in the psychiatric unit, which it said would be moved soon to renovated facilities.

Loree Vick, spokeswoman for University Hospitals, said she could not provide details on the alleged attacks or the suspect.

University Hospitals also was ordered to repair rusted shower-room ceilings and vents.

Illinois judge approves $64,000,000 settlement over drug Paxil

Via Forbes online

Parents who bought the antidepressant Paxil for their children can begin seeking reimbursements under a $64 million class-action deal settling claims that the drug's maker misled consumers about the medication's safety.

Under the deal, announced in April and granted final approval last week by a judge in Madison County, Ill., parents with proof that they bought GlaxoSmithKline (nyse: GSK - news - people ) PLC's Paxil and Paxil CR, a controlled-release version of the drug, can recoup out-of-pocket expenses.

Parents who no longer have pharmacy records or receipts can get up to $100 refunded by signing a claim form that carries penalties for lying.

In settling the 2004 lawsuit, Britain-based GlaxoSmithKline denies claims it promoted the drug to children while withholding information about negative side effects, including increased suicidal behavior.

"We believe we were responsible and admitted no wrongdoing," Mary Anne Rhyne, a U.S. spokeswoman for the company, said Thursday. "This case was settled to bring closure."

Plaintiffs' attorneys can claim more than $16 million in fees, which will be deducted from the settlement fund, with the remaining money available for payments to consumers.

The settlement does not require GlaxoSmithKline to notify those who may be eligible for reimbursement. Any money left over in the settlement fund is to be returned to the company.

Anyone with a personal injury claim, including the parents of teenagers who killed themselves while taking Paxil, still can sue GlaxoSmithKline, as can insurers and governmental agencies who actually paid the bulk of the money.

In a letter to doctors last year, GlaxoSmithKline and the Food and Drug Administration warned that clinical trial data on nearly 15,000 patients revealed a higher frequency of suicidal behavior in young adults treated with Paxil. The FDA reported 11 suicide attempts - none of which resulted in death - among patients given Paxil in the trials. Just one of the patients who took a placebo attempted suicide.

Given that small number, the FDA said the results "should be interpreted with caution." The trial patients suffered from psychiatric disorders, including major depression.

Doctor can be tried for out-of-state prescription in suicide case

from the San Mateo Daily Journal

A Colorado doctor who filled an online Prozac prescription for a 19-year-old Stanford student who later committed suicide can be tried in San Mateo County for practicing medicine without a license, an appellate court ruled.

The decision means psychiatrist Dr. Christian Ellis Hageseth III, 65, can be extradited from his Colorado home back to San Mateo County where he has a $500,000 arrest warrant. The court’s ruling dissolved a stay of Hageseth’s prosecution, paving the way for prosecutors to pick up where they left off last August.

Judge Carl Holm refused to dismiss the case on grounds California has no jurisdiction to try Hageseth under state law but defense attorney Carleton Briggs appealed. Briggs argued prosecuting Hageseth opens the door to trying thousands of out-of-state physicians who participate in so-called telemedicine and beyond.

“The key seems to be if the practitioner knew the patients resided in California but the decision doesn’t seem to limit it just to telemedicine,” Briggs said. “There are potentially thousands of practitioners who can be affected.”

The court held that Hageseth is liable if found to commit a crime “in whole or in part” within the state, according to the opinion by Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline.

Hageseth should have known state authorities would not take lightly his filling a California prescription without a license, Kline said.

But Briggs said the ruling is creating new law, meaning there was no way for Hageseth to know previously about the responsibility.

Hageseth is charged with one felony count of practicing medicine without a valid California license. A conviction can carry up to three years in prison.

In June 2005, John McKay, a freshman at Stanford University and former student at Menlo-Atherton High School, purchased 90 capsules of generic Prozac via credit card at the online pharmacy site which was then shipped from the Mississippi-based Gruich Pharmacy Shoppe.

Online sites like the one used by McKay do not require a physical examination prior to receiving a prescription. Instead, the buyer fills out an online questionnaire which a doctor is supposed to review before signing off on the drugs.

According to previous news reports, McKay requested the drug to treat moderate depression and adult attention deficit disorder. He reportedly wrote on his application that he had taken the drug before and was not suicidal.

Hageseth reportedly signed off on the prescription of flouxetine without a consultation. On Aug. 2, McKay committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, reportedly with alcohol and flouxetine in his system.

The following February, McKay’s parents, David and Sheila, filed a federal lawsuit against Hageseth and the pharmacies, alleging negligence and wrongful death.

Meanwhile, the Medical Board of California launched its own investigation and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges last May.

At the time of McKay’s online purchase, Hageseth had a restricted medical license at the time because of an unrelated relationship with a patient he later married and was not allowed to fill prescriptions. He currently does not have a Colorado medical license because it was suspended after the charge, Briggs said.

The McKay’s federal lawsuit is still pending but it along with the criminal case is being watched by online pharmacy critics who believe it is poorly regulated.

Hageseth shouldn’t have filled a prescription without a good-faith examination, Briggs conceded, but that is not the issue at hand.

“The charge is practicing without a license. What he did was write a prescription and from beginning to end the entirety of the act occurred in Colorado,” Briggs said.

The State Attorney General’s Office filed a brief on behalf of the Medical Board noting it receives a number of complaints about Internet prescriptions filled by out-of-state doctors and has tried limiting the activity, according to the appeals court.

Briggs said he and Hageseth will decide in the next few days first if they’ll fight the decision in court and, if not, if he will wait for extradition or come voluntarily to California.

Briggs is hopeful local authorities will allow Hageseth to remain in Colorado on his own recognizance.

Is It Always Best When The Doctor Gets Involved?

An Opinion piece by Malcom Evans

Shocking statistics released in the UK show that during 2006 doctors made over 31 million prescriptions of antidepressant pills.

The exact number of patients this equates to can only be guesstimated but is reckoned to run into the several million. Similar generalizations from the US indicate that possibly between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 of all US citizens may be prescribed antidepressants within their lifetime.

Comparative studies often show a broadly similar pattern of effectiveness in treating depression between pills and talk therapies. Many pills have indications of worrying problems, from dependency through to unpleasant side effects.

Whatever the efficacy of these antidepressant pills themselves, they highlight a worrying trend in public health – medicalization, which is the placing within the authority of medical treatment certain issues which may well better be viewed and tackled as more complex social phenomena.

There is a strong case to be made that treating long term depression with long term pill prescription is not treatment at all, just camouflage, papering over the cracks.

Some political scientists in the West view medicalization as a symptom of broader developments, whereby late-capitalist states, relatively wealthy, stable and mature as they have become, are forever seeking to expand the boundaries of their control.

As one example, the general process is reflected in ever stricter measures with regards to road regulations, where the trend is for ever lower speed limits, ever lower drink drive limits, ever more casual parking opportunities removed from town and city streets.

And we see this process of command and control ever more obviously in public healthcare, expressed in the specific mode of medicalization, increasingly backed up with creeping sanctions of criminalization.

Medicalization can be found throughout the issue of anti-social behaviour. Young people, often of a very clearly defined socioeconomic status within very similar city estates, are referred to anger management and drink and drug use sessions as a result of their rowdy, disruptive and sometimes violent activities. Resources are being poured into their expressions through behaviours; some might say the main focus and main spending is being directed at the symptoms, not the causes.

It happens within the area of teenage pregnancies, whereby the main focus of attention becomes birth control, not an analysis of why some identifiable groups of teenage women tend to value early motherhood higher than others.

And it most certainly is happening with weight loss and control issues. Here the failure is to address the overwhelming paradox whereby the mass obsession with dieting continues to grow alongside the rising and general understanding that dieting is in fact a poor method of long term weight control; indeed, obsessive dieting can be shown to be a contributory factor in growing overweight.

Yet public healthcare remains reluctant to tackle the broad stroke and rather complex collage which makes up the overall weight control picture. This is reflective of the overall trend that whilst governments like control, they are generally poorly equipped to tackle complexity.

We are now seeing legislation coming in against junk food promotion and even against parents who are deemed poor feeders of their children. However, all the pressure and exhortations towards the individual are towards dieting as the answer to all weight problems.

Pills, prescriptions, proscriptions and public healthcare are all part and parcel of a medicalization juggernaut which is pushing other arguments aside. It is time to slow down, step back and to indulge in some good old fashioned social analysis about what may be a more efficacious balance between State leadership and individual responsibility, between legislation and education, and between micro and macro intervention.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Utah sues drug maker on behalf of Medicaid patients

A story from the Salt Lake Tribune, from earlier this month.

Some 1,500 Utah adults with insurance coverage through Medicaid have developed diabetes because they took the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, Utah's attorney general estimates.

The state has filed a lawsuit against Zyprexa's manufacturer, Eli Lilly & Co., charging that the company improperly promoted the drug and failed to warn patients of adverse side effects that include diabetes, severe weight gain and pancreatitis.

About 100 Utah patients have already individually sued Eli Lilly, according to David Stallard, assistant attorney general. Others "may not have any idea that Zyprexa had anything to do with them developing diabetes," he said.

Utah accuses Eli Lilly of pushing doctors to prescribe the drug to Utah Medicaid patients to treat "off-label" conditions like Tourette's syndrome, Alzheimer's and anorexia.

The federal Food & Drug Administration approved Zyprexa for treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While doctors can prescribe drugs for a variety of illnesses, pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from marketing their drugs uses not approved by the FDA.

Because the off-label prescriptions were subsidized by Medicaid, the state is seeking damages from Eli Lilly.

Utah is the eighth state to file such a Medicaid lawsuit against the company, Stallard said.

Eli Lilly spokesman Phil Belt said he was unfamiliar with the lawsuit and could not comment on it specifically. He said the company has training and compliance programs to ensure that all its products are marketed appropriately.

Utah has paid $65 million for the 12,000 Medicaid patients prescribed Zyprexa since 1996, said Stallard, who works in the attorney general's Medicaid fraud control unit.

"By dollar volume, Utah Medicaid paid more for Zyprexa than any other drug since 2001," he said. "They've used it much more broadly than it was ever intended. Because of the risks, it shouldn't have been used that broadly."

Of the 250,000 prescriptions written for the drug among Utah Medicaid patients, it's unknown how many of those were for off-label uses. The state is studying the Medicaid database to find out. Other states have reported off-label use at up to 70 percent.

"Utah has paid millions of dollars for inappropriate and medically unnecessary doses of Zyprexa. As a result, Lilly has been illegally enriched at the expense of the state," the 3rd District Court lawsuit said.

Utah is seeking civil damages and penalties, including $5,000 to $10,000 for each prescription that was "not medically necessary."

FDA Protects SSRI Makers With Misleading Suicide Warning

Another valuable report from Evelyn Pringle, as seen in the Scoop

On May 2, 2007, the FDA announced its most misleading warnings to date about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants when it said the drug makers would revise the current black box warning of an increased risk of suicidality in children and adolescents to include adults, but only young adults ages 18 to 24. Apparently at the ripe old age of 25 the increased risk no longer exists.

An FDA advisory committee held a public hearing on December 13, 2006 to review drug company data that show SSRIs to be associated with suicidality in adults. The commonly prescribed SSRIs in the US include Prozac, by Eli Lilly, Paxil by GlaxoSmithKline, Zoloft by Pfizer, and Celexa and Lexapro by Forest Labs, along with various generic versions of the drugs.

Many of the world's leading experts on psychiatric drugs traveled to Washington to appear at the hearing, some of whom have spent years investigating the adverse events associated with SSRIs, to testify about the need to extend the back box warnings about suicidality to all age groups.

Needless to say, advocates and experts alike are outraged over the limited warning, which is widely viewed as another gift to the drug makers by the FDA. "Keeping up with its support of the Psychiatric community and pharmaceutical industry the FDA has again taken the low road," says Kelly Patricia O'Meara, author of "PSYCHED OUT: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills That Kill."

"Not only is it continuing to minimize the adverse reactions of the antidepressants on the entire population," she notes, "it has now become a cheerleader for the psychiatric community." "When will the well-being of the American People," Ms O'Meara asks, "get the protection it needs and deserves from the nation's leading drug watchdog and when will this nation's lawmakers stand up and be counted on this issue?"

Attorney Karen Barth Menzies is one of the nation's most relentless advocates in the legal field when it comes to pushing the FDA to add warnings about adverse events to the labels of SSRIs. In fact, she has traveled to Washington to speak on behalf of SSRI victims numerous times.

“As I stated in my testimony before the FDA in December 2006,” Ms Menzies notes, “it is not the FDA’s job to promote the virtues of particular drugs nor is it FDA’s job to suggest what treatment people should receive for a particular medical problem.”

“Even the FDA’s Dr. Robert Temple said as much during the December hearing,” she points out.

“Yet that is what the FDA has done with its announcement of the expanded warnings on antidepressants,” she says.

“Aside from the very serious risks of these drugs,” she explains, “there is an overarching issue related to their over-prescription and drug manufacturers preying on vulnerable people by telling them they have a disease that must be treated with their medication.”

A partner in the Baum Hedlund law firm, Ms Menzies considers the FDA's expanded warning a hollow victory. "While it appears that the FDA has finally taken the issue more seriously," she notes, "it is 20 years and thousands of lives too late."

In addition, in the agency’s press release and accompanying Q & A document, Ms. Menzies warns, “The FDA has made some seriously misleading statements that will lead patients and physicians into a false sense of security.”

Ms Menzies says she believes "without question" that drug makers are putting pressure on the FDA. "Despite the controversy over the failures of the FDA in the past several years," she points out, "it appears that the FDA simply cannot muster the guts to act without industry influence."

Critics say the nation's regulatory agencies under the Bush administration have evolved into a protection network for drug makers, in large part, because the industry has created a revolving door where top officials move directly from their government employment into high-paying positions with drug companies.

The latest evidence of this charge appeared in the media on May 4, 2007, with a press release by Prozac-maker Eli Lilly, announcing that Alex Azar II will be joining Lilly as senior vice president, who until February 3, 2007, was the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services and served as the "chief operating officer of the largest civilian department in the federal government."

"Azar supervised all operations of the HHS, including the regulation of food and drugs," the press release said, and agencies under his direction included, among others, the FDA.

Azar follows in his former partner, Daniel Troy’s footsteps in defending the drug industry. While Troy left his position as chief counsel at the FDA to work for a law firm representing drug companies, Azar (also a lawyer) went straight to the drug industry itself.

At Lilly, Azar will be responsible for “public relations, governmental affairs, public policy planning and development, external and internal communications, corporate branding and community relations.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, Azar “takes over the Lilly post as seven states are suing the company, alleging that it promoted off label uses for Zyprexa, its top selling drug approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Like other pharmaceutical companies,” the Star points out, “Lilly also faces an array of public policy challenges, including criticism that it is too cozy with doctors and regulators.”

There is one positive to be noted, at least Troy and Azar are no longer pretending to be protectors of the public health.

Experts say the suicidality risk applies to all SSRI users. "The simple truth is that antidepressants cause suicide in all age groups," according to psychiatrist, Dr Peter Breggin, a court-certified expert on SSRIs, and author of "The Anti-Depressant Fact Book."

"Dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that children and now young adults are at risk for antidepressant-induced suicidality," he says, "the FDA continues to evade reality."

"If the relatively insensitive drug-company rigged short clinical trials pick up suicidality in any age group," Dr Breggin says, "it's almost a certainty that they are causing actual suicides in all ages."

Many other experts agree that safety decisions should not be based on drug maker studies. "The fundamental problem continues to be that the FDA is basing their decisions on studies that are designed and paid for by the very companies that make these drugs," said Dr Timothy Scott, author of, “America Fooled: The Truth about Antidepressants, Antipsychotics and How We've Been Deceived.”

"It is a case," he says, "of the fox guarding the chicken house."

"The research designs used by these studies," he notes, "are incredibly unfair and yet the FDA is allowing this system to continue."

"Dishonest research designs," Dr Scott says, "do not give an honest assessment of the physical or the psychological dangers of long-term antidepressant use."

"Independent research investigations," he states, "repeatedly find adverse events are much, much higher than the rates reported in the studies submitted to the FDA by the drug manufacturers."

For over a decade and a half, Attorney Menzies points out, SSRI makers have enjoyed enormous financial benefits from their manipulations of the clinical trial data and the FDA continues to ignore all evidence aside from data provided by the drug companies. "The FDA is ignoring," she says, "independent analyses conducted by scientists in the field, as well as historical and foreign regulatory actions dating back over 20 years."

Ms Menzies states that clinical trial data from before SSRIs were even approved, signaled the suicidality risk. Documents obtained in litigation show that as early as 1984, Eli Lilly was aware of an increased risk of suicidality with Prozac.

Attorney Menzies calls the FDA's statement that “scientific data does not show an increased risk in adults older than 24, and that adults ages 65 and older taking antidepressants have a decreased risk of suicidality,” “extremely misleading.”

“Rather than accurately informing the public that suicidality can occur in some people at any age,” she notes, “this new warning gives the false perception that certain age groups are entirely safe while others are not. I know for a fact from my review of internal drug company documents that that is not true,” she says.

Critics also find this statement disturbing in light of other independent studies, including a study reported in the May 1, 2006, London Free Press, conducted at the Toronto's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, that identified suicides among older Ontarians, 66 and up, and found that for patients who were prescribed antidepressants in the 6 months before their deaths, the risk of suicide in the first month for those taking SSRIs was nearly 5 times higher than for seniors taking older antidepressants called tricyclics such as Elavil.

Other experts also object to the piecemeal addition of SSRI warnings. "When the FDA ordered a black box warning for only those 18 and under, it defied common sense that as soon as one turned 19, one was safe," says Dr Bruce Levine, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, author of "STAR*D Wars: The Corruption of the National Institute of Mental Health and the Failure of Antidepressants."

"And now that the warning will extend until 24," Dr Levine adds, "it defies common sense that one becomes safe on one's 25th birthday."

"While some people report antidepressants have benefited them," he notes, "legitimate science shows that these antidepressants are no more helpful for depression than a placebo or no treatment at all."

According to a study analyzing clinical trials submitted to the FDA for drug approval, the efficacy data submitted to the FDA for the six most widely prescribed antidepressants approved between 1987 and 1999, “the pharmacological effects of antidepressants are clinically negligible.” The Emperor’s New Drugs: An Analysis of Antidepressant Medication Data Submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by Irving Kirsch, Thomas J. Moore, Alan Scorboria and Sarah S. Nicholls.

According to Kirsch, “[a]lthough antidepressant medication is widely regarded as efficacious, a recent meta-analysis of published clinical trials indicates that 75 percent of the response to antidepressants is duplicated by placebo.” Kirsch & Sapirstein, G. (1998). Listening to Prozac but hearing placebo: A meta analysis of antidepressant medication.

Two recent studies conducted in the UK report that exercise in a green environment may be the best remedy for depression. In response to the high cost of drugs, the rise in prescriptions and the fact that 93 percent of GPs reported that “they have prescribed antidepressants against their better judgment owing to a lack of alternatives,” the studies found that “participating in green exercise activities provides substantial benefits for health and wellbeing.”

The “green activities” included gardening, walking, running and bicycling, particularly in a “green” environment.

Another of the world's leading experts on psychiatric drugs, Dr David Healy, author of, "The Creation of Pharmacology (Harvard 2002)," also a frequent visitor traveling from the UK to Washington to testify at FDA hearings, says, "The clinical trial data pointing to a risk was compelling 17 years ago."

"In between 1990 and now," he notes, "the FDA and drug companies have argued that their assessment of risk benefit ratios has not warranted issuing warnings."

"But if we look at the supposed benefits," he explains, "in milder depressions - the vast majority of people who get antidepressants - the FDA analysis in December 2006 showed that only 1 in 10 people who are given antidepressants in clinical trials respond to the drug."

"Four out of 10 respond to being seen and given sensible advice," he notes.

"Putting this 1 in 10 response rate against a 1 in 100 rate of suicidal acts might not seem a bad bet," Dr Healy says, "but suicidal acts are not the only risk of treatment - patients can become severely anxious, homicidal, are at increased risk of broken bones, strokes and bleeds into the gut and other organs, weight gain and its attendant risks."

He also notes that one in two patients on antidepressants experience sexual dysfunction and that it now seems that in a proportion of these people, the problem may be permanent.

"In the case of children," he says, "there are additional risks like failure to grow."

Another serious adverse event with SSRIs is a discontinuation syndrome. Psychiatrist Dr Grace Jackson, author of, "Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent," warns that some patients may not be able to return to living without the drugs, not because they develop a “craving," but because the withdrawal effects they experience during drug cessation are intolerable and are misinterpreted by doctors as “proof” of depressive relapse, for which “lifelong therapy” is mandated.

Over the past several years, many new adverse events related to SSRI use have emerged, including life-threatening birth defects in infants born to mother's taking SSRIs during pregnancy. But because SSRI makers have hidden negative studies for years, experts say patients and doctors were not informed of all the known risks associated with SSRIs.

“Informed consent cannot be obtained for antidepressants---or for any pharmaceutical---unless all of the drugs’ risks are known to the prescribers," according to psychiatrist, Dr Stefan Kruszewski, Faculty, Eastern University, Department of Addictions.

"They cannot be known," he says, "if all of the data is not made available to review or made public - as was the case with Paxil.”

According to Dr Healy, a bigger issue stems from company efforts to make billions of dollars out of these drugs by having them given to people who have little to gain from treatment and a lot to lose."

Dr Healy says most patients with milder depression would get well if seen by a sympathetic physician or therapist and describes three side effects that have resulted from the SSRI controversy:

(1) Physicians have lost confidence in their own ability to help patients without drugs.

(2) A great deal of the problem stems from the fact that close to all of the literature physicians now read is ghostwritten and the articles overemphasize the benefits of treatment and hide the risks.

(3) Antidepressants might be useful drugs, if primarily used for those with severe disorders, but at the moment the drugs probably pose a greater risk than the illness to the lives, careers and relationships of those to whom they are being given.

Clinical pharmacologist, Andrew Herxheimer, also says doctors should be advised not to prescribe drugs, especially SSRIs, to patients with only mild or moderate depression, and if prescribing is deemed necessary, to use the lowest dose that is effective for the individual.

According to Dr Levine, the SSRI makers are not as unhappy as some might think with the warnings and negative publicity. "Patents have run out or are soon to run on all their big sellers," he explains, "and they are preparing their next generation of worthless, dangerous but patented drugs to replace the SSRIs."

Ms Menzies reports that there is a big push to switch people over from taking antidepressants to antipsychotics under the guise that people aren’t depressed after all, they actually have bipolar disorder. “It is a very cleverly orchestrated marketing scheme and it’s a continuation of the manipulation of a vulnerable population,” she says.

Vince Boehm, another persistent advocate for warnings on SSRIs agrees, "This is all about marketing, and not about safety."

"This latest ploy" regarding the expanded antidepressant warnings, Boehm explains, "is a delaying action on the part of the manufacturers with FDA complicity."

"The FDA just commissioned a series of three year studies to evaluate the adult suicide problem," he notes, "and by the time these studies are done and released, the bulk of the medications listed in this announcement will be either off or going off patent."