Drug Makers Are Advocacy Group’s Biggest Donors

October 21st, 2009 | News Archive

By Gardiner Harris, New York Times
October 21, 2009

nytimes-pillsDrug Makers Are Advocacy Groups’s Biggest DonorsWASHINGTON — A majority of the donations made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s most influential disease advocacy groups, have come from drug makers in recent years, according to Congressional investigators.

The alliance, known as NAMI, has long been criticized for coordinating some of its lobbying efforts with drug makers and for pushing legislation that also benefits industry.

Last spring, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent letters to the alliance and about a dozen other influential disease and patient advocacy organizations asking about their ties to drug and device makers. The request was part of his investigation into the drug industry’s influence on the practice of medicine.

The mental health alliance, which is hugely influential in many state capitols, has refused for years to disclose specifics of its fund-raising, saying the details were private.

But according to investigators in Mr. Grassley’s office and documents obtained by The New York Times, drug makers from 2006 to 2008 contributed nearly $23 million to the alliance, about three-quarters of its donations. Even the group’s executive director, Michael Fitzpatrick, said in an interview that the drug companies’ donations were excessive and that things would change.

“For at least the years of ’07, ’08 and ’09, the percentage of money from pharma has been higher than we have wanted it to be,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

He promised that the industry’s share of the organization’s fund-raising would drop “significantly” next year.

“I understand that NAMI gets painted as being in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies, and somehow that all we care about is pharmaceuticals,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “It’s simply not true.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick said Mr. Grassley’s scrutiny, which he described as understandable given the attention paid to potential conflicts of interest in medicine, had led his organization to begin posting on its Web site the names of companies that donate $5,000 or more. And he predicted that other patient and disease advocacy groups would be prodded by Mr. Grassley’s investigation to do the same.

“Everyone I talk to wants to have more balanced fund-raising,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. In a statement, Mr. Grassley praised the alliance for its disclosures. “It’d be good for the system for other patient groups to do what NAMI has done,” he said.

Mr. Grassley’s scrutiny has been unnerving for patient and disease advocacy groups, which are often filled with sincere people who are either afflicted with serious illnesses themselves or have family members who have been affected. Many join the groups in the hope of making sense of their misfortune by helping to find a cure or raising awareness of a disease’s risks and frequency.

Drug makers are natural allies in these pursuits since cures may come out of corporate laboratories and the industry’s money can help finance public service campaigns and fund-raising dinners. But industry critics have long derided some patient organizations as little more than front groups devoted to lobbying on issues that affect industry profits, and few have come under more scrutiny for industry ties than the mental health alliance.

For years, the alliance has fought states’ legislative efforts to limit doctors’ freedom to prescribe drugs, no matter how expensive, to treat mental illness in patients who rely on government health care programs like Medicaid. Some of these medicines routinely top the list of the most expensive drugs that states buy for their poorest patients.

Mr. Fitzpatrick defended these lobbying efforts, saying they were just one of many the organization routinely undertook. The close ties between the alliance and drug makers were on stark display last week, when the organization held its annual gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue in Washington. Tickets were $300 each. Before a dinner of roasted red bell pepper soup, beef tenderloin and tilapia, Dr. Stephen H. Feinstein, president of the alliance’s board, thanked Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical company.

“For the past five years, Bristol-Myers has sponsored this dinner at the highest level,” Dr. Feinstein said. He then introduced Dr. Fred Grossman, chief of neuroscience research at Bristol-Myers, who told the audience that “now, more than ever, our enduring relationship with NAMI must remain strong.”

Documents obtained by The New York Times show that drug makers have over the years given the mental health alliance — along with millions of dollars in donations — direct advice about how to advocate forcefully for issues that affect industry profits. The documents show, for example, that the alliance’s leaders, including Mr. Fitzpatrick, met with AstraZeneca sales executives on Dec. 16, 2003.

Slides from a presentation delivered by the salesmen show that the company urged the alliance to resist state efforts to limit access to mental health drugs.

“Solutions: Play Hard Ball,” one slide was titled. “Hold policy makers accountable for their decisions in media and in election,” it continued.

The alliance’s own slides concluded by saying, “We appreciate AstraZeneca’s strong support of NAMI.” Mr. Fitzpatrick said that the alliance frequently had such meetings and that the organization would fight for better access to mental health drugs “even if we had no relationship with pharmaceutical companies.”

Tony Jewell, an AstraZeneca spokesman, said that the company was “committed to improving health through partnerships with nonprofit organizations” and that “includes striving to ensure people can access our medicines through formularies managed by state Medicaid agencies.”

Drug Makers Are Advocacy Group’s Biggest Donors

October 21st, 2009 | News Archive

By Gardiner Harris

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — A majority of the donations made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s most influential disease advocacy groups, have come from drug makers in recent years, according to Congressional investigators.

The alliance, known as NAMI, has long been criticized for coordinating some of its lobbying efforts with drug makers and for pushing legislation that also benefits industry.

Read more…

Generation of Kids Hooked on Psych Drugs

June 23rd, 2009 | News Archive

By Evelyn Pringle

Source: http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/blog/generation-of-kids-hooked-on-psych-drugs-0449.html

Campbell Brown anchors a daily prime-time news program on CNN. On June 17, 2009, in a segment of the program called the “Great Debate,” the question was, Ritalin, Prozac, Adderall, are we “pushing pills on our kids and raising a generation hooked on meds.”

Featured in the debate were, Kelly O’Meara, author of the book, “Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill,” and Dr Charles Sophy, a psychiatrist in private practice in Los Angeles, who serves as medical director of the LA County Department of Children and Family Services. They were each given 30 seconds for an opening statement.

Read more…

Stimulants for ADHD Shown to Cause Sudden Death in Children

June 17th, 2009 | News Archive

By Dr. Peter Breggin
June 17, 2009

A new study, published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, confirms what I’ve been warning about for years in my scientific books and articles. The stimulants used to treat children for so-called ADHD can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death in kids. The study was published by the journal online in advance of regular publication in the near future. On Monday, I had the opportunity to comment on the study on Good Morning America. Here is more detail.

The stimulant group of drugs includes amphetamines like Adderall and Dexedrine and methylphenidate products such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Focalin. The study focused on Ritalin because at the time it was more commonly used than the amphetamines, although amphetamines are probably even more toxic to the heart.

The results of the study were as dramatic as they are tragic. Children and youth age 7 to 19 taking prescribed Ritalin for ADHD were four to five times more likely to die of sudden unexplained cardiac arrest than other children who were not taking Ritalin.

Despite these ominous results, the study was skewed to hide just how many children die of sudden death when taking Ritalin. The study relied heavily on identifying cases through toxicology reports at autopsy. But autopsy studies for the detection of these controlled substances are geared to detect more massive doses from addiction and overdose. They are not sensitive enough to detect many cases of routine prescription use. As a result, many stimulant-caused deaths were probably missed.

Also, the study excluded a large number of sudden deaths if the children had even the slightest evidence of pre-existing heart disease. They excluded these children even when the coroner thought that heart disease played no role in the death. For example, if a child was taking stimulants and had minimal heart disease, such as a slightly enlarged heart, the researchers didn’t include the case as a possible death due to the stimulant. They also did not count children who were severely obese, anorexic, or asthmatic. But all of these children, especially ones with undetected heart disease, are much more highly at risk for of stimulant-induced sudden death. They even excluded children whose parents had some forms of heart disease.

It’s as if they did not want to confirm the obvious—that an examination of children with heart disease and related disorders would swell the numbers of those killed by Ritalin. In fact, the current FDA approved label specifically mentions the risk of cardiac sudden death when Ritalin is given to children with heart conditions.

Unconscionable, the study researchers were trying not to prove that stimulants cause sudden death in children. They made the findings despite their own attempts to avoid it. I was not surprised to find that some of the researchers for this study are among the biggest advocates of psychiatric medications for children.

Sudden cardiac death in children is rare, probably occurring—as the study notes—in a slightly little less than 1 in 100,000 children. But we need to take a few other facts into account. First, the rate is going to be much higher in children taking stimulant drugs. Not just the four or five times higher found in this study, but many more times higher when vulnerable children are included such as those with undetected heart disease, severe obesity, asthma, or anorexia. Second, stimulant drugs are one of the few causes of cardiac death in otherwise normal children, making it impossible to detect the risk before it happens.

There is also evidence from studies of stimulant addicts and case reports that stimulant drugs can cause heart disease, including inflammation and scarring. When drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed in routine pediatric doses, they commonly cause hypertension, which can lead to an enlarged heart. Yet children with even slightly enlarged hearts were excluded from the study. So the researchers ended up excluding any children with enlarged hearts caused by the stimulant treatment itself.

The same is true in regard to anorexia. Stimulants commonly cause anorexia. The researchers therefore excluded cases of stimulant-induced death in anorexic patients when the anorexia itself could have been caused by the stimulant.

Meanwhile the psychiatric establishment—represented by American Psychiatric Association, NIMH and drug companies–has been quick to dismiss the importance of the study. Instead, they should be emphasizing that the study detected the risk even though the highest risk patients were excluded, including some who were displaying toxic stimulant effects such as heart disease and anorexia.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a greater tragedy for the surviving family than the unexpected death of a child from taking a medication prescribed by a doctor. I’ve been involved as a medical expert or consultant for families in several tragic cases of stimulant-induced cardiac death. I’ve also been an expert in cases of suicide in children caused by stimulants. These tragic deaths are always heartbreaking. Years afterward, the emotional wounds remain as raw as ever for their parents and brothers and sisters. The family’s trust for doctors and the healthcare system can be forever shattered.

Yet the answer to this problem is simple. Don’t give stimulants to children. There are far better non-drug ways to deal with so-called ADHD. ADHD is defined as involving hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. These are not diseases—they are disciplinary and educational problems. Very often these children improve dramatically when parents develop a more consistent, rational and loving plan for discipline. Sometimes the problem completely disappears when the child is assigned a better teacher.

At times the child diagnosed with ADHD is simply a little delayed in learning self-discipline or finding the motivation to study. Often something is distressing the youngster, such as peer ridicule and abuse. Or the child may be especially full of life and need more opportunity to run, to play, and to be creative.

Whatever these children need, they don’t need toxic drugs that can lead to drug addiction, cause psychosis and depression, stunt growth, impair brain function, and even cause sudden cardiac arrest. I describe and document all of these adverse stimulant effects, and many more, in my medical book, Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock, and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (2008).

Our children don’t need drugs—they need us to protect them from misguided health professionals while we make every effort to meet their real needs in our families and schools. It’s time for all of us to retake responsibility for our children.

Dr. Breggin’s latest book is Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime (St. Martin’s, 2008). It is now in paperback.

Dr. Breggin’s website is www.breggin.com
Email: psychiatricdrugfacts@hotmail.com

ADHD Drugs Linked to Sudden Death

June 15th, 2009 | News Archive

Some Parents Believe New Study Reinforces Link Between Stimulants, Cardiac Death

Source: Article by Dan Childs and Todd Neale, ABC News

For Ann Hohmann, Oct. 21, 2004, began just about like any other day.

On that morning, the 54-year-old mother of two living in McAllen, Texas, was preparing to take her eldest son to school. She had an early appointment, so her husband, Rick Hohmann, would be dropping off younger son, 14-year-old Matthew, at his school that day.

Read more…

Bloomberg News – Grassley Probes Financing of Advocacy Group for Mental Health

April 6th, 2009 | News Archive

By Nicole Gaouette
April 6, 2009

U.S. Senator Charles Grassley expanded his investigation into drug company influence on the practice of medicine by asking a nonprofit mental-health-advocacy group about its funding.

In a letter sent today to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, based in Arlington, Virginia, Grassley asked the nonprofit group to disclose any financial backing from drug companies or from foundations created by the industry. The Iowa Republican, in a series of hearings and investigations, has focused on financial ties between the drug industry, doctors and academic institutions. His efforts have led New York-based Pfizer Inc. to begin disclosing consulting payments to U.S. doctors, and Harvard Medical School in Boston to reexamine its conflict-of-interest policies. Now Grassley is expanding his inquiries to nonprofit groups.

“I have come to understand that money from the pharmaceutical industry shapes the practices of nonprofit organizations which purport to be independent in their viewpoints and actions,” Grassley wrote in his letter. Officials at the National Alliance for Mental Illness didn’t return calls for comment. The group identifies itself as the largest grassroots organization in the U.S. for people with mental illness and their families. The group came under scrutiny in 1999, when the magazine Mother Jones reported that 18 drug companies gave the group $11.7 million from 1996 to mid-1999. The article reported that at one point an executive of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co. worked out of the nonprofit group’s headquarters.

A 2007 annual report showed that the group’s corporate partners at that time included Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth; London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc; Eli Lilly, which makes Prozac; and the Washington-based trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Financial Report

A separate financial report shows the National Alliance for Mental Illness brought in $10.5 million in contributions in the year that ended June 30, 2007. The donors aren’t broken out.

Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes ethical research, said the National Alliance for Mental Illness may have drawn Grassley’s attention because it lobbies Congress for mental-health funding.

“Academics and physicians give an appearance of authority,” Sharav said by telephone. “Industry gives them the money. Grassley has been going after each group systematically, and the dots are being connected.”

In January, Grassley and Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, reintroduced the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which would require manufacturers to report on payments to doctors and any physician-owned facility.

Pfizer Announcement

Grassley’s investigations have led to changes in industry and academia. Pfizer made its announcement about disclosing physician payments in February. In March, the American Psychiatric Association said it would no longer accept industry support for symposiums and meals at its annual meetings.

On April 1, Stanford University School of Medicine, near Palo Alto, California, said it would post on a Web site all income faculty earned from royalty payments and outside consulting.

In the March 31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of researchers and physicians called for professional medical associations to transform their operations to avoid conflicts of interest posed by “extensive funding from pharmaceutical and device companies.” The group included Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist.

Exhibit Educates Public on Psychotropic Drugs

January 18th, 2009 | News Archive

Sunday, January 18, 2009 9:09 PM EST
By SLOAN BREWSTER, Press staff
MIDDLETOWN

Ritalin, Adderall, Thorazine, Zoloft, Prozac… The list of psychotropic drugs goes on and on, along with a host of disorders for which the medications are prescribed, but few people are aware of the process that brings a disorder into existence.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which was founded by the Church of Scientology, wants people to hear their take on the matter – a take they couple not with conjecture, but with countless indications of proof, including statistics, documentation, videotaped conferences on mental health, interviews with psychologists and psychiatrists and decades of historical data.

The commission’s touring exhibit, “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,” opened last Tuesday and will run through Jan. 30 in the first floor of Main Street Market, in the space formerly occupied by It’s Only Natural. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit includes screenings of interviews with patients and conversations with mental health professionals, who admit brain scans do not offer evidence to prove the existence of mental health disorders and say drugs are often prescribed without any verification they will solve the problems.

“There are no tests to confirm,” said one psychologist during one such taped conversation. “I just speak with people and I make a decision as to the diagnosis.”

In one short film, a patient with a hidden camera visited several different mental health clinics. In each visit, the patient complained of the same symptoms. Each psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist offered a different diagnosis and some prescribed a number of drugs. Then there are the interviews with parents or family members of many patients who have taken their own lives while on psychotropic drugs or in the care of mental health professionals.

Visitors of the exhibit are led on a tour of the room and given the opportunity to read statistics, historical data and to see sometimes graphic depictions of restrained patients and other disturbing imagery.

“It was wrong what we were doing,” one psychologist said during an interview shown in the exhibit. “We were looking at five minutes of their life and diagnosing.”

“More than 100,000 patients die each year in psychiatric institutions around the world,” reads one statistic the commission lists. “An estimated 15,000 American children have died as a consequence of taking psychiatric drugs.” Visitors sit at stations set up throughout the exhibit and watch short films that offer evidence to prove the claims the commission makes. “It is an educational exhibit; CCHR is the premiere psychiatric watchdog in the world,” said Noelle Talevi, executive director of the commission’s Connecticut chapter. “We’re the only ones telling this side of the story – Their side of the story is that there is mental illness. Every behavior from the cradle to the grave is labeled as mental illness – the only answer is drugs.”

At the end of the exhibit, visitors return to a table near the entrance to the room, where they can get reading material to bring home, a DVD compilation of screenings shown in the exhibit or a documentary film called “Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging.” Some people who have been to the exhibit said they feel vindicated by what they have seen as they already suspected a lot of what the exhibit portrays, Talevi said. Some have indicated they were “blown away,” she said. “They now know they weren’t crazy.”

Others are surprised when they see things such as films of psychiatrists voting on disorders. “They are shocked to learn that ADHD was literally voted into existence,” Talevi said.

Samantha Kovath and Melissa Grover went on the tour last Wednesday. “It seems like the government is using medication as a way to brainwash people,” Grover said. “They want money. What better way to get money than to brainwash the people that work?” One of the last stations, “Masterminds of Destruction,” shows a disturbing quote suggesting the purpose of decades of prescribing adults and children with psychotropic drugs has been done with the intent of social control: “To achieve world government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism and religious dogmas.” The quote was made by psychiatrist G. Brock Chisholm, co-founder of the World Federation for Mental Health.

“[Chisholm] was saying it as part of a plan,” Talevi explained. “It was part of a speech to the World Federation for Mental Health.”

Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano also took the tour Wednesday. “Some of the stuff I knew, especially the stuff about kids,” the mayor said. “Where was all this when I was growing up?”

PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ELI LILLY TO PAY RECORD $1.415 BILLION

January 16th, 2009 | News Archive

Criminal Penalty is Largest Individual Corporate Criminal Fine Ever
See National – Fox News VIDEO by clicking here: http://tmap.wordpress.com/videos/

 

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Zyprexa is one of the newer, more expensive “atypical antipsychotics”. Others include Abilify, Geodon, Risperdal and Seroquel. These powerful drugs with horrific side effects are costing State Medicaid programs millions yet they have been found to be no more effective than the “older” much less expensive antipsychotics.

Heart risk cited in newer antipsychotic drugs

January 15th, 2009 | News Archive

Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel, among the 10 most commonly prescribed medications, are just as likely as older antipsychotic drugs to cause a fatal heart attack, a study finds.

Los Angeles Times
By Thomas H. Maugh II
January 15, 2009

A widely used class of antipsychotic drugs that includes bestsellers Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel is just as likely — perhaps even more likely — to cause a fatal heart attack as older antipsychotic drugs like haloperidol, researchers reported today.

The findings, which run contrary to a long-standing belief, add to a growing drumbeat of criticism about this class of drugs, known as atypical antipsychotics. Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel are among the 10 most commonly prescribed medications in the world, with annual sales estimated at $14.5 billion.

Researchers are especially concerned about the rising use of atypical antipsychotics in the elderly and the young — both groups that are fragile and more susceptible to adverse effects of powerful medications.

Last week British researchers reported in the journal Lancet Neurology that Alzheimer’s patients given the drugs to control aggression were nearly twice as likely to die from any cause as patients who did not receive them.

Some studies have shown that as many as 40% of Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes receive the drugs for unapproved use.

The number of prescriptions for the drugs written for children and adolescents doubled to 4.4 million from 2003 to 2006, in part because of increases in diagnoses of bipolar disorder. Their efficacy in children and Alzheimer’s patients has never been demonstrated, experts said.

More here: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/15/science/sci-schizodrugs15

Are We All Going Mad, Or Are The Experts Crazy?

September 18th, 2008 | News Archive

LA Times Opinion Page

By Stuart A. Kirk, STUART A. KIRK is a professor of social welfare at UCLA. He is the coauthor of “The Selling of DSM” and “Making Us Crazy.” His most recent book is “Mental Disorders in the Social Environment”.

PSYCHIATRIC researchers recently estimated that half of the American population has had or will have a mental disorder at some time in their life. A generation ago, by contrast, only a small percentage of the American population was considered mentally ill. Are we all going mad?

Read more…

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