Friday, May 27, 2005

Drugging Kids Is Extremely Profitable

George W. Bush loves the word Freedom (the actual concept, maybe not so much). After September 11, he solemnly informed Americans that they (religious nuts from Saudi Arabia, mostly) 'hate us for our freedom'. When France opposed (along with most of the World) our ill-advised invasion of Iraq, 'French Fries' became 'Freedom Fries', and 'French Toast' became 'Freedom Toast'. Lately, he likes to remind us that 'Freedom Is On The March'.

Freedom was on the march April 29, 2002, when George W. Bush established the New Freedom Commission (NFC). What the Commission actually did was make recommendations about mental health care in the U.S. How it is distributed, and more importantly, how drug company execs can feed off the American taxpayer, much like their country club buddies at Halliburton do.

Evelyn Pringle writes about so-called two model programs for this future direction in mental health care, Teen Screen and TMAP (Texas Medication Algorithm Project), in an article for the Online Journal. In addition to being full of interesting information and background, the article mentions The Integrity in Science Database, which keeps track of which companies are funding which researchers. Thanks to that site, after seeing a Psychiatrist on CNN talking about a great the new drug from Pfizer is, you can go find out how much money they got from Pfizer last year.

Back to the programs, though. In case there is any doubt that the transfer of money from the Federal Budget to Pharma profits is the primary aim, consider:

The original TMAP list of drugs for adults included Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroqual, Geodone, Depakote, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Wellbutron, Zyban, Remeron, Serzone, Effexor, Buspar, Adderall and Prozac.

The decision to adopt TMAP brought with it the mandate to use the recommended drugs on all patients in the state system. A doctor cannot choose a generic drug until at least two, often three, drugs on the list have failed. And even then the doctor must set down his or her rationale in writing, and assume liability for deviating from the TMAP list.

It gets worse. Apparently when they decided to expand the program to children, too, some wise people (or, obstructionists, as they are sometimes called) suggested making sure the drugs being used for adults were appropriate for kids. You can probably guess what happened:

The panel soon decided a survey was unnecessary and said the same drugs being used on adults could be used on children. There were no studies or clinical trials whatsoever to support this consensus.

How could the drug companies pull this off? Because the members of the panel were on the take. For instance, one member of the panel was Graham Emslie, MD, professor and chairman of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Texas Medical Center.

The Integrity in Science Project tracks drug company money to researchers and lists Emslie as: "Consultant to GlaxoSmithKline, Forest, and Pfizer. Receives research support from Eli Lilly, Organon, RepliGen, and Wyeth-Ayerst. Member of the speaker's bureau for McNeil. ('Experience in the use of SSRIs and other antidepressants in children and teens')"

In light of recent concerns about the effect of Paxil (June of 2003, the FDA issued a warning that Paxil should not be prescribed to persons under 18) and other anti-depressants on children, this seems at best ill-advised. Also depressing is the extent to which drugs are used as chemical restraints by foster programs:

a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio investigated the matter. He discovered that, in July 2004, 31 percent of children ages 6 to 18 in foster and group homes were on mental health medications. And 22 percent of the children in detention were on psychiatric drugs as of January 2005, with many on five or more. See the April 25, 2005 Columbus Dispatch.

The article is highly recommended. It ends on a hopeful note, in Bush's brother's state, Florida:

But it's not going so well in Florida. Anti-child-drugging advocate Ken Kramer has led the fight to prevent TeenScreen from getting into schools in several counties in Florida. In Pinellas Country he urged parents to send e-mails to the school board and voice their objections to the program. The board received more than 700 e-mails.

Kramer won the battle in two large counties. According to the Jan 26, Tampa Tribune, Pinellas County School Board members refused to subject students to suicide screenings, quashing any hope of introducing a controversial mental health plan in two of Florida's largest school districts.

To protect its students from issues of privacy and wrongful labeling, the Pinellas County School Board voted 6–1 to bar TeenScreen's suicide questionnaire program, the PR Web reported on Jan 30.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Trend is Not My Friend

When I started up this blog, it seemed there was a big pharmaceutical industry backed full-on Adult ADD craze going on, but things done changed, as the Notorious B.I.G. said. Although the Superfriends of Diversity at Eli Lilly posted decent earnings numbers, Strattera sales were off a bit (15%) due to the liver damage concerns. AdderallXR got banned in Canada. People all over the country, yes, the same people who bought Milli Vanilli albums, started to wonder if maybe this adult ADD thing was just a load of crap to move some pills.

I even notice my Google Alerts on Strattera and Adult ADD come with much lower frequency than as recently as a month ago, and a lot of them are sportswriters making lame jokes about somebody's attention span, anyway.

So sorry, ADD sufferers, you're not in the spotlight now. Maybe Sepsis sufferers will get some love.

Anyhow, all is not lost, because Shire Pharmaceuticals has this happening program called the Adderall Achievers. It's reminiscent of the Coffee Achievers of the 80's. At that time, Jay Leno was an up and coming, even edgy young comic (really!) and his joke was: 'they have rock stars in these Coffee Achiever commercials. For these people, coffee is a sedative!' (in the 80's, people thought that was funny).

So now how it works is, you get really bored at meetings at work, or when you're hearing a neighbor drone on about the comparative advantages of lawn mowers, and you tell your doctor this is happening. Your Doctor then tells you 'it sounds like you have Adult ADD, you should try some of this AdderallXR stuff'.

At this point you ask the doctor about an article you read about Adderall getting banned and people dying and stuff in Canada, and he kind of snorts and explains how that's just politically motivated, it's something for Canada and the US to sort out, and it was only a few people who died anyway. You are given a card with a phone number on it. You call the number to activate the card. You also get a refridgerator magnet with a rectangular hole in it (you need to find a picture of yourself kicking ass, taking names, figuring out who moved the cheese, or some gung-ho shit like that, and put it in the rectangle, and put it on your fridge). You take the card to the pharmacy and hand it to the guy there, and he asks for ID, and then, bang, you have 30 free AdderallXR pills. Side effects include 'emotional lability'. What is that? Well, according to this website for people taking care of stroke victims, it's a sudden change of emotion, or an emotional response out of proportion to the stimulus. Emotional lability also affects people with MS, Menopause, or Lou Gehrig's (also known as Stephen Hawking's) Disease.

Anyhow, apparently college students love the Adderall for studying.

For more unbiased info from bloggers and internet forums about Adderall Achievers, see:

A Shout Out To My Pepys

I forgot to mention the really funny part about this drug. It's called Adderall, and the package with the magic card on it noted that I was joining the ADDERALL ACHIEVERS!! Which of course reminded me of the Coffee Achievers ads from the 80s.

But the best part was that the box contained not only an infotational booklet about being an Adderall Achiever and how this drug was going to fix my life, but an Adderall Achievers FRIDGE MAGNET! The doctor didn't believe me at first about this. "They put a what in there?"

So, even if this stuff doesn't do jack for me I still get a fridge magnet. If things go well, it'll go next to the Zeppelin Bread one. If poorly, it goes in the section of the fridge full of failed dot com fridge magnets.

Also the Amen Clinic discussion group

Dawg answers, "Americans are more tightly wound, explosive, unfriendly, stand offish, as a rule..Now the Aussie's are more laid back, very deep thinkers, warm and friendly almost Tigger Like..." "So we figured about 7 years ago, that we'd send you folks "Down Under" a sizable shipment of Adderall-30mg Tabs...So off they went to the far side of the Planet...

Well no sooner than we did that, there's 'ol Prime Minister John Howard making this frantic call to Sh*** Labs...
"Oh Mr. Bigwig, you must stop anymore Adderall from reaching our Shores..."

"Why is that Mr. Prime Minister, we had a deal right?" asks Sweaty Greedy CEO of Sh*** Guy....

"No Mr. Fatcat! You don't understand! It seems to effect us Australians differently!" says PM Guy...

"What do you mean? That can't be!" moans Sh*** Dude as he lights another cigar with a $1000 bill...

"Well Mr. Milk the Little Guy, you know how you Americans are All Adderall Achievers right?" says PM Guy...

"Yes!" Satans/Sh*** Side Kick says

"Well this group of Misfits, Outcasts and Losers got ahold of the entire shipment of Adderall 30-mg Tabs and they took off with it...Mr. Rip Off these were the wimpiest, most unintelligent, no talent group Australia has ever produced...I actually think they came from New Zealand, but I have no Proof.." hurridly say worried PM JH

"For godsake what's your point, I'm busy, I'm negotiating a deal now to raise the price of Adderall 30-mg Tabs
in the inner cities, I need new Gold Faucet Handles, who are they? what do they look like? what do they want?" a now impatient Mr. Steal from the Poor and Give to the Rich Guy from Sh*** Labs says...

"Well I have a few names, Uh, let's see they are Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Paul Hogan, Russell Crowe and they appear to be Led by Steve Irwin...You better do something that Irwin fellow snatched up 20 30-mg Adderall Tabs and took them all at once...Oh, it's bad sir, it's bad...What do you suggest?"

"Well Mr. Howard I doubt that we'll ever hear from Mel, Nicole, Paul and Russell again, and the leader was, oh yeah Steve Irwin...Never Mind we'll replace the Adderall, with Adderall XR 30-mg...And don't worry it's not very effective anyway, all Americans know that..I made sure of that..Har-Har-Har!!!"