Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Drop in Antidepressant Use by Kids is Good News

Apparently, the big drop in antidepressant drug use among the young is
the direct result of the new black box warnings mandated by the Food and
Drug Administration in the spring of 2004.

That labeling alert had previously been reserved for only the deadliest
of drugs. But given the mounting evidence of the damage these drugs have
done to young people, the recommendation was a wholly appropriate one.

Earlier that same year, experts told the FDA what many parents had
already learned from bitter, personal experience. When it comes to
children, antidepressants can actually trigger the suicidal impulses
their use is designed to prevent.

Indeed, it was an apparent pattern of suicidal behavior in pediatric
studies of Paxil, a popular antidepressant, that prompted the FDA to
order an analysis of a whole array of antidepressant medications.
The preliminary results of that study confirmed the rise in suicidal

In a recent report, the FDA notes that, at its peak in 2002, nearly
11 million antidepressant prescriptions were written for American

Since the agency began issuing advisories about the possible adverse
effects of such drugs, culminating in the black box warnings, pediatric
prescriptions for antidepressants have plummeted 25 percent. An overall
decline of 20 percent has been seen since March 2004.

In Tennessee, where residents' drug use is a shocking 58 percent above
average - the highest drug use in the nation - that national decline in
antidepressant prescriptions at least invites the hope that a similar
drop will occur here as well. That's because, in addition to drug use,
Tennessee also has a higher than average rate of suicide.

According to a report from the Tennessee Commission on Children and
Youth, the east south central states - Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and
Mississippi - have the third highest suicide rate among the nine regions
in the United States, and Tennessee leads the region. Among young adults
15 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death behind only
accidents and homicides. The deadly mix of a medication- prone state
with an already high suicide rate is, of course, glaringly obvious.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coalition gathers at Florida Capital to support informed consent

Coalition of National and State Organizations
Gathers at the Florida Capitol to Support Full Informed Consent

TALLAHASSEE-Florida - February 21, 2006
With more than 10 million children in this country being prescribed dangerous psychotropic drugs, and in light of the latest health warnings about their use by the FDA, actresses Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston have joined a broad-based coalition to support legislation filed by Rep. Gus Barreiro and Sen. Victor Crist.
On Thursday, February 23 at noon, the Florida Coalition for the Protection of Parental Rights will gather on the steps of the capitol building in support of the bills filed in both the Florida House and Senate.
The bills mandate that Florida schools adhere to federal law and provide full informed consent to parents for mental health evaluations and treatment of their children. 
The coalition – comprised in part of The Juvenile Justice Foundation, Citizens for Health, National Home Education Legal Defense, The National Coalition of Organized Women, Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, Cornerstone Christian Home Educators, Botanical Resource, Justice for Juveniles, Florida Dads Incorporated, Justice4Kids, The Results Project, Family Alliance for Children in Education, Best Horizons Foundation, Effective Action, AbleChild, and Juvenile Education Resource Regarding Autism – is dedicated to the protection of education, parental rights, human rights and in particular the safety of our children.

Dr. Steve Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and a member of the February 2006 FDA advisory panel that recommended a stronger warning about the risks associated with stimulants for children, stated, “This is out-of-control use of drugs that have profound cardiovascular consequences.  We have a potential public health crisis.  I think parents and families need to be made aware of these concerns.” 
Our children need a voice.  Parents need to know.  Full informed consent will provide the information necessary to all parents which will enable them to make educated decisions about the welfare of their own children.

For more information contact:

Helyn Dunn
On behalf of
The Florida Coalition for the Protection of Parental Rights

fax: 727-446-9697
toll free: 1-800-782-2878                                                                                                                   

The Psychological Harm of TeenScreen


"Just Say NO" to TeenScreen

TeenScreen, a quick computer survey given to students in 9th and 10th grade to supposedly identify potential suicide victims, is being used in schools across Pennsylvania. A national firestorm of objections has come from a cross-section of parents as well as political, educational, and health professional organizations.  To learn more about TeenScreen and how it puts students at risk: 

The Psychological Harm of TeenScreen

CEO Editorial

Much has been written about the use of TeenScreen in 9th and 10th grade as a tool for identifying potential suicide victims. A firestorm of objections has come from a cross-section of parents, political, educational, and health professional organizations – from Patch Adams to Phyllis Schlafly.

However, there is a disturbing aspect about the TeenScreen survey that has not been formally addressed by people opposing the use of this invasive screening test, and that is the impact of the questionnaire itself on the child.

For years, public relations experts and media specialist have known that besides gathering information, tests, surveys, and questionnaires also teach.

On the 10 minute TeenScreen “quick mental health check up” survey, a child sits in front of an impersonal computer screen answering questions about his or her worries, fears, family composition, interpersonal relationships, and even drug use.

Child Drugging

Scaled down drugs 'risk to the young'

By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent


Children given smaller doses of drugs whose effects have been tested only on adults are at greater risk of harmful side effects because the proportions of proteins in the body that control their effectiveness change as humans grow older, scientists said yesterday.

Different enzymes that break down medicines in the body occur in varying levels in the young so the release of active ingredients can occur more slowly or quickly than intended, potentially preventing the treatment from working or causing overdoses.

Nine out of 10 drugs given to newborn babies and 50 per cent of those given to children of all ages have not been tested to ensure that they are appropriate.

Medicines are usually tested on adults and doses changed when they are used to treat children to take into account the smaller size of their bodies.

Studies show that under-18s suffer up to three times more side effects.



'It wasn't my Eric': Medication was to blame

‘It wasn’t my Eric’
A Yelm couple’s lives are torn apart after one terrifying night.
Was medication to blame?

YELM — Margaret Attwood’s eyes opened just as her husband of 60 years thrust the kitchen knife into her neck.
She had little time to react, not even out of disbelief. She turned over in bed to see her husband, Eric, his face with no expression, no emotion, preparing to strike her again with the knife.
At that moment, as she looked into that vacant, cold face, she knew she had to survive — not only for her daughters, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.
She had to survive to be his witness. Only she could describe that vacant expression, the proof to her that something had gone terribly wrong in his mind.
“If I don’t stop him, if he kills me, there won’t be anybody to know how he looks,” said Attwood, as she recalled her thoughts on the early morning of Oct. 3. “There was no sign of an expression on his face. It was just blank, just like a zombie.”
The previous six months had not been easy. Health and financial problems had overcome Eric Attwood, a retired Boeing draftsman, and he sank into an uncharacteristic depression. Uncertain of what to do, his daughter took him to a  Yelm family doctor, who put him on the antidepressant Wellbutrin.     
Twelve days after taking the first pill, Eric attacked his wife, and was planning to kill himself, court documents say. His family, now aware of recent governmental warnings about potential risks associated with antidepress- ants, suspect there is a connection between the drug and Eric’s violent outburst.
Now, Eric Attwood, 82, is in jail, charged with attempted first-degree murder. His mental state at the time of the stabbing will be key as the justice system decides how to proceed. He has spent the past three months at Western State Hospital in Tacoma, undergoing evaluation.

SSRIs - Nightmares by the Dozen

Gail and Rhonda Schmidkunz describes their 20-year-old son Zach as an "All American Boy," with no criminal record and no history of angry outbursts or losing his temper. However, this non-violent, law-abiding "All American Boy" is now serving a 35-year prison sentence for killing a friend after he abruptly stopped taking the SSRI, Zoloft.

In an all too familiar story by now, a family doctor sent Zach home with samples packs of Zoloft because he was depressed, without advising Zach about any of the adverse events he might experience. He took the pills for 21 days and then stopped because he felt the drug was not helping.

"Zach stopped taking the Zoloft on a Friday," Gail notes. "By Saturday, there were symptoms of discontinuation syndrome," he recalls. "They continued to intensify through Monday when the murder happened," he said.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Invalid Child screening process - TeenScreen

By Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
February 20, 2006

In Part 25 of this series, I referred to TMAP (Texas Medication Algorithm Project) and TeenScreen. As an update on these, it is useful to look at the testimony of Ellen Liversidge to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 2, 2005. A speech pathologist and board member of AHRP (Alliance for Human Research Protection), Ms. Liversidge testified that "Dr. Peter Weiden, who is a member of TMAP expert consensus panel, has charged that the guidelines are based on opinions, not data, and that bias due to funding sources undermines the credibility of the guidelines since most of the guidelines' authors have received support from the pharmaceutical industry.

The invalid screening process of TeenScreen ensures that mostly healthy normal children will be brought into government subsidized mental health dragnet. Once children acquire a psychiatric label they may be branded for life. For example, between 55 and 60 percent of foster children in at least three states---Texas, Massachusetts and Florida---are on psychotropic drugs starting as young as age three....The diagnostic criteria upon which mental health screening instruments rest are scientifically invalid, vague and entirely open to subjective interpretation. TeenScreen was tested on 1,729 children in seven New York City schools using passive parental consent and teen active consent, which is legally invalid. TeenScreen is fraught with suggestive insinuations of failure and self-doubt.

Such questions can lead vulnerable teenagers to obsess about perceived inadequacies....By raising the possibility that suicide may be an option, and that's one of the questions, screening might lead to suicidal thinking....TeenScreen promoters fail to disclose that the risk for children who are screened to be falsely labeled as suicidal or mentally ill is 84 percent....AHRP opposes psychiatric screening of children without active, informed parental consent. Consent of parents must be documented and given voluntarily without a hint of coercion. TeenScreen has attempted to sidestep parental consent by claiming passive parental consent, which is invalid....According to its website, as of October 25th of this year (2005), TeenScreen is actively operating in 460 locations in 42 states and Washington, DC."

Mental health screening is also promoted as identifying ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). However, serious warnings have accompanied drugs used to treat these. According to Evelyn Pringle's article, "ADHD Drugs---Cash Cow For Pharma" (LAWYERS AND SETTLEMENTS, February 13, 2006): "In a February 6, 2006, letter to acting FDA commissioner, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley pointed out that in September of 2005, the FDA had issued an alert to healthcare professionals regarding the use of Strattera (ADHD drug), after reviewing data showing an increase in suicidal thoughts in 12 separate studies, and directed Eli Lilly, to 'revise the labeling...to include a boxed warning and additional warning statements regarding an increased risk of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents.'

As an added pressure, Sen. Grassley asked for a complete list of names of participating panel members and a complete list of conflict disclosures for both the February 9-10, 2006, advisory committee and the March 22, 2006, Pediatric Advisory Committee....At the February 10 FDA advisory committee hearing, it was reported by Dr. Andrew Mosholder, a medical officer in the FDA's Office of Drug Safety, that about 2.5 million children in this country, between the ages 4 and 17, currently take ADHD drugs....In 1991, schools began receiving educational grants of $400 annually for each ADHD child." Could this financial incentive be one of the reasons for the increase in children placed upon ADHD drugs?
The day before the FDA advisory committee hearings began, ABC News on February 8, 2006, covered an Associated Press report, "FDA reports 51 deaths of attention drug patients," by Andrew Bridges who revealed that "deaths of 51 U.S. patients who took widely prescribed drugs to treat Attention Deficit Disorder prompted regulators to start watching for heart attacks, high blood pressure and other problems in 2004, a report released on Wednesday said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff did not say the drugs were responsible for the fatalities, but they urged close monitoring for 'the rare occurrence of pediatric sudden death during stimulant therapy.'...The information was released one day ahead of an FDA advisory panel meeting on how best to study potential risks from the drugs, which include Shire Pharmaceuticals Group Plc's Adderall and Novartis AG's Ritalin....Use of drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, was controversial before the cardiac issue emerged, with many doctors and parents arguing the medicines are overprescribed....Through 2003, 24 deaths were reported from 1999 through 2003 among U.S. patients who took Adderall for ADHD, the FDA staff report said....Another 16 deaths were reported through 2003 in U.S. patients who took Ritalin or other ADHD drugs known as methylphenidates, the report said."

Further concerning ADHD, Vicky Dunkle (representing Ablechild of Pennsylvania) on February 10, 2006, had written testimony presented to the FDA that her daughter (Shaina) died on February 26, 2001, from drug toxicity. She wrote: "Parents are simply not being given the facts on these psychiatric labels and the recommended drugs' inherent dangers. Parents are all too frequently being pressured into placing their child on these psychotropic drugs by their child's school....We were never given full informed consent. We were never told that the label ADHD itself was both subjective and controversial or that the drug prescribed had many dangerous risks including death.

Desipramine was the drug given to my daughter and we were led to believe this drug was safe and effective in what was described to us as her 'treatment.' We were never informed that this drug was not FDA approved for children of Shaina's age, lacking both safety and effectiveness....Shaina died due to Desipramine toxicity. Little also did we know that we would be reading proof that there had been prior child deaths as far back as 1990 from this one drug. My husband (Steve) and I believed and trusted in the professionals and they only helped me bury our child at 10 years old....What is clear and definite to both my husband and me now is that if we would have been given the right information we would have NEVER placed our daughter on this drug.

If we had been informed correctly on the lack of objective testing used to determine this psychiatric label and the lack of science to back it as a true 'disease,' we would have NEVER placed our daughter on any drugs. We ask this panel to take the time to review the real risks involved in placing children on these drugs and ask yourselves, 'What if it had been my child or family member who was to die from one of these drugs prescribed?' 'What if I wasn't told the facts?' 'How would I feel?' More importantly, 'Does Death as a side effect outweigh any possible benefits?' At the very least, this panel must do something regarding the violation of informed consent rights occurring with the widespread use of these drugs being prescribed to children."

Testifying in person before the FDA was Clinton Libbey, an Ablechild volunteer, who told the hearing panel: "As a concerned parent, I investigated the drugs that were being considered for my son, many of which are being reviewed by this panel currently. What I found was misinformation and distortions pertaining to both the subjective psychiatric labels being assigned to our children and the drugs being prescribed to them....When dealing with drugs that have known side effects, the oath of first do no harm must be transformed to first do no harm without full informed consent....This is especially the case when the treatment may cause the one side effect that is irreversible---Death....I, for instance, was misinformed when several medical doctors told me that no one has died as a result of taking these drugs provided that they are taken in accordance with the dosage guidelines....Upon further investigation, I found parents who had lost their children due to these drugs with autopsy reports directly linking ADHD drugs with their children's deaths.

The fact is that children have died even though dosage recommendations on an approved label were strictly adhered....As a society, we must disclose potential side effects prior to treatment in order to guarantee an individual's right to full informed consent....While many say that there needs to be more research on these drugs, I, with the parents that make up Ablechild, many of whom are victims of the effects of these drugs, find that stronger warning labels and stiffer guidelines regulating full disclosure would be a more appropriate step. Furthermore, Medwatch filings should be mandatory for adverse reactions within the pediatric population....Please don't allow another child to lose her or his life without at least warning their parents."

According to Evelyn Pringle's article mentioned above, "On February 10, 2006, the Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory committee (of the FDA) said that ADHD drugs should carry the strongest warning label that they may be linked to an increased risk of death and injury." Pringle went on to warn that "for school age children, these drugs are providing a spring-board into early addiction."
Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.

Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or edited twenty books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs USA Today and CBS's Nightwatch.


Is TeenScreen needed in Pickerington schools?

SouthEast Messenger (Columbus, Ohio)
February 13, 2006
Is TeenScreen needed in Pickerington schools?

The decision of the Pickerington school district to implement TeenScreen, an adolescent suicide and mental health-screening program, is an example of the triumph of good intentions and concern for students over the facts.

Currently, schools evaluate the health of students’ vision, hearing and curvature of the spine to compare to defined standards, where the treatments for deviations from normal are straightforward and proven to work. This is not the case for mental illness.


TeenScreen brings Big Brother into school

Go to Dispatch home page
Columbus Dispatch
TeenScreen brings Big Brother into school
Monday, February 20, 2006

In my 17 years of reading The Dispatch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an editorial that was more wrong than "Another safety net" on Feb 4.

We are becoming a socialist state with the government "managing" us like cattle, cradle to grave. In a time when schools have to cut extracurricular activities and basic academics because of financial woes, why in the world would we want to add more expense? You can bet that anything coming into schools is making money for someone, and the best interest of the students is last on the list of priorities.

Kids are depressed because schools force them into mind-numbing conformity that would affect any sane person. It’s wrong and it’s evil. Parents let television raise their kids, and advertisers set the rules. They wonder what’s wrong? (Actually, they don’t wonder; that’s the problem).

Give kids something real and interesting to do. Instead of forcing everyone through a one-size-fits-all curriculum that guarantees mediocrity and forces kids to spend time on things for which that have neither interest nor aptitude, let them spend time on the things they are interested in and develop their individual talents.

The Dispatch should get behind high-school curriculum reform and good parenting, not TeenScreen. The best screening mechanism is concerned and caring adults who have common sense. Kids are happy when they are doing what they love and when someone loves them enough to pay attention.



Saturday, February 18, 2006

School Suicide Screening Proves Impractical

AScribe Live Newswire
Mon Feb 13, 2006

School Suicide Screening Proves Impractical; Improvements Needed to Identify Teens at Risk, Study Says

       CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Feb. 13 (AScribe Newswire) -- Screening students may be one of the best ways to identify youth at high risk of suicide, the third leading cause of death among teens. But recent research shows that a well-known screening test is not practical, and that more development is necessary for schools to partner in prevention.

       A national push to reduce teen suicide, highlighted by the passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in 2004, has resulted in millions of dollars authorized for state and local prevention programs. But the feasibility and effectiveness of suicide prevention programs need to be thoroughly evaluated, said Denise Hallfors, senior research scientist at the PIRE Chapel Hill Center.

       When a well-known, school-based program called the Suicide Risk Screen was tried at ten urban high schools, officials found the two-step questionnaire with follow-up interviews so impractical that that they decided to discontinue it, she said.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Feds recommend warnings on ADHD drugs

Attention-Deficit Drugs Need Added Warnings, U.S. Advisers Say

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Novartis AG's Ritalin and other stimulants used to treat attention-deficit disorder should carry stricter warnings of possible links to sudden death and heart risks while studies are conducted, some U.S. advisers said.

The caution might need to be highlighted with an outline to draw attention to it, called a black-box warning, said members of Food and Drug Administration advisory panel including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Steven Nissen in a meeting today. The FDA had convened the panel to help design a study of the risks.

``We can't just discuss future strategies, we need to discuss what needs to be done now about the risks and informing people about them,'' Nissen said in the meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland. ``I think a black box is in order that could be removed if information is obtained that does not implicate the drugs,''


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Teens 'still get antidepressants'

Teens 'still get antidepressants'
Thousands of under-18s are being given antidepressants, despite warnings over their use, it has been revealed.

They show more than 84,000 children and teenagers were prescribed drugs such as Seroxat and Prozac in 2004-2005.

The government figures were published in response to a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats.

In 2003, experts said SSRI antidepressants should not be given to teenagers after experts' concerns they made some patients suicidal.

The government's drugs advisers had also warned the medications could cause mood swings.


SSRIs - Nightmares by the Dozen

SSRIs - Nightmares by the Dozen

February 6, 2006. By Evelyn Pringle

Gail and Rhonda Schmidkunz describes their 20-year-old son Zach as an "All American Boy," with no criminal record and no history of angry outbursts or losing his temper. However, this non-violent, law-abiding "All American Boy" is now serving a 35-year prison sentence for killing a friend after he abruptly stopped taking the SSRI, Zoloft.

In an all too familiar story by now, a family doctor sent Zach home with samples packs of Zoloft because he was depressed, without advising Zach about any of the adverse events he might experience. He took the pills for 21 days and then stopped because he felt the drug was not helping.

"Zach stopped taking the Zoloft on a Friday," Gail notes. "By Saturday, there were symptoms of discontinuation syndrome," he recalls. "They continued to intensify through Monday when the murder happened," he said.

Without knowing about the problems with the drug, Gail explains, Zach missed the signs that might have warned him that he was having a withdrawal reaction from Zoloft.

During a chat session on the internet with a friend, Zach said that he was depressed and saw no reason to live and was considering suicide. The friend was a girl and offered to come over and talk. During the visit, she said that depressed people usually kill themselves which apparently set Zach off.

He drove off in a rage, and three hours later when his head began to clear, he thought he remembered shooting someone.

Zach went and turned himself in to police, Gail said, but he did not know that he had murdered the girl until he was charged.

The rage that he felt was like nothing he ever felt before, Zach told his father and mother. "The intensity was indescribable," he told Gail.

Like so many other people who have committed violent acts while on SSRIs, Zach said, "it was like watching himself in a movie going to get the shotgun."

FDA reports 51 deaths of attention drug patients


FDA reports 51 deaths of attention drug patients

By Lisa Richwine
Wednesday, February 8, 2006; 5:47 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deaths of 51 U.S. patients who took widely prescribed drugs to treat attention deficit disorder prompted regulators to start watching for heart attacks, high blood pressure and other problems in 2004, a report released on Wednesday said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff did not say the drugs were responsible for the fatalities, but they urged close monitoring for "the rare occurrence of pediatric sudden death during stimulant therapy."

"These reports themselves do not establish a causal relationship between these medications and cardiovascular adverse events," wrote Dr. Gerald Dal Pan, director of the FDA's Office of Drug Safety, in a separate notice on the agency Web site.

The information was released one day ahead of an FDA advisory panel meeting on how best to study potential risks from the drugs, which include Shire Pharmaceuticals Group Plc's Adderall and Novartis AG's Ritalin.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Text of Stephen Fox's speech to Senate Public Affairs Committee

"Aspartame Suppresses the Levels of Serotonin in the Brain."
"According to one recent report, 5 suicides have been linked to aspartame ingestion."

Text of Stephen Fox's speech to Senate Public Affairs Committee   
       Stephen Fox
February 3, 2006
New Mexico is at the most serious crossroads in its history, as the strongest pro consumer protection bill ever to be presented to the New Mexico Senate and House is now before your Committee.

Senate Bill 654 would ban an incontrovertibly proven neurotoxin and carcinogen, the artificial sweetener Aspartame, which is metabolized as several toxins, particularly methanol which is then assimilated as formaldehyde. This product should never have been approved by the FDA, and to the FDA’s credit, approval was turned down from 1966 to 1981, when the approval process was usurped by the President of G.D. Searle at that time, Donald Rumsfeld. He got his own crony, Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes, appointed by President Reagan as FDA Commissioner and within a few days, the 16 years of FDA refusal to approve aspartame/methanol/formaldehyde was overturned, and approval was granted.

Friday, February 03, 2006

College Newspaper Slams TeenScreen


(The Minnesota Daily is an independent, student-produced newspaper on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. More than 100 years old, The Daily has grown from a small arts weekly founded near the 19th century's close to become one of the nation's largest college newspapers, and one of the very few that are entirely student-operated)

The Minnesota Daily
February 2, 2006
Marketing depression and turning a profit
Depression screenings should not be a tool for pharmaceutical companies’ profit motive.
Pharmaceutical companies attempting to market depression to sell their products often craft many of the Web sites that provide depression screenings. Professionals are taking advantage of youths, and the federal government is paying for them to do so.

In the past year, the Bush administration-sponsored TeenScreen has been under much scrutiny and lawsuits because of its testing and diagnosing of students without seeking parental permission. Moreover, the test has a disorder label for the most ordinary of behaviors, having technical terms for simple laziness and arguing with parents, both qualities that most children and young adults have experienced at some point. The federal government funds programs such as TeenScreen, making the services of these companies not free, as they marketed because money is channeled from federal tax dollars. Nearly a $1 billion goes toward programs like TeenScreen and others through the Center for Mental Health Service. This accepting of “gifts” is a widespread health concern many health institutions and universities are forced to reckon with: Are they to accept money and freebees from pharmaceutical companies while continuing to appear uninfluenced, or should they reject any freebies they are offered?

Boynton Health Service chooses to dissociate itself from pharmaceutical companies. The provider goes as far as rejecting mugs, pins and other trinkets. To maintain an objective position, health institutions and universities must separate from pharmaceutical companies.

Practice can be influenced by how much a pharmaceutical company contributes. In fact, many colleges are dealing with this very issue. Of 170 screened students in Nashville, Tenn., a screening that was co-sponsored by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, 96 of 170 students went to speak to a therapist after the screening.

Pharmaceutical companies, as part of a public relations or marketing campaign, sponsor specific screenings. Students should be very cautious of these screenings because these companies have other incentives at stake when providing such services.

Drug Marketing Scheme Hits Nation's School System

Lawyers and Settlements

Lawyers and Settlements
Drug Marketing Scheme Hits Nation's School System

January 26, 2006
By Evelyn Pringle
TeenScreen, the elaborate drug marketing scheme concocted by the pharmaceutical industry and a front group operating out of Columbia University, is being promoted by the Bush administration's recommendation to screen the nation's school population for mental illness.

The Bush appointed New Freedoms Commission on Mental Health issued a report in July 2003 urging the screening of students in all 50 states and recommended TeenScreen as the model program for the job.

Although touted as a suicide prevention tool, TeenScreen backers also claim it can diagnose a host of mental health disorders in students with the completion of the 10-minute survey. On March 2, 2004, the program's Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, testified at a congressional hearing and said that in the screening process, "youth complete a 10-minute self-administered questionnaire that screens for social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidality."

Warnings against the mass screening of children are coming from every segment of society, including parents, medical professionals, investigative journalists, and human rights groups, in large part, because the influence of pharma in TeenScreen is so blatantly obvious.

For example, prior to joining TeenScreen, Flynn served as the executive director of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) for 16 years. NAMI calls itself as "a grassroots organization of individuals with brain disorders and their family members."

But in reality, NAMI is pharma's number one front group, dedicated to promoting the sale of as many "legal" drugs as possible. Which means prior to her promotion to the position with TeenScreen, Flynn was the number one "legal" pusher for 16 years.

While employed by NAMI, Pharma paid Flynn's salary. Internal NAMI documents obtained by Mother Jones Magazine, for the period between 1996 and mid-1999, show that 18 drug companies gave NAMI a total of $11.72 million. The firms include Janssen ($2.08 million), Novartis ($1.87 million), Pfizer ($1.3 million), Abbott Laboratories ($1.24 million), Wyeth-Ayerst ($658,000), and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($613,505).

The group's top donor during that period was Eli Lilly with total contributions of $2.87 million.

Flynn even wrote an article titled, "Before Their Time: Preventing Teen Suicide," which said: "The TeenScreen Program developed 10 years ago by Columbia University and offered in partnership with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill helps communities across the nation identify teens with mental illness who might be at risk for suicide."

Now NAMI can hardly dispute the charge that it serves as a funnel for drug money when its web site lists "Corporate Partners, Grants, and Foundations," as Abbott, AstraZoneca, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, Eli Lilly, Forest Lab, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Jannsen, McNeil, Pfizer, and Wyeth.

So if TeenScreen is "offered in partnership," with the NAMI, its logically safe to assume that drug money is involved in the development of the program.

Pharma constantly funnels money through groups like NAMI, which in turn become conduits for the promotion of industry marketing schemes. According to psychiatrist, Dr Peter Breggin, founder of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, "these groups hold national meetings that bring together drug advocates to talk directly to consumers. They also put out newsletters and other information that praise medications. Sometimes they actively suppress viewpoints that are critical of drugs - for example, by discouraging the media from airing opposing viewpoints."

In some states, pharma money funded TeenScreen openly. On June, 2002 the Update Newsletter published by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, reported that 170 Nashville students had completed a TeenScreen survey conducted by the NAMI and Columbia University and according to newsletter, the survey was funded by grants from AdvoCare and Eli Lilly.

The TeenScreen program is actually a brilliant idea from a marketing standpoint. The promotional talking points include the mantra that the program is free and TeenScreen receives no government funding. Those assertions are false with a capital F.

Tax payers are funding this recruitment scheme from start to finish. Tax dollars are being used to set up TeenScreen in schools all over the country and tax dollars are being used to pay for the resulting treatment and prescription drugs for children.

For instance, on November 17, 2004, officials at the University of South Florida announced receiving $98,641 in funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to expand the TeenScreen Program in the Tampa Bay area.

In Ohio, the implementation of TeenScreen sites in five counties was funded through a grant of $15,000 from the Department of Mental Health for each of five mental health boards who participated in the pilot program.

According to a July 11, 2005, Peoria Illinois Journal Star, in Brimfield Illinois, "organizing the system and employing a part-time counselor specifically for the program is estimated to cost about $100 per student." Overall, the "Brimfield High School program alone will cost around $20,000 for the first semester," the Journal wrote.

During Flynn's testimony to Congress, she said, "close to 750,000 teens are depressed at any one time, and an estimated 7-12 million youth suffer from mental illness."

So this means pharma has its eye on capturing 7-12 million new customers from the nation's 52 million students.

Dr Jane Orient, Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, had a few comments to offer on the topic of school screening. "Teams of experts are awaiting an infusion of cash," she said, "they'll be ensconced in your child's school before you even know it."

And an added "bonus," Orient says, "is that your little darlings will probably give them quite a bit of information about you also, and then you can receive therapy you didn't know you needed."

There are already too many people using the expensive and dangerous drugs TeenScreen is pushing. On January 13, 2005 WebMD Medical News reported a government study that showed more Americans than ever are being treated for substance abuse, depression, and other mental health disorders, and that the treatment they are getting is increasingly limited to prescription drugs alone.

The study reviewed changing patterns in the treatment of mental illnesses from the mid-1990s to 2001, and determined that the cost of mental health drugs rose 20% each year.

According to Economist Samuel H Zuvekas, PhD, who conducted the analysis, about 80% of the growth can be explained by the increase in the use of SSRIs and other antidepressants, and high-priced schizophrenia drugs called "atypical antipsychotics," like Risperdal, Zyprexa, and Geodon.

Tax payers are already unwittingly footing the bill for the mass drugging of children. For instance, an investigation by the Columbus Dispatch, found that nearly 40,000 Ohio children on Medicaid were taking drugs for anxiety, depression, delusions, hyperactivity and violent behavior as of July 2004, and that overall, Ohio spent over $65 million on mental-health drugs for children in 2004.

The investigation also revealed that doctors in Ohio had prescribed sedatives and mood-altering medications for nearly 700 babies and toddlers who were on Medicaid in 2004.

Robert Whitaker, author of the best-selling book, Mad in America, tracked the profits of the new so-called wonder drugs since 1987, and reviewed government data that showed not only an huge increase in the use of the drugs, but a tremendous rise in the cost to taxpayers.

According to Whitaker, in 1987, psychotropic drug expenditures were approximately $1 billion, but by 2002 the price tag to tax payers had risen to $23 billion.

The May 8, 2005 issue of Lab Business Week, reported on an analysis by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that revealed that Medicaid is now the largest payer of mental health services, exceeding private insurance, Medicare, or other state and local spending. The report also noted that one out of every $5 spent on mental health care now goes for psychotropic drugs.

The increase in the use of these psychiatric drugs with children has already lead to tragic results. For example, the SSRI, Paxil, was said to be a wonder drugs when it was prescribed to children while relatively untested.

The drug has since been linked to deadly side effects. Lawsuits have now identified Paxil as the culprit in cases of murder, suicide, debilitating disease and school shootings. In June of 2003, the FDA issued a warning that Paxil should not be prescribed to patients under 18 due to a large number of reports of suicides by children on the drug.

In his book, Robert Whitaker, reported that one in every 145 subjects who entered the trials for the atypical antipsychotics Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Serdolect had died. Despite these known effects, children between 6 to 11 were recruited for a clinical trial at the University of California Los Angeles soon after Zyprexa was approved for adults.

The children were not schizophrenic, but were diagnosed with other disorders. According to the published report on the study, all of the children experienced adverse effects and none were helped. The study was terminated less than 6 weeks after it began, Whitaker reported.

Yet to this day, doctors continue to prescribe atypicals to children even though they have never been FDA approved for the treatment of any illness with children. In fact, every one of the so-called "wonder drugs," is now required to carry a black box warning listing the serious and often deadly adverse reactions experienced by both children and adults.

TeenScreen swears that it always obtains parental consent before screening students and that it does not provide students with a diagnosis.

However, an Indiana family disputes both of those claims. Michael and Teresa Rhoades say the TeenScreen survey was administered to their daughter without their consent.

In December 2004, their daughter came home from school and informed her parents that she had been diagnosed with an obsessive compulsive disorder and a social anxiety disorder, after she completed the TeenScreen survey.

When things go according to plan, at this point, parents are supposed to head to the nearest pharmacy. However, Michael and Teresa were outraged, and things did not go according to the plan.

Instead, they filed the nation's first lawsuit charging that their daughter had been tested, diagnosed, and labeled mentally ill in a public school without their consent.

And no doubt many more lawsuits will be filed as TeenScreen continues to spread out across the country inflicting life-long damage on children by labeling them mentally ill for the sole purpose of getting them hooked on expensive but lethal drugs.

Letters to the Editor

(The Minnesota Daily is an independent, student-produced newspaper on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. More than 100 years old, The Daily has grown from a small arts weekly founded near the 19th century's close to become one of the nation's largest college newspapers, and one of the very few that are entirely student-operated)

The Minnesota Daily
February 1, 2006
Letters to the Editor
Drugs for all

“Depression screenings faulty,” the Jan. 25 column by Brian Hokanson, was right on the money. It’s so refreshing to see someone stand up against the insidious “visit your mental health practitioner and get on a drug” campaign that the pharmaceutical companies are running.

There are so many dangerous side effects from these psychoactive drugs that are unknown and untested, especially over long-term usage. To blithely prescribe them for such “normal” problems as overeating is simply ridiculous.
The pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that their products are the solution to our problems. However, at very best they are an avoidance of handling real life situations with a numbing Band-Aid effect. If they have their way, everyone will be a customer. They’ve convinced doctors that everyone that sees them needs a prescription. Now they’re trying to convince people who have minor problems that they, too, should become legal-drug junkies.

Remember the “war on drugs” and “just say no to drugs?” While the Drug Enforcement Administration has been working overtime to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country, the pharmaceutical companies have been working diligently to get us all using their legal drugs. Why? They make billions.

Of course, I might just be manifesting “drug phobia syndrome” or “conspiracy disorder” to think that the drug companies are here to make money and are not really concerned about what they’re doing to their customers.

Len Williams

February 3, 2006

Find the cause

Thank you for Brian Hokanson’s informative Jan. 25 guest column on psychiatric screening, “Depression screenings faulty.”

The combination of psychiatry, pharmaceutical companies and Madison Avenue is dangerous to one’s health. Drugs are not the answer to all of life’s problems. Drugs simply mask the problem.

A better approach might be to find the cause of mental upsets in our society. What are the factors that depress people and drive them to dangerous drugs? Are there alternatives? If a child is upset after being molested, is he or she mentally ill? Is the solution to drug the child or remove molesters from our communities? It is ironic that psychiatric “expert” testimony is used to justify releasing a molester back into the community despite the fact that he or she will most certainly re-offend. Could it be that psychiatry views molesters as a patient procurement device?

“The love of money is the root of all evil” certainly rings true in this case.

Tony Miller
Fresno, Calif.

Life without a doctor

I would like to salute you, Brian Hokanson, for “testing” the mental health screening “test” as you did in your Jan. 25 guest column, “Depression screenings faulty,” and pointing out the number of things wrong with the picture, including the most important thing wrong which is that any combination of answers, even the most benign, will lead to advice that one should see a doctor right away.

You are absolutely right about our need to find nonmedicinal solutions to our problems and your observation that students should lead the way with this endeavor. I fully agree with this approach. I know, as do many other folks who have found effective, nonmedicinal solutions to their minor — and sometimes major — difficulties that there are ways to improve one’s outlook and success in life without seeing a “doctor” or using medicine. If anyone wants to know how they might be able to do so, they can contact me via e-mail at almalibre@comcast.net

Maria Monet-Walicki