Three years ago, the FDA required makers of antidepressants to supply Med Guides along with their pills. That wasn’t good enough for a couple of New Jersey moms, who have been pushing their state legislature to go even further - a bill requiring a doctor or nurse to obtain informed consent from a minor’s parent before writing a prescription for any psychotropic that already carries a Black Box warning.
Last November, however, it looked like the bill, which had been kicking around a year, was dead after making it to the New Jersey assembly and senate. The state senator who heads the health committee, Joe Vitale, failed to schedule the bill for a vote, citing procedural issues and the need for further study. At the time, he told us the bill would still move forward, but it never did. He hasn’t returned calls seeking comment.
As a result, the legislation had to be introduced from scratch. Though those two moms, however, have succeeded in finding five new sponsors in the assembly, where the bill has been introduced and will be heard this coming Monday morning before the consumer affairs committee. “This fight isn’t over,” says Lisa Van Syckel, a self-styled parental advocate. (This is the bill).
“Informed consent is the only way to make sure information is passed from physcians to patients,” says Laurie Yorke, a registered nurse and the other mom who pushed for legislation. “And with these drugs, there are a lot of varying opinions among physicians, as well as misconceptions in general. Unfortunately, the adverse reactions can be misconstrued as part of the illness, when it may be due to the drug. And parents need to know that, but if they’re not given sufficient information, they’re not going to know what to look for.”
Meanwhile, the moms and their supporters are seeking sponsors in the state senate for a companion bill. A spokeswoman for one senator, Shirley Turner, says Turner is interested in the bill and is considering introducing legislation.
It remains unclear whether the bill will again be opposed by the New Jersey chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a non-profit advocacy group. Phil Lubitz, the advocacy director for the local chapter, which has accepted funding from drugmakers that sell antidepressants and antipsychotics, including Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Glaxo, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Wyeth and Johnson & Johnson, didn’t respond to a request for comment.