Cost Effective Solutions Can Replace Abusive and Exhorbitant Psychiatric “Care”

Replacing the Vermont State Hospital with Humane Community-based Recovery—and Saving Millions of Dollars for Vermont Taxpayers

A report from Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) shows that there are low-cost, humane alternatives to sending emotionally or mentally troubled individuals to Vermont State Hospital (VSH), the state’s public psychiatric facility.

VSH has been decertified by the federal government for poor care three times since 1986. Decertification means that Medicaid no longer participates in treatment coverage, leaving the entire burden on Vermont’s taxpayers. The most recent decertification occurred in 2005, following a condemnatory report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that called VSH “dehumanizing” and “prison-like.”

The results of the DOJ’s report have created on one side, a call for a new facility to be built (strongly supported by the state employee’s labor union) and on the other side, support for the abandonment of the state facility in favor of far less expensive, humane and community-based services (strongly supported by civil rights groups, psychiatric patients and legislators responding to taxpayers.)

However, the issue for closure of the 110-year-old VSH goes back to at least 1987 (following the hospital’s first decertification), when researchers led by a former Vermont commissioner of mental health concluded that it was both feasible and desirable to have “community support and rehabilitation services to replace the state hospital.”

Based on two subsequent decertifications, it is still both feasible and desirable.

VSH costs vs. benefits

According to the EAI’s report, the cost to treat a patient at VSH is $1,050 per day, or $383,250 per year. Among specific violations noted by the DOJ in their most recent investigation of VSH:

  • Over-reliance on drugging of patients on PRN (pro re nata, “as needed”) basis with no physician monitoring.1
  • Consistent use of seclusion and restraint as an intervention of first resort, when the patient is neither an immediate danger to himself nor others. More than 90% of such incidents involved strapping patients to a bed in five-point restraints in a seclusion room—the most restrictive and dangerous form of intervention. The percentage of restrained VSH patients substantially exceeds the national average.
  • Insufficient risk management system and unsafe conditions in the building’s physical structure that could facilitate suicide or self-injury. The DOJ’s report notes “the history of suicides at VSH.”
  • There is nothing in the DOJ’s report (or publicly available elsewhere) that speaks of the benefits of treatment at VSH or of the institution’s statistic for patient rehabilitation. Their report does however state that due to its inadequate review process, “patients are likely being unnecessarily institutionalized and potentially deprived of a reasonable opportunity to live successfully in the most integrated, appropriate setting.”

The solution is peer support programs

The solution presented by EAI is that of the “peer support” model of treatment. Such programs are operated in communities, in residential housing—no locked wards, no forced drugging, restraint or seclusion and, in many cases, no mental health professionals—and provide a safe, non-coercive environment where a patient can rest, eat right and in some cases work.

The EAI report makes a distinction between forensic (criminal or potentially violent patients) and non-forensic populations—acknowledging that the peer support system is for non-forensic populations and that forensic patients belong in a more secure setting, for the safety of the public.

Examples of Vermont peer support programs:

Safe Haven houses six patients and is funded partially by a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program for the homeless and routinely accepts patients discharged from VSH that have no home to return to. An analysis of patients housed at Safe Haven in 2006-07 showed that each of them successfully transitioned to the community, to either senior housing or a private apartment. Former patients often return to college, get degrees in the field and come back to work in recovery programs. Cost: $32 per day or $11,680 per year. This is a 3181% savings over VSH.

Second Spring serves up to 11 discharged VSH patients, and is staffed by peers and non-peers. Former patients come on a voluntary basis to learn how to live again in the community, something impossible to learn in a hospital setting. Cost: Approximately $750 a day—still less than VSH’s $1,050 daily rate—and a 40% savings.

The EAI’s report gives numerous examples of such programs in other states, such as Minnesota, Alaska and New York.

In addition to the savings, these programs provide recovery—something the state hospital model does not often approach. A 2003 report by the King County (Washington) Department of Community and Human Services showed that of 9,302 people who received publicly funded mental health services over a one-year period, less than 1 percent recovered.2 Mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights could find no reports from any county or state agency from any time period that painted a different picture.

- 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 –

Compared to the state hospital’s failings and high cost, the benefits and low cost of the peer support model bring one to the inescapable conclusion that such a change in the treatment of the emotionally/mentally disturbed would result in a level of patient recovery that rarely, if ever, is attained in the state hospital model—not to mention significant savings to the state and thus, relief for taxpayers.

State legislators and others with budgetary or state hospital concerns owe it to themselves and their constituents to read it and examine the alternatives, which can be utilized or established anywhere.

To read the EAI report, “Don’t Send Me to Waterbury,” go to www.ethanallen.org/home.html and then select “Publications” from the list on the left side.

 

  

1 “Re: CRIPA Investigation of the Vermont State Hospital,” U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 5 July 2005.
2 King County Ordinance #13974, Second Annual Report: Recovery Model, King County Department of Community Services, 2003.

 

Universal Health Services: Profits Over Patients

In October 2007, news stories appeared on the death of a 17-year-old boy at the hands of staff members in a Tennessee psychiatric facility. The death was ruled a homicide. A month later, another story appeared, exposing the circumstances surrounding the death of a 14-year-old who was violently restrained by a 260-lb. staff member in the same Tennessee facility. That same month, Fox News broke the story of the death of another 14-year-old in a Massachusetts psychiatric facility, from failure to receive proper medical attention.

Investigation of these reports by the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) found that the facilities these children died in are owned by Universal Health Services (UHS). Further research turned up numerous abuses in their psychiatric hospitals across the United States. There are 114 UHS psychiatric facilities in 33 states, two of them in Missouri: St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute and Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital Kansas City.

The cruel and violent deaths of three children in UHS psychiatric facilities — as well as an extensive list of abuses and violations found from CCHR investigation — seems sufficient evidence that perhaps UHS is not as focused on patient welfare as they are on the bottom line, a common finding with psychiatric facilities around the world.

CCHR is not the only agency to notice these troubles at UHS. In December 2006, the Service Employees International Union issued the report “Failure to Care, A National Report on Universal Health Service’s Behavioral Health Operations,” which declares, “This report finds that UHS has disregarded the safety and recovery of the patients it serves, as well as the communities in which it operates.” A preface from the National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers, states, “There is a crisis in our nation’s mental health care system…of placing earnings and exorbitant profits above the public interest at the expense of quality services to those in need. Using Universal Health Services (UHS) as an example, this report clearly documents why mega healthcare corporations such as UHS need to be held accountable….”

Read the full CCHR report Universal Health Services: Profits Over Patients at www.psychcrime.org.

If you know about abuses at a UHS psychiatric facility, or if you want to know if a particular facility in your state belongs to UHS, contact CCHR St. Louis.

Marijuana use could worsen depression

According to a new report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), marijuana use can worsen depression and lead to more serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide.

Because The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is used by psychiatrists to diagnose disorders and derive treatment, a real danger for misdiagnosis and mistreatment exists.

In the absence of a known physical cause, a group of symptoms seen in many different patients is called a disorder or syndrome. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen says that in psychiatry, “all of its diagnoses are merely syndromes [or disorders], clusters of symptoms presumed to be related, not diseases.” Dr. Thomas Szasz, professor of psychiatry emeritus from the State University, Syracuse, New York, observes, “There is no blood or other biological test to ascertain the presence or absence of a mental illness, as there is for most bodily diseases.” Bipolar (previously known as manic depression), schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity, depression, etc., are disorders, not diseases or illnesses.

There are, however, medical tests for marijuana use; but how many psychiatrists give drug tests to their patients before prescribing mind-altering psychiatric drugs for symptoms of depression or other so-called mental disorders?

While medicine has established causes and cures, leading psychiatric agencies such as the World Psychiatric Association and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health admit that psychiatrists do not know the causes of or cures for any mental disorder or what their treatments specifically do to the patient. They have theories and conflicting opinions about their diagnoses and methods, and lack a scientific basis for them.

What’s more, medical studies clearly show that psychiatric drugs not “mental disorders” cause violent, hostile and suicidal behavior, exacerbating the problems that may be caused by marijuana or other illicit drug use.

Any medical doctor who takes the time to conduct a thorough physical examination of a child or adult exhibiting signs of what psychiatrists say are “mental disorders,” can find un-diagnosed, untreated physical conditions, including drug use that may be causing those mental disorders.

Any person labeled with a so-called psychiatric disorder needs to receive a thorough physical examination by a competent medical – not psychiatric – doctor to determine what underlying physical condition is causing the manifestation, including, but not limited to testing for:

drug use
lead- or pesticide-poisoning
thyroid conditions
early-onset diabetes
heart disease
worms
viral or bacterial infections
malnutrition
injuries or tumors
allergies
vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies
mercury exposure

all of which can cause mental symptoms.

For more information, visit http://www.cchrstl.org/.

New Web Site and Video Expose Psychiatric-Pharma Conflicts

A new video exposing the extensive conflicts of interest between the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the pharmaceutical industry was released this week on a newly launched website, (http://www.psychconflicts.org/), to coincide with the 161st anniversary of the APA and its annual convention being held in Washington, D.C.

Widespread psychiatric drugging of children has become an increasingly contentious issue, with pharma-funded psychiatrists at the center of the controversy. The psychiatric drugging of foster children in particular is now the subject of a congressional hearing. A study in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, now garnering international attention, found that American children take antipsychotics at about six times the rate of UK children, while a January New York Times (NYT) investigation revealed that “the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children.”

According to the psychiatric watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), which produced the new webpage and video, the soaring increase in psychotropic drugs to children is a result of the incestuous relationship between the APA and the pharmaceutical industry—totaling more than $10 million a year in conflicts of interest.

Today, about 30% of the APA’s income derives from pharmaceutical industry advertising and nearly 20 drug companies this year have invested an estimated $3 million into the APA’s convention alone. Of the nearly 30 pharmaceutical industry-supported symposiums, speakers’ fees could run as high as $250,000. The APA has also made an estimated $40 million from sales of its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), an “insurance billing bible” that pharmaceutical interests potentially influence.

In 2006, a Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics study determined that 56% of psychiatrists on panels determining what “disorders” would be included in the DSM-IV had undisclosed financial interests in drug companies. Researchers also found that 100% of the psychiatrists on panels overseeing so-called “mood disorders” (which includes the lucrative “bipolar disorder”) and “schizophrenia/psychotic disorders” were financially involved with drug companies that manufacture the drugs prescribed for these conditions, the sales of which are around $40 billion a year worldwide.

Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical and research psychologist from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and co-researcher in the 2006 study reported that these disorders are not based on medical science: “No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSM. It relies on judgments from practitioners who rely on the manual,” she stated.

Last December, U.S. News and World Report revealed that 19 out of the 27 task force members for DSM-V, due to be published in 2012, had financial ties to drug companies.

The January NYT investigation further found that psychiatrists earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty. In one state, Vermont, drug company payments to psychiatrists more than doubled from $20,835 in 2005 to an average of $45,692 in 2006. Antipsychotic drugs were among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program. On September 4, 2007, the NYT reported, “Drug makers and company-sponsored psychiatrists have been encouraging doctors to look for [bipolar] disorder.” The expanded use of bipolar as a pediatric rather than adult disorder has made it the fastest-growing part of the $11.5 billion U.S. market for antipsychotics, reported Bloomberg News the next day.

Melissa Delbello, research psychiatrist with the University of Cincinnati who is speaking at the APA convention on May 7, was recently cited by Senator Charles Grassley for her failure to disclose to the university how much she had earned from pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, she was the lead author of a study that concluded that children responded well to the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca, one of the companies funding symposiums at the APA this year. She disclosed that she’d received $100,000 from the company between 2005 and 2007, but Senator Grassley discovered it was more than double that—$238,000.

A sample of speakers at the APA convention include:

+   David Kupfer, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was a member of the DSM-IV Task Force and is Chair of the DSM-V Task Force. He has been a consultant to Eli Lilly & Co., Hoffman-LaRoche, Pfizer, Forest Labs and Servier and also sat on the advisory boards of Eli Lilly & Co., Forest Labs and Pfizer.

+   Kupfer’s wife, Ellen Frank, Ph.D., has received research support from Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer and was also a member of the DSM-IV Task Force.

+   Joseph Biederman, Chief of the Clinical & Research Program in Pediatric Psychopharmacology, Massachusetts General Hospital is giving seminars on pediatric bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the latter funded by Ortho-McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs. He was a member of the DSM-IV committee overseeing what infant, childhood and adolescent disorders would be included. Biederman has received research funds from 10 pharmaceutical companies, including manufacturers of antipsychotic drugs prescribed for bipolar. Last year, his promotion of pediatric bipolar disorder was blamed, in part, for the death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley from Massachusetts from a prescribed cocktail of psychiatric drugs which included antipsychotics for bipolar. Dr. Lawrence Diller, a California behavioral pediatrician, told the Boston Globe, “I find Biederman and his group to be morally responsible in part. He didn’t write the prescription, but he provided all the, quote, scientific justification to address a public health issue by drugging little kids.”

+   David Shaffer, Professor of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University and Director, Division of Child Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, is part of a symposium discussing “disorders of childhood: A DSM-V research agenda.” Shaffer was a member of the DSM-IV Task Force and is responsible for inventing TeenScreen, a subjective survey conducted on teens in schools to determine if they are potentially suicidal. He admits there’s a potential 84% chance of wrongly identifying students using his survey.

+   S. Charles Schulz, Professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School Minneapolis, Minnesota, was a DSM-IV project participant. His industry-supported seminar about “medication treatment for youth” is funded by AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of the antipsychotic Seroquel. The company faces multiple suits alleging that it downplayed the risk of diabetes with the drug. Schulz has been a consultant for AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly & Co. and has received grants from them and Abbott Laboratories and Janssen Pharmaceutica.

+   Charles Nemeroff, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, is conducting a seminar on depression supported by Sanofi-Aventis. Dr. Nemeroff was one of the psychiatrists on an FDA Advisory Panel in 1991 that exonerated Prozac (the first SSRI antidepressant) from causing suicidal behavior—a fact established 13 years later when the FDA ordered drug companies to add a black box warning that all SSRIs induce suicidal behavior in children and teens. Nemeroff is a consultant for at least 20 pharmaceutical companies and has received research funds from at least 8 psychiatric drug manufacturers.

CCHR has released the new webpage and video on the APA and its conflicts of interest to raise awareness on the fact the DSM medicalizes all human troubles as “mental disorders” in order to sell psychiatric drugs.

In 1969, the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus from SUNY Health Science in Syracuse, New York, co-founded CCHR to investigate and expose psychiatric human rights violations. For more information on CCHR visit http://www.cchrstl.org/.

New Study on Depression Screening Fuels Controversy Over Bill

A recent study by UK researchers found that depression screening is both inaccurate and unhelpful—fueling controversy over a Senate bill called the “Mothers Act.” Critics say the bill, S.1375, is dangerous to mothers and newborns and a violation of informed consent, despite being promoted under the guise of ensuring that “new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services….”

Dr. Chris Manning, Chief Executive of Primary Care Mental Health Education, stated that he was not surprised by the results of the new depression screening study, published in the April issue of the Canadian Association Medical Journal. He warned that population screening was fraught with problems and would produce any number of false positives, resulting in inappropriate treatment and over-medicalization. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Glenmullen also warns about the problem with depression questionnaires, stating that they “may look scientific,” but “when one examines the questions asked and the scales used, they are utterly subjective measures.”

According to the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), if passed the Mothers Act will increase the number of new mothers falsely diagnosed with postpartum depression and given powerful psychotropic drugs like antidepressants—potentially lethal to both the mother and child.  There is no language in the bill requiring full disclosure of the risks of these drugs and no language requiring mothers be given other non-harmful treatments and medical care besides drugs, violating their right to informed consent.

Antidepressants, the most common “treatment” for postpartum depression, are documented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cause mania, psychosis, hallucinations, suicidal ideation and in some cases, homicidal ideation. Additionally, regulators worldwide have warned that antidepressants prescribed to pregnant women can cause miscarriage, premature birth, and in babies born to pregnant women taking these drugs, congenital heart defects, life-threatening lung disease, neurological symptoms and withdrawal symptoms. Research also shows such drugs could affect the developmental process of the embryo.

One mother, Amy Philo, posted a YouTube video telling the story of what happened to her when she was prescribed psychiatric drugs after the birth of her child: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LQW23XCmOCw

CCHR maintains that mothers have a fundamental right to be fully informed that there are non-harmful, non-drug medical alternatives to being diagnosed with a mental disorder and prescribed dangerous psychiatric drugs, and that mental health “screening” is subjective and could lead to improper diagnoses. The Mothers Act opens the door to the violation of informed consent procedures, and should be defeated.

CCHR is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. For more information, visit www.cchrstl.org or write to cchrstl@cchrstl.org.

Heart Risk In Kids from psychiatric Stimulant Drugs

Stimulant Heart Risk In Kids Prompts Calls For Registry For All Child Deaths Linked To Psychotropic Drugs
1,300 Child & Adolescent Deaths Per Year Needs Urgent Federal Response
 
The American Heart Association this week recommended that doctors conduct a physical exam and an electrocardiogram before prescribing children stimulant drugs like Ritalin that could cause cardiac arrest. It also recommended a “Sudden Cardiac Death/Arrest registry in children” be established. But the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a group that has been investigating and exposing the potentially deadly effects of stimulants and other psychiatric drugs for nearly 40 years, says a federal registry is needed for all pediatric deaths linked to prescribed psychotropic drug use.
 
The Food and Drug Administration found 19 sudden deaths in children on stimulant drugs while another 24 died of heart-related problems over a period of five years. However, doctors only report 1 to 10 percent of adverse reactions to the FDA. In analyzing the FDA’s Adverse Drug Reaction database for all psychiatric drugs (stimulants, antipsychotics, antidepressants, sedatives), CCHR estimates that the combined total of child deaths each year is more than 1,300. Stimulants are prescribed for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” which many medical experts say is not a legitimate disease but an excuse to chemically control boisterous childhood behavior. There are no blood or urine tests, brain scans or X-rays that can diagnose ADHD.  
 
CCHR President Ms. Jan Eastgate said, “The pharmaceutical-psychiatric conflicts of interests that make stimulant prescriptions and sales a $3 billion a year industry in the US should be overridden for the safety of children. All psychiatric drugs—the sales of which have soared to $28 billion a year—have serious risks. A federal registry should record the death of every child and adolescent who dies from physical complications—heart attacks, strokes, sudden death, respiratory failure and suicide—while taking a prescribed psychiatric drug. Much stronger drug information warnings are also needed if we are ever going to prevent future deaths.”
 
Eastgate said the first Ritalin death reported to CCHR was in 1986 when 13-year-old Samuel Grossman from Travis County, Texas, died from a heart attack while taking the drug. An autopsy found an enlarged heart caused by long-term stimulant use. At the time, Guenter Lewandowski, a spokesman for Ritalin’s manufacturer, ignored the evidence and stated, “We see no connection between Ritalin intake and the mention of deaths.”
 
In March 2000, Matthew Smith, 14, of Michigan, was skateboarding when he suffered a heart attack and died. He’d been taking Ritalin since he was 7 years old. The coroner determined that Matthew’s heart showed clear signs of the small blood vessel damage that stimulant drugs and amphetamines cause. Then, psychiatrists told the media that the death was unrelated to Ritalin.
 
It was another six years before parents were told the truth. Health Canada acted first when in May 2006 it issued a public advisory caution that stimulant drugs could increase heart rate and blood pressure that could result in “cardiac arrests, strokes or sudden deaths.” The FDA limped behind for three months, waiting until August before issuing a similar warning.
 
Eastgate says that drugging children, even infants as young as one, has become psychiatry’s cash cow and is placing more and more children at risk. Increasing prescription rates should be a warning bell, she said, for federal action and a registry to monitor deaths related to psychiatric drugs. IMS Health found that between 1995 and 1999 stimulant drug use rose 23 percent; the use of Prozac-like drugs for the 7-12 age group was up 151 percent; for kids 6 and under it soared 580 percent. For children under 18, the use of mood stabilizers other than lithium increased 4,000 percent and the use of new antipsychotic drugs rose nearly 300 percent. From 2001 to 2005, the use of antipsychotic drugs in children and teens grew another 73 percent and today, 2.5 million American children are prescribed the drugs that can cause life-threatening diabetes, while 1.5 million children are prescribed antidepressants that can drive them to suicide.
 
“Sudden death and cardiac arrest due to stimulants are just the tip of the iceberg. We need more effective monitoring of psychotropic drug-related deaths if we are going to save children’s lives,” Eastgate said.
 
CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and eminent New York psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. The author of more than 30 books on psychiatry, Dr. Szasz says there are “catastrophic consequences of child psychiatry, such as the psychopathologizing of child misbehavior and the mass poisoning of ‘hyperactive’ children with Ritalin and other neuroleptic drugs.”

The FDA Issues New Rules on Drug Marketing

Your Comments are Needed Now!

 

      The FDA recently announced new rules on how drug companies can promote drugs to your doctor for purposes other than what they were approved for. You can probably think of your own examples, but what if your doctor was handed some new study showing that antidepressants were just great for treating the common cold. While this example is admittedly farfetched, it isn’t out of the question. This practice, known as off-label marketing, has been prohibited in many cases and for good reason. Off-label marketing means that a company is promoting a drug for a different use or for a different population than it was intended for. There could be all sorts of unknown risks. 

     While the use of drugs for unapproved purposes is certainly nothing new, allowing such marketing with little or no oversight is a move that puts us all at risk. Luckily, these rules won’t go into effect immediately and are currently open for public comment. So, the solution is simple: Comment! In fact, don’t just tell the agency what you think, send a copy of your comment to your Congressmen too.

You can read the proposed rule here:

www.fda.gov/oc/op/goodreprint.html.

You can submit your comment here:

Docket Number FDA-2008-D-0053

To find your federal legislators, go to www.congress.org and enter your zip code.

Here are a few points that might help you formulate your comments:

     While the FDA wants to protect the off-label marketing of drugs, states and other federal agencies have gone after numerous drug companies accused of off-label marketing schemes.  Here are a few examples:
 

  • 2003, Pfizer settled with the US Department of Justice for $430 million related to its marketing of the anti-seizure drug Neurontin.
  • 2006, the Texas Attorney General’s office sued Janssen Pharmaceutical over allegations of illegal marketing practices related to the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
  • 2008, drug maker Eli Lilly is reportedly in settlement negotiations with the US Department of Justice over its marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, Lilly could end up paying as much as $1 billion.
  • Over 10 states have sued, accusing drug makers of off-label marketing.

 

     This proposed rule change puts patients at risk and violates even the most basic concept of informed consent. Does the FDA want you to have the benefit of the latest greatest wonder drugs? Or is it really about protecting an industry? The FDA’s rush to bring new drugs to the market has not resulted in better health for Americans:
 

  • In 2004, the FDA added black box warnings to antidepressant drugs used in children.  Reported cases of suicide and suicidal thoughts as well as hostility and homicidal behavior had existed for over a decade before the FDA finally took a serious look at the problem.
  • In 2006, the FDA finally warned about aggression, heart complications and psychotic behavior associated with the drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  This agency had been aware of potential heart risks and psychotic behavior associated with stimulant use for decades.
  • The FDA has repeatedly come under fire for failing to adequately ensure drug safety.  Most recently, the FDA admitted it had never inspected a Chinese manufacturing plant that could be the source of a drug ingredient suspected of causing over 350 allergic reactions.
  • The FDA does not have an accurate and dependable system of capturing adverse reactions to drugs. It is estimated that the FDA’s adverse event reporting system (MedWatch) only captures between 1% and 10% of adverse events.

 

     Encouraging drug companies to expand their off-label marketing efforts without rigorous safety testing could expose patients to even greater dangers.

     Take the time to submit your comments today. If you need more information a simple internet search on the FDA and drug safety or off-label marketing should be able to provide more than enough information. You can also read various CCHR publications on the dangers of psychiatric drugs at http://www.cchr.org/psychiatric_drugs/.

How the Legal System Can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems

Jim Gottstein is a lawyer in Alaska and is the founder of the organization PsychRights,  the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (http://psychrights.org/) which has been around about 25 years, working to bring the mental illness system around to a culture of recovery.

He had a successful verdict for a patient in the summer of 2006, in which the patient’s rights to refuse forced drugging were upheld.

He brought to our attention a paper that he wrote and presented at a seminar in 2005 (“How the Legal System Can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems”). We are presenting it to you as it contains much useful information on what is required to successfully handle involuntary commitment hearings. Download and read the paper here.

While involuntary commitment laws enrich the psychiatric industry, they not only deprive individuals of their freedom of choice, but milk millions of health insurance dollars annually from private, state, national and military health plans. And while psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals are today being investigated nationally and in state hearings for insurance fraud, mistreatment of patients, sexual violations and other crimes, the crux of their power – involuntary commitment laws -receives no focused attention.

Gottstein’s concept of a culture of recovery means the elimination of both involuntary commitment and the forced use of antipsychotics and other psychiatric drugs, in favor of the least restrictive alternative.

Antipsychotics, of course, are not a path to recovery. Several court rulings acknowledge the side effects and how patients have a right to decide what goes in their bodies. Of course, most all less restrictive alternatives to antipsychotics have been suppressed out of sight, making it appear that antipsychotics are the only answer, especially in a psychiatrist’s professional judgment.

According to Gottstein, the elimination of the forced use of psychiatric drugs is attainable through upholding of Constitutional Rights and extant legal opinions which have been subverted by:

1) Lying psychiatric expert witnesses,

2) Legal systems that accept, without evaluation, the utterances of such experts, and

3) The counter-intention and general failure of public defenders to actually defend the legal rights of the involuntarily committed person.

The paper shows an actual instance where mental health systems have knowingly acted in violation of the law in the guise of doing what is best for the patient (forced drugging)!

Point #3 above is what Gottstein emphasizes as the why of involuntary commitment. He cites one study that showed that the legal representation of people with mental disabilities was so bad that patients had a better chance of being released in a commitment hearing defending themselves pro se (without the aid of an attorney).

One of his projects is to cultivate willing lawyers who will zealously defend such plaintiffs and to have coordinators in every state working with these lawyers to actually handle cases.

Insurers May be Required to Cover Drugs and Hospitalization for “Internet Addiction”

Mental Health Parity Bill Founded on Pseudoscience

Insurers May be Required to Cover Drugs and Hospitalization for “Internet Addiction”

If the Mental Health Parity Bill, H.R. 1424, passes the U.S. Senate as it did on March 5 in the House of Representatives, insurers may be required to cover treatment for “Internet addiction”—the newest proposed “mental disorder” for inclusion in psychiatry’s billing bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  

H.R. 1424 would effectively mandate insurance coverage of a broad range of subjective and scientifically unsound mental disorders found in the DSM, such as “spelling disorder,” “nicotine use or withdrawal,” “mathematics disorder,” “oppositional defiant disorder” and “sibling rivalry disorder.” The psychiatric watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) says the bill is founded on pseudoscience, and Congress should not mandate parity of insurance coverage when there is no parity of diagnoses between verifiable medical conditions and the psychiatric pseudoscience of the DSM.

        In the most recent issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, psychiatrist Jerald Block claims that Internet addiction should be included as a disorder in the next edition of the DSM. The “symptoms” he lists—including “excessive use” of computers, the need for better equipment, more software or more hours of use—are as equally absurd as the checklists used to categorize hundreds of other mental disorders found in the DSM, which the House bill proposes insurance companies cover. Block further reports that 80% of “Internet addicts” may need psychiatric drugs and about one in four require hospitalization.

        Block, like other psychiatrists who dream up new mental disorders for the ever-expanding DSM, not only fails to provide reliable scientific diagnoses, but also fails to warn the public that the treatment—drugs—is not only dangerous according to international drug regulatory agencies, but ineffective as well. A recent study in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine found that one of the leading psychiatric “treatments”—antidepressants—is ineffective, working no better than placebo in the majority of cases. Despite the lack of proven effectiveness, the drugs—which carry a black box warning for suicidality—are widely prescribed to all portions of the population, fueling a lucrative $13.5 billion a year industry in the U.S.

While some patient advocacy groups, heavily funded by drug interests, and the mental health lobby purport that mental illness is like a physical disease such as diabetes, cancer or epilepsy, scientific evidence does not substantiate this. There is no parity in the diagnosis of mental health problems (such as “Internet addiction”) compared to real physical conditions that can be accurately tested for and diagnosed. The DSM itself states, “…it must be admitted that no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of ‘mental disorder.’”  Yet, the House bill would require group health plans offering mental health benefits to cover every one of the 374 “mental disorders” listed in the DSM. Even psychiatrists and psychologists admit that the manual is unreliable and lacks validity:

• American University Professor of Psychology Jeffrey A. Schaler stated, “Since there are no objective tests for ‘mental illness,’ all kinds of socially unacceptable behaviors will be declared ‘mental illnesses.’ The bottom line is this: Behaviors cannot be diseases.”  

• Allen J. Frances, professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and Chair of the DSM IV Task Force, stated, “There could arguably not be a worse term than mental disorder to describe the conditions classified in DSM-IV.”  

• The late Loren R. Mosher, M.D., former APA member, stated in regards to the DSM, “…there are no external validating criteria for psychiatric diagnoses. There is neither a blood test nor specific anatomic lesions for any major psychiatric disorder.”

• Psychiatrist David Kaiser wrote, “…modern psychiatry has yet to convincingly prove the genetic/biologic cause of any single mental illness…. Patients [have] been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalance,’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and…there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like.”

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), a critic of H.R. 1424, stated, “…the reach of this bill goes far beyond mental health parity, the 1.3 billion dollar cost it would impose on businesses providing health care to employees is an issue that is not addressed, or any loss of care that may result from new government mandates contained in the bill is also not addressed.”

        According to CCHR, the bill ignores the failure of the mental health industry to substantiate the science behind their diagnoses, and would increase funding to support the profitable psychiatric practice of masking behavioral and emotional problems with damaging “treatments”—most commonly, mind-altering drugs documented to cause suicide, mania, psychosis, “homicidal ideation,” heart attack, stroke and sudden death. CCHR urges the public to write, call or fax their federal representatives, demanding health insurance coverage for mental health problems not be based on the DSM and be provided only when full, searching physical examinations are first undertaken to determine that no underlying and untreated physical condition is causing the person’s mental health condition.

        For more information, read CCHR’s report, Mental Health Parity: Funding DSM-IV Diagnoses – A Scientific Sham.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. Visit CCHR St. Louis at www.cchrstl.org.