Saturday, June 30, 2007

Citizens Commission on Human Rights Newsletter

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has been an energetic watchdog on the subject of psychiatric abuses for decades. They continue to grow in size and effectiveness. In tribute to their efforts I am publishing their latest newsletter here, in full. If the urge to help them overtakes you, or if you need their help, there is contact information in the newsletter.

Please feel free to forward this News Update to anybody who you think will be interested in this information.

Precedent setting reports released this week exposed financial conflicts of interest between the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industry. Other media reports came out exploiting the dangers of psychiatric drugs and pointed out the criminal behavior of professionals charged with the responsibility of administering care to their patients. This week's media reports included stories of fraud, negligence and abuse:

The New York Times ran an article entitled "Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts" showing that as states begin to require that drug companies disclose their payments to doctors for lectures and other services, a pattern has emerged: psychiatrists earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty. How drug company money is influencing psychiatrists and other doctors has become one of the most controversial issues in health care. For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed drugs such as Zyprexa to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved. Currently, there is no federal law requiring such disclosure of payments, only a few state laws. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa stated, "A federal law requiring public disclosure of payments to doctors could be very effective if it was carefully monitored and consistently applied."

A Washington Post article on the same subject entitled, "Conflict Alleged in Drug Firms' Education Role," tied in the vested interests of the pharmaceutical industry using the annual American Psychiatric Association convention to illustrate how psychiatrists are entrenched in drug company money. The article states, "Last year's meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto, the field's biggest educational conference, reflects the extent of corporate sponsorship. In that meeting program, a voluntary listing of the financial ties to drug firms of the physicians who served as instructors covered 14 pages. Some instructors were sponsored by at least a dozen companies."

Indianapolis Star published an article, "Judge sets date for first Zyprexa trial," which reports that Eli Lilly may be facing its first trial this fall in personal injury lawsuits over its top selling antipsychotic drug Zyprexa. U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein said he will try about 30 Zyprexa suits at one time. The article mentions that at least eight states have filed suit against Lilly and the company has paid out more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits relating to the adverse effects of Zyprexa.
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Boston Globe published an article entitled "Backlash on bipolar diagnoses in children: MGH [Massachusetts General Hospital] psychiatrist's work stirs debate" about the heavy backlash against the psychiatric industry following the death of a 4-year-old girl named Rebecca Riley in Michigan last year from a combination of psychiatric drugs prescribed by her psychiatrist. The article points out the responsibility of "one of the world's most influential child psychiatrists," Joseph Biederman of MGH, in connection with Riley's death. Biederman's work helped fuel a surge in the number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder over the past 15 years, and the psychiatrist who prescribed the combination of powerful drugs to the toddler has admitted that she was influenced by the work of Biederman and his assistant, Dr. Janet Wozniak. In the article, Dr. Lawrence Diller, a California behavioral pediatrician stated, "I find Biederman and his group to be morally responsible in part…he provided all the quote, 'scientific justification' to address a public health issue by drugging little kids."
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An Associated Press article entitled "Psychiatrist indicted for fraud in Paxil trials" exposes the crimes of psychiatrist Maria Carmen Palazzo who was indicted by a federal grand jury on 55 counts of health care fraud and false documentation in connection with a clinical trial of Paxil in children and adolescents. Palazzo defrauded Medicare by submitting fraudulent invoices to a local hospital for services that she claimed to have rendered to patients in the psychiatric program there. The indictment also charges that Palazzo defrauded Medicare because it paid her over $653,000 she was not entitled to receive.

The Sunday Express (UK) ran an article entitled "NHS Spends Millions On Drug That Turns Children Into 'Drones'," about how the British National Health Service (NHS) is spending more than £1 million a month on Ritalin and writing almost 7,500 prescriptions a week for the mind-altering drug. Information obtained from the Freedom of Information Act show that the prescriptions will cost taxpayers about £12.48 million this year alone. The report comes after new figures reveal at least 11 deaths are being linked to Ritalin or similar drugs. The Sunday Express also reports that doctors link 73 blood disorder reactions, 39 heart disorders, and 80 stomach disorders as some of the side effects of Ritalin. Dr. Sami Timimi, an expert in child behavior, says that "We could be storing up big problems for this generation of youngsters."
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The Philadephia Inquirer published an article entitled "Another life lost on DHS's watch." This story is about a 17-year-old boy, named Omega Leach, who was sent to Chad Youth Enhancement Center outside Nashville, Tennessee. The Center is a mental-health facility for troubled teenagers approved by the city's Department of Human Services. Leach was sent there on June 3rd after stealing a car, and a month later he died after a physical confrontation with staff that used restraint procedures.
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The Independent (UK) ran an article entitled "Ministers in U-turn on shock therapy" about how the government is making amendments to its controversial "Mental Health Bill" which originally pushed for electroshock on minors. Because of overwhelming opposition against the bill from concerned organizations, the government has agreed to a series of compromises. One of the most important changes is curbing the use of electroshock on minors. These changes to the bill are considered an improvement, but it's still said to be "not fit for the 21st Century."

For decades, CCHR has fought to expose the dangers and fraud of the psycho-pharmaceutical industry despite the objections of vested interests that profit from keeping the truth concealed.

If you would like to make a donation to CCHR to assist with our public awareness campaigns, click here:

© 2007 CCHR. All Rights Reserved. CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, CCHR and the CCHR logo are trademarks and service marks owned by Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Letter to Editor Says It All

This is a letter to the editor of the Fort Wayne Indiana News-Sentinel in response to an article about TeenScreen:


The article, "Help to ensure happy, healthy kids," by Jennifer L. Boen, barely scratches the surface over the controversy of mental health screening. Before the author goes touting supposed benefits, the pitfalls need to be examined. Why? Because it's a child's life that hangs in the balance.

To date there has been no study or documentation that proves that screening "benefits children," and there is no scientific study that shows that "early intervention can also spare a life." But there is plenty of evidence showing otherwise.

Experts say there is no evidence to support that TeenScreen does anything other than guarantee that a large number of children will end up on drugs. In May, 2004, after an in-depth investigation, the United States Preventive Services Task Force issued a report with findings that said:

1. There is no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality; 2. There is limited evidence on the accuracy of screening tools to identify suicide risk; 3. There is insufficient evidence that treatment of those at high risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.

A 2006 study that investigated TeenScreen, said that mental health screening should be considered only investigational in nature, and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) labels screening as "experimental."

According to another 2006 peer-reviewed study: "Simply Asking Questions Can Increase Risky Behaviors" - the title says it all.

Then of course, there is the matter of TeenScreen's 10-minute questionnaire, a survey that asks questions such as:

1. Have you often felt very nervous or uncomfortable when you have been with a group of children or young people - say, like in the lunchroom at school or at a party?
2. Have you often felt very nervous when you've had to do things in front of people?
3. Have you often worried a lot before you were going to play a sport or game or do some other activity?
4. Has there been a time when you had less energy then you usually do?
5. Has there been a time when you felt you couldn't do anything well or that you weren't as good-looking or as smart as other people?
6. Has there been a time when nothing was fun for you and you just weren't interested in anything?

Hmm, sounds like normal behavior and thoughts are being labeled as pathological.

The screening "tools" have an 84 percent false-positive rate, meaning that 84 percent of the children screened were falsely identified. The developer of TeenScreen says that the false-positive rate can overwhelm a school with the number of students identified and acknowledges that his screening tool "would deliver many who were not at risk for suicide, and that could reduce the acceptability of a school-based prevention program."

TeenScreen is set up to "arrange treatment" - their words. TeenScreen claims throughout their literature that "The TeenScreen Program makes no treatment recommendations," yet "treatment" is the long-term goal for TeenScreen, according to their director. The TeenScreen developer says, "The main role is to motivate the student and their parents to seek treatment and to connect the adolescent to a mental health service in their community."

There are ways to help our children but screening them for mental health is not one of them.

Susan Weibert