The Bitter Pill

The Official Blog of UNITE – uniteforlife.org

Medicare Prescription Drug Scam Jumps From $400 Billion To Over $1 Trillion

Evelyn Pringle February 21, 2005

In December 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act was passed. Many seniors expected the new law to provide relief for the ever-rising prescription drug costs but they were sadly mistaken.

We recently learned that instead of costing tax payers $400 billion, the bill is going to cost more than $1.3 Trillion, over the next 10 years, and the only ones benefiting from it are the pharmaceutical companies and HMOs.

The new law will not save tax payers any money because it specifically bars Medicare from negotiating for better drug prices like the Department of Veterans Affairs does, and it bans the importation of cheaper drugs from neighboring Canada and other countries. The notion that the bill will provide any meaningful savings for seniors is unlikely.

Due to its insider knowledge about the pending Medicare prescription bills in Congress, and the amount of money up for grabs, the pharmaceutical industry lobbied non-stop in 2002, to make sure that its favored version of the bill got passed. It spent a record breaking $91.4 million on lobbying, and 24 separate companies and trade groups spent over $1 million each. The top 10 drug companies and trade associations together, spent an estimated $55.8 million on lobbying.

However, what’s $55 million compared to the $35.9 billion in profits that were realized by the same 10 companies in 2002. Since Bush took office, pharmaceutical industry profits have soared past all other business sectors, at a rate of more than 5 times greater than all other industries in the Fortune 500.

Prohibits Medicare From Negotiating For Lower-Priced Drugs

According to Senator Edward Kennedy, “The single most irresponsible provision in the Medicare bill is the prohibition that prevents Medicare from negotiating lower-priced prescription drugs.”

Prescriptions bought by the VA cost at least 24% less than the average retail price, said Steve Thomas, director of the program. For many drugs, the VA negotiated price is on average 40% less that what most consumers pay, Thomas said.

When Bush was asked why he barred Medicare from bargaining for lower prices on behalf of its beneficiaries, he offered the feeble excuse that he was concerned that if Medicare negotiated with drug makers, it would amount to a government monopoly and a form of price controls.

That excuse is ridiculous. Although Medicare might be a major player in the market, being recipients are expected to buy over $1.5 trillion worth of drugs over the next 10 years, it could hardly be considered a monopoly in a market projected to earn about $4.6 trillion.

During the debate on the Medicare bill, the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General said, “Medicare and its beneficiaries would save $1.6 billion a year if 24 drugs were reimbursed at amounts available to the VA.” As an example of the possible savings, he listed the price of the asthma treatment drug, Albuterol, that was being sold for 47 cents, while the VA was paying only 5 cents.

Comptroller General, David Walker, of the General Accounting Office (GAO), has been recommending that Medicare should follow the VA model for years but Bush refuses to take the advice of our government experts.

Discount Drug Card Scam

Shortly after signing the new Medicare bill, Bush announced a plan for a drug discount card program. To enroll in the program seniors had to pick one of Bush’s approved providers. A card could cost up to $30, and once chosen, seniors had to remain with the same provider for a year. No discounts were guaranteed, drug prices could change at any time, and drugs offered could also change at any time.

The card program in itself, is a scam. There are over 40 million Medicare beneficiaries in the country. Multiply that number times $30 and the first expected windfall of the scam becomes obvious. However, seniors were not half as dumb as Bush thought, and only a fraction of the beneficiaries even bothered to buy the cards.

Because they had insider knowledge about the program, the drug companies simply raised prices in anticipation of the cards being issued. In the first quarter of 2004, right before the program went into effect, some drug makers raised prices almost 7 times as fast as producers of all US goods, according to a study by the senior advocacy group AARP.

Bush claimed that using the cards would result in discounts of 10 to 25%, which amounts to a 0% discount considering the fact that drug prices increased by nearly 22% over the past 3 years. The dramatic increase in prices offset any potential savings on drugs purchased with the cards. Only the drug companies stand to make money with this deal.

Due to the enormous increase in drug costs, many seniors are skipping doses, cutting pills in half, or not taking the medication at all. In the long run, these drastic measures can actually prolong an illness and add to the expense of the treatment.

Discount Card Prices Verses Non-Card Prices

In April 2004, the minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee, released a study that compared prices available to seniors who would pay the $30 to buy a card, against prices available to seniors who did not.

The study used prices from 3 card providers, ExpressScripts, Advance (Advance is owned by Bush-buddy David Halbert, who crafted major portions of the bill), and Walgreens. Prices of these companies were similar to all others. The drugs used in the study represent a month’s supply of the top 10 brand-name drugs used by seniors.

The study compared the card prices to (1) prices in Canada; (2) prices negotiated by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and (3) prices charged by internet outlets Drugstore.com and Costco.com.

Card prices were much higher than prices in Canada. A month’s supply of the 10 drugs in Canada cost $596, while prices were $972 with Walgreens, $1,046 with Advance, and $1,061 with Express. The average card price was 72% higher than in Canada.

The difference for some drugs exceeded 100%. For instance, Celebrex, costs $81.28 at Walgreens, but only $38.69 in Canada; Prevacid was $129.68 with Express, but only $56.54 in Canada.

The comparison to drugs purchased by the VA, also found card prices much higher. With the VA the10 drugs cost $587, while the average price with the cards was $1,026, or more than 75% higher.

A month’s supply of the drugs even cost less on internet sights Drugstore.com and Costco.com. While the average card price was $1,026, the drugs only cost $959 at Drugstore.com.

In June 2004, Families USA released the results from a study that tracked price changes for the top 30 brand name drugs prescribed to seniors. According to the report, between January 2001 and January 2004, the prices of the top 30 drugs increased by nearly 22%. On average, the cost of the drugs increased by 6.5%, while in the same time-frame, the overall rate of inflation, excluding energy, was only 1.5%.

Of these 30 drugs, 28 increased in price by 2 or more times the rate of inflation; 21 increased by three or more times the rate, and 14 increased in price by more than 5 times the rate of inflation.

The drug companies also raised prices at a break-neck speed right before the cards came out. For example, Nexium is used to treat heartburn, a problem for more than 40 million people. Democratic Rep Henry Waxman released a study that showed that in one month, between May 3 and June 3, 2004, the price of Nexium increased by 13%.

In 2003, the drug company AstraZeneca spent $411 million promoting the drug. And in return, it had sales of $3.3 billion, and became the 7th largest selling brand name drug according to the trade publication Pharmaceutical Executive.

Generic drug prices were also spiked. A report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that pharmacies were buying generic drugs for a few cents and marking them up nearly 200%. For example, a 90-day supply of generic Prozac costs only $4, and was sold for $14.94 at Costco.com. Yet the Medicare website showed one card sponsor charging $84.15.

Lawmakers On Both Sides Of The Isle

The importation issue is not only important to senior citizens, it affects all Americans. And they are speaking out. On December 22, 2004, Rep Bernie Sanders from Vermont issued the following statement in response to a Task Force Report, that came out against drug importation, from the Bush administration:

“It is ironic that two weeks after the HHS announcement that … flu vaccine doses will be imported from Germany, HHS is … saying drug importation cannot be done safely and affordably. This report is reflective of the entire Bush policy to protect the financial interest of the pharmaceutical industry over the health of regular Americans.”

Sanders claims it is absurd to say we can’t import drugs safely. “If we can import beef, poultry and vegetables … there is no reason we cannot figure out a way to safely import prescription drugs. The momentum remains with the American people,” he notes.

According to Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), “The only thing endangered by allowing Americans access to lower-priced FDA-approved medicines from abroad is the incredibly large profits of the drug companies who over-price their medicines in our market, just because they can,” he said.

Importation would be legal if it was up to Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana. During the debate over the prescription drug bill, he attempted to pass a provision that would have legalized importing drugs from Canadian with safeguards.

But Burton says he couldn’t get it passed because he ran into two brick walls: the drug industry and the government: “This is a perfect example, in my opinion, of where a special interest, the pharmaceutical industry, has been able to manipulate the Congress and the government of the United States to their benefit, and to the detriment of the American taxpayer and the American people.”

How any politician can look an American citizen in the eye and argue against drug importation is beyond me.

Filed under: 2005, Bush, Drug Importation, Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, prices

TeenScheme Sets The Record Wrong

Evelyn Pringle July 2005

On July 6, 2005, TeenSceen’s Web Site posted the following statement: “Recently, TeenScreen has seen growing amounts of inaccurate, intentionally deceptive misinformation about mental health screening and the TeenScreen Program proliferating primarily through one or two individuals on the Internet. Some of this inaccurate information has been posted on other websites.”

In its own defense, TeenScheme addressed several points. In this article, I will limit my remarks to their responses to whether they endorse Bush’s plan to screen all school kids and whether they actually do seek parental consent before screening children.

Here is TeenScheme’s response to the question: I have heard about active vs. passive consent. What does this mean?

Active consent requires parents to sign and return a consent form if they want their child to participate in screening. Passive consent, which is also referred to as waiver-of-consent or opt-out consent, requires parents to return a provided form only if they do not want their child to participate in the screening. When using this type of consent, letters must be mailed directly home to parents to ensure that they reach the intended readers. Local TeenScreen programs often adopt the consent procedures used by their local sponsors or school districts for similar activities. Parental consent must be obtained in order for youth to participate in the TeenScreen Program. The Columbia University TeenScreen Program recommends active consent as a best practice. Currently 85% of TeenScreen programs use active parental consent.

This response almost sounds like TeenScheme is appropriately concerned when it comes to protecting parental rights. However, if it truly does promote active consent as the best practice, a person has to wonder why the Fall 2003, Teenscreen Newsletter is devoted to explaining ways to outfox parents when it comes to the laws that govern parental consent.

The newsletter explains how TeenScreen may be able to get around the “Protection of Pupil Rights Act” (PPRA) that requires written parental consent, by having the Board of Education approve the survey as a part of the educational program.

“PPRA is a federal law that protects the rights of parents by making instructional materials available for their inspection if the materials are to be used in connection with a survey, analysis, or evaluation in which their child is participating and which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The law also requires written parental consent before minors are required to take part in such a survey, analysis, or evaluation.”

“If your local mental health screening program is approved by the Board of Education as part of the educational program, you are not required to get active parental consent under PPRA. Passive consent is sufficient in this circumstance.”

The underlying inference in the newsletter is that the process of obtaining any consent is a pain-in-the-butt nuisance, but unfortunately, necessary for covering-your-own-butt under the law. For instance it says: “It is best to recommend that, if passive consent is obtained from parents, then active consent should be sought from participants as a safeguard.”

The Newsletter goes on to say that if schools would screen all children as a matter of policy, the survey could be administered without parental consent:

“Active parental consent must be obtained, however, if a child is going to be removed from an instructional activity for screening. However, if the screening will be given to all students, as opposed to some, it becomes part of the curriculum and no longer requires active parental consent (i.e., if all ninth-graders will be screened as a matter of policy, it is considered part of the curriculum).”

But of course we know that this will never happen because on its website, Teenscheme says it does not endorse screening all kids in response to this question: Does the Columbia University TeenScreen Program endorse mandated mental health screening for all teens?

“No. The Columbia University TeenScreen Program does not endorse or support government mandated screening. The TeenScreen program is offered only to communities that want to sponsor suicide prevention and mental health check-up programs,” it said.

Boy, finding out that TeenScheme did not support the plan to screen all school kids sure made me feel better. Or it did until I decided to go check out a few other TeenScheme newsletters and read about what they pulled in Pennsylvania in order to screen EVERY ninth-grade student in record time.

The Spring 2004, Newsletter states: By implementing the screening process through the Student Assistance Program (SAP) already in place within the district’s schools, the Erie TeenScreen Program was able to quickly conduct close to 1,000 screenings using the computerized Diagnostic Predictive Scales (DPS) screening tool.

“After completing the pilot,” the newsletter wrote, “the Columbia University TeenScreen staff and the Erie School District immediately designed a proposal to administer the assessment to every ninth grade student in the district.”

“Our goal was to screen all four high schools in the district in 12 weeks,” Christiansen notes. “This meant screening an average of 100 to 250 students per week.”

According to the newsletter, “The Erie TeenScreen program accomplished its goal. The team screened almost 1,000 students by the end of the 12-week time period,” it reported.

And it gets better. Teenscheme really hit pay dirt in Pennsylvania. According to the newsletter, in December 2003, representatives of the TeenScreen Program provided the sole testimony before Pennsylvania legislative committees in favor of a resolution that was passed which states that “every child should be screened for mental illness once in their youth in order to identify mental illness and prevent suicide among youth.”

In directing people on what to say while pushing the TeenScheme agenda to lawmakers, under talking points, the newsletter told its promoters to specifically tell them: “We need to ensure that every American teen receives a mental health check-up once in their youth.”

And here’s how the newsletter says TeenScheme got around that pesky little legal matter of obtaining parental consent before screening kids in Pennsylvania:

“Erie was able to use waiver of consent with 1,200 parents of 9th graders by sending the letter on the superintendent’s stationery, providing one centralized number for parents’ concerns, keeping a copy of the survey available for review, and making the principal’s office aware of the significance of returned consent forms,” the newsletter said.

Below is TeenScreen’s answer to the question: “Are individual screening results shared with Columbia University?”

Individual screening results are not shared with TeenScreen staff at Columbia University. Only aggregate data (e.g., total number screened at the site) and qualitative information (e.g., feedback on how the program is working) are shared with Columbia. The aggregate data and information we collect from local TeenScreen sites are used solely for program evaluation and quality assurance purposes.

Do not buy that line for one second. They claim to need numbers for “program evaluation,” I say they need the numbers for legalized drug dealing.

The truth is, the results from the surveys will be fed to the pharmaceutical industry and sales representatives will be dispatched at record speed to specific areas where doctors will be writing out the most prescriptions. There will be a well beaten path leading to each area of the country identified.

Student names are not needed for this marketing scheme, all that is required for success are the total number of kids labeled mentally ill and the specific areas where they live and thousands of new customers will sprout up all across the county. Its a brilliant scheme.

So who are we to believe?

TeenScheme swears it always obtains parental consent and that it does not provide students with a diagnose of a mental illness.

However, a family in Indiana disputes both of those assertions. Michael and Teresa Rhoades claim that the TeenScheme survey was administered to their daughter in a public school without their consent.

They also say claim that in December 2004, their daughter came home one day and informed them that she had been diagnosed with an obsessive compulsive disorder and a social anxiety disorder, after she was screened with the survey at school.

When things go as planned with this scheme, parents are supposed to head to the corner drug store to buy pills each time a new student-customer is recruited. However, things did not go according to plans with the Rhoades family.

Michael and Teresa Rhoades were outraged, and instead of heading to the drug store, they filed the nation’s first notice of intent to sue after learning that their daughter had been tested, diagnosed, and labeled mentally ill in a public school without their consent.

A notice that is sure to be the first of many such lawsuits that will be filed as TeenScheme fans out across the country causing local school taxes to rise as legal fees accrue.

I’m afraid that now that I have seen first hand what lengths TeenScheme will go to in order to outfox parents and label kids mentally ill for profit, I shall have to decline any invitation for jury duty on the case because I have already decided that the young Ms Rhoades is, without a shadow of a doubt, the injured party in this action.

Filed under: 2005, Bush, drugging children, NFC, TeenScreen

TeenScreen – New York Times – Danger Signs

Evelyn Pringle December 2005

Maybe my expectations are too high. All of my life I’ve put a lot of stock in a story if I read it in the New York Times. In hindsight, I must admit that I found the whole saga of the planted WMD stories, that in large part helped the administration push the country into an unnecessary and senseless war in Iraq, troubling to say the least. However, to its credit the Times did give Judith Miller the boot and thus, restored my confidence in the legitimacy of the paper at least somewhat.

That said, my expectation were shattered again on December 4, 2005, when I read the article, “Danger Signs,” which paints a totally inaccurate picture of a pharma-backed marketing scheme, billed as a suicide prevention tool, under the name, “TeenScreen.”

This profiteering scheme was actually hatched by several front groups in concert with the industry, with the ultimate goal of getting a foot in the door of the nation’s public school system to recruit the 52 millions students as life-long customers in the sale of a new generation of useless, dangerous, and expensive psychiatric drugs.

In Danger Signs, the Times talks about how in the mid-1980’s, Dr David Shaffer, a psychiatrist employed by Columbia University, became concerned about an increase in teen suicide which motivated the good doctor to develop the TeenScreen survey.

The truth is that in 1987, Prozac, the first in a stream of SSRI antidepressants, hit the market which necessitated a heavy-duty plan for legal drug pushing. Pharma needed an expanded customer base, so they put their heads together and came up with the bright idea for Shaffer to develop the ridiculous survey and play on the nation’s soft side when it was passed off as a prevention tool to save poor suicidal teens.

In reality, TeenScreen is one of the slickest, and sickest, marketing schemes that I’ve run across in my 2 years of investigating the world’s most profitable drug cartel better known as the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s certainly no secret that certain officials in the nation’s regulatory agencies are members of the cartel so it’s no wonder that I got a little suspicious when I read the comment in the Times about a CDC survey that claimed about 8% of high school students answered yes when asked if they had attempted suicide during the past year. The Times did not say 8% thought about suicide, it said 8% of the kids attempted suicide.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not insinuating that the CDC is exaggerating, or that it ginned up a survey, not at all. I’m saying that the CDC official who presented the Times with the 8% story is a liar.

If they did a survey and found 8 kids out of a 100 who actually attempted suicide in the past year, they either surveyed kids in substance abuse treatment, or a homeless shelter, which is the favorite hunting grounds of the bandits running TeenScreen when they go out trolling for potential suicide statistics to inflate their numbers.

Case on point for manipulating statistics, here is what TeenScreen’s Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, wrote in a promotional article titled, Before Their Time: Preventing Teen Suicide.

“Since 1960 the suicide rates for males 15-19 years old has tripled. More alarming, suicide is increasingly claiming its victims at younger ages. From 1980-1996, suicide rates among children 10-14 years old increased 100 percent.”

Imagine that, an increase of 100%. I am shocked, just shocked!

Experts find the deliberate inflation of numbers appalling. “They are pulling numbers out of thin air – falsely presuming that this crisis is about lack of access to drugs and calling for government to provide more and more of what many of us believe is the wrong kind of treatment,” according to Robert Whitaker in an interview with Kelly O’Meara on May 16, 2003, published by Insight News.

The truth is, that although the class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), marketed to children via TeenScreen, have been prescribed to tens of millions of people over the past decade and they have not lowered suicide rates an iota.

A government sponsored study published in the Journal of the American Association surveyed 9708 people aged 18 to 54, and compared the suicide data from the 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Survey and the 2001-2003 National Comorbidity Survey Replication and found: “Despite a dramatic increase in treatment, no significant decrease occurred in suicidal thoughts, plans, gestures, or attempts in the United States during the 1990s,” Trends in Suicide Ideation, Plans, Gestures, and Attempts in the United States, 1990-1992 to 2001-2003, JAMA. 2005;293:2487-2495

The study’s authors also note that their findings are corroborated by “other information” which “argues against the possibility that the increase in treatment prevented an increase that would otherwise have occurred in suicide-related behaviors. Specifically, randomized controlled trials find only modest effects of treatment in reducing suicidality, even with optimal regimens.”

Not only do SSRIs not prevent suicide, on July 21, 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that during treatment with SSRIs, there was a “significantly higher risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts … during the first nine days of treatment” and that children first starting treatment were 4 times more likely to think about suicide, and 38 times more likely to commit suicide. Children as young as five have committed suicide while taking these drugs, the study found.

When discussing the number of child suicides, the Time’s Danger Signs article says about “1,500 succeed annually, making suicide the third-leading cause of death in teenagers after accidents and homicides.”

I don’t know where those statistics came from, or whether they are accurate. But think about it, there are 52 million kids in the nation’s public school system, not counting the kids aged 0 to 5. And according to the CDC, in 2004, there were over 4,000,000 births in the US.

A statistically low number of 1,500 suicides is hardly worth subjecting millions of kids to an intrusive mental heath screening that is going to label a third with mental health disorders, after which they will be drugged with medications that carry a black box warning against their use with children because they can cause kids to commit suicide.

There is also absolutely no evidence to support the theory that TeenScreen can prevent suicide. In fact, in March 2004, the United States Preventive Special Task Force found no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.

It also noted that there is limited evidence on the accuracy of screening tools to identify suicide risk in the primary care setting, including tools to identify those at high risk The task force also found no studies that addressed the potential harm of screening for suicide risks.

And finally, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence that treatment of those at high risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality. As a result, the task force said it could not determine the balance of benefits and harms of screening for suicide risk.

According Danger Signs, Shaffer went public with TeenScreen four years ago, offering it to schools at no charge. That assertion is another blatant misrepresentation. When TeenScreen went public in Ohio, tax payers in 3 counties were billed $15,000 each, to implement the scheme in Ohio schools.

In Tennessee, a drug company financed the first program at a Nashville High School, in which a third of the kids screened were steered to a mental health clinic.

And while testifying before Congress, Flynn, asked lawmakers to take funds earmarked for alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs and allow those tax dollars to be used to set up this drug profiteering scheme in public schools.

The Times should have done a bit of fact checking before it wrote: “It is given to students with their parents’ consent.” The reporter responsible for the article should ask Chelsea Rhodes and her parents in Indiana if the school had consent to test Chelsea and send her home diagnosed with 2 mental illnesses.

Telling an impressionable and vulnerable young girl that she is mentally ill is child abuse and school officials involved should be arrested. Chelsea will likely be affected by this labeling for life.

This next comment that indicates a serious deficiency in fact checkers at the Times states: “With only word-of-mouth marketing, the questionnaire has spread to 461 sites in 43 states.”

Here again, the reporter might want to check and see how much money was funneled through TeenScreen to the PR firm that marketed the survey. The same firm that lists many of the major drug companies as clients on its web site.

Rabin Strategic Partners is one of the PR companies, that put together a publication called, “Catch Them Before They Fall; How to Implement Mental Health Screening Programs for Youth as Recommended by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health,” according to Sue Weibert, The Genesis of President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, OpEd News, December 15, 2005.

Only word-of-mouth? According to Flynn at that 2004 AACAP Meeting, they mailed a copy of, Catch Them Before They Fall, “to people who were on key committees” in all 50 states,” Weibert reports.

Also the Times might want to check out the $180,000 that was funneled through TeenScreen to Florida officials to try to sell the survey to schools that state.

The Times said TeenScreen’s aim is merely to identify kids at risk, not to encourage use of antidepressants. Then I’d like to know what Shaffer meant at the February 2004, FDA hearing, after hearing all the other professionals testify about the reports and studies documenting the serious adverse reactions in children while on SSRIs, when he said:

“There have been no direct studies with frequent and careful measurement examining whether SSRIs increase, decrease, or have no effect on suicidal ideation and behavior, so that we are dependent very much on inference, but maybe that is always the case.”

“I just would like to conclude with the following,” Shaffer told the panel. “After increasing for years, teen suicide rates have been declining consistently in many countries. During this period, there has been a marked increase in exposure of teens to SSRI antidepressants,” he claimed.

“We have nothing to do with providing recommendations for treatment,” Flynn told the Times reporter, who evidently bought it hook, line and sinker.

People temped to believe that claim ought to watch TeenScreen’s video-taped presentation at the annual convention of the National Association for Mental Illness, where the TeenScreen crew tells the army of NAMI members that helping TeenScreen might require them to contact a child’s insurance company to check on coverage or drive a child to an appointment with a shrink.

The video also shows the TeenScreen crew passing around a pad of paper for NAMI members from all across the country to sign on as volunteers and agree to rise up against anyone who speaks out against TeenScreen when it tries to move into a new community.

In the video, the presenter also explains the importance of tricking kids into agreeing to take the survey first, by bribing them with pizza or movie coupons or other perks, because according TeenScreen, the parent won’t agree to the survey so they need to win the kids over first and then send them home to talk the parents into it.

The Times reporter might want to check and see how much drug money has actually been funneled through NAMI, the nation’s number-one front group of all time, to set up this marketing scheme in schools all over the country.

Its actually comical to watch Flynn change her talking points depending on the audience. On March 2, 2004, she 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.”

After the school tells parents that TeenScreen determined that their child has one or more of the mental health disorders she listed for Congress, what is Flynn inferring will happen to the kids, if they are not put on drugs?

I read one meaningful statement in Danger Signs which said: “Other critics worry that TeenScreen will funnel too many kids into treatment and lead to overuse of medication, with possibly dangerous results.”

However, even that comment is an understatement. The concern about the overuse of drugs with children is far more than a “worry.”

According to an on-going investigation of Pinellas County, Florida, by expert records researcher, Ken Kramer, a review of relevant information for 2002 and 2003, revealed that 81% of the teens who committed suicide were either on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment.

Dedicated anti-child-drugging advocate, Doyle Mills, made a good point about teen suicide when he said, “try to find a suicide victim who has not already received some form of psychiatric treatment, usually drugs.”

Shaffer and Flynn, the self-proclaimed prevention “experts,” forgot to tell the reporter that the majority of kids who have committed suicide, or other violent acts, in recent years were already on the lethal SSRIs.

When discussing the issue, Flynn suggests that school violence is caused by a lack of drugs. “While national awareness of the pressures our kids face today has been raised in the wake of recent school violence,” she said in NAMI E-News, July 6, 1999, Vol 00-1, “the far greater difficulties children with serious mental illnesses and their families confront each day, every year, are being overlooked. They are trapped inside a system of horrors.”

The children who went on out of character killing sprees were trapped inside a system of horrors all right but not due to lack of drugs. The FDA’s warning about SSRI behaviors “known to be associated with these drugs,” include “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania, and mania,” according to court-certified expert on SSRIs, Dr Peter Breggin, on PBS Frontline.

“Each of these reactions,” Breggin advises, “can worsen the individual’s mental condition and can result in suicidality, violence, and other forms of extreme abnormal behavior.”

Evidence from many sources confirms that SSRIs commonly cause or exacerbate a wide range of abnormal mental and behavioral conditions, according to Breggin, International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine 16 (2003/2004).

At the FDA hearings in February 2004, dozens of devastated parents testified that their children had committed suicide, or other violent acts, as a direct result of being prescribed the same drugs that TeenScreen is pushing.

A factor that stands out when reviewing the testimony is that the conduct by children on these drugs is extremely violent, regardless of whether the behavior involves homicide or suicide. A bizarre pattern emerges when listening to parents describe the acts of their children that is totally unheard of.

For instance, Sara Bostock described how her daughter, Cecily, a recent Stanford University graduate, stabbed herself to death in the chest with a kitchen knife two weeks after she was prescribed Paxil, while her mother slept in the next room.

“The only noise was a slight yelp and a thump when she fell on the floor,” Sara said. “To die in this violent, unusual fashion without making a sound … Paxil must have put her over the edge,” she pointed out.

Glenn McIntosh told the panel, “I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Caitlin Elizabeth McIntosh,” he said, “it is actually only a two-dimensional image of her, but it is all I have left.”

“She died of suicide at age 12 years, 3 months,” her father explained, “just eight weeks after being put on Paxil and then Zoloft.” On January 5, 2000, Caitlin hung herself in the bathroom at school, Glenn said.

Mark and Cheryl Miller described the strange suicide method of their son Matt after he was put on Zoloft. Matt was told to take the pills for a week and then call the doctor back, but he never made it a week, he hung himself from a bedroom closet hook, barely higher than he was tall.

‘To commit this unthinkable act,” his father said, “he was actually able to pull his legs up off the floor and hold himself that way until he lost consciousness.”

Lisa Van Syckel told how her daughter, Michelle, was placed on Paxil after being diagnosed with depression and anorexia nervosa, when as it turns out, Michelle actually had Lymes Disease.

“My daughter self-mutilated, became psychotic, became violent, attempted suicide twice,” Lisa told the panel.

Her friends at school call Michelle Psycho, Lisa said, “all because she was misdiagnosed and all because everyone has withheld from the public the adverse effects of Paxil.”

“Please,” Lisa asked the panel, “have respect for our children, make sure that you put proper warnings on these medications.”

“Our children’s lives are at stake here, because not only does it cause suicide, it also causes them to become violent, very, very violent,” she added.

Tom and Kathy Woodward’s daughter, Julie, hung herself after being on Zoloft for a short time, even though she had no history of self-harm or suicide.

They explained that the doctor had said Zoloft was safe and had very few side effects and had never discussed the possibility of violence, self-harm, or suicidal acts and that the two and a half pages of information that came with the drug never mentioned self-harm or suicide either.

“We are here because we believe the system we have in place is flawed,” Tom told the panel. “It is clear that the FDA is a political entity and its leadership has protected the economic interests of the drug industry.”

Grieving mother, Shannon Baker said, “I am here today, because I am representing the love that my daughter had for life and to be her voice and the voice of all the other children who their voices have been silenced by these drugs. “

“Their deaths have been so senseless and needless,” Shannon continued, “I am here speaking in front of you, hoping that you will go in the right direction and ban these drugs for children.”

“There needs to be no more senseless and needless deaths because of these drugs,” she added.

Christopher Pittman’s father testified that 12 year-old Chris had shot his grandfather and grandmother while they slept, and then set the house on fire, and fled in the family car within a few weeks of being prescribed Zoloft, and 2 days after the dose had been doubled. Before Zoloft, Christopher had been on Paxil.

His maternal grandmother said Christopher adored the grandparents he killed and had never been violent before in his life. Chris himself describes the event as like being in a dream watching a movie where you can see what is happening but you can do nothing to stop it.

In the criminal trial, Christopher was tried as an adult and sentenced to 30 years in an adult prison.

Joyce Storey told the panel how her 17-year-old son Brian was diagnosed with depression, given Zoloft pills and told to come back in two weeks. “Five days later, my son killed a woman,” Joyce said.

The psychiatrist that examined Brian, Dr. James Merkangis, testified at trial that Brian had a manic reaction to Zoloft. And similar to Christopher Pittman, Brian testified that it was just like being in a dream. Brian is now serving life without parole.

Brian’s mother told the panel of another boy at Brian’s school who 6 months after Brian’s crimes, took an ax to both of his parents and his thee brothers and sisters while on Prozac. That child is now serving 2 life sentences, Joyce said.

“This is not a coincidence,” she warned. “There is a common denominator, teenager, severely depressed, on an SSRI antidepressant.”

“What is scary,” Joyce said, “is that you are only hearing from a few of us that this has happened to, and there are a lot more out there.”

Young Mark Taylor was shot between 6 and 13 times, by Eric Harris during the Columbine shooting spree, while Harris while on SSRIs.

When testifying Mark told the panel: “The measure of a man is not his strength or how much money he has, or how good he looks or how strong he is, or how powerful he is. The measure of the man is how noble he is.”

“I want to ask you guys,” he said, “are you really being noble with your choices, or are you just allowing the drug companies to squeeze by you just because they have a big pocketbook?”

“I am amazed that you guys are even standing here supporting these drug companies,” he told the panel. “I mean this has never happened in the history of America,” Mark said, “this is a shame and it ought to be stopped today, not next week.”

Mark is right, most of the children involved in violent events in recent years have been on SSRIs. Eighteen-year-old, Jason Hoffman, was on Celexa and Effexor when he shot three students and one teacher at a California High School.

“I want people to know that what happened was not the real me,” Jason wrote in a letter from his jail cell. “I was just angry, maybe my medication. It was a fluke of the moment,” he said. “The person was not the true Jason Hoffman.”

On Oct 29, 2001, deputies found Jason dead, hanging from a vent screen in his jail cell.

Kip Kinkel, was 15 and on Prozac, when he killed his parents and then drove to school where he shot and killed two of his classmates and injured 22 others.

Sixteen-year-old, Jeff Weise, was on Prozac when he shot his grandfather and his female companion, and then went and shot 5 students, a teacher, and a security guard at a school in Minnesota, before killing himself, according to school employee, Gayle Downwind.

What most people don’t realize is that the experiences of these children don’t represent unknown behaviors. The drug companies and the FDA have known about many of these side effects since before the drugs came on the market.

The British Medical Journal recently received a series of in-house Eli Lilly documents and studies concerning Prozac from an anonymous source. The BMJ forwarded the documents to other authorities, including Congressman Maurice Hinchey and the FDA.

Congressman Hinchey distributed the materials to others, including Dr Breggin, who reviewed the documents and issued the January 12, 2005, report, An Examination of Eli Lilly and Company’s Contentions that the BMJ Prozac Documents were Never Missing and Have No Significance.

The first study Breggin reviewed, “Activation and Sedation in Fluoxetine Clinical Trials,” dated November 8, 1988, reported a 38% rate of stimulation in the patients, even though many of the patients were sedated and even though many parameters of stimulation were not counted. This study was requested by the German regulatory agency but Lilly never gave it to the German agency or to the FDA.

The second set of documents Breggin examined related to a July 1985 in-house analysis by Lilly in which the company found a large statistically significant increase in suicide attempts for patients taking Prozac during their placebo controlled clinical trials.

Breggin discovered that there were 12 suicide attempts found in the Prozac group and only one in each of the control group and comparison drug, a tricyclic antidepressant.

According to Breggin, “even after the company winnowed out six of the suicide attempts, the remaining 6:1 ratio was alarming.” Furthermore, Lilly hid many of the suicide attempts under false categories and did not turn this study over to the FDA either.

One study was conducted by the FDA concerning increased spontaneous post- marketing reports of “hostility” and “intentional injury” on Prozac and was generated shortly before the 1991 FDA meeting that evaluated antidepressant-induced suicidality.

In this study, the FDA used a comparison antidepressant, trazodone, as a control and found a 20-fold increase in reports of hostility and intentional injury per prescription of Prozac compared to trazodone.

Breggin had repeatedly attempted to obtain the FDA study through FOIA requests. The FDA finally wrote and said the documents could not be found.

The rise in Prozac reports occurred before any controversy arose concerning Prozac and violence, and the studies include graphs showing a 40-fold relative increase in reports of suicide attempts, overdose and psychotic depression with Prozac compared to trazodone.

Other documents reviewed by Breggin, included an in-house Lilly memoranda by Claude Bouchy written in November 1990, showing that the firm consciously hid Prozac-induced suicidal acts under misleading categories, such as “no drug effect,” and remained undisclosed to the FDA.

“In one memo,” Breggein said, “a Lilly employee expresses shame and regret about hiding this data.”

According to Breggin, Lilly had completed all of the above studies by the time of the 1991 FDA hearing to evaluate the risk of antidepressant-induced suicidality.

In fact, the company continued to hide the data during the 2004 FDA hearings on suicides related to SSRIs. At the hearings, Tom Laughren of the FDA said that he knew of no data linking SSRIs to suicide or hostility.

Breggin openly contradicted Laughren and told him that suicide data did exist in regard to Lilly’s Prozac, but the FDA continued to act unaware of the existence of any such documents in 2004 and did not ask Breggin any details about the data.

In addition, Breggin reports that Lilly has secretly settled every lawsuit, and until now has been successful in keeping the documents sealed.

On top of the serious risks of placing kids on SSRIs, study after study has shown that they do not work. Irving Kirsch and his associates at the University of Connecticut used a FOIA request to obtain the studies submitted to the FDA for the purpose of gaining approval of SSRIs, and found that the difference between the response to a placebo verses an SSRI was statistically insignificant.

Their findings were published in Prevention and Treatment, where they explained that the miniscule difference between a placebo and medication is commonly referred to by researchers, FDA reviewers, and critics, as the “dirty little secret.”

According to Robert Whitaker, author of Mad In America, a “question that has to be asked is why it has taken 15 years to find out about this data,” he told Insight News. “Why are we learning about these increased suicides in clinical trials 15 years after the drugs were approved?”

The way things are going, that question might be answered at some point. The hidden studies are drawing the attention of all kinds of regulatory officials. On September 27, 2004, the Boston Globe reported that evidence showing that drug manufacturers and the FDA concealed negative clinical trial data and deceived physicians, consumers, and shareholders about failure to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of SSRI antidepressant drugs has caught the interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The FDA is as secretive as their partners in crime. “The FDA is as obstructionist as the drug companies, if not more so,” says CBS reporter Sharly Attkisson, according to Judy Lieberman, in the July-August 2005, Columbia Journalism Review. “That may be the biggest scandal behind these drug stories,” Attkisson said.

On another front, last summer, New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, charged GlaxoSmithKline, with “repeated and persistent fraud,” for failing to disclose clinical trials about Paxil, and specifically that it suppressed trials showing Paxil ineffective in treating depression in children. The lawsuit said that in 2002, over 2 million prescriptions for Paxil were written for children in the US.

According to the results of the report, Pediatric and Adolescent Antidepressant Drug Use in the US, presented at a February 18, 2004 FDA hearing by Dr. Gianna Rigoni from the Office of Drug Safety of the FDA, in 2002, Zoloft was the most commonly prescribed product, accounting for about 31% of dispensed antidepressants, followed by Paxil and then Prozac. The adolescent population accounted for approximately “8.1 million prescriptions dispensed” in 2002, Rigoni told the panel.

Dr Donald Marks, MD, Ph D, testified at the hearing as a prescribing physician, a father, and as a former director of clinical research for two multinational pharmaceutical companies.

“The seriousness and severe adverse event effects of SSRI drugs,” Marks said, “makes their use hardly justified in the majority of cases because SSRIs are well known to have limited efficacy over placebo and against non-pharmacologic treatments.”

“There are many studies in the peer reviewed medical literature, supporting the causal role of serotonin in disinhibition and violence,” he said.

“My own prescribing experience with SSRI drugs and evaluation of numerous cases referred to me,” Marks advised, “has revealed significant agitation and aggression, akathisia, activation of mania and hypomania, increased depression, serious dependency and withdrawal difficulties, suicidal ideation, and toxic interactions with other drugs.”

“It is important to be aware,” the doctor warned, “that these symptoms of SSRI toxicity can be mistaken for the progression of the underlying mental state being treated, leading to use of more of the same and other offending SSRI drugs rather than to withdrawal of the causative SSRI agent.”

“Danger Signs,” does not mention that Dr Shaffer has testified as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials, on behalf of the drug companies and against patients and families who had endured horrendous experiences caused by SSRIs.

Despite the widely publicized evidence of adverse affects, Shaffer continues to urge the use of SSRIs with children, illustrating his willingness to place drug maker profits over the proven risks of suicidal and violent behavior committed by children on these drugs.

The Time’s article fails to mention his lengthily history of pushing these dangerous drugs on kids whenever a protective barrier is erected. Two years ago, the New York Times itself noted that Shaffer, at the request of a drug maker, attempted to block the recommendation to ban the drugs from use in children in the UK by sending a letter to the British regulatory agency claiming there was insufficient data to restrict the use of the drugs in adolescents, on December 11, 2003.

Dr Marks discussed the potential resistance that would arise in response to banning the use of the drugs on children in the US, when he told the panel that SSRI manufacturing and sales is “serious business with tens of millions of patients in the U.S. and a market in the tens of billions of dollars.”

In his experience working for drug companies Marks warned, any attempt to decrease sales by increasing warnings will be met with severe organized resistance.

However, the pharmaceutical industry has nothing to worry about when it comes to blocking attempts to decrease the sale of SSRIs to kids. As the article in the Times indicates, the “severe organized resistance” of Shaffer, Flynn, NAMI, and TeenScreen are up to the task.

Filed under: 2005, Breggin, FDA hearing, front groups, NAMI, SSRIs, suicide, TeenScreen

Medicare Prescription Drug Law — Countdown to 2006

Evelyn Pringle June 25, 2005

As it stands right now, senior citizens will have a tough choice to make in 2006. Under the new Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, they can either come up with a $420 annual premium, a $250 deductible, 25 percent in co-payments on the first $2,250 of costs, and $2,850 to cover the gap in the benefit known as the doughnut hole, or they can quit taking their prescription medications, period.

In about six months, when the new law goes into full effect, it is estimated that the average senior will have about $3,100 in annual prescription costs and will end up having to pay 66 percent of that amount, or $2,080. After that, seniors will have to pay 100 percent of the costs from $2,251 to $5,100.

Thanks to George W Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, the undisputed benefactors of the new bill are the pharmaceutical companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Using our senior citizens as funnels, drug makers will take in over $200 billion in new drug sales; and because the program will be administered by private companies, hundreds of billions more will go to HMOs and private insurance plans offering drug-only coverage.

The industry’s preferred version of the bill that passed contains provisions that specifically bar the government from using its bargaining power to negotiate lower prices because, according to Bush, negotiating for lower prescription drug costs might constitute a monopoly. The bill also prohibits the importation of drugs from other countries because Bush says they might not be safe.

So how did the industry’s version of the bill get passed? Easy answer: money. The pharmaceutical-insurance complex unleashed over 900 lobbyists to do their bidding on the legislation and spent about $141 million on lobbying in Washington in 2003.

And even that figure represents only a portion of what was actually spent. The industry is only required to report money spent on lobbying Congress, Bush, and the executive branch. Millions more were spent on other forms of lobbying through print and TV advertising, campaign contributions, direct mailings, and state level lobbying.

But since the stakes were worth over $500 billion, the industry knew an investment of a few hundred million would be money well spent. Mere chickenfeed in comparison.

2006 Will Be a Nightmare for Seniors

People need to take a closer look at the prescription drug law and see how they will be affected by the provisions in the bill. For instance, there’s not been much made of the fact that the new law makes it illegal for insurance companies to provide coverage for the “$2,850 doughnut hole” for which Medicare pays nothing — $2,850 a year is a lot of money for senior citizens on fixed incomes.

This gap will become even more alarming to many seniors when they learn that they are not allowed to buy any supplemental insurance to cover it. In fact, seniors who sign up for the program and already have a policy to cover the gap will not be allowed to renew it.

How do Republicans justify these doughnut hole provisions? They claim seniors, as beneficiaries, should pay the $2,850 themselves because, “when beneficiaries are insulated from the costs, they tend to overuse medical services.”

I’m sure most seniors didn’t realize that the new law came with a lesson on how to budget their money so they won’t “overuse” their drugs. And to think that this economics course only costs $2,850 a year.

Another little known fact is that low-income seniors will no longer be allowed to receive drug benefits from Medicaid (state insurance plans for low income people). State officials are worried because even though Medicare will now pay for far fewer drugs than state plans, the new law will bar state agencies from supplementing coverage to close the gap.

Retirees To Lose Drug Coverage From Previous Employers

When debating the new bill, Democrats had concerns that companies would cut retiree drug coverage benefits even faster than they already were. Well true to form, they have and it is becoming a very serious problem.

In the past two and a half years, 13% of large employers terminated drug coverage benefits for future retirees, and 22% more say they are likely to in the future. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 23 percent of the nearly 12 million retirees with employer coverage will lose it when the new Medicare program goes into effect.

But here again, thanks to Bush, there is no incentive to provide coverage. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Bush and his allies in Congress added a provision to the new bill that rewards companies with a tax subsidy even if they reduce retirees’ drug coverage.

In effect, it creates a financial incentive to reduce retiree benefits and allows some companies to get subsidies even if they shift part of the cost to retirees.

The WSJ says the provision was pushed into the law by the industry front group, Employers’ Coalition on Medicare, which just happens to be made up of a group of corporations that gave Bush and the RNC more than $47 million since 2000.

Of the large corporations that will benefit from this provision, 10 have either tried to slash retiree coverage benefits in the past, or are trying to slash them now. They include 3M, Verizon, AT&T, IBM, GM, Daimler Chrysler, Bank of America.

These 10 companies alone gave more than $17 million to Bush and Republican members of Congress.

How much profit will these companies make off their $17 million investment? Plenty. For instance, GM estimates the provision will save the company $4 billion on the overall future cost of retiree care.

In March 2004, SBC Communications revealed that it would begin charging retirees monthly premiums and higher fees to save between $300 and $600 million a year. About 90,000 SBC retirees will now pay more for health care coverage. So how much did SBC spend to get the provision passed? $4,087,981 since 2000.

Verizon will also save a fortune. It expects to shave retiree costs by $1.3 billion. So how much did Verizon wager? Its contributions totaled $3,882,181,

In addition, the situation looks even worse for future retirees. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, that out of 408 companies surveyed, 71% now require retirees to pay more in premiums, nearly 10 percent have eliminated the coverage benefit altogether, and 20 percent said they will probably eliminate it by 2007.

2006 Almost Here

Six months from now when 2006 arrives, I urge seniors to remember to be grateful to Bush for including the provisions that made sure the government didn’t enter into a monopoly by negotiating affordable drug prices and didn’t allow the importation of unsafe drugs from other countries.

And, they should be especially grateful for the provision that made sure that they didn’t frivolously “overuse” their medications for high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and controlling diabetes.

Filed under: 2005, Bush, Drug Importation, Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, Online Journal

Halliburton Contracts Illegal – Bush Says So What

Evelyn Pringle February 2005

After millions of tax dollars were spent investigating how Halliburton ended up being awarded billions of dollar worth of no-bid contracts in Iraq, the Government Accounting Office determined that the company should never have been awarded the contracts in the first place.

In response to those findings, Cheney and Bush both, as much as thumbed their noses at tax payers as if to say “so what, what are you going to do about it?” Well, it’s beginning to look like they were right, there is nothing we can do about it.

According to the GAO’s report, Rebuilding Iraq: Fiscal Year 2003 Contract Award Procedures and Management Challenges, contracts worth billions of dollars were awarded without full and open competition, including Halliburton’s oil infrastructure contract.

The GAO found that the Bush Administration violated procurement law when it issued various task orders under existing contracts. Of the 11 task orders examined, more than half were awarded outside the scope of their contracts, according to the report.

As an example of the inept procurement process, the GAO told how “a military review board approved a six-month renewal contract with Halliburton worth $587 million in just ten minutes and based on only six pages of documentation,” the report said.

Once and For All – How Did Halliburton Get Those Contracts?

Remember back when Cheney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sept 14, 2003, and said, “And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government.”

And remember when he was asked whether he had known about Halliburton’s noncompetitive contract, and he said, “I don’t know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that.”

Those statements were proven false by a June, 2004, article in Time Magazine entitled, “The Paper Trail: Did Cheney Okay a Deal?” As it turns out, Bush and Cheney both were informed that Halliburton would get the contract before it was awarded. Time quoted an email sent by the Army Corps of Engineers, that said the contract for construction of oil pipelines was approved by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith “contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP’s [Vice President’s] office.”

This email totally contradicts Cheney’s nationally televised assertion that he had no involvement in Halliburton’s contracts whatsoever. It proved once and for all that Cheney and the White House had played a key role in making Cheney’s ex-employer the number one war profiteer in Iraq.

The email was dated March 5, 2003, and Halliburton was awarded the contract three days later without any bids by other companies.

The administration tried to dismiss the email by saying the employee at the Corp was just trying to give the Vice President’s office a heads-up on the process. Now I suppose opinions on what the email mean could differ. However, people’s opinions on what it means are likely based on what their definition of co-or-di-na-ted IS.

No Political Appointees Involved – None

Some people may recall the news conference, where State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, explained who makes the decisions on contracts. “The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There’s a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they’re doing the contracts,” he maintained. Boucher lied.

Then there was the time that the chief counsel of the Army Corp of Engineers appeared on “60 Minutes” and denied that there was any involvement by political appointees in the Halliburton contract. He specifically said: “The procurement of this particular contract was done by career civil servants.” Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this guy is a liar too.

Major Joseph Yoswa, a Department of Defense spokesman, also claimed safeguards existed to insure that the process was free of favoritism. “Most important,” he said, “career civil servants, not political appointees, make final decisions on contracts,” according to The New Yorker. As it turns out, the Major has a problem telling the truth as well.

Then back in August, 2003, there was Halliburton spokeswoman, Wendy Hall, who said the company’s military contracts were awarded “not by politicians but by government civil servants, under strict guidelines.” I for one, would like to see the list of strict guidelines, and then, I’d like to have the names of the civil servants Wendy dealt with.

Finally, during a March 11, 2004, hearing before the Government Reform Committee, six senior officials from the CPA and DOD testified under oath, and were asked to answer the following question by Republican Committee Chairman, Tom Davis:

“I want to get this on the record, and everybody is under oath. Have you or anyone in your office ever discussed with the Vice President or with his office the award of a contract for Iraqi reconstruction prior to any contract being awarded?”

Every single one of those six officials said “no sir,” which means every single one of them lied under oath. So how Cheney could pull this off? How could he get all these people to lie? I may not know how he did it, but the fact is he did it and nothing has been done about it.

Because, according to the June 14, 2004, LA Times, “The Pentagon admitted that a $7 billion no-bid contract to extinguish oil fires in Iraq was awarded to Halliburton after a political appointee from the Bush administration recommended the company for the job. … the political appointee was Michael Mobbs — a special assistant to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. During the Summer of 2002, Mobbs was in charge of the Pentagon’s Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) to develop a plan for reconstructing Iraq’s oil industry,” the Times reported.

For obvious reasons, contracting experts say political appointees like Mobbs should not decide which companies compete for contracts. “The suggestion that political appointees would be directing that type of investigation does not seem consistent with maintaining the appearance of propriety,” expert Steven Schooner told the Times.

How Could They Pull This Off?

In November 2002, long before the war began, a Pentagon group led by Mobbs, deceded to pay Halliburton $1.9 million to develop a secret contingency plan for handling the Iraqi oil industry.

Tax payers need to understand that it was this initial task order to develop a plan, that led to the company being awarded the $7 billion oil infrastructure contract.

Remember the strategy that Cheney’s developed back when he was secretary of defense under the first President Bush. It goes like this, you give Halliburton funding so it can create a market for its services and then its the logical company to hire to carry out the plan when it comes time for contracts to be awarded.

In this particular instance, according to testimony by GAO investigator, Willim Woods, at a House oversight hearing, Mobbs even acknowledged in a memo that the $1.9 million task order would uniquely position Halliburton to win the far larger sole-source contract to actually do the restoration work to Iraqi oil fields.

So once again, Cheney’s contract manipulation strategy worked like a charm.

Mott described the Halliburton contingency plan in a meeting of the Deputies Committee. Those attending the meeting included Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, the deputy national security adviser, Steven Hadley, the deputy secretaries of state and defense, and deputy director of the CIA.

On March 8, 2003, Halliburton was chosen to carry out the plan. When the contract came up in the media, Bush claimed the contract was merely a deal to put out oil well fires. However, it wasn’t long before Pentagon officials were forced to admit that it was a big deal and would involve billions of dollars. But even then, they said that the contract was only temporary and would be replaced by competitively bid contracts shortly.

After umteen delays, new contracts were finally awarded on Jan 16, 2004 and surprise, surprise, Halliburton won the big prize again. An $800 million contract went to the Parsons Corporation, and a $1.2 billion contract went to Halliburton.

Bush and Cheney In Up To Their Necks

During a June 8, 2004 briefing to staff members of the House Committee on Government Reform, Pentagon officials, including Mobbs, were asked about the specific details of the contracting procedure that was employed with Halliburton.

Before making a final decision, Mobbs admitted that he briefed top officials from several executive agencies, in the Deputies Committee, to make sure they had no objections. According to Mobbs, White House Staff members were among those at the meeting.

So, we’ve got Cheney’s top dog, Libby, and Rice’s second in command, Hadley, and White House staff members, and political appointee, Mobbs, leading the pack. And Bush and Cheney want us to believe that not one of these officials uttered a word about Halliburton contracts to either one of them. Yea right.

Following the June 8th Mobb’s briefing, Waxman sent a letter to Cheney and gave reporters a copy. “These new disclosures appear to contradict your assertions that you were not informed about the Halliburton contracts,” Waxman wrote. “They also seem to contradict the administration’s repeated assertions that political appointees were not involved in the award of the contracts to Halliburton,” he said.

The letter described the briefing at which Mobbs acknowledged that he chose Halliburton. After that meeting, Mobb’s said that a White House official told Douglas Feith the group did not object, according to Waxman’s letter.

Waxman also raised questions about the March 5, 2003, e-mail that Cheney received. The author of that email, Stephen Browning, said in an interview that he wrote the memo after he and retired Lt Gen Jay Garner met with Douglas Feith about plans to declassify the earlier $1.8 million contract with the Halliburton.

According to Browning, Feith told him that he had already informed Cheney’s office. Three days later, Halliburton got the $7 billion contract and the war began March 20, 2003. At the briefing, “Browning repeated his story,” Waxman wrote.

“These disclosures mean that your office was informed about the Halliburton contracts at least twice at key moments,” Waxman wrote.

When Waxman tried to investigate the matter further, Cheney simply refused to respond to a request for records of any communications he and his staff had with Halliburton, or actions they took on the contracts. And in what has by now become a pattern when it comes to Cheney, Congress did nothing about it.

The Whistleblower

Finally, in October, 2004, Bunnatine Greenhouse, a top official responsible for making sure the Army Corps of Engineers complies with contracting rules, came forward and revealed that top Pentagon officials showed improper favoritism to Halliburton.

Greenhouse said that when the Pentagon awarded the company a 5-year $7 billion contract, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions that were unprecedented in her experience, she said.

The Greenhouse allegations were first reported by Time Magazine. In a letter, Greenhouse told members of Congress that the Army gave the no-bid contract to Halliburton for political reasons. She also said the Army altered documents in order to justify the company’s contract work in the Balkans.

Federal contracting rules say contracts must be awarded by career civil servants, not political appointees. Greenhouse said the Army ignored this requirement when giving contracts to Halliburton. She said the Army violated “the integrity of the federal contracting program as it relates to a major defense contractor.”

“Employees of the U.S. government have taken improper action that favored KBR’s interests,” Greenhouse said in the letter. “This conduct has violated specific regulations and calls into question the independence” of the contracting process.

Bush and Cheney Are Busted – So What?

The media chased after that dumb 20-year-old Whitewater story (hardly the crime of the century) for 8 years To this day, I still don’t know what they were trying to prove exactly. I do know it wasn’t that the Clintons and their cronies had scammed billions of dollars from tax payers. Yet now with Bush administration, the media spends little or no effort exposing crimes involving real fraud and corruption even though the schemes are costing tax payers billions of dollars.

Has the mainstream media been bought off entirely?

Filed under: 2005, Bush, Cheney, Feith, GAO, Greenhouse, Halliburton, Iraq, Mobbs, war profiteers, whistleblower

Vaccines Did and Do Cause Autism

Evelyn Pringle June 2, 2005

On Feb 9, 2004, the National Autism Association issued a press release that reported on one of the larger studies under review based on the Center for Disease Control’s Vaccine Safety Datalink. Under independent investigation, the Association reported, of the CDC’s data children were found to be 27-times more likely to develop autism after exposure to three thimerosal-containing vaccines (TCVs), than those who receive thimerosal-free versions.

Let that sink in. Twenty-seven times more likely to develop autism. Then consider that our government regulatory agencies had this information for years and deliberately kept it hidden from the public. This failure to warn the public was not due to negligence or laziness, it was a deliberate cover-up and it continues today.

How do we know they had it for years? Because the staff for Rep Dan Burton (R-Ill) obtained an FDA internal e-mail written on June 29, 1999, by former FDA scientist Peter Patriarca, that offered a “pros and cons” assessment of the dishonest statement about Thimerosal in vaccines that the FDA was about to release, and described the questions that could be raised upon its release:

(1) FDA being `asleep at the switch’ for decades, by allowing a potentially hazardous compound to remain in many childhood vaccines, and not forcing manufacturers to exclude it from new products.
(2) various advisory bodies aggressive recommendations for use.
(3) the dose of ethyl mercury was not generated by `rocket science': conversion of the % of thimerosal to actual ug [micrograms] of mercury involves 9th grade algebra.
(4) What took the FDA so long to do the calculations?
(5) Why didn’t CDC and the advisory bodies do these calculations while rapidly expanding the childhood immunization schedule?

The FDA knew.

In 1997, Congress passed the FDA Modernization Act, which required the FDA to review all drugs that contained mercury and determine their adverse effects on humans. For many years, Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, was added to childhood vaccines in multi-dose bottles, basically to increase profits for vaccine makers.

Thimerosal is nearly 50% mercury, which is a known to be extremely harmful to fetuses, infants and children. Beginning in 1987 and throughout the 1990s, it became the main source of mercury in infants and toddlers when the number of vaccines added to the national vaccine schedule nearly tripled.

In 2000, the FDA determined that a twelve-to-fourteen month old child, receiving vaccines required under the Immunization Schedule, often received four to six shots during one doctor visit. Consequently over time, the child would be injected with as much as 40 times the amount of mercury considered safe.

The corresponding increase in autism is concrete evidence of the link between autism and vaccines. Twenty years ago, autism only affected one in 10,000 children. The Autism Autoimmunity Project reports that the disorder strikes 1 in 150 (or 1 in 68 families) today.

During the 1990s, as some 40 million children were vaccinated, drug company profits soared and there’s no doubt that the companies knew about the dangers of Thimerosal and put profits over the health of a whole generation of children.

The LA Times obtained a 1991 internal memo from the drug company, Merck, that proves the company knew then that Thimerosal in vaccines posed a serious health threat. The memo noted that 6-month-old children who received their shots on schedule would get a mercury dose up to 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

As the vaccines increased, autism rates skyrocketed and the numbers don’t lie. State by state statistics based on data by the Department of Education, show that the increase in the number of children aged 6-21 with autism between 1992-93 and 2003-04, is astronomical:

- In Ohio there were 22 cases of autism in 1992-93, and in 2003-04 there were 5146;
- In Illinois, there were only 5 cases in 1992-1993, while there were 6005 in 2003-04;
- Mississippi had no cases of autism in 1992-1993, but had 622 in 2003-04;
- Wisconsin had 18 cases in 1992-93 and 3259 in 2003-04.

In addition to autism, Thimerosal has now been linked to a host of developmental disorders including Attention Deficit Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and ironically, the pharmaceutical industry is now making money hand over fist off drugs prescribed to treat children with these disorders.

The drug companies can pay doctors, researchers and reporters to write a million articles and reports that say there is no connection between Thimerosal and autism, but that won’t change the truth. Thimerosal is the culprit and a million false denials won’t change that fact.

Plenty of experts with nothing to gain say so. When asked to what degree of scientific certainty can we prove that current epidemic of autism was caused by the mercury-based preservative, Thimerosal, in childhood vaccines? Dr David Ayoub, MD, said “I can state that the certainty of the science supporting mercury as a major cause of autism is probably more overpowering than the science behind any other disease process that I studied dating back to medical school.”

In May 2003 the AAP stated, “All routinely recommended infant vaccines currently sold in the U.S. are free of thimerosal as a preservative and have been for more than two years.”

Yet because the FDA maintained it did not have enough evidence to justify a recall of thimerosal vaccines distributed prior to the introduction of thimerosal-free versions and so they were allowed to remain on the market until they became outdated. That means that poisonous vaccines were still administered until November 2002.

“Because the FDA chose not to recall thimerosal-containing vaccines in 1999,” the April 2003, House Committee on Government Reform report concludes, “in addition to all of those already injured, 8,000 children a day continued to be placed at risk for overdose for at least an additional two years.”

Parents need to know that flu vaccines currently recommended for infants and pregnant women still contain Thimerosal to this very day.

The CDC and FDA policy decisions about matter such as approving vaccines for inclusion on the immunization schedule are made by physician advisory boards whose members very often have strong financial relationships with the very same pharmaceutical companies that they are supposed to regulate.

For example, during a congressional hearing on potential conflicts of interests at the FDA, it was revealed that 60% of the advisory members who voted to approve the poisonous rotavirus vaccine had financial ties to the drug companies manufacturing the vaccine. The committee also found that 50% of the CDC members were tied to the rotavirus makers.

The public needs to rise up and demand accountability from the officials in charge of all regulatory agencies involved in concealing information that could have saved many families from the devastation of these ill-administered vaccines.

In order to enroll in public schools and day care, children must comply with mandatory vaccine schedule, which includes vaccines that have not undergone the scientific testing necessary to guarantee their safety, and have the potential to harm millions of children.

If families are expected to trust the government’s vaccine approval process, they have a right to demand that the vaccines are approved based on scientific research, without the undue influence of money passed out to politicians, scientists, and the heads of the regulatory agencies, by the pharmaceutical industry.

The children who were affected by this cover-up will require care and support for a lifetime. The lives of many of these children are destroyed. The costs for their care, left to their families, will reportedly exceed $2 million per child.

The drug companies and the government officials involved in this vaccine marketing scheme and the subsequent cover-up of the damage it caused need to be criminally charged and made to pay for their crimes.

Filed under: 2005, autism, CDC, thimerosal, vaccines

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