The Bitter Pill

The Official Blog of UNITE – uniteforlife.org

Unscientific Depression Screenings and Front Groups Boost SSRI Sales

Evelyn Pringle November 10, 2006

USA: Prior to the arrival of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs) on the market, depression was estimated to affect only 100 people per million.

And those 100 people per million sought help from a medical professional trained in psychiatry and the treatment of depression.

Since the introduction of SSRIs, rates for depression are now considered to be in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 cases per million, or between a 500 to 1,000 fold increase, according to The Marketization of Depression: The Prescribing of SSRI Antidepressants to Women, by Janet Currie, in the May 2005 journal Women and Health Protection.

And these days, those 50,000 to 100,000 people per million might obtain a diagnosis of depression from an online screening survey on a drug company web site followed up with a print-out coupon for a free prescription for an SSRI to take to a general practitioner.

To be sure, the survey generated diagnosis of depression will come with no recommendation for therapy, other than treatment with drugs with names like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

The uncomfortable feelings of sadness and unhappiness that result from the everyday trials and tribulations of life have been transformed into symptoms of a disease with the only cure being expensive drugs that come with an ever-widening variety of serious side effects and a life-long stigmatizing label of mental illness.

Dr David Healy is a professor of psychiatry at Cardiff University, a former secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and the author of over 120 articles and 12 books, including The Antidepressant Era and The Creation of Psychopharmacology.

He has major concerns about the prescribing practices for SSRIs. “The marketing of psychiatric drugs and the change of climate that this marketing brings about,” Dr Healy says, “has turned what used to be physicians into what lawyers now refer to as pharmacologists.”

“It has become standard practice in the US,” he notes, “to get drugs from a pharmacologist and therapy from a psychologist or counselor paid at a lower rate.”

“This split,” he says, “is disastrous.”

“It means that the people who monitor the impact of therapy,” Dr Healy explains, “are not trained at all to know about the hazards of that therapy.”

“The overwhelming majority of people who are prescribed antidepressants,” he says, “are at little or no risk for suicide or other adverse outcomes from their nervous state.”

“Treatment runs the risk of stigmatizing the person,” he points out, “as well as giving them problems that they didn’t have to being with.”

Critics say the successful marketization of depression is owed in large part to promotional campaigns orchestrated behind the scenes by SSRI makers who funnel money to industry backed front groups, who bill themselves as patient advocacy groups, and carry out the campaigns. Sharon Batt, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, recently began to study the behavior and funding of these groups after years working in breast cancer advocacy, where she noticed a general pattern.

Organizations that accept pharmaceutical funding, she says, “tend to advocate for faster review and availability of drugs, greater insurance coverage, and they tend to see ‘direct-to-consumer’ advertising as a benefit to patients.”

On the other hand, groups that maintain financial independence, she says, “emphasise safety over speed and are critical of direct-to-consumer advertising.”

These groups are used to both market depression and to put pressure on public health care programs and private insurers to pay for the expensive SSRIs.

A blatant example of an SSRI pushing front group, is the, “Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance,” which received well over half of its funding in 2005 from the pharmaceutical industry. According to the October 28, 2006 New Scientist Magazine, combined information from its annual report and tax returns reveals that 77% of its revenue in 2005 came from 15 major donors, 12 of which were drug or device companies.

Another SSRI promoting front group is the, “Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation,” which apparently fell out of favor with the drug company purse-holders when the black box warnings were added to SSRIs about the association between the drugs and child suicide and caused a drop in the number of prescriptions issued to children.

Although drug companies claim they neither get nor expect anything in return for the millions of dollars they funnel to these groups each year, according New Science, “concerns about the safety of psychiatric drugs in children, which reached new heights in 2004, have hit the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation hard.”

“Its donations from industry fell from about 40 per cent of its total revenue in 2004 to 20 per cent in 2006,” the magazine reported.

“Pharmaceutical companies are not as willing to support us because of increased scrutiny around psychiatric treatments in children,” says Susan Resko, the foundation’s executive director.

As a consequence, New Science reports, she has had to lay off more than half of her staff.

To the public these groups claim to be grassroots patient advocacy organizations. However, Drummond Rennie, professor of medicine at the University of California, and deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, told New Science that the word he uses to describe such organizations is “astroturf”.

According to New Science, “astroturfing is the practice of disguising an orchestrated campaign as a spontaneous upwelling of public opinion.”

Overall, of the groups studied by New Science, the most heavily funded groups were found to be those focusing on conditions where drug companies have been accused of “disease-mongering,” a term described as encouraging healthy people to seek treatment

One of the more recent SSRI marketing campaigns involves the designation of a “National Depression Screening Day,” promoted with TV and other media advertisements as a day when Americans can get a free depression screening at identified settings in local communities all over the country.

This national observance day provides the perfect forum for drug makers and their front groups to get out the messages that depression has reached epidemic proportions but is magically treatable with drugs. Funding for the screening day can be traced to all the usual suspects, the SSRI makers including Forest Labs, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Wyeth.

The drug companies have also managed to infiltrate the nation’s public school system to recruit children as SSRI customers by conducting random screenings on children, even though they show no signs of mental illness, using surveys with names like “TeenScreen,” under the guise of preventing suicide.

Never mind that the SSRIs, with the exception of Prozac, are not approved for use with children and never mind that the black box warnings on the drugs say that they can increase the risk of suicide in children and never mind that study after study has shown that SSRIs do not work with children, if profitable sales figures are to continue, drug companies have got to keep selling these drugs to kids.

Drug companies also zero in on college students. For example, Wyeth has sponsored seminars on college campuses called, “Depression in College: Real World and Real Issues,” that feature professionals and celebrity patients to talk to students about depression and the need for treatment.

SSRI makers also place literature and posters in key areas all over the campuses directing students to online sites to get a free depression screening.

Critics, including many experts, have condemned the unscientific community and online screening surveys, especially when they are used to stigmatize children with a label of mental illness in the name of profits.

According to Dr Stefan Kruszewski, MD, a Psychiatrist and Addictionologist, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, “The identification of severe, biologically-based, mental disorders is an important issue-especially when they interfere with the academic and neurodevelopmental skills of our youngest citizens.”

“However,” he states, “the use of a subjective and poorly validated screening tool does not accomplish that goal.”

“When manifest psychiatric problems are recognized by parents or schools,” he says, “a referral should be made to an experienced clinician (psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, psychiatric nurse practitioner and/or neurologist), who works in consultation with parents and caregivers.”

“This optimizes triage and treatment and avoids unnecessary mislabeling and stigma,” he advises, “while protecting the individual liberties of those individuals who are afflicted with serious problems.”

Other professionals use stronger words when describing what they refer to as medicating for profit schemes. According to Dr Fred Baughman, “its not just psychiatry, its what the whole medical profession is doing, for profit.”

“I never thought I would see my profession so demean itself,” he states.

Critics say patients are misled into believing that SSRIs will alter their feelings of depression or sadness by correcting a chemical imbalance. “The lynch-pin of all of this biological psychiatry-mental health,” Dr Baughman says, “is the absurd contention that all mental constructs are diseases, propagated as the big lie, and propagated very skillfully,” he adds.

For 15 years, neurologist, Dr Baughman, author of many books and papers on psychiatric drugs, including, “ADHD Fraud,” reports that he has been asking professionals in his field to cite proof within the medical literature of the world that even one psychiatric “chemical imbalance” is a disease with a confirming physical abnormality.

Dr Baughman says he has never received an answer, “but the “diagnosing” and “treating” continues.”

The latest Wyeth funded brainchild, is “The Depression Is Real,” campaign reported as sponsored by all the top front groups including the American Psychiatric Foundation, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Medical Association, National Mental Health Association and National Urban League.

The “Depression Is Real,” campaign consists of television, radio and print public service announcements and advertisements, and the group ran ads in publications like USA Today and the New York Times, which requires mega bucks.

That said, the key phrase in the announcement to kick off the campaign came at the end of the list of sponsors where it said the campaign “is made possible through the support of Wyeth.”

In the public announcement, Sue Bergeson, President of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, said, “Trivializing depression as a passing mood or, worse, an imaginary illness can discourage those who need treatment from seeking help.”

She followed that up with a ridiculous over-the-top statement, that said, “That’s not just counterproductive it’s downright dangerous because depression is the principal cause of suicide worldwide, killing more people than homicides and terrorism combined.”

Worldwide? More suicides than homicides and terrorism combined?

Before making wild statements implying more people commit suicide, presumably because they are not yet on SSRIs, then people are murdered by terrorists or others, Ms Bergeson should have taken the time to watch the evening news to get an idea about the number of people killed in Iraq alone every day by terrorists.

SSRIs have been on the market for less than 20 years in the US, and every year, more and more serious adverse effects are found to be associated with the drugs, yet nothing seems to slow the momentum of their sales.

With the marketization of depression, SSRIs have become the top moneymakers and with the help of front groups, the free depression screening surveys have evolved into the most effective customer recruitment scheme to date.

Once a patient ends up at a doctor’s door with a diagnosis and coupon for free SSRIs in hand, doctors do not send a patient for a good physical to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing the depression.

Doctors do not check to see whether there has been a recent death of a family member or friend or whether there is an illness or looming death of a family member or close friend that would naturally cause a patient to be depressed.

The patient is not asked whether a job was recently lost or a divorce is in the works or a breakup of a long-term relationship has occurred.

And in a 15-minute office visit, a patient certainly has no time to discuss the many possible reasons for feeling sad or unhappy that cannot be cured with any pill.

Public health officials in other countries have recognized and condemned the rampant over-prescribing of SSRIs. In April 2005, the British House of Commons Health Committee released a report that said SSRIs have been “indiscriminately prescribed on a grand scale,” partly due to “data secrecy and uncritical acceptance of drug company views.”

Industry promotions, the Committee said, have “worked to persuade too many professionals that they can prescribe with impunity.”

The report pointed out that, “unhappiness is part of the spectrum of human experience, not a medical condition.”

Filed under: 2006, DBSA, front groups, MHA, NAMI, SMH, SSRIs, TeenScreen

Mothers Act Promotes Pregnancy as New Cottage Industry

Evelyn Pringle December 5, 2008

Women of childbearing years represent the most lucrative market for the makers of psychiatric drugs. The knowledge that infants were being born with birth defects and suffering a withdrawal syndrome when these drugs were used during pregnancy was hidden for decades. Knowledge of these terrible risks would have caused a major drop in sales to this customer base.

Ever since the warnings about birth defects started trickling out a few years ago, the drug companies apparently have been plotting to find ways to reverse their negative impact. But the most sinister plot ever developed is a bill moving for approval in the US Senate right now called the “Melanie Blocker-Stokes Mother’s Act,” to set up the screening of all pregnant women for mental illness.

The bill is promoted under the ruse of screening for postpartum depression. But a true picture of the target population of this massive drug pushing scheme is evident in the propaganda submitted to support the passage of the original bill in the US House of Representatives and the programs already in place in various states.

The legislation was first introduced in the House in January 2007 by Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush. Under “Background and Need for Legislation,” House Report 110-375 states in part:

“Depression is twice as common in women as it is in men, with its peak incidence during the primary reproductive years–ages 25 to 45. Because women are more likely to experience depression during these years, they are especially vulnerable to developing depression during pregnancy and after childbirth.”

In February 2007, the “Postpartum Mood Disorders Prevention Act,” was introduced in Illinois. The orchestrated attempts to pass this bill included planting reports in the media with claims that pregnant women are at risk for a whole list of mental disorders. For instance, on March 1, 2007 an article in the Naperville Sun stated:

“New moms face increased risks for not only postpartum depression, but also bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and other disorders, according to one of the largest studies of psychiatric illness after childbirth.”

The websites set up by the industry-backed front groups supporting the Mother’s Act have links to programs that claim new mothers need to be screened for “postpartum” depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.

When extending the drug-net to all pregnant women, the groups omit the term “postpartum” and claim women need to be screened for “perinatal” (which means both before and following birth) disorders. In December 2007, Illinois enacted “The Perinatal Mental Health Disorders Prevention and Treatment Act,” with the stated purpose “to increase awareness and to promote early detection and treatment of perinatal depression.”

But here again, the mention of “depression” only is deceiving because the websites of hospitals in Illinois show they are screening for the entire gamut of disorders mentioned above. Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove offers “Perinatal Depression Support Services.”

“Any woman who is thinking about becoming pregnant, is pregnant, or had a baby within the past year can be affected by depression or other mood disorders,” their website says.

“Mental health screening under the guise of identifying individuals who are impaired from some supposed mental disturbance is typically simply another front for pharmaceutical marketing,” according to Dr Bose Revenel, co-author with psychologist John Rosemond of the new book, “The Diseasing of America’s Children.”

“Most are funded or the initiative is provided via pharmaceutical companies and medications are typically promoted as a supposed ‘solution,’” he says.

“The problem here is that, among other things, the drugs promoted have been shown to have potentially serious side effects and their effectiveness compared to placebo only trivial,” Dr Revenel reports.

“Furthermore,” he says, “the campaign ignores safe and potentially effective interventions such as dietary and nutritional changes and supplements as well as cognitive therapy – all of which are completely free of potential adverse effects, with effectiveness that rivals or exceeds that of the drugs.”

“If the screening only picked up women likely to benefit from treatment, then maybe it would be justified,” says Dr David Healy, a leading expert on psychiatric drugs from the UK and author of “The Creation of Psychopharmacology.”

“But screening will pick up a quarter or a third or more of all pregnant women and will lead to many of these being treated who do not need treatment,” he warns. “Over 25% of women might be diagnosed where very few of those are likely to need treatment.”

Although no psychotropic drug has FDA approval for use during pregnancy, the recommended treatment for all these so-called “disorders” consists of the newest most expensive antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants. The common practice is to prescribe three or four different drugs at a time for years on end.

The antipsychotics that will benefit as a result of the Mother’s Act include Seroquel by AstraZeneca, Risperdal marketed by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, Geodon by Pfizer, Abilify from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis’ Clozaril, and Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa.

Lilly also sells two antidepressants, Prozac and Cymbalta, and Symbyax, a combination of Zyprexa and Prozac. The other SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants include GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil and Wellbutrin, Pfizer’s Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro from Forest Labs, Luvox by Solvay, and Wyeth’s Effexor.

Pregnancy as a cottage industry

New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez is the lead sponsor of the Mother’s Act in the Senate. New Jersey is home to a long list of drug companies. The bill was first introduced in May 2007, but was stuck in committee until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced an $11 billion omnibus package called “Advancing America’s Priorities Act.” Senator Reid tried to get the Act passed on July 22, 2008 by slipping it in the omnibus, but failed.

The Act is supported by a drug-funded coalition bent on turning pregnancy into a cottage industry. On September 25, 2008, Susan Dowd Stone, a member of “Postpartum Support International (PSI),” self-described as the “bill’s lead organizational sponsor,” issued a Legislation Update, obviously to pump out propaganda through the internet.

“Hundreds of thousands of women across the country suffer at the hands of postpartum depression every year, and they deserve better than the ideological games being played with legislation intended to bring them relief,” Senator Menendez declares in the Update.

“This is a cause I am committed to seeing through, and I will continue to stand up on behalf of mothers suffering from this condition until the blockade is cleared,” he vows.

“We will again await its inevitable passage at the next Congressional session when reason may more strongly prevail,” Ms Stone writes in the Update.

A gal named Katherine Stone runs the “Postpartum Progress” blog, described as the “most widely-read blog in the United States on these illnesses.” She serves on PSI’s board of directors as the public relations outreach chairwoman.

Her blog provides links to the “Top Women’s PPMD Treatment Programs & Specialists.” Dr Shari Lusskin is listed as a “top” specialist. She is an advisory council member for PSI. On her website under “Pregnancy-related Mood Disorders,” the standard talking point about “pregnancy related mood disorders” being prevalent is restated as follows:

“Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Eating Disorders may also develop or worsen during pregnancy and postpartum. Women with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, or Schizoaffective Disorder are particularly vulnerable during pregnancy and postpartum.”

A May 28, 2005 presentation brochure shows Dr Lusskin is a paid speaker for Glaxo, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Wyeth.

The postpartum blogs are also used to sell books written by the “experts” and promote drug company funded conferences. For instance, on May 13, 2008, Postpartum Progress put out an ad for a June 25, 2008 conference at the University of Minnesota, titled, “Motherhood, Mood Disorders & Anxiety: Before & After Pregnancy.” The listed sponsors included AstraZeneca and the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), the most notorious industry backed front group on the planet.

Eli Lilly is logically the top giver to NAMI and many other front groups because it has the most drugs to peddle. Several class action lawsuits currently filed against Lilly specifically allege that Lilly funneled money to NAMI to aid in the off-label marketing of Zyprexa.

Between 2003 and 2005, Lilly donated $3 million to NAMI, according to the May 28, 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer. Lilly’s disclosure records show NAMI groups received more than $700,000 from the company in the first quarter of 2008. NAMI’s 2007 Annual Report lists Abbott Labs, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers, Eli Lilly, Forest Labs, Glaxo, Janssen, Pfizer, Wyeth and Solvay as “Corporate Partners.”

The NAMI website reports that the “National Depression Screening Day” and the “Stop a Suicide Today” campaign are endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association and are conducted in partnership with the American Association of Suicidology, Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Mental Health America.

In 2006, the pharmaceutical industry accounted for about 30% of the American Psychiatric Association’s $62.5 million in financing, according to the July 12, 2008 New York Times. Lilly’s first quarter grant report for 2007 shows Lilly provided the APA with two grants worth over $412,000. The Suicide Prevention Action Network received $10,000 from Lilly in the first quarter of 2007.

Mental Health America’s annual report shows the group received over $1 million from Bristol-Myers, Lilly and Wyeth in 2006. Janssen and Pfizer gave between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and AstraZeneca and Forest Labs donated between $100,000 and $499,000. Glaxo gave the group between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2006.

Other funding sources listed on the MHA website include three treatment centers for eating disorders with links to their websites. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates that the average cost of private inpatient treatment is $30,000 or more a month, according to an April 27, 2006 report by Women’s enews.

On May 21, 2008, the president of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (“DBSA”), Sue Bergeson, posted a message on Bipolarconnect.com, saying Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s office had called to say they were having “a hard time making headway” with the Mother’s Act. She informed readers that “more than 800,000 women will develop a diagnosable postpartum mood disorder this year! And this number doesn’t include the 7.5% of women who will develop major depression during pregnancy.”

At the end of the article, Ms Bergeson provided a link and urged people to take “30 seconds” to send a letter to their Senators.

The 2006 Annual Report of DBSA shows AstraZeneca gave the group more than $500,000 in 2006. Companies that donated between $150,000 and $499,000 include Abbott, Bristol-Myers and Wyeth. Forest Labs, Glaxo, Janssen, Pfizer, and Shire Pharmaceuticals each gave between $10,000 and $149,000. Lilly is listed in the section titled, “Matching Gift Companies,” in the report.

Battle lines drawn

A number of influential advocacy groups have come out against the Act including the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology; Alliance for Human Research Protection; International Coalition For Drug Awareness; Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Mindfreedom International, AbleChild, and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy.

The website, UniteForLife.org is run by Amy Philo, the Texas mother at the forefront of the “Unite for Life” campaign against the Act. Amy’s story provides a poster perfect example of what will happen to hundreds of thousands of women all over the county if the bill is passed.

Amy was labeled mentally ill and told she needed to be on drugs by a nurse making a home visit simply because she got very upset after watching her first-born infant almost choke to death a few days after he was born.

When she followed the nurse’s advice and went to the doctor, the Ob-Gyn would not even take two minutes to listen to Amy talk about what had happened or allow her to explain why she was experiencing such over-whelming fear and anxiety.

Instead of viewing this young mother’s reaction to the near-death of her infant as a normal response, the doctor told her she had a panic attack and sent her home with samples packets of the antidepressant, Zoloft, to prevent postpartum depression, apparently expecting her to get over her traumatic experience by taking a pill.

There were no warning labels on the samples and the doctor did not alert Amy to any of the potential side effects. “He told me Zoloft was perfectly safe for me and the baby and it would make my baby happy too,” she recalls.

Within three days, the Zoloft pushed Amy into a state where she started having thoughts of first killing her baby and later of killing her husband, her mother, herself and even her pets. When Amy confessed to having these thoughts, instead of recognizing the side effects of Zoloft and stopping the drug, the medical professionals upped the dose, locked her up in a mental ward away from her baby, and tried to add Zyprexa, to the mix.

They never told Amy why they wanted her to take Zyprexa, but the sheet they gave her said it was for schizophrenia, she recalls. Amy refused to take it because she wanted to nurse and was afraid the drug would harm the baby.

She finally lied her way out of the hospital by claiming she no longer had the bizarre thoughts because she wanted to be with her baby and family. But in reality, Amy battled the obsession with suicide and homicide for months waiting for Zoloft to work.

“The constant ideas of homicide were followed by thoughts of suicide to protect my son from me,” she says. “I never had thoughts like this in my life before I took Zoloft.”

They also tried to get Amy to take the sleeping pill, Ambien, the anti-anxiety drug, Klonopin, and Celexa, another antidepressant, even though she was nursing. “I always just said no to those,” Amy says.

The Ob-Gyn told Amy that she might have to remain on Zoloft for life and without the drug she was not in control enough to have more children. The pediatrician told her, “what’s really scary is that PPD seems to get worse each time and you have a 90% chance of getting it after your next baby,” she recalls.

She finally quit taking the Zoloft against medical advice and the obsessive thoughts of homicide and suicide stopped and never returned. Amy and her husband have since had a second child with no problem whatsoever without the Zoloft.

She recently obtained copies of her medical records, which show she was labeled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression. Those stigmatizing labels will remain in her records forever with no acknowledgment that Zoloft caused the ordeal.

“Antidepressant-induced mania commonly results in a false diagnosis of a new disorder leading to stigmatization and a possible lifetime of unnecessary, harmful treatment with drugs,” says Dr Peter Breggin, author of the new book, “Medication Madness,” and the man often referred to as the “conscience of psychiatry.”

Drug companies have a big financial incentive to promote these drugs. According to DrugStore.com, a 30-day supply of 20 mg Zyprexa costs $725.93. A 30-day supply of 100 mg Zoloft is $104.84. Klonopin costs $65.93 for 30-days of 2 mg tablets. The price of a 30-day supply of 10 mg Ambien is $145.99, and 20 mg Celexa costs $96.99 for 30-days. Amy’s two-day stay in the mental ward cost her family’s insurance company about $8,000 and an $800 co-payment for Amy and her husband.

The assertion that all these sick women are going without treatment is absurd. More prescriptions are written for psychiatric drugs every year in this country than for antibiotics or diabetes medications. On June 30, 2008, CNN Money reported that, for the “sixth year in a row,” antidepressants were the number one class of drugs prescribed in the US in 2007. CNN cited a report by the pharmacy benefit manager, Medco Health Solutions, that said 16% of women ages 20-44 take antidepressants.

In 2007, the branded atypical antipsychotics generated $15.9 billion in manufacturer sales in the seven major global markets, with $12.3 billion of those sales in the US, according to an April 2008 report by Sandra Chow on the Decision Resources website.

Thousands of infants harmed

In a September 18, 2008 letter to members of Congress urging them to vote against the Mother’s Act, Unite For Life reported that the estimated number of antidepressant-caused infant deaths and injuries over the past four years, based on data from the FDA’s MedWatch, were: 4,360 babies born with serious or life-threatening birth defects; 4,160 babies born with potentially fatal heart defects or heart disease; 2,900 spontaneous abortions; and 3,000 premature births.

The so-called experts supporting the Mother’s Act constantly minimize the risks. However, a study titled, “Acute Neonatal Effects of Cocaine Exposure During Pregnancy,” in the September 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine describes adverse effects for cocaine exposed babies eerily similar to those in babies born to mothers taking antidepressants:

“Several central and autonomic nervous system findings, which included hypertonia, jitteriness or tremors, high-pitched cry, difficulty arousing, irritability, excessive suck, and hyperalertness, were noted more frequently on the initial physical examination in the cocaine-exposed cohort. During the hospitalization, the diagnoses of seizures and autonomic instability were more frequently noted in cocaine-exposed infants.”

The warnings and precautions section on current labeling for SSRIs and SNRIs contains the following statement:

Neonates exposed “late in the third trimester have developed complications requiring prolonged hospitalization, respiratory support, and tube feeding. … Reported clinical findings have included respiratory distress, cyanosis, apnea, seizures, temperature instability, feeding difficulty, vomiting, hypoglycemia, hypotonia, hypertonia, hyperreflexia, tremor, jitteriness, irritability, and constant crying. These features are consistent with either a direct toxic effect of SSRIs and SNRIs or, possibly, a drug discontinuation syndrome.”

Besides the agony endured by these infants and their families, the additional medical costs are enormous. In 2005, commercial insurers paid an average of $4,247 per day for babies in neonatal intensive care, according to Thomson Healthcare. Direct health care costs for a premature baby average $41,610 or 15 times higher than the $2,830 for a healthy, full-term delivery, a March of Dimes May 2007 report on Preterm Birth estimates.

Advocates of the Mother’s Act claim mental illness poses a greater risk to the mother than drug use to fetus. “The problem with this claim is that there is no consideration for the immense stress a mother has to endure when her baby is sick due to this drug use,” says Kate Gillespie, an attorney who handles birth defect litigation at the Los Angeles based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman law firm.

“Not to mention the far greater stress that is created by having to constantly deal with life and death health issues, like severe heart defects and respiratory problems, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, caused by SSRI medication,” she notes.

Baum Hedlund is currently representing over 200 families whose babies were born with birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to PPHN after the mothers used SSRIs.

(Written as part of the SSRI Litigation Round-Up, Sponsored by Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman’s Pharmaceutical Litigation Department http://www.baumhedlundlaw.com)

Filed under: 'ADHD', 2005, AFSP, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, Baum, Birth Defects, DBSA, MHA, mothers act, NAMI, PPD, pregnant, prices, SSRIs

Mothers Act Fuels Multibillion Dollar Industry

Evelyn Pringle April 7, 2009

Motherhood has fallen prey to the psycho-pharmaceutical complex. If new legislation known as the Mother’s Act becomes law, the drugging of infants through pregnant and nursing mothers will no doubt increase.

Congress has rightfully refused to pass this bill for eight years. The official title is currently the “Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act of 2009.”

The legislation was introduced in the House during the 110th Congress on January 4, 2007, by Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush and later reintroduced into both bodies of the new Congress in January 2009, after the bill died in the Senate last year.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey, home to a large number of drug companies, and Richard Durbin (D-IL) are the main sponsors of the bill in the Senate.

In a March 30, 2009 speech on the House floor, Congressman Rush identified the target of this piece of legislation when he claimed that, “60 to 80 percent of new mothers experience symptoms of postpartum depression while the more serious condition, postpartum psychosis, affects up to 20 percent of women who have recently given birth.”

After the House voted to pass the legislation on that day, the Congressman stated: “H. R. 20 will finally put significant money and attention into research, screening, treatment and education for mothers suffering from this disease.”

However, he only mentions screening and treatment for postpartum depression. The true goal of the promoters of this Act is to transform women of child bearing age into life-long consumers of psychiatric treatment by screening women for a whole list of “mood” and “anxiety” disorders and not simply postpartum depression.

Enough cannot be said about the ability of anyone with a white coat and a medical title to convince vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers that the thoughts and feelings they experience on any given day might be abnormal.

The constant watching and barrage of questions such as are you depressed, are you anxious, are you moody, are you fearful of motherhood, are you sleeping well, are there changes in your eating habits, will predictably have the net effect of convincing many women that normal thoughts and emotions are a sign of mental disorders.

In the March 13, 2008 NewsWithViews article, “Branding Pregnancy as a Mental Illness,” Byron Richards writes:

“The Mothers Act has the net affect of reclassifying the natural process of pregnancy and birth as a mental disorder that requires the use of unproven and extremely dangerous psychotropic medications (which can also easily harm the child). The bill was obviously written by the Big Pharma lobby and its passage into law would be considered laughable except that it is actually happening.”

While mania, psychosis, agitation, hostility, anxiety, confusion, depression and suicidality are often cited as “symptoms” of mental illness, many of the same exact “symptoms” are listed as side effects on the warning labels for antidepressants, antipsychotics and anticonvulsants.

All of these drugs are now being prescribed to treat the “mood” and “anxiety” disorders that women will be screened for if the Act becomes law. In the case of pregnant women, no psychiatric drug has been FDA approved as safe for use.

The newly recruited customers will be stigmatized for life with labels of the most serious forms of mental illness simply because they are unlucky enough to become pregnant in the United States, where serious disorders lead to major profits from the prescribing of multiple classes of psychotropic drugs.

On September 1, 2008, Medical News Today ran a headline for a study that stated: “Americans Show Little Tolerance For Mental Illness Despite Growing Belief In Genetic Cause.” The study by University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Jason Schnittker showed that while more Americans believe that mental illness has genetic causes, the country is no more tolerant of the mentally ill than it was 10 years ago.

The study explored tolerance in terms of: unwillingness to live next door to a mentally ill person, having a group home for the mentally ill in the neighborhood, spending an evening socializing with a mentally ill person, working closely with such a person on the job, making friends with someone with a mental illness or having a mentally ill person marry into the family.

Multi-billion dollar industry

In an article for AlterNet on June 18, 2008, Dr Bruce Levine, author of the book, “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic,” explains how the psycho-pharmaceutical cartel works. “Mental health treatment in the United States is now a multibillion-dollar industry,” he reports, “and all the rules of industrial complexes apply.”

“Not only does Big Pharma have influential psychiatrists… in their pocket, virtually every mental health institution from which doctors, the press, and the general public receive their mental health information is financially interconnected with Big Pharma.”

“The American Psychiatric Association, psychiatry’s professional organization, is hugely dependent on drug company grants, and this is also true for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and other so-called consumer organizations.”

“Harvard and other prestigious university psychiatry departments take millions of dollars from drug companies, and the National Institute of Mental Health funds researchers who are financially connected with drug companies.”

More Democrats than Republicans are supporting the Mother’s Act. The increased campaign funding to Democrats may well explain this turn of events. For the last eight election cycles the pharmaceutical industry has contributed far more to Republicans than Democrats. In the 2006 cycle the percentage was 28% to Democrats and 70% to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks political funding.

But the Democrats were close to matching the Republicans for the 2008 cycle with $5,099,942 to Democrats compared to $5,680,871 to Republicans, which is probably why the Democrats would allow such an obvious drug marketing scheme to be implemented.

“The Mothers Act, while appearing like an Act of benevolence, is a dangerous and unnecessary measure that will result in the further over-prescription of drugs that are already grotesquely over-prescribed,” says Kate Gillespie, one of the lead attorneys handling SSRI birth defect lawsuits and Paxil suicide cases at the Los Angeles based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman law firm.

“The Act is a slippery slope,” she warns, “toward the forced drugging of women of childbearing years with drugs of questionable efficacy and serious safety issues effecting mothers and their innocent children – drugs that can cause horrific side effects, including, suicidal behavior, violence and devastating birth defects.”

“Of course, mothers who truly cannot cope should be helped,” Ms Gillespie says, “but do we really need legislation requiring mothers to be screened and drugged?”

“Take out politics and Big Pharma and the push for this legislation just doesn’t make sense,” she states.

“For politicians, a much safer issue than pushing drugs for pregnant mothers is promoting the expansion of medical treatment for postpartum depression,” according to Dr Levine.

He says the Mother’s Act “omits relevant truths” about Melanie Blocker-Stokes, the woman the bill is named after, and the following information about her suicide should be made known:

“Blocker-Stokes… did in fact receive extensive psychiatric treatment. She was hospitalized three times in seven weeks, given four combinations of anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant medications, and underwent electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock). But despite her psychiatric treatment — or because of it — Melanie Blocker-Stokes jumped to her death from the twelfth floor of a Chicago hotel.”

“There is no evidence that antidepressant use by depressed mothers lowers their likelihood of suicide,” Dr Levine says, “and there is a great deal of evidence that antidepressant use can make some people manic, agitated, and violent.”

Money-making promoters behind the Act

Katherine Stone runs an internet website called “Postpartum Progress” and posts a daily blog. She also serves on the board of Postpartum Support International as the public relations outreach chairwoman. Her Bio says she “is a nationally-recognized, award-winning advocate for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.”

“In 2001,” Katherine reports on her website, that “she suffered postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder after the birth of her first child. The feeling of isolation and shame she suffered inspired her to create Postpartum Progress, which has become the most widely-read blog in the United States on postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, antepartum depression, postpartum PTSD and postpartum psychosis.”

On another page titled, “The Art of Psychiatric Medication,” Katherine tells women to hang in there if a medication does not work because for her diagnosis of OCD, she states:

“I’ve taken many medications, including Effexor, Celexa, Seroquel, Risperdal, Wellbutrin, Luvox, Cymbalta, etc. Throughout all of them, I was on the road to recovery. Some just worked better than others at treating my symptoms.”

She ends the commentary by telling women: “You will find the right medication for you, and you will get better.”

The prescribing of seven drugs, including two antipsychotics and five antidepressants, to treat OCD is a typical example of the profit-driven drugging that women snagged by the Mother’s Act will face, but it’s a far cry from the description Katherine wrote about regarding the comparatively minor treatment she received, when she stated in the June 7, 2004 issue of Newsweek, “in my case, that meant taking an antidepressant and going for weekly therapy sessions.”

Aside from all the serious health risks now known to be associated with these drugs, most women could not afford the 7-drug “cure” that Katherine ingested. According to DrugStore.com in December 2008, from first to last, at a middle dose for a 30-day supply, the drugs would cost: Effexor $197.86, Celexa $279.92, Seroquel $388.38, Risperdal $652.07, Wellbutrin XI $202.08, Luvox CR $135.99, and Cymbalta $366.62. The cost of “etc” is impossible to calculate without knowing how many more drugs she took.

In a March 11, 2009 Postpartum Progress blog, Katherine plugs herself for speaking jobs, along with a study that concluded “the Internet is a viable and feasible tool to screen for PPD.”

“I’ll be adding this study to the speech I give on how women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders use the Internet,” she reports, and then adds:

“If you’re interested in having me speak at your event, let me know!”

On March 10, 2009, Katherine’s headline read: “It’s Petition Signing Time! Get Out Your Virtual Pen & Support Women with PPD”, and reported “that Susan Stone over at Perinatal Pro is alerting everyone to the new petition created by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to support the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act. She states that last year’s petition generated more than 24,000 signatures. The petition has been reintroduced this year to try and get this legislation passed once again.”

The blog carried a live link to a page where “you can scroll down, enter your zip code and generate letters of support in a matter of seconds for the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act that will be sent to your local Congresspeople and Senators.”

Katherine further told readers: “I know you’re thinking ‘but I already did that last year.’ Well that was then and this is now. Do it again.”

The 2007 Annual Report for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance shows this Big Pharma front group received between $150,000 and $499,000 from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Wyeth. Abbott Labs, Cyberonics, Eli Lilly, Forest Labs, GlaxoSmithKline, Organon, and Otsuka American Pharmaceuticals each gave between $10,000 and $149,999.

The 2006 Annual Report shows that AstraZeneca gave the group more than $500,000. Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Wyeth gave between $150,000 and $499,000, and Forest Labs, Glaxo, Janssen, Pfizer, and Shire Pharmaceuticals each gave between $10,000 and $149,000. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Baltimore also received $5,000 from Eli Lilly in the first quarter of 2008, according to Lilly’s grant report.

In the section of the 2007 Annual report “at a Glance: How We Met Our Mission,” among the things accomplished by the group, it states:

“Promoted Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research & Care Act at invitation of Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)

“Promoted MOTHER’s Act at invitation of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)”

After writing letters to Congress through the link established by the industry funded Alliance, those visiting Postpartum Progress will hopefully click on the link to Amazon and buy the book “Perinatal and Postpartum Mood Disorders: Perspectives and Treatment Guide for the Health Care Practitioner” by none other than the Perinatal Pro “expert,” Susan (Dowd) Stone, and Alexis Menkin, at a special price of $43.20, for a savings of $10.80.

Katherine also provides a link to the PerinatalPro website, where women can find treatment for all the “mood” and “anxiety” disorders diagnosed with internet screenings at “Blue Skye Consulting,” where Susan is listed as the Managing Director and Owner.

She also served as president of Postpartum Support International from 2006 – 2008, as vice-president and Conference Chair in 2005 – 2006, and will chair the group’s President’s Advisory Council through 2010. This group brags of being the leading proponent of the Mother’s Act. On March 2, 2009, Susan’s PerinatalPro Blog announced: “The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act moves forward!” and stated:

“Thank you to Congressman Bobby L. Rush, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and Senator Richard Durbin for your unceasing efforts on behalf of America’s mothers!”

She should have thanked these members of Congress for boosting her career status and yearly income from her treatment center, speaking fees and book sales.

On PerinatalPro, Susan posts a running list of supporters for the Mother’s Act. On March 27, 2009, the list included many drug company funded groups. For instance, the American Psychiatric Association is listed as a supporter. In 2006, the pharmaceutical industry provided close to 30% of the Association’s $62.5 million in financing, according to the July 12, 2008 New York Times.

In the first quarter of 2007, Eli Lilly gave the Association grants worth more than $412,000, according to Lilly’s grant report. The group also received $623,190 from Lilly in the first quarter of 2008.

In her PerinatalPro blogs, Susan has nothing but praise for Katherine’s website and directs visitors back to Postpartum Progress with a live link. On March 16, 2009, Katherine posted a “Quick Survey on Postpartum Anxiety,” and wrote:

“The fabulous Karen Kleiman has asked me to ask you to participate in a short, five-question online survey on anxiety. She says ANYONE can answer it, regardless of the age of their baby(s) and regardless of diagnosis or lack thereof. ANY mother should answer the questions. It’s super quick — I know because I took it myself.”

Kleiman must be fabulous because she has three books for sale on Postpartum Progress with links to purchase them on Amazon. In fact, there are a total of fourteen books for sale on Katherine’s site from which she most likely gets a kick-back with every sale.

Kleiman’s survey is an excellent example of the methods used to con women into suspecting they are mentally ill via the “expert” blogs. The preface states: “The questions on this survey can be answered by a new mother of an infant or an empty-nester with good recall of the early days with her baby. Please answer as honestly as you can.”

The question, capital letters and all, reads: “When you were carrying your baby down a flight of stairs, did you EVER, at ANY time, have ANY thought, image or concern that you could accidentally drop your baby?” The survey further tells women:

If you answered YES to the first question, please describe the type of worry you had: Scary thoughts about dropping the baby, Scary images about dropping the baby, Both thoughts and images, Other.

How much distress did this cause you? A Great deal of distress, Some distress but I quickly got over it, Some distress that seemed to linger, Not much stress

Did this thought or image occur once or did it recur? Only once, It recurred frequently, It recurred persistently, It occurred off and on, Did you ever tell anyone about the fear of dropping the baby? (Please describe why you chose to tell someone or why you chose not to)

As a mother with good recall, the “honest” answer is yes, with two babies born 4 years apart, every single night as I stumbled out of bed half asleep for a nightly feeding, my normal fear instinct kicked in and warned me to be careful not to trip and fall down the stairs or drop the baby.

Women who take the survey are told nothing about what the results mean; but clearly the seed is planted that something is wrong if you “EVER, at ANY time, have ANY thought, image or concern that you could accidentally drop your baby”.

Katherine’s website also provides links to the “Top Women’s PPMD Treatment Programs & Specialists.” The first link on the list takes women to the “Emory Women’s Mental Health Program” that primarily focuses on “the evaluation and treatment of emotional disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period,” according to Emory University’s website. Lilly’s 2008 first quarter grant report shows Emory’s Department of Psychiatry received $25,000.

The “experts” at Emory include some top pharmaceutical industry shills. For example, a link to “Articles” brings up roughly 90 studies and papers that include the co-author Dr Charles Nemeroff. Nemeroff is on an ever-growing list of academic researchers in the field of psychiatry under investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee for not disclosing millions of dollars of income from the makers of psychotropic drugs.

Emory’s investigation found he was paid more than $960,000 by Paxil maker, GlaxoSmithKline, from 2000 through 2006, but listed less than $35,000 on his Emory disclosure forms. All totaled, Nemeroff had earnings of $2.8 million from speaking and consulting arrangements with drug companies between 2000 and 2007, but only disclosed a fraction of that amount, according to the Senate Finance Committee reports.

On July 23, 2008, Medscape Psychiatry & Mental Health posted an article by Nemeroff titled: “Weighing Risk and Benefit for Treatment of Depression in Pregnancy and Post Partum”. On March 17, 2009, the Medscape website stated: “This article is temporarily unavailable.”

Maybe that’s because the “top expert,” Dr Nemeroff, recently stepped down as chairman of Emory’s psychiatry department.

(Article sponsored by the Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman law firm http://www.baumhedlundlaw.com)

Filed under: 2009, antipsychotics, APA, Baum, DBSA, front groups, MHA, mothers act, NAMI, PPD, pregnant, SSRIs

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