Pharma Pill Pushers Use Suicide Ruse – Again

Evelyn Pringle June 4, 2009

Nearly every year, researchers on drug company payrolls publish some ridiculous study with claims that more people may be dying from suicide due to a black box warning about an increased risk of suicide in young people on the labels of SSRI and SNRI antidepressants as a ruse to increase sales of drugs.

Judging from a new study out this month, with a June 2, 2009 headline on WebMD stating: “Are Antidepressant Warnings Causing Harm?”, apparently this year is no exception even though in the US there were 164.2 million prescriptions dispensed for antidepressants in 2008, compared to 143 million in 2004, according to IMS Health, a healthcare information company.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, claims there has been a drastic drop in the diagnosis of depression in adults and kids.

What’s more, prescriptions written for antidepressants also have dropped significantly, and these “unintended” consequences of the FDA’s warnings are continuing, study researcher Robert Valuck, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Medicine, told WebMD.

The Associated Press article stated: “The new research can’t explain why diagnosis rates have declined, said lead author Anne Libby of the University of Colorado Denver. Diagnosis rates for anxiety and bipolar disorder, also sometimes treated with antidepressants, also fell.”

The truth is, antidepressant prescriptions dispensed have risen every year since 2004, with 143.9 million in 2005, 153.5 million dispensed in 2006, and 160.2 million in 2007.

On June 20, 2008, CNN Money reported on “Pharma’s “happy” healthy market,” and wrote: “Last year, for the sixth year in a row, anti-depressants ranked as the No. 1 class of dispensed prescriptions in the United States.”

IMS numbers do show that the revenues from antidepressants have declined from $11.2 billion in 2004, to $9.6 billion in 2008, but that’s mostly because competing generic versions drove down the prices.

The May/June issue of Health Affair reports that prescriptions for psychiatric drugs increased by 73% among adults and 50% with children from 1996 to 2006. Another study in the same issue, found spending on mental health care grew more than 30% over the same 10-year period, with almost all of the increase due to psychiatric drug costs.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently reported that more money was spent on treating mental disorders in children aged 0 to 17 in the US in 2006, than for any other medical condition, with a total of $8.9 billion.

For these bogus studies, the Big Pharma quacks will always try to move the suicide warning date back to 2004, because the FDA announced that a warning would be added in October 2004. They even try to claim that the mere fact that the FDA began looking into the suicide issue in 2003 caused a drop in prescribing and a jump in the suicide rates.

However, the first warning did not appear on the labels until early 2005, and the FDA’s announcement that the warning would apply to young people up to age 24, did not come until May 2007.

The National Center for Injury and Prevention and Control has a website with the leading causes of death reports. The reports on suicides for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 (the latest year posted), reveal that the suicide rates for kids have declined every year. For instance, in the 1-18 age group, the numbers show suicides as:

2004 1471
2005 1408
2006 1296

In breaking down the different age groups, the numbers show a decline in suicides for all young people. When limiting the children to aged 10-14, the following numbers apply:

2004 283
2005 270
2006 216

When combining teens aged 15 and up with young adults to age 24, the numbers show:

2004 4,316
2005 4,212
2006 4,189

Dr Valuck told WebMD that new suicide data for 2006 will be available soon and will be analyzed for correlations with declines in diagnosis and drug treatment. As noted above, the suicide numbers are out for 2006, and they show a continuing decline for young people, as did the previous two years.

In 2004, there were 186 more suicides in the 1-18 group than in 2003, but again, the first warning of an increased risk of suicide with this age group was not even announced until October 2004.

“Some people make a big deal about a year to year fluctuation in suicides but there are so many other variables besides changes in antidepressant prescriptions that covary with the increase or decrease that it is impossible to tell from these studies what is causal and what is not,” according to Dr David Antonuccio, co-author of the book, “Childhood Mental Health Disorders: Evidence Base and Contextual Factors for Psychosocial, Psychopharmacological, and Combined Interventions,” published by the American Psychological Association in 2007.

“For example, the year that suicides went up a bit, the prescription of antipsychotic medication went up a lot,” he says. “The same people who want to blame a decrease in antidepressant prescriptions for increasing suicides would have to be willing to consider the increase in antipsychotic medication prescriptions as a possible cause.”

“Either conclusion represents faulty statistical reasoning,” Dr Antonuccio notes.

“Correlation does not mean causation,” he says, “if it did, the increasing sale of iphones would get credit or blame for a lot of things.”

Dr Valuck is calling on the FDA to “revist the topic.” But according to investigative journalist, Kelly Patricia O’Meara, author of the book, “Psyched Out,” based on the “evidence that twice as many children in clinical trials showed a greater risk of suicidality taking the antidepressants, combined with the evidence that the antidepressants in the majority of the trials were no more effective than sugar pills, the FDA had little choice but to “request” that the drug companies add the black-box warnings.”

“When the FDA ordered a black box warning for those 18 and under only, it defied common sense that as soon as one turned 19, one was safe,” according to Dr Bruce Levine, author of, “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic.”

“And when the warning was extended to age 24,” he says, “it defied common sense that a person becomes safe on a 25th birthday.”

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