Evelyn Pringle October 25, 2007
On October 12, 2007, experts in the field of psychiatry and child development from all over the world arrived in Washington to attend the annual conference of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. This year’s conference focused on one specific goal – to end the mass-prescribing of psychiatric drugs to children.
In addition to the seminars and presentations by psychiatric experts and academics, other presenters and speakers at the conference varied from patients and leaders of patient advocacy groups to social workers, nurses, educators, authors and lawmakers.
The conference included presentations on the serious health risks associated with the new generation of psychiatric drugs now commonly prescribed to children, including attention deficit medications, antidepressant drugs and atypical antipsychotics.
Much of the outrage expressed by speakers and attendees alike stemmed from the recommendation by the Bush Administration’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to conduct “universal” mental illness screening of all Americans from the age of “0” on up to the oldest living citizen.
The main topics of debate included the recommendations by the NFC to screen public school children in all 50 states with a program called TeenScreen and the implementation in many states of programs modeled after TMAP (Texas Medication Algorithm Project), a treatment plan that mandates the use of the new expensive psychiatric drugs with all patients diagnosed with mental disorders who are covered by public health care programs such as Medicaid.
The new generation of antidepressant drugs include Prozac and Cymbalta by Eli Lilly; Paxil marketed by GlaxoSmithKline; Zoloft by Pfizer; Celexa and Lexapro from Forest Laboratories; Effexor by Wyeth, as well as generic versions sold by Barr Pharmaceuticals, Ranbaxy Labs and Genpharm.
The new generation of atypical antipsychotics include Zyprexa by Eli Lilly; Risperdal marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subdivision of Johnson & Johnson; Abilify by Bristol-Myers Squibb; Clozaril sold by Novartis, and Geodon by Pfizer.
Many of the presentations at the conference focused on the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the invention of both TMAP and TeenScreen and the many financial ties between the drug makers, the Bush administration, a group of psychiatrists, and state policy makers largely credited with the creation and promotion of these two programs.
Minnesota Pediatrician Dr Karen Effrem produced a briefing booklet and CD entitled, “The Dangers of Universal Mental Health Screening,” which is available at the ICSPP web site at http://www.icspp.org/.
During her presentation, Dr Effrem explained the history of TMAP and TeenScreen, a 52-question computerized self-administered questionnaire that takes 10 minutes to complete and was developed by Columbia University Children’s Psychiatric Center.
“The New Freedom Commission, TMAP and TeenScreen,” Dr Effrem notes, “appear to be a blatant political/pharmaceutical company alliances that promote medication, and more precisely, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotics, which are at best of questionable benefit and come with deadly side effects.”
During the portion on TeenSceen, Dr Effrem cited one study which found an 82% false-positive rate in students screened, meaning that if 100 students were tested, 82 were wrongly flagged as having some mental disorder. “TeenScreen’s extremely high false-positive rate makes the test virtually useless as a diagnostic instrument,” she stated.
According to Dr Effrem, it is “difficult, if not impossible” to diagnose young children accurately, due to very rapid developmental changes. “Often, adult signs and symptoms of mental disorders in adults are characteristics of normal development in children and adolescents,” she explains.
Since the arrival of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors antidepressants (SSRI’s) and atypical antipsychotics on the market, countless studies have shown the so-called “wonder drugs” to be ineffective and harmful to children. But for years, drug companies have manipulated data, suppressed negative clinical trials and published only the studies that showed positive results.
The truth is that the mass drugging of the entire population in the US with SSRI’s has accomplished nothing when it comes to reducing suicidality. According to a June 2005 study, primarily funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, although people who were likely to attempt suicide were far more likely to be treated with antidepressants in 2001-2003, the rates for suicide attempts, gestures and ideation remained basically unchanged for over a decade.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers analyzed a survey of close to 10,000 adults and compared it to a similar survey conduced 10 years earlier for the years 1990-1992.
The prescribing rates for psychiatric drugs increased every year during that time period. On January 13, 2005, WebMD reported a government study that reviewed the patterns of treatment from the mid-1990’s to 2001, and found more Americans than ever were being treated for depression, substance abuse and mental disorders but that the treatment was most often limited to drugs alone.
The cost of mental health drugs rose 20% each year, and according to study, about 80% of the increase could be explained by the increased prescribing of antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics.
A “Myth and Fact Sheet” presented at the conference reports that, in 2003, more money was spent on psychiatric drugs for children than on antibiotics and asthma medications.
By tugging at the heartstrings of parents in claiming TeenScreen is a suicide prevention tool, the drug profiteers have managed to set up the bogus screening program in towns and cities all across America, and the promoters never seem to tire of using the line that suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens and adolescents in the US. However, experts explain that the rate of suicide remains high on the list only because persons in this age group seldom die of any causes.
During his presentation at the conference, neurologist Dr Fred Baughman, a recognized authority on psychotropic drugs and author of “The ADHD Fraud,” stated: “Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry married and launched the joint market strategy of calling all emotional and behavioral problems ‘brain diseases’, due to ‘chemical imbalances’, needing ‘chemical balancers’ – pills.”
“Every time parents are lead to believe that their child’s emotional or behavioral problems are a ‘disease’ due to an abnormality in the brain,” Dr Baughman says, “they are lied to.”
He discussed the overdose death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley in December 2006, who was diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder when she was only 2-and-a half-years old. She was kept on a cocktail of 3 psychiatric drugs, none of which were FDA approved alone for a child her age, much less together, until the time of her death.
The title of his presentation was, “Who Killed Rebecca Riley,” and Dr Baughman placed the blame squarely on the gang of industry shills who are largely credited with the invention and promotion of ADHD and Bipolar Disorders in small children, including among others, Dr Joseph Biederman, Dr Steven Hyman, Dr Jerome Groopman and Dr David Shaffer, the brainchild credited with inventing TeenScreen.
The Fact Sheet reports a 2006 review of the FDA’s MedWatch adverse event database, which found 45 deaths in children due to toxicity of antipsychotics.
Dr Baughman calls the use of the “chemical imbalance theory,” the “biggest health care fraud” and “mass character assassination” in human history, and says it must be abolished.
Dr Dominick Riccio, executive director of the ICSPP, also weighed in on the “chemical imbalance” theory and said that child drugging in the US is based on a “hypotheses with no validity,” propagandized by the pharmaceutical industry.
He warned that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to validate the “chemical imbalance” used to justify the drugging of America’s “most precious commodity,” and “if we continue to damage our children, there will be hell to pay down the line.”
Dr Riccio called for “integrity” in the psychiatric profession and told professionals in attendance, “if you do not understand child development, you should not work with children.”
Washington psychiatrist, Dr Joseph Tarantolo, warned that the new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants are not “selective,” “the drugs are cannons,” he said.
He also explained that the “so-called” antipsychotic drugs do not affect psychosis, “they deaden a person’s response to life.”
According to Dr Tarantolo, because the drugging began 10 or 15 years ago, “we are going to have an epidemic of young adults with yet-to-be-determined neurological problems due to the long term use of psychotropic drugs.”
He says an epidemic is defined as 1% of the population and warns that there will be far more than 1% injured by these drugs.
The bribing of prescribing doctors in the field of psychiatry is rampant. A June 26, 2007, report by the Attorney General of Vermont of payments made to doctors by drug companies during the period July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006, shows that, by category, psychiatrists were the largest beneficiaries, and 11 psychiatrists received a combined total of $502,612.02, or more than 22% of the overall total of all payments.
For the past 4 years, psychiatric drug makers have remained high on the list of the top 10 spenders in Vermont, with Paxil maker Glaxo holding the number one position in both 2003 and 2004.
An analysis of Minnesota disclosure records by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, reported by the Pioneer Press, found a similar windfall for shrinks in that state between 2002 and 2006, with psychiatrists receiving combined payments of $7.38 million.
However, the drug maker’s off-label sales of antipsychotics are now under fire due to the greed involved in the billings submitted for Medicaid patients. In September 2007, Arkansas became the latest state to sue the drug makers when it announced the filing of a lawsuit against Lilly, Janssen and AstraZeneca for “improper and unlawful marketing,” of their drugs and concealing the serious health risks associated with their use.
The Medicaid fraud lawsuits seek to recover not only the money paid for the antipsychotics but also the cost of medical care for all the patients who were injured by the drugs known to cause drastic weight gain, abnormal blood sugars and diabetes.
The bribing of shrinks may be coming to an end as well because, in addition to Medicaid fraud lawsuits, states are also going after the prescribers. On August 16, 2006, the Houston Chronicle reported that five doctors in Texas were notified that they needed to return the Medicaid money paid for drugs they prescribed as part of a two-year effort to better regulate how children are prescribed psychiatric drugs in that state.
The Chronicle reported that a review of a two-month period of Medicaid records in 2004 determined that over 63,000 foster children were on stimulants, antipsychotics or antidepressants, with nearly one-third of the kids taking drugs from more than one of the three classes at the same time and that doctors had filed 114,315 claims worth over $17 million.
The experts at the ICSPP conference reported that the over-prescribing of attention deficit drugs is also out of control, even after the new warnings were issued. The ICSPP Fact Sheet notes that the new labeling changes for ADHD medications include: “Sudden death has been reported in association with CNS stimulant treatment at usual doses in children and adolescents with structural cardiac abnormalities or other serious heart problems.”
“Treatment emergent psychotic or manic symptoms, e.g., hallucinations, delusional can be caused by stimulants at usual doses,” the warning also notes.
Psychiatrist Dr Grace Jackson, author of “Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs,” says the fact that cardiovascular risks are associated with ADHD drugs is not news. “As early as 1977,” she says, “research documented the cell changes associated with heart muscle enlargement in a chronic consumer of Ritalin.”
“The connection between stimulants, cardiovascular disability, and death has long been documented in the medical literature,” she states.
However, no slow down in prescribing rates for these drugs is likely. In 2005, according to a December 15, 2006, report by Research and Markets, the value of the ADHD market was $2.6 billion, and it is now the 9th largest segment of the CNS market with growth of 8% year-on-year. Approximately 90% of global sales were derived from the US in 2005, and by 2012, global sales are forecast to reach $4.3 billion.
In February 2007, the FDA finally directed the drug makers to develop Patient Medication Guides to inform patients about the adverse effects of Adderall, Concerta, Daytrana, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Focalin, Metadate CD, Methylin, Ritalin and Strattera.
However, experts say children are being damaged by ADHD drugs in ways that will never show up in a pamphlet. According to child psychiatrist Dr Stefan Kruszewski, “children who are medicated early do not learn to develop coping strategies that work as they move through different developmental stages.”
“We are encouraging a generation of youngsters to grow up relying on psychiatric drugs rather than on themselves and other human resources,” says Dr Peter Breggin, ICSPP founder and author of, “Talking Back to Ritalin.”
“In the long run, we are giving our children a very bad lesson,” he warns, “that drugs are the answer to emotional problems.”
“The problem with the diagnostic assessment of ADHD,” Dr Kruszewski explains, “is that the prescreening statement is so inclusive that virtually every child meets prescreening criteria and therefore every child, under prevailing treatment modalities, becomes eligible for ‘chronic’ medication therapies.”
He also points out that, once children are screened, “they become ‘eligible’ for additional screening for conditions such as social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and too often end up on even more drugs.”
Dr David Stein, author of, “Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco,” also warns that stimulant drugs are “near the top of the heap of potentially addictive drugs.”
He says there is no way of pinpointing which children are at risk of becoming addicted, and “psychiatry has an extremely poor track record for treating addiction problems.”