Sunday, June 11, 2017

How Big Pharma Is Cashing in on Addiction to Alcohol and Illicit Drugs

March 18, 2016

Evelyn Pringle and Martha Rosenberg

Addiction psychiatry, essentially treating drug addicts with other drugs, has become a hugely profitable industry.

Addiction treatment has become big business. If you haven't noticed it yet, investors certainly have. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration projected the market for addiction treatment at about $35 billion for 2014.

Since 2006, private equity firms have invested more than $2.2 billion in substance abuse treatment companies. The private equity firm Bain Capital paid $720 million for CRC Health in 2006 only to turn around and sell it for $1.18 billion to Acadia Healthcare Company Inc. in 2014. Acadia operates 76 facilities with about 5,800 licensed beds in 24 states, Puerto Rico and the U.K.

Why are addiction treatment companies so lucrative, with profit margins of over 20 percent? Largely because of the booming specialty of addiction psychiatry, which has exploded and muscled its way into standard rehabilitation and monetized it.

“The insurance companies told the rehabs they would no longer pay for inpatient rehab for heroin, cocaine or alcohol unless there was also another Axis 1 psychiatric disorder like bipolar disorder or major depression,” explains psychiatrist Phil Sinaikin, author of Psychiatryland. “I was working in a drug treatment facility when the change happened. Since addicts typically complain of anxiety and depression, a completely understandable emotional response to their toxic lifestyles, it was no problem to add a new label and throw a few psychiatric drugs at their now relabeled ‘dual diagnosis.’”

Unlike older treatments for alcoholics and addicts, addiction psychiatry treats substance abusers much like primary care physicians treat physically ill patients—with drugs, even though their problem is drugs. As illogical as it may seem, the practice of harm reduction is addiction psychiatry’s standard operating procedure, substituting one or several drugs for the original substance with the goal of stabilizing the patient, not necessarily recovery. The treatment model essentially tells patients nothing really can be done about their addiction except to provide them more drugs, sometimes for life.

Helping the increase in drug patient pools, in 2013 the American Psychiatric Association loosened the definitions of alcohol use disorders, eliminating “legal problems” but adding “craving.” (The APA’s financial links to Big Pharma have been widely reported.) The problem with the harm reduction/maintenance model is obvious; the substance abuser never recovers, but simply stays hooked on another or multiple drugs, while Big Pharma cashes in.

“This basis for [such harm reduction] treatment has its analogy to other chronic disorders,” psychiatrist Stefan P. Kruszewski at the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, Department of Mental Health, at Bloomberg School of Public Health and John Hopkins University Medical School, told us in an interview. Addiction is thought of “like often-cited diabetes and hypertensive heart disease, with the following logic: chronic conditions need chronic care and we have drugs that can treat those conditions.”

But the parallel doesn’t hold up, Kruszewski says. “We use insulin and antihypertensives to treat those metabolic conditions,” he explains but, "psychiatric co-morbidity stemming from drug and alcohol use may do far better without further psychiatric drugs that often do nothing more than treat symptoms and produce new ones."

“While so many psychiatric drugs have little to offer drug and alcohol abusers, many of them nonetheless cause problems," he explains. "Opioid maintenance drugs cause their own dependence and serious withdrawal states and other drugs used to treat alcoholism may blur the baseline mental status and delay recovery.”

“The best care for an alcoholic is to not drink,” he emphasizes.

Anne M. Fletcher, author of Sober for Good, agrees, noting that pricey residential centers do not necessarily help patients more than no-frills state-run centers. Alcoholics and addicts may not need to go to a rehab center at all, Fletcher told theNew York Times. “The truth is that most people recover 1) completely on their own; 2) by attending self-help groups; and/or 3) by seeing a counselor or therapist individually,” she said.

Substitute Drugs for Addiction Expensive and Can Cause More Abuse

The FDA has approved three drugs for treating alcoholics: naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfram. Disulfram, marketed as Antabuse, produces unpleasant effects such as vomiting, hypotension and facial flushing when a person drinks alcohol while taking the drug. Never a popular drug, it costs as much as $136 at Walgreens and $117 at CVS for a month’s supply, according to

Naltrexone was approved for the “treatment of alcohol dependence" in 1994 and had already been approved for opioid dependence since it blocks the “effects of exogenously administered opioids.” In pill form, naltrexone, marketed as Revia and Depade, costs approximately $137 at Rite-Aid and $124 at Walgreens. Its once-monthly extended-release injectable formulation is marketed under the trade name Vivitrol. According to, an injection of Vivitrol is $1,310 at Walmart and $1,356 at CVS with a $500 off coupon. Without a coupon, its monthly price is as high as $2,430, according to

Finally, acamprosate was approved in 2004 “for the maintenance of abstinence from alcohol in patients with alcohol dependence who are abstinent at treatment initiation.” A month’s supply of acamprosate, sold as Campral, sells for $252 at Walgreens and $245 at Rite-Aid, reports.

For opioid addiction, buprenorpine, marketed as Suboxone, has been a success story for Pharma and Wall Street though not all patients. Intended to replace opioid/heroin addiction, Suboxone is notoriously difficult to quit, some users and drug counselors say.

A former addict who is now an addiction counselor and does not want to reveal her name, says, "pharmaceutical companies are profiting at the expense of human lives and the disease of addiction. The way Suboxone is prescribed, manufacturers have a captive audience,” she explains. “The ridiculous high dose being prescribed and the long-term use makes it almost impossible to get off of.”

“The withdrawal is absolutely brutal and lasts from 30 days to months compared to 7 to 10 days for oxycodone or heroin acute withdrawal,” she says. Most people "go back to buying Suboxone legally or illegally because they cannot stand the cramps, sweats, diarrhea, no sleep, inability to regulate body temperature, depression, lethargy and no affect.”

“The people on it over a month, and at the high dose, get all these symptoms, even with a slow taper-off of the drug,” she notes. “And it lasts weeks to months. If you are not addicted to opiates and you take a Suboxone, it’s very, very strong.”

Another user in a study of Suboxone misuse in Ohio in 2012 by the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, said, “People are being introduced to opioids through Suboxone now because, if they were not Suboxone users, the buprenorphine…the active agent in Suboxone is giving them the opiate effect, and now they’re looking for stronger opioids."

Suboxone sells for $560 at CVS and $553 at Target for a 30-day supply, according to GoodRx.

Abuse of Suboxone has become an epidemic, like abuse of opioids and heroin. 2013 statistics "show sharp increases in buprenorphine seizures by law enforcement, in reports to poison centers, in emergency room visits for the nonmedical use of the drug and in pediatric hospitalizations for accidental ingestions," says the New York Times.

In addition to the legal problems and medical emergencies, "an unmet demand for treatment has created a commercial opportunity for prescribers, attracting some with histories of overprescribing the very pain pills that made their patients into addicts," the Times noted.

Many prescribers have checkered pasts. The Times article reports that in 2013, "Nationally, at least 1,350 of 12,780 buprenorphine doctors have been sanctioned for offenses that include excessive narcotics prescribing, insurance fraud, sexual misconduct and practicing medicine while impaired. Some have been suspended or arrested, leaving patients in the lurch."

Drug Problem? Take a Drug

Clearly, the drugs used to treat addiction have become a big revenue stream for Big Pharma. And not surprisingly, many of the medical groups dedicated to addiction psychiatry have strong Big Pharma links.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has received $47,500 from Pfizer since 2013, according to Pfizer reports. The company that sold Suboxone at the time, Reckitt-Benckiser, paid "at least $100,000 in dues to the American Society of Addiction Medicine," the New York Times reported.

ASAM also published a consensus statement in the December 2011 Journal of Addictive Medicine titled, "Statement of the American Society of Addiction Medicine Consensus Panel on the Use of Buprenorphine in Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Addiction," that was supported "by an unrestricted educational grant to ASAM from Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceutics Inc, manufacturer of Subutex and Suboxone." No conflict of interest there.
At least six board of directors at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) have financial links to Pharma companies including three who actually serve on drug makers’ speaker boards.

These Pharma-funded groups also receive our tax dollars. The program for AAAP’s 25th Annual Meeting thanks the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and National Institute on Drug Abuse, all federal agencies, for their financial support.

There is also a group whose entire purpose is buprenorphine/Suboxone promotion. The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT), which admits it has "received donations from pharmaceutical companies" says its mission is to "Educate the public about the disease of opioid addiction and the buprenorphine treatment option; help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with patients with addiction disorders; and serve as a conduit connecting patients in need of treatment to buprenorphine treatment providers."
NAABT aggressively defends Suboxone sales as science-based and strikes back at news outlets reporting their downsides. "We are allowing the critics and the uninformed to frame the discussion about medication-assisted treatment," and “negative hype about buprenorphine," it says.

Drugs Meant to Help Lead to Costly Lifelong Addiction

To doctors and reporters who remember when the treatment for drug and alcohol addiction was not an expensive substitute drug, the popularity and monetizing of rehab is disturbing. Many addiction patients are young and do not realize that treating addiction as a life-long illness requiring expensive drugs is a relatively new and extremely lucrative contrivance of Big Pharma.

Nor have many tried to quit their substitute drugs yet, as Stacey Pope told us she did after she became addicted to pain medications prescribed during several surgeries and wanted to avoid going through withdrawal by taking Suboxone. In order to get the drug prescribed, she had to pay a doctor an initial charge of $600, and another $100 fee every month to get her prescription refilled. Each prescription was $412 for a month’s supply and the costs were not covered by her insurance. “The terrible thing about Suboxone was that my doctor didn’t have a plan for me to get off it,” Pope said.

Pope remained on Suboxone for seven months and decided to try to go off the drug herself. “After watching a show on heroin, I realized I was no different than they were,” she said. In an attempt to wean herself off Suboxone, she started cutting down the dose and canceled her monthly appointments with the doctor.

“They called to see how I was and when I told them I was great and wouldn't need to come in for a refill for another month, I was told I had to come in monthly to stay in the program,” she said. “I knew they could care less about me. They wanted my $100 but I never went back.”

Sadly, there is more to Pope’s story. "I was under the impression you wouldn't be sick coming off Suboxone," she said. "But my pharmacist said no matter how low my dose, I would go through withdrawal."

 Pope endured the withdrawal side-effects for months, including anxiety, chills, sweats, sleeplessness, body aches, restless legs and depression. She also relapsed on pain medications a few times and had to suffer through withdrawal again from those drugs. Several months after going off Suboxone, Pope “stumbled with alcohol” off and on for some time. Now she says, “I’ve come to realize there’s a reason they say abstain from all drugs."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big Pharma's Newest Money-Making Scheme: Adult ADHD

September 27, 2012


By Evelyn Pringle and Martha Rosenberg

Who belongs to this “untapped” market? Just about anybody.

There is good news and bad news about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- that is, if you’re a drug company. The bad news is the kid market has peaked out with 4.5 million U.S. children now carrying the label. The good news is adult ADHD is an emerging market. In fact, adult ADHD, with symptoms similar to pediatric ADHD such as impulsivity, distractibility and difficulty paying attention, following instructions and meeting deadlines, is the next big thing.

"Immature adult market continues to offer greatest commercial potential," read a 2008 press release to the pharmaceutical industry from the market research agency Datamonitor: "Estimated to be twice the size of the pediatric ADHD population, the highly prevalent, yet largely untapped, adult ADHD population continues to represent an attractive niche to target."
So who might consider themselves part of this “untapped” market?
Like astrology in which anyone relates to Scorpio's horoscope, almost everyone who takes an adult ADHD quiz will discover they are “sick.” To qualify as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder according to the most recent draft of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5, soon to be published, you need to suffer from six or more of the following symptoms for at least six months.
  1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
  2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or reading lengthy writings).
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
  4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked;  fails to finish schoolwork, household chores, or tasks in the workplace).
  5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized, work; poor time management; tends to fail to meet deadlines).
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers).
  7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, or mobile telephones).
  8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
Who doesn't have six of those characterizations? And who doesn't have a neighbor or an in-law who has all of them?
Although some people who are sufferers claim great improvements with ADHD drugs, the broad criteria and aggressive marketing from drug companies leave open the possibility that many more people will become medicated who really don’t need to.
Big Pharma is cashing in no doubt, but at what cost?
Even people who say they or their children are sufferers can't ignore the lucrative ADHD franchise Big Pharma has built off the disease. Examples of prices on ADHD drugs, for 100 pills at a middle dose at in May 2011 were: Adderall $410, Adderall XR $791, Vyvanse $588, Intuniv $579, Ritalin $140, Ritalin SR $286, Ritalin LA $502, Concerta $651, Desoxyn $539, Dexedrine $741, and Strattera $635. The cost of one box of Daytrana 9-hour 20mg patches was $182.
It is no accident so many have drunk the ADHD Kool-Aid (one ADHD drug is actually a grape syrup marketed with the slogan "Give 'em the Grape"). Big Pharma has funded several patient front groups to sell the disease of ADHD without people knowing they are being sold.
One astroturf group known as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) received a total of $1,205,000, from Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil division, Novartis, Shire US and UCB during the 2007/2008 fiscal year--all ADHD drug manufacturers. (Eli Lilly makes Strattera; Johnson & Johnson makes Concerta; Novartis makes Ritalin and Focalin; Shire makes Adderall, Vyvanse, the Daytrana patch and Intuniv; and UCB makes Metadate CD.)
The next year it did almost as well--raking in $1,174,626, from Lilly, J&J's McNeil division, Novartis and Shire according to its filing. There was even a little pork left over! Although the group listed its most significant activity that year as providing "support for individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders," it also spent $330,000 on its annual conference and $114,950 on a 20th anniversary galathat year. Compensation for its then CEO, E Clarke Ross, was $187,747 and the next two highest paid officials earned $130,217 and $121,095.  Nice "non-profit" work if you can get it.
CHADD's communications department produces the bimonthly magazine Attention, which has plenty of advertising space and is disseminated to CHADD members and "over 40,000 doctors' offices." Its list of Officers and Board of Directors for 2009-2010 includes psychiatrist Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, whosecredentials include being "a consultant for psychopharmacology projects at the National Institute of Mental Health," but who is also a past president of themother of all patient front groups, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.. Former CHADD CEO Ross also treads the primrose path between government and industry, working at NAMI and for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
In 2010, CHADD was lobbying for recognition of adult ADHD with the Social Security Administration and "the inclusion of AD/HD and other neurobiological disorders in the definitions/eligibility categories for government benefits programs such as SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, developmental disability, and vocational rehabilitation programs." Hey, someone's got to pay the outrageous $791 Adderall XR bill, why not taxpayers?
Apparently the ADHD adults might need cash payments as well. According to CHADD’s Leadership Blog, the group told a Social Security Administration advisory panel that: "A subset of adults with AD/HD is unable to be gainfully employed because of the chronic, substantial inattention and executive functioning challenges caused by the disorder."
CHADD asked the SSA to recognize adult ADHD as "a disability that can inhibit the ability to work, and to ensure that reasonable job accommodations and supports are available for individuals who cannot engage in substantial and meaningful employment without them."
Another ADHD front group called the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), promotes itself as "the world's leading adult ADHD organization." Its president, Evelyn Polk-Green, says she has ADHD and both her kids have been diagnosed with it. She is also a paid speaker and consultant for J&J subsidiary, McNeil Pediatrics.
In 2009, McNeil sponsored a Facebook page to stimulate sales called "ADHD Allies: A Place for Adults with ADHD," which listed Polk-Green as an Allies "Leader." The Facebook page, which expired in August, mentioned no ADHD drugs but provided a link to an online ADHD self-assessment questionnaire, advising people to, "Take this test and discuss your answers with your healthcare professional."
Madison Avenue Helps Sell ADHD
There is another way to sell the disease of adult ADHD and the costly drugs that treat it -- screening. Just as Big Pharma seeks to screen kids for "mental problems," expectant mothers for "depression" and teens for "bipolar," it now screens for adult ADHD.
In 2009, Shire launched a Nationwide Adult ADHD Mobile Awareness Tour, which included a "mobile screening initiative" called the RoADHD Trip. The caravan, anchored by "the RoADHD Trip Tractor Trailer" which turned into a tented area with eight "self-screening stations," traveled the country, visiting major cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Dallas. In each city, Shire said it was partnering with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, "a leading adult ADHD patient advocacy organization, in an effort to assist up to 20,000 adults to self-screen for this disorder."
And there was a doctor component, too. A "field-based team of experienced psychiatric nurses" would "provide in-office education to physicians and their staff on ADHD in adults," promised Shire.
If you weren't in one of the cities on the RoADHD trip, you did not have to miss out. J&J’s McNeil came up with a similarly edgy mass marketing scheme for Concerta the same year in New York City. "Pedestrians mulling around Times Square in New York City can learn more about ADHD by responding to an advertisement on the CBS jumbotron, via text message," reported an article inMedical Marketing & Media.
The 15-second ad (no attention problems there) read "Can't focus? Can't sit still? Could you or your child have ADHD?" and ran on a 26x20-foot screen four times an hour. When pedestrians texted "ADHD" to a certain number, they "received a near-instantaneous text message in return containing a link to the 'Concerta Mobile Web Experience,' a branded mobile-optimized platform for McNeil's ADHD drug,'" reported the article.
And wait, there was more. Visitors to the McNeil Web site got a coupon for a 30-day free trial of Concerta.
What is the harm in advertising the "disease" of adult ADHD? Since there is no blood or other diagnostic test to confirm it and quizzes are just guesswork, the category easily grows with advertising, a phenomenon called disease-mongering. You have it when a clinician says you have it--which is just fine with Big Pharma.
Nor will you will ever know if you have adult ADHD (assuming it exists) because the ADHD drugs--Adderall, Vyvanse, Intuniv, Ritalin, Concerta, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Strattera, Provigil, Nuvigil and the Daytrana patch--"work" the same on everyone.
Are you "treating your ADHD" or just doing what truck drivers, factory workers, athletes, students, people working two jobs, anyone not getting enough sleep and party animals have done for over 50 years? Using speed--a drug so pleasurable, meth dealers often say, "first taste free." You'll never know, but now that the pusher is Big Pharma, you are a patient, not a recreational drug user or worse.
An April 26, 2010 segment of “60 Minutes” reported on a survey of nearly 2,000 students at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, that found 34 percent of undergraduates had taken ADHD drugs without a prescription, with the number climbing the longer students were in school. Fifty to 60 percent of juniors and seniors were taking them, Alan DeSantis, a communications professor at the University of Kentucky who was shocked at the drugs' popularity on campus, told Katie Couric.
Nor are students the only eager users. “60 Minutes” reported that in 2009 there were more than two million prescriptions written for Provigil, a stimulant first developed to treat the symptoms of the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy but now used by truck drivers on long hauls, doctors working around the clock and even fighter pilots on extended combat missions, approved by the Air Force.
This is not the first time the U.S. has threatened to become a nation of "legal speed freaks" noted pediatrician, Lawrence Diller, author of Running on Ritalin: Should I Medicate My Child? in a San Francisco Chronicle oped.
"There have been three previous waves of doctor-prescribed stimulant abuse since World War II, the last being Dexedrine for weight reduction in the 1970s," Diller wrote. "In every previous case, American society, through Congressional hearings and state laws, decided that the overall harm of prescription stimulants to the society was greater than the good they provided."
But it is the first time stimulants were sold on billboards in Times Square for an adult ADHD "market" of an estimated nine million people.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ablechild - Unsung Hero in Battle Against Psychopharmaceutical Industry

Evelyn Pringle

The founders of Ablechild, Patricia Weathers and Sheila Matthews, have earned the title of “Unsung Heroes,” as both pioneers and warriors for over a decade, in the battle to protect children from the Psychopharmaceutical Industry.

Ablechild (Parents for A Label and Drug-Free Education), is a national non-profit founded in 2001, by these two mothers who each had personal experiences with being coerced by the public school system to label and drug their children for ADHD. Patty and Sheila went from being victims to become national advocates for the fundamental rights of all parents and children in the US.

Now with thousands of members, Ablechild acts as an independent advocate on behalf of parents whose children have been subjected to mental health screening and psychiatric labeling and drugging, and as a proponent for children in foster care who are improperly treated with psychotropic drugs, many times off-label, without informed consent.

Long Battle Against Coerced Drugging

Roughly eight years ago, on September 26, 2002, then Chairman the US House Government Reform Committee, Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), held a hearing on the “Overmedication of Hyperactive Children,” prompted by a series in the New York Post.

“It's estimated that 4 to 6 million children in the United States take Ritalin every single day,” Burton said in his opening statement. He pointed out that Ritalin was a Schedule II stimulant under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, that research showed it was a more potent transport inhibitor than cocaine, and use in the US had increased over a 500% since 1990. The Schedule II category also includes drugs such as cocaine, morphine, and Oxycontin.

On one side of the issue, Burton said, they would hear from the associations of psychiatrists and an organization known as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), and they believed 13% of the US population suffered from an attention disorder and it should be treated with medication.

At the other end of the discussion, he said, was the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR), and concerned parents, who challenged the legitimacy of calling ADHD a neurobiological disorder and raised questions about giving psychiatric drugs to children. Two of these “concerned parents” were Patty Weathers and Neil Bush, the brother of then President Bush, who was pressured by a private school in Houston to drug his son with Ritalin after he was misdiagnosed with ADHD by the school.

Unsung Hero - Patty Weathers

At the hearing, Patty testified about the ordeal she and her son, Michael, went through in a public school in New York State that began in 1997. When Michael entered first grade, the teacher told Patty his learning development was not normal and he would not be able to learn without medication.

“Near the end of first grade, the school principal took me into her office and said that unless I agreed to put Michael on medication, she would find a way to transfer him to a special education center,” Patty told the committee.

At this point, his teacher filled out an actor's profile for boys, an ADHD checklist, and sent it to his pediatrician, she said. “This checklist, along with a 15-minute evaluation by the pediatrician, led to my son being diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin.”

Michael was not given a physical exam prior to the prescribing of Ritalin and no exams were conducted during appointments when refills for prescriptions were written.

“I would never have subjected my son to being labeled with a mental disorder if I had known that it was a subjective diagnosis,” Patty told the panel. “I would not have allowed my son to be administered drugs if I had been given full information about the documented side effects and the risks.”

“At no time was I offered any alternatives to my son's needs, such as tutoring or standard medical testing.” she said. “The school's one and only solution was to have my child drugged.”

Early on, Michael experienced the common side effects of Ritalin, such as sleep problems and loss of appetite, and by the third grade, Michael became withdrawn, stopped socializing with other children, and began chewing on pencils and other objects. He was then put on Dextrostat, an amphetamine, which only worsened the problems.

But instead of recognizing the drug side effects, the school psychologist then claimed Michael had either bipolar or social anxiety disorder and needed to see a psychiatrist. The psychologist gave Patty the number for a psychiatrist to call and the psychiatrist talked to her and Michael for a short time, and “again, with the aid of school reports, diagnosed him with social anxiety disorder,” she recalled.

Without telling her it was not approved for children, the psychiatrist prescribed the antidepressant, Paxil, saying it was a “wonder drug for kids.” “Those were her exact words,” Patty told the committee.

The drug cocktail caused even more horrendous side effects, until Michael’s behavior became so out of character that Patty could not even recognize her own son. “Through this whole ordeal, the school psychologist's favorite saying was that it was trial and error,” she said. “If one drug didn't work, try another.”

After watching Michael become violent, psychotic, hear voices and hallucinate, Patty stopped giving him the drugs. Not recognizing that he was going through withdrawal, the psychiatrist wanted to hospitalize Michael and try different sedatives and antipsychotics until they found “the right one,” but Patty refused to allow it.

After she became unwilling to give Michael the drugs, “the school threw him out,” she told the panel. “As a final blow, they proceeded to call Child Protective Services on my husband and I, charging us with medical neglect for refusing to drug our child,” she said.

The complaint filed by the school stated in part: “[Michael's] behavior at school is bizarre: He hears voices and appears delusional, he chews on his clothes and paper, he talks to himself and rambles when he talks.”

A month-long investigation cleared the charges and independent psychiatrists determined the bizarre behaviors were caused by the drugs and Michael did not need hospitalization. Medical testing by Dr Mary Ann Block, a Texas osteopathic physician, later showed that Michael suffered from anemia, hypoglycemia and allergies. When those conditions were treated, any attention problems disappeared.

On August 7, 2002, the “New York Post” ran a front-page article featuring Patty’s story. Within a few days, over 65 parents came forward to describe similar stories of coercion and intimidation used by school districts to strong arm them into drugging their kids.

Unsung Hero – Sheila Matthews

Connecticut mom, Sheila Matthews, turned on the TV one day and saw Patty testifying on C-Span at a hearing titled, “Behavioral Drugs in Schools,” on September 29, 2000, before the US House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Sheila immediately related with Patty because she was then going through what she would later call the “ADHD nightmare,” of being pressured to put her 7-year-old son on Ritalin, after he was screened and diagnosed with ADHD by a school psychologist, with claims he would “self-medicate” and end up a drug addict if she did not medicate him.

While testifying at this hearing, Patty explained that being labeled made Michael feel worse about himself and “like a freak” because he “had to be drugged to go to school.”

She also voiced her concerns for other families over the intimidation tactics used by schools to coerce parents into drugging their children. “If I didn't have family members who were willing to financially back my son and I in my son's cause, it is entirely possible that my son would have ended up in a psychiatric ward,” she told the panel.

That very day, Sheila made up her mind to expose the misleading information being given to parents about so-called mental disorders in public schools and expose the coercive tactics being used on parents who refused to label and drug their children.

She wanted to meet Patty so she contacted the Congressional office and they put her in touch with Marla Filidei, Vice President of CCHR International. Marla hooked her up with Patty, and together, they founded Ablechild.

National Spokespersons

Over the past ten years, Patty and Sheila have become national spokespersons. The normally shy, quiet Patty has made appearances on more than two dozen media programs including ABC’s Good Morning America, the Today Show on NBC, Hannity & Colmes on Fox, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, A&E’s Investigative Reports, and Montel Williams.

She has also been interviewed for stories in major newspapers including the New York Times, New York Post, USA Today, and Christian Science Monitor, as well as Time, People and Redbook magazines, and has been interviewed by Gary Null, Sean Hannity, Michael Regan, and other popular radio talk show hosts.

In February 2001, Patty received a “Human Rights Award,” from CCHR, and was recognized for standing up against the injustice of psychiatric labeling and drugging of children in public schools at the group’s annual banquet. Sheila received an award from CCHR in 2002, and was recognized for her hard work and role as national spokesperson.

Sheila has also appeared on TV numerous times including shows on CNN, NBC and Fox, and has been interviewed on many talk radio programs. Her story has also been featured in major newspapers and magazines including the Boston Globe, USA Today, Insight News, and the Hartford Courant, as well as Time Magazine and the Ladies Home Journal.

In her home state of Connecticut, Sheila worked with State Representative, Lenny Winkler (a nurse by trade), to secure passage of the first state law in the country that restricts schools from suggesting psychiatric diagnosing and drugging of any child as a condition of attending school. She testified before the Connecticut State Assembly about her own personal experience with the school trying to pressure her to put her son on Ritalin and the lack of validity of the disorders children are being labeled with.

Sheila was with the Connecticut Governor when he signed the bill into law in 2001 and told USA Today that she was thrilled “because it gives parents an awareness that there should be a clear difference between education and medication.”

“No other industry has total access to our children the way the psychiatric community does, and I think this new law is just the beginning of changes to come,” she told Kelly Patricia O’Meara, in an interview for Insight News.

“Kids should be off-limits as targets of convenience for the drug industry,” Sheila said. “I want the mental-health industry out of our schools.”

However, any victory celebration was short lived because in September 2001, a number of family orientated magazines began running the first ever ads for ADHD drugs. “It seems like every time we take a step forward, they come back and hit us harder,” Patty told Time Magazine.

After the Connecticut law was passed, Sheila continued to work with other parents on state and federal levels to pass similar bills. By 2003, seven states had passed laws against schools coercing parents to drug their children or expelling students whose parents refused to medicate them.

On a national level, both Sheila and Patty made many trips to Washington to educate lawmakers. In September 2001, Patty and CCHR’s Bruce Wiseman and Marla Filidei, briefed legislators at a national congress of the “National Foundation of Women Legislators,” and gained their unanimous approval of a model law in the “Child Medication Safety Act (CMSA),” which mandates that: “State educational agencies develop and implement policies and procedures that will prohibit school personnel from requiring a child to obtain a prescription for a controlled substance such as Ritalin as a condition of attending school or receiving services.”

In both October and November of 2001, Sheila traveled to Washington with Marla and Lawrence Smith, whose 11-year-old son died of a heart attack caused by Ritalin, to meet with key lawmakers and discuss the crisis of children being diagnosed and drugged in schools and the need for federal legislation to end it. They also worked with Congressional staff to get co-sponsors for the CMSA

In July 2002, the nationally syndicated columnist and radio show host, Armstrong Williams, featured Sheila, Patty and Lawrence Smith in a radio show on safeguarding children from being labeled and drugged in public schools.

The next month, Patty appeared on NBC’s “Today Show,” on August 8, 2002, and the same day, the “New York Post,” ran an article reporting that Patty was calling for a state wide tracking system to determine how widespread forced drugging was in schools.

On September 24, 2002, Patty was a guest on Hannity & Colmes on Fox, and was interviewed on CNN’s “Talk Back Live,” two days later. The next month, Patty and Michael were both guests on the “John Walsh Show,” on NBC. Patty was also featured in a Discovery Channel program that month with pediatrician, Dr Lawrence Diller, and psychiatrist, Dr Peter Breggin, which focused on the over-drugging of kids for ADHD.

Strongest Foe Funded by ADHD Drug Makers

In March 2003, Patty, Michael, and Sheila appeared on a Montel Williams show on promoting “A Parents Right to Choose,” along with Connecticut Rep, Lenny Winkler, Bruce Wiseman, Patricia Marks, Dr Mary Ann Block, and Vicky and Steve Dunkle, whose 10-year-old daughter died from Desipramine toxicity, after the antidepressant was prescribed for ADHD as a result of pressure from school officials to medicate the child.

The guests covered everything from the subjective diagnosis of mental disorders, with no confirming medical testing, to the many side effects of psychiatric drugs, to the fact that most children involved in school shootings were on psychiatric drugs. They warned that due to coercion in schools, parents all over the country were losing the right to choose whether their kids would take powerful drugs, including stimulants, referred to as “kiddie cocaine.” At the end of the program, Montel asked the audience to write to Congress asking for federal legislation against the coerced drugging of school children.

After the show aired, CHADD, the main front group for the stimulant makers, organized a letter writing campaign to Montel, who they said “mocked” ADHD, as part of responding to “offensive media depictions” of ADHD, they claimed in CHADD’s 2002-2003 Annual Report.

The group also published an open letter to Montel, saying no one would “dispute that unnecessarily placing a child on medication is deplorable.”

“But the greater travesty is delaying proper diagnosis and effective treatment for those who truly need it,” CHADD said. “The sad truth is that many more children with mental disorders slip unrecognized past the gatekeepers of mental health services than those who are improperly diagnosed.”

In April 2003, Ablechild issued a press release blasting CHADD for lobbying against the CMSA with claims that only a “handful” of incidents had occurred involving parents being coerced by schools to drug their children.

In lobbying to CHADD’s membership, the group’s CEO, E Clarke Ross, used the electronic newsletter, “News from CHADD,” to raise questions about whether the problem was common enough to require federal legislation and called such cases “isolated and highly publicized.” Because a number of states and school boards had passed laws or resolutions, Ross claimed the federal bill was “legislative overkill.”

However, for a May 13, 2003 investigative report on the CMSA published in “Insight Magazine,” in which Ross again referred to “a few highly publicized cases,” Kelly Patricia O’Meara interviewed Mike Stokke, deputy chief of staff to the Speaker of the House at the time, and found cases of school personnel demanding that parents drug children as a condition of staying in school were far from isolated in numbers or areas.

In case after case, Stokke told Insight, “when we started meeting some of these families who have been through this problem, such as in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, we saw the coercive action of the state come in and say that the teacher says you have to take these drugs.”

“And if you don't it's child neglect and the child is taken away from the parents,” he said.

“Many of the parents that we talk to are people who have the means to fight back but what is troubling,” he said, “is that there are many families out there in similar situations who don't have the means to fight the system.”

In the press release, Ablechild noted that CHADD was only opposing the CMSA because its livelihood was at stake being the group was funded by stimulant makers. Complaints about the funneling of money through CHADD, to increase drug sales and the diagnosis of ADHD, were discussed at length during the September 29, 2002, hearing on the use of behavioral drugs in schools. Portions of a 1995 report on the matter, by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, were even read into the record.

“It has recently come to the attention of the DEA that Ciba-Geigy, the manufacturer of Ritalin, marketing under the brand name Ritalin, contributed $748,000 to CHADD from 1991 to '94,” the agency reported. “The DEA has concerns that the depth of the financial relationship with the manufacturer was not well known to the public, including CHADD members, that have relied upon CHADD for guidance as it pertains to the diagnosis and treatment of their children,” it wrote.

The agency was particularly concerned that most of the ADHD material prepared for public consumption by CHADD, and made available to parents, did not address the potential or actual abuse of Ritalin. Instead, it was portrayed as a benign, mild substance that's not associated with abuse or any serious side effects.

CHADD received $848,000 from Novartis in 2001, according to testimony at the hearing.

Kids Disabled for Cash

On its website, CHADD provides a link to a webpage on “Disability Benefits,” and tells parents that some kids with ADHD can be declared disabled and receive benefits including “cash payments,” under the federal Supplemental Security Income program.

“Children under age 18 who have disabilities, including some children with AD/HD, can receive SSI if they meet eligibility criteria,” CHADD says. “The SSI program can provide monthly cash payments based on family income, qualify the child for Medicaid health care services in many states, and ensure referral of a child into the system of care available under State Title V programs for Children with Special Health Care Needs.”

At the congressional hearing ten years ago, Colorado Representative, Bob Schaffer, reported concerns about Federal cash incentives to label children with ADHD, and specifically the two that resulted in cash payments to parents and schools.

In 1990, the SSI program made low-income parents eligible for a cash benefit of more than $450 a month for each ADHD child, and in 1991, the Department of Education made it so schools could receive more than $400 a year for students with ADHD, under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Both cash incentives coincided with a dramatic rise in the number of children labeled with ADHD. In 1989, children citing mental impairments, including ADHD but not retardation, made up only 5% of disabled kids on SSI. But that figure rose to nearly 25% by 1995. Between 1990 and 1992, the number of ADHD diagnoses jumped from about one million to over three million, Schaffer informed the committee.

The IDEA also had a “child find” provision which required states to actively seek out kids who may qualify for special education in order to receive Federal special education funds, Patti Johnson, a member of the Colorado State Board of Education, told the panel. In many states, schools had also become authorized Medicaid providers and collected funds for children labeled with one of the learning or behavior disorders, she reported.

“Between SSI, Medicaid and IDEA, we have turned schools into aggressive identifiers of disabled children,” Schaffer told the panel. “Without a doubt we are subsidizing the aggressive pursuit of children with disabilities.”

“It is not resulting in accurate diagnosis,” he said. “It is resulting in an over diagnosis.”

Roughly a decade after the hearing, the new book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America,” by Robert Whitaker, reports that the number of kids receiving SSI checks due to mental illness increased 35-fold between 1987 and 2007, from 16,200 to 561,569.

Drug Money Pours In

Despite non-stop criticism over being in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry, money from ADHD drug makers continues to pour into CHADD year after year.

The group’s Income & Expense Reports, show CHADD received $507,000 in 2002, $674,000 in 2003, and five years later, the amounts nearly tripled. For the fiscal year of July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, CHADD received a total of $1,205,000, from Eli Lilly, J&J's McNeil division, Novartis, Shire US, and UCB. In addition, 64% of sales and advertising, or $466,104, came from drug companies.

The next year’s report shows CHADD received a total of $1,174,626, from Lilly, J&J's McNeil division, Novartis, and Shire, and 57.2 % of sales and advertising, or $412,500, was from drug companies.

For the year 2008, Lilly's full year grant report lists a $200,000 donation to CHADD. The 2008 IRS filing for the Eli Lilly Foundation also shows a $50,000 gift, a drop from the $100,000 given to CHADD in 2007. Lilly's 2009 grant report lists a $130,000 donation and the first quarter report for 2010 shows a $50,000 grant for CHADD. Lilly is the only ADHD drug maker required to post grant reports online, so there is no way to break down how much money is pouring into CHADD from the other companies.

The group’s 2008 IRS filing lists CHADD’s most significant activity as, “provides support for individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders.” Yet the non-profit blew $330,000 on its annual conference and another $114,950 on a 20th Anniversary Gala that same year, according to the 2008 I&E report.

Also, in sharp contrast to the yearly SSI income of about $8,000 for persons disabled by ADHD, the group’s 2008-2009 tax forms lists compensation for CEO Ross as $187,747, and the next two highest paid officials of this “non-profit” earn $130,217 and $121,095.

Landslide Vote

On May 21, 2003, the CMSA passed by a landslide vote of 425-1 in the House. On May 27, 2003, Sheila and Patty appeared on the national radio show “Scams and Scandals,” for a program about the need for the Act to end the abuse of parents by schools. During the show, they asked all parents who had experienced abuse similar to theirs to go online and sign Ablechild’s petition.

The next month, Sheila was featured in her hometown newspaper, “The New Canaan Advertiser,” in a front-page article on June 5, 2003 with the headline: “Mother pushing Congress to prevent schools from ADD testing,” with details of her campaign to enact federal legislation. The article profiled AbleChild, and criticized CHADD for its industry funding and opposition to the CMSA.

When public health officials in the UK and US announced that Paxil increased the risk of suicide in children in June 2003, Sheila pushed her Governor’s office to issue a press release warning against the use of Paxil with kids. In July 2003, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Children and Family Services in Connecticut planned to stop using Paxil to treat young people with depression.

The “New American,” published an article titled, “Drugging Our Kids,” by William Norman Gregg in August 2003, and covered Patty and Michael’s story in depth, along with similar cases reported by other parents including Neil Bush and two families in which children died as a result of coerced drugging.

On February 20, 2004, Patty spoke on the nationally syndicated Joyce Riley radio show, and discussed the need for the CMSA in the wake of recent FDA hearings on the link between antidepressants and suicide, including Paxil, the drug Michael was prescribed.

Patty and Michael were both on CNN’s Lou Dobbs on April 15, 2004. Patty noted the need for the CMSA, evidenced by nearly 1,000 signatures on Ablechild’s website from parents with similar stories. Michael described how bad it felt to be on medications and Patty warned about the lack of informed consent given to parents regarding both the diagnoses of mental disorders and the drugs used as treatment.

The next month, Patty led a protest of hundreds of parents, children and human rights activists at the opening of the American Psychiatric Association's annual conference in New York City, saying parents were fed up with psychiatrists telling them their children's behavior was a “mental disorder” requiring dangerous drugs.

Sheila was again featured in her hometown newspaper on May 10, 2004, in an article about the need for an investigation by the Connecticut Attorney General into the drugging of children in foster care. Sheila was quoted throughout and promoted passage of CMSA.

Another federal bill that was introduced as a “Prohibition on Mandatory Medication,” amendment to the IDEA in April 2003, was passed by the House and Senate on May 13, 2004, and banned state and local educational agency personnel from requiring a child to take a drug covered by the Controlled Substance Act as a condition of attending school, receiving an evaluation, or receiving services. Key wording from the CMSA was included in the amendment.

On September 13, 2004, Patty testified at an FDA advisory panel hearing on the need for black box warnings on antidepressants about the risk of suicide and violence. “The FDA had enough evidence 14 years ago to issue these warning labels,” she told the committee.

She also testified about the lack of science behind psychiatric labels given to children. “Parents are told that their child has a chemical imbalance or a neurobiological illness,” she testified. “We risked our child's life based on this fundamental lie.”

“The FDA is well aware that there are no x-rays, biopsies, blood tests or brain scans that verify these mental disorders as a disease or illness,” she said. “The FDA should not be condoning or approving these drugs without evidence of disease, illness or physical abnormality that would justify risking our children's lives with a harmful and potentially lethal drug.”

The hearing ended with a vote by the panel in favor of black box warnings.

In November 2004, Patty was interviewed by a French TV producer for a news program in France, similar to 60 Minutes, focused on the pressuring of parents by schools in American to put children on psychiatric drugs. Other guests included Vicky Dunkel and Tom Woodward, whose daughter committed suicide after being prescribed an SSRI.

On February 17, 2005, Patty testified at a hearing titled, “ADHD Diagnosis, Treatment & Consequences,” in New York City, and told the story of what happened when Michael was labeled mentally ill in a public school and she refused to keep drugging him.

“The irony of the whole ordeal was that I was charged with medically neglecting my son, when there was no proof that anything was medically wrong with him,” she testified.

The next month, the “Ladies Home Journal,” ran an article titled, “A Generation out of Control,” with a sub-heading that read: “A record four million children -- some as young as 2 -- are being diagnosed with ADHD and many are being put on powerful medications, perhaps for life.”

The article featured Sheila, and Patricia Marks, another Connecticut mom whose son was misdiagnosed with ADHD. The article discussed the dangers of teachers diagnosing kids in schools to solve classroom problems and warned parents to make sure and rule out undiagnosed medical conditions that might manifest as ADHD.

Also in March, in letters to the US Attorney for the District of Minnesota and the FDA, Ablechild called for an investigation into the role of antidepressants in a school shooting by Jeff Weise in Red Lake, Minnesota, who was on Prozac when he went on a rampage, killing his grandfather first, and then fellow students and teachers at his school, before committing suicide with the same gun.

In a press release, Ablechild expressed outrage and frustration with the FDA for “continuing to turn a blind eye to the all so obvious link to violence and mania that these drugs are having on our youth, and even more, their deadly link to uncontrolled school terror that has occurred from coast to coast.”

In October 2005, Sheila issued a statement from Ablechild strongly opposing TeenScreen, a program aimed at screening kids for mental illness in schools. “TeenScreen is nothing more than the bio-behavioral health industry's attempt to garnish big government funding for useless programs that profitably promote a course of recommended psychotropic drug “treatment” which has been clearly liked to suicide and violent behavior,” she warned.

In October 2006, Sheila appeared on “The Big Story,” with John Gibson on Fox, in a segment titled “Investigating the Link: Antidepressants & Violence,” based on recent school shootings in Pennsylvania and Colorado, and spoke of the need to investigate the correlation between psychiatric drugs and school shooters, and toxicology tests to determine whether shooters were on drugs. As the founders of Ablechild, parents came to them all the time, Sheila said. “Their children are committing suicide on these drugs and we’re very concerned.”

At the end of the show, the reporter noted particular concern about the fact that 30 million Americans were taking antidepressants, and being that 5% would develop mania, there could be “a million and a half potential maniacs waiting to explode.”

Focus On Drug Side Effects

Over the years, Ablechild has also focused on educating the pubic on drug side effects and MedWatch, the FDA’s adverse drug reaction reporting system. On December 13, 2006, Sheila testified at the FDA advisory hearing on the risk of suicide with adults on SSRIs and presented the results of two surveys showing a lack of public knowledge about Medwatch, and asked the FDA to initiate campaigns to let consumers know where and how to report ADRs, as consumers detect adverse effects sooner than providers.

In June 2007, Shelia, along with two CCHR representatives, met with Washington lawmakers regarding the renewal of the “Prescription Drug User Fee Act.” The new Act was signed into law in September 2007, with key measures to help increase public knowledge about prescription drug risks, as well as better safety monitoring by the FDA.

On November 6, 2007, Ablechild issued a news alert to warn that despite the black box warnings, the mental health industry was continuing to downplay the suicide risk of antidepressants. Based on information posted within the MedWatch system, “an estimated 63,000 suicides have been committed by people under the influence of antidepressants,” the alert reported.

It also noted that most parents were not aware that at least eight school shooters “were under the influence of antidepressants documented to cause not only suicidal ideation but also mania, psychosis, hostility, hallucinations and even ‘homicidal behavior.’”

With 1.5 million children on antidepressants in the US alone, “Ablechild is deeply concerned about the number of children being prescribed the powerful and potentially lethal drugs,” the alert stated.

In December 2007, Sheila called into a National Public Radio program, when the topic was the recently passed FDA reform bill, and discussed a new requirement that all print ads include an 800 number and information on reporting side effects to MedWatch. She also noted the importance of the new clinical drug trial registry that would be available on the internet, and the elimination of conflicts of interest on FDA advisory committees.

Protect Youngest Victims

In 2008, Ablechild teamed up with Amy Philo’s “Unite for Life” coalition of advocacy groups in efforts to protect unborn children and nursing infants from forced drugging through their mothers’ ingestion of drugs, by lobbying against a bill called the “Mothers Act,” for short, aimed at screening pregnant women and new mothers for mental illness.

The Act “quite simply is a feeder line for the psycho-pharmaceutical industry and will result in more mothers and infants being put at risk for being prescribed antidepressants and other dangerous psychiatric drugs,” AbleChild warned in a letter made available on its website for persons to sign and send to members of Congress.

In April 2008, Patty, Amy Philo, Marla Fidili from CCHR, Mathy Downing, whose 12-year-old daughter committed suicide after being given Zoloft off-label for test anxiety, and about 40 more advocacy allies, went to Washington to lobby against the Mother's Act.

The latest evidence of infants being harmed by psychiatric drugs ingested by their mothers was reported on July 2, 2010, with a Medscape Today headline, “Psychotropic Medications Linked to Serious Adverse Drug Reactions in Children,” for a study by Danish researchers of 4,500 adverse drug reactions (ADRs), in children younger than 17, listed in the national Danish ADR database between 1998 and 2007.

The results showed 429 reports were from psychotropic drugs, with the largest share from stimulants at 42%, followed by antidepressants with 31%, and antipsychotics at 24.5%.

Almost 19%, or 80 of the ADRs, were for children between the age of birth and 2. All but one was serious, with two deaths associated with the SSRIs Celexa and Prozac. These findings were “probably due to the mothers' intake of psychotropic medicine, primarily antidepressants and antipsychotics, during pregnancy,” the study authors wrote.

Sheila and Patty, along with Amy Philo, Mathy Downing, and Vicky Dunkle, received an “Outstanding Achievement Award for Children’s Rights,” in February 2009, at CCHR’s annual banquet, highlighted by a video tribute featuring much of their work.

In April 2009, Sheila drafted a petition in support of the “Parental Consent Act,” and made it available on Ablechild’s website for persons to sign and send to members of Congress. Introduced by Texas Congressman and physician, Ron Paul, the bill prohibits federal funds from being used to establish or implement any universal or mandatory mental health screening program for public school students and establishes a parent's right to refuse screening of a child without fear of being charged with child abuse or neglect. In an April 30, 2009 speech, Paul pointed out that “parents are already being threatened with child abuse charges if they resist efforts to drug their children.”

“Imagine how much easier it will be to drug children against their parents' wishes if a federally-funded mental-health screener makes the recommendation,” he said.

Million Kids Misdiagnosed With ADHD

After a decade of work by Sheila and Patty to expose the fraud behind labeling kids with ADHD, on August 17, 2010, USA Today reported that a new study from Michigan State University found nearly 1 million children may have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, not because of any real behavioral problems, but because they were the youngest in the class.

Children who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest kids, according to the study published in the Journal of Health Economics. In fifth and eighth grade, the youngest children were more than two times as likely to be on Ritalin compared with the oldest students, the study found.

(This article is the first in an on-going series honoring the many “Unsung Heroes” in the two decade battle against the drugging of children by the Psychopharmaceutical industrial Complex).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Incarcerated kids drugged with antipsychotics

Evelyn Pringle

On October 1, 2010, John Kelly reported on an investigation by Youth Today that found atypical antipsychotics were prescribed to many incarcerated youths in juvenile facilities in the US without a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the only FDA-approved indications for use with juveniles.

A wide variety of diagnoses were listed for the prescribing of the drugs including general mood disorders, intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, PSTD and ADHD.

However, Kelly reports that critics believe most of these diagnoses are simply a cover for the fact that prisons now use drugs as a substitute for the banned physical restraints that were once used on juveniles who aggressively acted out.

"Fifty years ago, we were tying kids up with leather straps, but now that offends people, so instead we drug them," Robert Jacobs, a former Florida psychologist and lawyer who now practices psychology in Australia, told Kelly.

"We cover it up with some justification that there is some medical reason, which there is not," he said.

The atypical drugs include Bristol-Myer Squibb's Abilify, Pfizer's Geodon, Seroquel from AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, and Risperdal and Invega from Johnson & Johnson.

Youth Today has been working for over a year to find out how much money individual states have been spending on the drugs for incarcerated youth, and for what reason. Medicaid records would not contain the relevant information because federal Medicaid money cannot be used to fund medical care for anyone incarcerated for a crime, whether adult or juvenile, Kelly reports.

Because funds for medications prescribed to juvenile inmates must come from state sources, each state's juvenile justice agency was asked how much was spent, in the most recent year available, on five drugs - Abilify, Geodon, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa - and to provide the diagnosis listed for the prescriptions.

Only 14 states provided some information on the amount spent in either 2008 or 2009, with wide variations. For instance, New Jersey and Minnesota reported spending less than $100,000 a year, while Texas, Florida and Virginia each spent over $1 million.

Only five states were able to provide a comprehensive list of diagnoses along with the amounts. The total number of prescriptions for those five states combined was 5,299, with an off-label condition listed as the diagnosis for 3,709, or 70 percent.

In Texas, nearly 4,000 atypical prescriptions were written in 2008, for a total juvenile population in state facilities of between 1,600 and 1,900, with only 29 percent diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and no diagnosis listed for nearly 25 percent of the prescriptions.

Because Seroquel accounted for so many prescriptions with no diagnosis, Texas officials feared that it had become the "sleeping pill of choice" for agency clinicians, Kelly reports. Seroquel was prescribed 2,553 times in 2008, almost twice as often as the other four atypicals combined.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vaccination Profiteers Gang Up on Hannah Bruesewitz in Supreme Court

Evelyn Pringle

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced the submission of an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court on July 30, 2010, “joined by 21 partnering health organizations,” in the vaccine injury case of Bruesewitz v Wyeth, to support the powerful vaccine maker against a lone family.

Oral arguments in the case took place on October 12, 2010, but a final decision won’t be known for months. The most recent drug injury preemption case decided by the Court was also against Wyeth and the ruling came down in favor of plaintiff, Diane Levine.

The Court took the Bruesewitz case to determine whether 18-year-old Hannah, disabled by injuries she received from Wyeth’s diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT) vaccine at 6-months-old in 1992, has the right to bring a lawsuit against Wyeth after the Vaccine Court, set up by the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, refused compensation even though she will require life-long care and her vaccine was traced to a lot that had 65 adverse reactions including two deaths, 39 emergency room visits, and 6 hospitalizations.

After compensation was denied, the family filed suit against Wyeth in Pennsylvania and argued that the vaccine Hannah received was defectively designed and had a known safer vaccine been used her injuries could have been avoided.

Wyeth filed for summary judgment and the lower court dismissed the case holding that the 1986 vaccine law preempted all design defect claims. In March 2009, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and the family filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court.

“Amici—all of whom support the routine vaccination of children against a host of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases—urge this Court to affirm the judgment of the Third Circuit below,” the brief filed by the 22 groups states.

The term “host” inadequately describes the number of “routine” shots kids get today, along with the increased risk of injury. Before 1986, children’s vaccines included diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and inactivated poliovirus. Since the Vaccine Injury Act was passed, nine new vaccines have been added, including hepatitis B, rotavirus, haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcal, influenza, varicella, hepatitis A, meningococcal, human papillomavirus (for girls), or an additional 46 doses for girls and 43 for boys, the CDC’s 2009 Recommended Immunization Schedule shows.

Amici Anything But Impartial

JB Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, as well as co-founder and contributor to Age of Autism, says whenever he meets pediatricians he asks what percentage of their revenue comes from vaccine administration. “The number always astounds me,” he said on Age of Autism. “The answers I get are that anywhere from 50-80% of their revenue comes from giving vaccines.”

In addition to their individual income from giving shots, Wyeth is now owned by Pfizer and over the past few years, the grant reports of the two companies show millions of dollars pouring into the American Academy of Pediatrics and many of the “partnering health organizations” that signed off on the brief.

For instance, Pfizer 2009 report lists two grants to the Academy totaling $56,000 and Wyeth donated $630,000 to benefit the group in 2009. Wyeth also gave the Academy $345,919 in 2008. The group received $524,080 from Pfizer in the first two quarters of 2010 alone.

In 2009, the Academy presented the “President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service” award to Dr Paul Offit, whose least offensive nickname, of many, is “Dr Proffit.”

Offit was also called the “poster child” for the term “biostitute,” by Robert Kennedy Jr at a green vaccine rally in Washington in 2008, for making himself the spokesperson for the vaccine industry and pretending to be an independent scientist without disclosing his ties to and the millions of dollars he’s made off the vaccine industry.

“The AAP is honoring Dr. Offit in recognition of his ongoing commitment to promote immunization,” the Academy’s October 16, 2009 announcement stated, without mentioning the financial windfalls he received due to his “commitment to promote immunization.”

On December 9, 2009, a report on Offit was published on Age of Autism with the headline, “Counting Offit’s Millions: More on How Merck’s Rotateq Vaccine Made Paul Offit Wealthy,” by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill, authors of the new book, “Age of Autism: Mercury Medicine and A Manmade Epidemic.”

The report points out that Paul Offit, “vaccine entrepreneur and public health spokesperson, has earned approximately $10 million in income from Rotateq® royalties through 2009 and stands to earn a total of between $13-35 million over the life of his rotavirus vaccine patents.”

The analysis by Blaxill and Olmsted found that Offit’s future royalty income is tied to the vaccine’s future sales in the US and international markets, which gives him a strong financial stake in both the specific success of the rotavirus vaccine category and the global reputation of vaccines in general.

The American Academy of Family Physicians also signed off on the amicus brief. This group, along with its state chapters and Foundation, received a combined total of more than $5 million from Pfizer in 2009, and another $856,772 from Wyeth. In the first half of 2010, Pfizer gave the Family Physician groups $1,334,165.

Another signer, the American Medical Association, received grants worth $751,500 from Pfizer and a $5,000 grant from Wyeth in 2009. The Association received $447,400 from Pfizer in the first two quarters of 2010.

Several other members of the group that ganged up on Hannah in the brief also received plenty from the vaccine makers. Pfizer gave $55,000 to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in 2009, and Wyeth gave $45,000. In 2008, the Foundation received $2,153,500 Wyeth, and Pfizer gave it $58,500 in the first half of 2010.

In 2009, the Infectious Diseases Society of America received $15,000 from Wyeth and $65,000 in 2008.

The American Public Health Association received three grants totaling $200,000 from Pfizer in 2009.

The March of Dimes and its Foundation combined got $4,500 from Wyeth in both 2008 and 2009. Pfizer gave the groups $14,500 in the first half of 2010.

In 2009, Wyeth gave the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Foundation four grants totaling $175,150 and three worth $70,000 in 2008.

Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases received $75,000 from Wyeth in 2009.

The Immunization Action Coalition was paid $95,000 by Wyeth in 2009 and $136,743 in 2008.

Every Child By Two received nearly a million dollars, or $950,000, from Wyeth in 2009, and $350,000 in 2008.

In the August 4, 2008 report, “Every Child By Two: A Front Group for Wyeth,” JB Handley points out that Craig Engesser, an employee of Wyeth with a title of Senior Director, Professional Affairs, was on the Board of Every Child By Two for as far back as he could track. In fact, Engesser had even served as the group’s treasurer.

Handley also noted that Paul Offit had recently joined the group’s Board.

For the year 2006, Handley found IRS filings showed Wyeth gave Every Child By Two $350,769 and page 23 of the filing read: “Wyeth Vaccine: Ensure all children from birth to Age 2 are fully immunized.”

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition received $200,000 from Pfizer in 2009, and Wyeth gave the Georgia chapter $500 in 2008. Other corporate sponsors listed on the group’s website in 2009 included Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi-Pasteur.

Amici for Hannah

Amicus briefs were also submitted in support of the Bruesewitz family in September 2009 and June 2010, by attorneys from the state of New York, Mary Holland and Robert Krakow, on behalf of the National Vaccine Information Center and its cofounders, parent advocates who helped draft the 1986 legislation, the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccine Choice, No Mercury, Truth About Gardasil, Age of Autism, National Autism Association, Autism One, SafeMinds, Autism United, US Autism and Asperger Association, Talk About Curing Autism, Generation Rescue, and the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy.

It would require too much space to list every organization, but all together more than 25 signed off on the briefs - none of which receive money from vaccine makers. Basically the question to be answered by the Supreme Court is: Does § 22(b)(1) preclude all vaccine design-defect claims even if the vaccine’s side effects were avoidable?

“The legislative history suggests that all the stakeholders – Congress, parents, manufacturers and physicians – understood that victims preserved the right to take design defect claims to court,” the June brief says. “Respondent and its amici appear to be trying to achieve through the judiciary what they failed to obtain through Congress.”

In fact, the brief includes several statements made at the time the Act was passed that suggest that Congress recognized that victims, who duly filed for compensation in the Vaccine Program, could take design defect claims to court under Section 22(b).

For instance, when presenting the Act to the full House of Representatives for a vote, Rep Henry Waxman, the chief sponsor of the Act, stated that civil claims for “inadequately researched” vaccines would be preserved under Section 22. Waxman’s description of this claim, that a vaccine’s design did not take adequate account of avoidable safety risks, would likely be a design defect, the brief notes.

“Furthermore, the Committee explicitly rejected the opportunity to create a broad exemption for all design defect claims when it considered the Act,” it says. “Proposals were considered by the Committee that would have explicitly preempted all design defect claims, but the final version did not contain those provisions.”

“By rejecting language that would have barred all design defect claims,” the attorneys wrote, “Congress showed its intent to permit courts to decide on a case-by-case which side effects were genuinely ‘unavoidable.’”

“The Act and its legislative history simply do not make sense without the understanding that the tort system remains an available alternative for such cases,” the brief says. “And Congress’ intent to keep the courthouse doors open is even more important today than it was in 1986.”

“The significance of the Bruesewitz case relates to all vaccine injury – it goes to the heart of whether Vaccine Court is fulfilling the role Congress set for it, and whether it is possible to challenge the design safety of a vaccine in any court in the United States,” Holland explained in a March 10, 2010 commentary on Age of Autism.

“For the autism community, the case could not be more central,” she says, “it will determine whether the 5,000 petitioners in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding can continue their claims in state and federal courts if Vaccine Court ultimately dismisses their claims.”

Right about now, paranoia in the vaccine industry is no doubt running at an all time high since the announcement of the first award in a vaccine-autism case in September 2010 for another girl named Hannah, with $1.5 million to start and $500,000 a year for life to pay for her care. “Those familiar with the case believe the compensation could easily amount to $20 million over the child's lifetime,” CBS News reported on September 10, 2010.

Hannah was “described as normal, happy and precocious in her first 18 months,” until “she was vaccinated against nine diseases in one doctor's visit,” in July 2000, CBS said.

A government study titled, “The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children in the United States, 2007,” evaluated the number of children in the US who currently had an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis in 2007, based on data from a national Survey of Children's Health, and found that 1 in 91 children between the ages of 3 and 17 carried an ASD diagnosis.

”Even more alarming, for the subset of children between ages 6 and 14 immunized during the 1990's the prevalence is actually 1 in 71 children with an autism diagnosis,” Age of Autism reported.

”This age group represents children in the U.S. with the highest exposure to thimerosal, the mercury preservative routinely used until CDC, AAP and industry recommended its removal “as soon as possible” from all childhood vaccines,” AoA explained.

It’s obvious that parents no longer trust claims by the government and drug companies about harmless vaccines. On October 17, 2010, in the Huffington Post, Kim Stagliano, managing editor of AoA and author of the new book, “All I Can Handle I’m No Mother Teresa,” reported that a new study from CS Mott Children’s Hospital found 89% of parents think vaccine safety is the most important topic in medical research today.

“That makes sense, since the American pediatric vaccine schedule now includes 48 vaccinations before the age of six,” Stagliano says. “Parents are facing vaccination choice issues at every pediatric visit.”

Fictional Fear Factors

In the brief filed by the groups with all the money from Wyeth and Pfizer, when warning that vaccine makers might flee the market if they have to face the threat of lawsuits and unpredictable litigation costs, they argue that the number of vaccine makers has not greatly increased since 1986 and refer to the “precarious state of the vaccine industry.”

“The preemption of all design defect claims is critical to Congress’s objective of stabilizing the vaccine market and safeguarding the Nation’s vaccine supply,” they claim.

First of all, the vaccine industry is not in dire financial straights, in fact far from it. On June 11, 2009, Kalorama Information issued a press release for the vaccine sales forecast in a market analysis report with the headline, “New Report Forecasts More Than Doubling of Vaccine Sales by 2013.”

“Few areas of pharmaceuticals have seen the fast-moving developments in the marketplace that the vaccine market has,” Kalorama noted. The press release described 2008 as another “stellar year for the world vaccine market,” in which sales “grew 21.5% since 2007 to reach $19.2 billion.”

A year earlier, Kalorama reported that stronger than anticipated revenues for flu vaccines and the “surprising commercial success” of Merck's Gardasil had led to $16.3 billion in vaccine sales in 2007, “an increase of 38% over 2006 sales of $11.7 billion.”

However: “Vaccine manufacturers face many challenges in bringing new vaccines to market,” the amicus brief points out, with a note to: “See Paul A. Offit, Why Are Pharmaceutical Companies Gradually Abandoning Vaccines?, 24 Health Affairs 622, 623-629 (2005).”

The brief goes on to complain about how much the cost of developing vaccines has increased. “Between 1991 and 2003, for instance, costs for research and development, post licensure clinical studies, and production process improvements grew from $231 million to $802 million,” it said, citing Stanley A Plotkin, et al, Vaccines 38 (5th ed 2008). Plotkin was a co-inventor with Offit on the Rotateq vaccine.

But in any event, the high prices charged for vaccines today wipe out those costs in record time. For instance, Rotateq runs close to $200 for a 3 dose series and when you multiply that by the CDC’s calculation of more than 4 million babies born each year in the US, annual sales come to over $800 million in this country alone. Wyeth’s pneumococcal vaccine “makes $2 billion a year in sales,” according to a July 25, 2008 report by CBS News.

About a year ago, Dr Proffit was shilling for vaccine makers in the October 18, 2009 “Wall Street Journal,” by claiming infants should get 2 regular flu and 2 swine flu vaccines, without mentioning that all 4 contained the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal. “Children ages six months to nine years who have never received a flu vaccine before are recommended to receive two doses of both the H1N1 and seasonal-flu vaccine about a month apart,” Offit said.

With the headline, “Most flu shots contain mercury, but few know it,” on November 13, 2007, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that when using the standards set for methyl mercury consumption, a 22-pound baby getting the flu shot “would get more than 25 times the amount of mercury considered safe.”

In the WSJ article, Offit was identified only as “chief of infectious disease” at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, when in fact he holds a “$1.5 million dollar research chair at Children's Hospital, funded by Merck,” according to CBS News.

That bit of advice from Offit in the WSJ could potentially drum up over 4,000,000 new customers every year for shot givers and vaccine makers in the US for flu vaccines alone. Last year, the September 14, 2009 Los Angeles Times reported that physician offices usually “charge about $25 to $75 for the seasonal shot, including administration fees.”

“If you are immunizing a child for the first time, the child may need two shots,” the Times said. “Ask the healthcare professional giving the shot if you will have to pay two fees.”

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say doctors threw in both seasonal flu shots for one fee of $75. The total amount made from vaccinating 4,000,000 babies would be $300 million.

The Times said the H1N1 shot would be free, although doctor's offices and clinics may charge an administrative fee. But the swine flu shots were in no way free. Tax payers paid vaccine makers a fortune as a result of the pig flu hoax. However, for the sake of non-argument, let’s say the shot givers only charged $10 per infant to give each of the two swine flu vaccines. They would still make $80 million.

Will Health Care Workers Revolt?

The fact that health care workers have an aversion to flu vaccines is likely the best testament to the lack of benefits and potential harms associated with vaccines including the inability to sue for compensation if injured. It only stands to reason that if vaccines worked so great this group would be the first in line to get them.

But a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a paper in the October, 2010 issue of their official journal, “Pediatrics,” gives notice of plan to force health care workers to get flu vaccines with the heading, “Recommendation for Mandatory Influenza Immunization of All Health Care Personnel.”

The Academy claims that “despite the efforts of many organizations to improve influenza immunization rates with the use of voluntary campaigns, influenza coverage among health care personnel remains unacceptably low.”

Mandatory influenza immunization for all health care personnel is “ethically justified, necessary and long overdue to ensure patient safety,” the group said in a statement.

“The influenza vaccine is safe, effective, and cost-effective, so health care organizations must work to assuage common fears and misconceptions about the influenza virus and the vaccine,” the Academy claims.

Their paper reports that in January 2010, the CDC estimated the percentage of health care personnel who received vaccines was only 61.9% for seasonal flu, 37.1% for swine flu, and only 37.1% received both the seasonal and swine flu vaccines.

However, it’s not like the industry is suffering from a lack of flu shot customers even when health care workers refuse to get them. In 2009 alone, multi-national corporations took home profits of $2.8 billion in influenza vaccine sales, according to an October 2010 report by Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center.

By comparison, since the Vaccine Injury Act was passed roughly 25 years ago, the vaccine court has paid out less than $2 billion. Of the more than 13,550 petitions filed covering all vaccines, compensation for injuries was only awarded in about 2,500 cases.

Of course the estimates in the paper, if true at all, would have come from the same CDC that was run for years by Julie Gerberding and has put out the trumped up claim year after year that 36,000 people in the US die of the flu annually, with the death number never changing even when vaccination rates greatly increase.

In a December 21, 2009 Pharmalot Blog, Ed Silverman reported that Gerberding, “who until this year was the director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was named president of Merck’s vaccine division.”

As the former “top dog” at the CDC, she “has plenty of experience overseeing the selection of recommended immunizations,” FiercePharma noted on December 22, 2009.

“Autism activists, particularly those who believe vaccines are a primary cause of regressive autism, are often derided for conspiratorial comments about the CDC and Big Pharma,” JB Handley pointed out on the Pharmalot blog.

“This one is making us look more sane every day,” he said.

On October 7, 2010, Barbara Loe Fisher reported that doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Dr Proffit’s Kingdom), are ordering all employees to get a flu shot every year or be sent home for two weeks without pay to “think about it.”

“Anyone, who still refuses to get a flu shot after that, is fired,” she wrote. And that goes for not just doctors and nurses, she says, but every person who has anything to do with the health care facility, including students, volunteers, and contract workers.

“An exception could be made if the doctors in charge approve a “medical exemption” to vaccination, which, today,” Fisher warns, “is about as hard to get as a job.”

(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Scoop International and an investigative journalist and researcher focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America)