How Big Pharma and the Psychiatric Establishment Drugged Up Our Kids
Continued from previous page
Mental institution psychiatrists were not the only ones targeted. United States Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrists said in a survey that they were contacted an average of fourteen times per year by Pharma reps and were invited to attend company-continuing medical education seminars. 26And court documents unsealed in South Carolina in 2009 show that Eli Lilly sales reps even used golf bets to push their atypical antipsychotic Zyprexa; one doctor agreed to start new patients on Zyprexa “for each time a sales representative parred.” 27
But as state outlays for atypical antipsychotics grew twelvefold between 2000 and 2007, some states and whistle-blowers began bringing Pharma to court. In 2007, Bristol-Myers Squibb settled a federal suit for $515 million, brought by whistle-blowers in Massachusetts and Florida, which charged that the company marketed the antipsychotic Abilify for unapproved uses in children and the elderly, bilking taxpayers in the process .28 And the next year, Alaska won a precedent-setting $15 million settlement from Eli Lilly in a suit to recoup medical costs generated by Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. Atypical antipsychotics are known to cause weight gain and glycemic changes that can lead to diabetes. 29Soon Idaho, Washington, Montana, Connecticut, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Texas took Pharma to court for the “prescribathon,” which hit the poor, the mentally ill, children, and the elderly the hardest. 30
Of course, as with credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations (or the cases of Bernie Madoff or BP’s Deepwater Horizon or Enron), there were voices of dissent about the atypical revolution if people chose to listen. A National Institute of Mental Health study of children ages eight to nineteen with psychotic symptoms found Risperdal and Zyprexa were no more effective than the older antipsychotic Moban, but it caused such obesity that a safety panel ordered the children off the drugs. 31 In just eight weeks, children gained an average of thirteen pounds on Zyprexa, nine pounds on Risperdal, and less than one pound on Moban.
“Kids at school were making fun of me,” said study participant Brandon Constantineau, who put on thirty-five pounds on Risperdal. 32
Other studies, like one on Risperdal in the British medical journal Lancet and one on Zyprexa, Seroquel, and Risperdal in Alzheimer’s patients reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that atypicals work no better than placebos .33One study in the British Medical Journal found that Seroquel not only did not relieve agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, but that it “was [also] associated with significantly greater cognitive decline” than placebos. 34As with Risperdal, the drug made patients worse.
“The problem with these drugs [is] that we know that they are being used extensively off-label in nursing homes to sedate elderly patients with dementia and other types of disorders,” testified FDA drug reviewer David Graham, MD, during a congressional hearing .35Graham is credited with exposing the dangers of Vioxx and other risky drugs approved by the FDA. “But the fact is, is that it increases mortality perhaps by 100 percent. It doubles mortality,” said Graham. “So I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation on this, and you have probably got 15,000 elderly people in nursing homes dying each year from the off-label use of antipsychotic medications. . . . With every pill that gets dispensed in a nursing home, the drug company is laughing all the way to the bank.” 36
Just like Wall Street and banking lobbyist and cronies “advised” the government on how to write the credit default and derivative rules under which they would be regulated, Pharma helps states regulate—and buy—its brand- name drugs. An Eli Lilly–backed company named Comprehensive Neuroscience has “helped” twenty-four states to use Zyprexa “properly,” reports the New York Times. 37“Doctors who veer from guidelines on dosage strengths and combinations of medications for Medicaid patients are sent ‘Dear Doctor’ letters pointing out that their prescribing patterns fall outside the norm,” it reports. Doctors are also notified if patients “are renewing prescriptions,” lest they have “setbacks in their condition.” One such program sends registered nurses to the homes of patients who are on expensive brand drugs to ensure “compliance”; that is, to make sure patients have not stopped taking the drugs.