How Big Pharma and the Psychiatric Establishment Drugged Up Our Kids
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Some states say they have saved money under Pharma’s guidance, but Wisconsin found that once it “placed restrictions on Zyprexa and three other antipsychotic drugs” and scrapped the Lilly-funded program, it lowered its antipsychotic bill by $4 million. 38
And then there’s the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, a “decision tree” developed by Pharma and Johnson & Johnson’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 1995 to “help” the state buy its drugs. The algorithm rules required doctors to treat patients—surprise!—with the newest, most expensive drugs first, which ballooned Risperdal sales as well as other atypical antipsychotics. 39
But in 2008, the Texas attorney general’s office charged Risperdal maker Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s antipsychotic drug unit, with fraud. 40Janssen defrauded the state of millions, said a civil suit, “with [its] sophisticated and fraudulent marketing scheme,” to “secure a spot for the drug, Risperdal, on the state’s Medicaid preferred drug list and on controversial medical protocols that determine which drugs are given to adults and children in state custody.” In addition to lavishing trips, perks, and kickbacks on Texas’s mental health officials to win drug sales, and disguising marketing as scientific research, the attorney general’s office charged that Janssen “paid third-party contractors and nonprofit groups to promote Risperdal . . . to give state mental health officials and lawmakers the perception that the drug had widespread support.” 41
Such faux grassroots support from phony front groups has been cited in other lawsuits against Pharma. Whistle-blowers charge that Pfizer funded the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to serve as a “Trojan horse” to sell Geodon in a complaint that led to forty-three states receiving givebacks and the largest criminal fine ever imposed in US history—$2.3 billion in 2009. 42
The National Alliance on Mental Illness calls itself a “nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illnesses,” 43but it has been investigated by Congress for undisclosed Pharma money and is considered by some to be a front organization. The Geodon complaint even cites jailed physician Richard Borison, who also worked with Seroquel and Neurontin, in the corruption. 44
Of course, to lock in taxpayer funding of psychoactive drugs, especially for children, it takes more than “helping” state officials at the point of purchase (and sending zealous drug reps to state facilities where the “patients are”). Pharma also finances continuing medical education (CME) courses that reward credits doctors need to retain their state licenses. A CME course called Individualizing ADHD Pharmacotherapy with Disruptive Behavioral Disorders taught by the Johnson & Johnson–funded Robert L. Findling, MD, refers to Risperdal thirteen times. 45Another CME course that promoted Seroquel was “taught” by AstraZeneca staff and Dr. Nemeroff but was scrapped after the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education found it “lacked sufficient information about possible adverse effects of treatment with atypical antipsychotic drugs; and failed to emphasize sufficiently the efficacy of alternative treatments.” 46 The course was called Atypical Antipsychotics in Major Depressive Disorder: When Current Treatments Are Not Enough.
Pharma doctors also spread confidence about the drugs by publishing in medical journals like a Johnson & Johnson–subsidized article that upheld the “long-term safety and effectiveness of risperidone [Risperdal] for severe disruptive behaviors in children” in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Despite thirty-one recorded child deaths, the drug was found to be safe, according to the article, on the basis of a one-year study. 47
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