The Mothers Act represents the ultimate example of disease mongering at its worst because the eight-year attempt to pass this federal legislation has evolved into profiteering never before exhibited so conspicuously.
Disease mongering “is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments,” according to Ray Moyniahan and David Henry in the April 11, 2006 paper in PLoS Med, titled, “The Fight against Disease Mongering.”
“It is exemplified most explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry — funded disease-awareness campaigns — more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health,” the authors explain.
“Drug companies are by no means the only players in this drama,” they point out. “Through the work of investigative journalists, we have learned how informal alliances of pharmaceutical corporations, public relations companies, doctors' groups, and patient advocates promote these ideas to the public and policymakers — often using mass media to push a certain view of a particular health problem.”
The Mothers Act campaign has operated under the guise of helping women suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis to develop a new industry, complete with specialties like, “reproductive psychiatry,” or “reproductive mental health,” with a plan to “screen” and “treat” women of childbearing years for a long list of “perinatal” mental disorders, to financially benefit psychiatric drug makers, as well as the treatment providers and “experts” in the new self-created field.
“Drug companies have been trying for years to get a better deal with pregnant women by saying they were under a lot more stress than people realize,” according to UK pharmacology expert, Dr David Healy, author the new book, “Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder.”
This is now the easiest marketing for the drug makers, he says. In fact, “almost too easy because lots of people are cooperative.”
The Mothers Act has already passed in the House and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate. In 2006, his home state of New Jersey became the first state in the nation to enact a law forcing all new mothers to submit to mandatory screening.
Lobbyists paid big bucks to push drugs in Washington
A June 24, 2009 report by the public interest advocacy group, “Common Cause,” lists Menedez as one of the top 20 recipients of healthcare industry campaign contributions in the Senate between 2000 and 2008. Since the year 2000, Menendez has received a total of $2,252,169, including $723,550 from Big Pharma.
On June 8, 2009, a headline on New Jersey.com, read: “E-mail: Drug lobbyist targeted Menendez to help with importation bill,” and reported that the subject line of the email said: “URGENT”
The strategy to pursue Menendez became known when the email from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry trade group, ended up with Senator John McCain, a drug importation advocate. “And McCain read it on the Senate floor — twice,” the article notes.
The email called for New Jersey drug companies to ask Menendez to be their champion on an amendment that would effectively kill any attempt to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from other countries, according to the report.
“We need to locate a Democratic lead cosponsor for the second degree amendment,” the e-mail said. “Can … [Johnson & Johnson], Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and the other New Jersey companies coordinate and contact Senator Menendez's office and ask him to take the lead?”
“Menendez's office said that while he supports the drug companies' position, he did not act as their champion,” according to New Jersey.com.
Officially known as the “Melanie Blocker-Stokes Post Partum Depression Research and Care Act,” the bill is “named after Melanie Stokes, a woman who suffered emotional difficulties after giving birth and was subsequently prescribed a cocktail of intensely controversial psychiatric drugs including anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant drugs before being subjected to electroshock treatment,” according to a letter made available on the AbleChild, website for persons to sign and send to Senators, via the internet, encouraging them to vote against the Act.
“Melanie Stokes was in the mental health system, was prescribed drugs, was hospitalized, was subjected to the still barbaric practice of electroshock and only after receiving mental health “treatment” did she commit suicide,” it further explains.
“That is what the mental health industry did for a new mother named Melanie,” the letter points out.
The Mothers 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 antidepressant and other dangerous psychiatric drugs,” the AbleChild letter warns.
Suicide Prevention Hoax
The disease mongering campaigns for the new generation of psychiatric drugs over the last 20 years were accomplished under the ruse of suicide prevention. However, in 1987, the year Prozac was approved, and kicked off the bogus epidemic of mental illness in this country, the number of suicides was 30,796, and in the latest year reported on the website of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the number of suicides was 33,292 in 2006.
The suicide related adverse event reports submitted to the FDA's MedWatch system are summarized on the “Adverse Psychiatric Drug Reaction” website. For a two-year period between January 2004 and December 2006, the top 20 list of most commonly reported adverse events for Prozac, included 187 suicides and 68 attempts. Zoloft had 154 suicides and 162 suicide attempts. Paxil's top 20 list included 841 suicides, Celexa had 232 suicide reports, and Lexapro had 189 suicides, and 87 suicide attempts, reported to MedWatch. Only between one and ten percent of adverse events ever get reported to the FDA's system.
In May 2009, journalist, Philip Dawdy, reported on the popular Furious Seasons website, that Wyeth's new Effexor me-too drug, Pristiq, approved in early 2008, had already generated 1,272 adverse event reports in MedWatch by the end of 2008.
“It's discouraging that 17 of those reports involve completed suicides through the end of 2008,” Dawdy said. “There are also 48 reports of suicidal ideation.”
Symptoms Equal Side Effects
Purely for profit, patients are told to stay on antidepressants indefinitely to prevent a relapse of depression or anxiety disorders. It's doubtful that patients realize that their sex lives could be ruined by taking the drugs or that the use of common pain relievers, vitamins and alcohol is dangerous or that their driving ability might be altered, for years on end.
The website Prozac.com lists depression symptoms as: depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day; lack of interest or pleasure in your usual activities and a lack of motivation; changes in appetite; sleep problems; anxiety or restlessness; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and insecurity; difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly; fatigue or lack of energy; and thoughts of suicide.
Compare those “symptoms” to the severity and number of adverse events listed and described on the “Safety Information” page for Prozac, which includes the following statement:
“Patients on antidepressants and their families or caregivers should watch for worsening depression symptoms, unusual changes in behavior and thoughts of suicide, as well as for anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, restlessness, or extreme hyperactivity.”
Under the heading, “What are possible side effects of PROZAC?” the website states:
“Some people experience side effects like nausea, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, anxiety, nervousness, weakness, loss of appetite, tremors, dry mouth, sweating, decreased sex drive, impotence, or yawning.”
“PROZAC can cause changes in sexual desire or satisfaction,” it warns.
Sexual dysfunction, including lack of libido, orgasmic dysfunction and delayed ejaculation, are common side effects of using SSRIs, according to the May 2005 report, “The Marketing of Depression: The Prescribing of SSRI Antidepressants to Women,” by Dr Janet Currie.
“Since SSRIs are prescribed more often for women, women are more frequently affected by SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction,” she explains.
“Because SSRIs can also lead to a worsening of depression, paradoxical effects, emotional blunting or detachment, reduced emotional activity, memory loss and confusion, these effects, in conjunction with sexual dysfunction, can negatively affect intimate relationships,” she warns.
“There are concerns that not all sexual dysfunction may fully resolve after termination of treatment,” Currie also reports.
“Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking PROZAC and are taking or plan to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin since combined use of these drug products have been associated with an increased risk of bleeding,” the Prozac website advises.
“Also, tell your doctor if you are taking or plan to take any vitamins, herbal supplements or alcohol,” the warning says.
An October 2007 study by researchers led by Dr Sonal Singh, published online in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, reported that SSRIs may double the risk of bleeding in the upper digestive gastrointestinal tract including the esophagus, stomach or upper intestine.
The researchers also noted that when SSRIs are taken with aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as prescription Celebrex or over-the-counter Aleve, the risk of bleeding was 6 times higher than in persons not on the drugs.
“Do not drive a car or operate dangerous machinery until you know what effects PROZAC may have on you,” the Prozac website instructs.
A December 2006 study in the, “Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,” reported that about seven out of every ten people who take antidepressants have impaired driving ability and that 16% of the people on the drugs have severe motor impairments.
A new May 2009 study, in the “American Journal of Psychiatry,” reports that long term use of antidepressants raises the risk of diabetes, especially in moderate to high doses. SSRIs increased the risk by 106% and tricyclic antidepressants increased the risk by 77%.
The precaution section on the labeling for Prozac states: “Hyponatremia may occur as a result of treatment.”
“Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, difficulty concentrating, memory impairment, confusion, weakness, and unsteadiness, which may lead to falls,” it explains.
“More severe and/or acute cases have been associated with hallucination, syncope, seizure, coma, respiratory arrest, and death,” the label warns.
Antidepressants lose patent profitability
Since the new generation of antidepressants lost their patent profitability, the treatment for all the “mood” and “anxiety” disorders women will be diagnosed with as a result of the Mothers Act disease mongering campaign, now includes not only antidepressants, but drugs used as “mood stabilizers,” such as the antipsychotics Zyprexa, Seroquel, Risperdal, Invega, Geodon and Abilify, and antiseizure medications including Lamictal, Depakote, Topamax, Trileptal, Neurontin, Gabitril and Lyrica, along with benzodiazepines like Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Klonopin, and sleeping pills such as Ambien or Lunesta.
In 2008, psychiatric drug makers had overall US sales of $14.6 billion from antipsychotics, $9.6 billion off antidepressants, $11.3 billion from antiseizure drugs, and $4.8 billion in sales of ADHD drugs, for a grand total of $40.3 billion.
“In 2008, 85 million prescriptions were filled for the top 20 benzodiazepines, an increase of 10 million over 2004, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company,” the Wall Street Journal reported on June 30, 2009.
“Worldwide revenue for Xanax rose to $350 million last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2003, according to pharmaceutical company Pfizer's financial reports,” the Journal reported. Xanax sold for $203 for 100 middle dose tablets, and Ativan cost $230 per hundred at DrugStore.com on July 13, 2009.
Benzodiazepines are often prescribed to manage anxiety, panic and sleep disorders, the Journal noted. “Health professionals and consumers are increasingly recognizing that taking the drugs for more than a few weeks can lead to physical dependence, often ending with a grueling withdrawal,” the article said.
Psychiatric drugs are now doled out in multiple drug cocktails to treat “co-occurring” mental illnesses such as “anxiety disorders” and “treatment resistant” depression, or the latest rage, “Adult ADHD.”
In an April 2008 report, the market research firm, Datamonitor, announced: “ADHD – Immature adult market continues to offer greatest commercial potential.”
“Estimated to be twice the size of the pediatric ADHD population,” the reports states, “the highly prevalent, yet largely untapped, adult ADHD population continues to represent an attractive niche to target.”
“The rising awareness of ADHD brought about by marketing campaigns for Adderall XR and Strattera has paved the way for the entry of additional adult ADHD drugs,” it notes.
“The US dominates the ADHD market with a 94% market share,” Datamonitor points out, demonstrating that the rest of the world has apparently not lost the ability to concentrate without the use of “legal speed.”
Last year, Adderall and Vyvanse maker, Shire, issued a press release on May 12, 2008, to announce a “Nationwide Adult ADHD Mobile Awareness Tour,” and launched a “13-city mobile screening initiative” for adults with ADHD.
“The screening initiative, known as the “RoADHD Trip,” is housed, transported and anchored by the RoADHD Trip Tractor Trailer which expands into a tented area housing eight self-screening stations,” Shire explained in the press release.
Shire claims that ADHD “affects approximately 4.4 percent of the U.S. adult population aged 18-44 according to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative household survey.”
Dr David Stein, author of, “Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco,” warns that stimulant drugs are “near the top of the heap of potentially addictive drugs.”
There is no way of pinpointing which people are at risk of becoming addicted, he says, and “psychiatry has an extremely poor track record for treating addiction problems.”
Profitable Victims Spur Disease Mongering
When drugs are peddled through mental illness disease mongering campaigns, stories in the media seldom mention medication prices, much less the number of drugs commonly prescribed together to treat the various disorders; leaving the public unaware of the enormous profit motive behind the mass drugging of the victims.
A women diagnosed with ADHD and treatment resistant depression might end up taking Strattera, Cymbalta and Zyprexa, all sold by Eli Lilly. The recent prices of these drugs at a middle dose on DrugStore.com were $427 for 100 capsules of Strattera, $391 for 90 capsules of Cymbalta, and Zyprexa was $1,195 per ninety pills. A year of these three drugs would bring in roughly $24,156, per patient, for Lilly and the pharmacy alone, not counting the prescribing doctors' fees and the cost of any therapy sessions deemed necessary.
Bristol-Myers Squibb's Abilify is now approved as an “Adjunctive Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder,” at a price of $1,230 for ninety capsules at DrugStore.com. The “Information for Patients,” section on the labeling states in part:
“Patients, their families, and their caregivers should be encouraged to be alert to the emergence of anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, mania, other unusual changes in behavior, worsening of depression, and suicidal ideation, especially early during antidepressant treatment and when the dose is adjusted up or down.”
“A syndrome of potentially irreversible, involuntary, dyskinetic movements may develop in patients treated with antipsychotic drugs,” the Abilify labeling warns.
On April 29, 2009, Philip Dawdy's headline on Furious Seasons, read: “10 Percent Of Depressed Patients Now Take Antipsychotics,” based on statements made during a conference call by executives of Bristol-Myers Squibb.
“Forget about Prozac Nation, this is Atypical Nation,” he said. “Antipsychotics are now the top revenue producing class of drugs, topping even statins.
Zyprexa and Prozac are combined in Lilly's Symbyax, recently approved for “treatment resistant” depression and the Abilify warnings are also on the labeling of this drug. The price of Symbyax was $1,564 for ninety 12-25mg capsules on DrugStore.com in May 2009, meaning each patient could bring in $18,768 per year for Lilly and the pharmacy alone.
A 2007 study titled, “Serious Adverse Drug Events Reported to the Food and Drug Administration,” between 1998-2005, by Thomas Moore, Michael Cohen, and Curt Furberg, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the number of fatal adverse event reports to the FDA had increased nearly 300%, from 1998 to 2005. The top 15 drugs with the most fatalities included the antipsychotics, Clozaril with 3,277 deaths, Risperdal with 1,093, and Zyprexa with 1,005. Paxil also made the top 15 list with 850 death reports.
In 2008, the FDA warned that anticonvulsants double the risk of suicidal behavior or ideation, with epilepsy treatment having the highest risk, ruling out psychiatric disorders, such as depression, as the underlying culprit. The prices for anticonvulsants at a middle dose ran as high as $1,029 for 180 tablets of GlaxoSmithKline's Lamictal, and $1,286 for 180 tablets of Johnson & Johnson's Topamax, in May 2009.
Unconscionable Disease Mongers Target the Nursery
“The rights of the unborn to a safe and healthy birth are being taken away by this legislation,” says Mothers Act opponent Larry Bone.
“One third of pregnant women in the US already take psychiatric drugs at some point during their pregnancies and most are never warned of the known risks for themselves, their unborn and nursing babies, depriving them of their right to informed consent,” according to Dr Fred Baughman, author of the “ADHD Fraud,” and former director of the March of Dimes, Birth Defects Clinic of Western Michigan.
“Should the Act pass,” he warns, “it will guarantee that more mothers-to-be, their unborn still-developing babies, and more nursing mothers and their nursing infants, will join the ranks of the psychiatrically drugged.”
A young Texas mother, Amy Philo, is the leader of “Unite for Life,” a coalition of 53 groups fighting against the Mothers Act, which includes the Alliance for Human Research Protection, AbleChild, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology; International Coalition For Drug Awareness; Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Mindfreedom International, and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy.
The coalition points out that there is no language in the bill that will ensure mothers are granted the most fundamental right of “informed consent,” meaning they will be told about all the risks of the proposed treatments and all the alternatives.
“If this bill was really for moms with PPD,” Amy says, “it would ensure express written informed consent and ensure that all medical testing and non-drug options are explored.”
“When the sponsors in the Senate refuse to add informed consent language and an examination of existing data on risks of existing treatments, then you know something is wrong,” she says. “Seriously wrong.”
The lack of an informed consent provision also concerns other experts in the field. “In every case in which a doctor writes a prescription, the person receiving the drug must be fully and understandably provided a statement of the risks associated with treatment,” says Harrisburg, Pennsylvania psychiatrist, Dr Stefan Kruszewski, who serves as an expert in litigation on the harms of psychiatric drugs.
“This is never more serious than when two lives are potentially at risk, such as the pregnant or nursing mother and her infant,” he advises.
“The risks for a pregnant mom on antidepressants may include withdrawal, akathisia or rapid mood swings,” he warns. “For the fetus, the overwhelming worry is a withdrawal syndrome and congenital malformations, resulting in complications for both mother and child.”
In 2004, Amy was prescribed Zoloft, to “prevent” PPD, because she became extremely anxious and concerned after she witnessed her newborn son's life-threatening choking incident, based on a recommendation of a home visiting nurse.
Without any explanation of alternative treatments, or warnings about side effects, the doctor told Amy that Zoloft would make her and her nursing infant happy, in a consultation lasting about two minutes.
Zoloft caused Amy to become homicidal and suicidal and she ended up locked in a mental ward away from her baby for two days. Rather than recognize the side effects of Zoloft, the “professionals” upped the dose and also tried to feed Amy Zyprexa, Celexa, Ambien, and Klonopin, which she refused to take because she was nursing.
Amy's obsessive homicidal and suicidal thoughts persisted for five months, until she weaned herself off Zoloft against medical advice, and they disappeared and never returned. Her recently obtained medical records show she was labeled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression. These stigmatizing labels will stay in her records forever with no explanation that Zoloft was the cause of any alleged mental disorder.
The family's insurance was billed about $8,000 for the 2-day stay in the mental ward, and Amy and her husband were stuck with an $800 co-payment. Ninety 100mg tablets of Zoloft cost $318, at DrugStore.com on July 13, 2009. Of the drugs Amy refused to take, Celexa sold for $355 for 100 20mg tablets, Klonopin was $209 for 100 2mg tablets, and Ambien cost $173 for 30 10mg pills. As mentioned above, Zyprexa recently sold for $1,195 per ninety tablets.
Andrea Yates is another example of a women drugged into madness. On June 20, 2001, the Texas housewife and former nurse, filled a bathtub with water 3 inches from the top and methodically drowned her five children one by one. After she was done she called 911. When the policemen arrived she led them to the bodies.
“Contrary to the mantra that it is untreated mental illness that causes these tragic events, more often than not, we see these events occurring in individuals who are receiving mental health “treatment,” almost always in the form of psychotropic drugs,” warns attorney, Karen Barth Menzies, who has worked on cases involving drug-induced homicide and suicide, as well as SSRI birth defect litigation.
“From everything I have read about the Yates case,” she says, “it is a tragic consequence of an incompetent, failing and corrupt mental health system.”
“Ms Yates was on a chemical soup of various medications and, therefore, it is difficult to point the finger at any one drug,” she explains.
“But it seems clear that the drugs she was taking did nothing but exacerbate her condition,” she adds.
“I think the drug manufacturers who grossly oversell the benefits of their drugs and the doctors who pile on drug after drug, bear responsibility for the death of these children and deserve to be criminally charged as well,” Menzies states.
“What we have observed, particularly in criminal cases,” she says, “is that people taking these drugs will commit crimes they normally would never have committed due to a combination of side effects.”
“For over a decade, antidepressant manufacturers have monitored the criminal courts for suspects who became violent while taking an antidepressant — and they secretly help prosecutors fight against an SSRI-antidepressant defense,” Menzies reports.
“The last thing drug companies want is for juries (and the public) to learn the truth – that these drugs can cause people to become violent and homicidal,” she advises.
“Of course, the drug companies do not give the prosecutors the whole story,” she says. “To protect the reputation of their money-making drug, the companies hide the internal evidence of people in clinical trials who become violent and homicidal on their drug, but then fully-recovered once they were off.”
“These adverse reactions normally include an agitated state as well as a condition called “depersonalization” where the individual becomes disconnected from the reality of their actions, where everything seems unreal, as if they are watching a movie,” Menzies explains.
“Often times,” she notes, “there is a state of disinhibition, where normal inhibitions are no longer present, such as when people become intoxicated or are on street drugs.”
“Unfortunately,” she says, “the cost to bring a drug-induced violence (involuntary intoxication) defense is extraordinary, especially because the state is backed by drug company resources to fight this defense.”
“Not exactly a level playing field,” she says, “And the drug companies, as we've seen, will spare nothing when it comes to protecting the profits they make on these drugs!”
An April 20, 2009 press release by Senator Menendez claimed the Mothers Act legislation would increase federal efforts to combat postpartum depression by:
“Creating a grant program to public or nonprofit private entities to deliver or enhance outpatient, inpatient and home-based health and support services, including case management and comprehensive treatment services for individuals with or at risk for postpartum conditions.
“Activities may also include providing education about postpartum conditions to new mothers and their families, including symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources, in order to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment.”
As will be shown in the next parts of this series, the “public or nonprofit private entities” are already in place and the profiteers are waiting with their hands out for the tax dollars to start rolling into their bank accounts.