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World Experts Demand End to Child Drugging in the US - Part II
Washington, DC: Mathy Milling
Downing was a featured speaker at the annual conference of the
International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology and
told the audience that her anger is directed toward the FDA and drug
companies, "for their incompetence and lack of concern for innocent
children they have helped to kill, my little girl included."
Her 12-year-old daughter, Candace, hung herself from the valence of her
bed on January 10, 2004, after being prescribed the antidepressant drug
Zoloft for "test anxiety" at school.
Experts in the field of psychiatry and child development from all over
the world attended this year's annual conference in Washington with the
agenda aimed at ending the mental health screening programs put in
place by the Bush Administration's New Freedom Commission and the
mass-drugging of children with psychiatric drugs.
her presentation, Ms Downing said she objected to placing Candace on
drugs but was assured that Zoloft was safe and did not learn until
after her daughter's death that "up to four children out of every
hundred run a risk of dying by their own hand or at least attempt to."
Had she been given the opportunity to have informed consent on the
dangers of SSRI's, she said, "my child would still be alive."
"I never would have allowed my child to be placed on a drug with no
proven efficacy and a history of possible harm," Ms Downing stated.
She described how she tried to contact doctors at the FDA numerous
times to express her concerns, and no one was ever available to speak
to her. She filed a complaint with MedWatch on March 18, 2004, and, "I
am still waiting for my reply," she stated.
"One would think that the FDA would support the needs of Americans over
the greed of the various pharmaceutical corporations," she said, "but
that continues to be a pipe dream of mine rather than a reality."
Critics say TeenScreen, billed as a suicide prevention tool, is nothing
more than a drug marketing scheme developed by the pharmaceutical
industry and a front group operating under cover of Columbia University
to establish a customer base within the nation's 50-odd million school
children for the new generation of psychiatric drugs, including
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRI's) and
These so-called new "wonder drugs" include the antidepressants Prozac
and Cymbalta by Eli Lilly; Paxil from GlaxoSmithKline; Zoloft by
Pfizer; Celexa and Lexapro from Forest Labs; Effexor by Wyeth, as well
as generic versions of the drugs. The atypical antipsychotics include
Zyprexa by Lilly; Risperdal, marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals;
Abilify by Bristol-Myers Squibb; Clozaril by Novartis, and Geodon by
Best-selling author of "Mad in America", Robert Whitaker, tracked the
profits of these "wonder drugs" since the first SSRI, Prozac, arrived
on the market in 1987 and found a tremendous rise in the cost to
taxpayers. In 1987, psychotropic medication expenditures were about $1
billion, but by 2004, in a 40-fold increase, the cost had risen to $23
According to Mr Whitaker's analysis, global sales of antipsychotics
went from $263 million in 1986 to $8.6 billion in 2004, and
antidepressant sales rose from $240 million in 1986 to $11.2 billion in
In the paper, "Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental
Illness in America," published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal
of Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Mr Whitaker also reports
that, in addition to breaking sales records, within 10 years on the
market, "Prozac quickly took up the top position as America's most
complained about drug." He further states:
"By 1997, 39,000 adverse-event reports about it had been sent to
MedWatch. These reports are thought to represent only 1% of the actual
number of such events, suggesting that nearly 4 million people in the
US had suffered such problems, which included mania, psychotic
depression, nervousness, anxiety, agitation, hostility, hallucinations,
memory loss, tremors, impotence, convulsions, insomnia and nausea."
According to the paper, "It is well-known that all of the major classes
of psychiatric drugs - anti-psychotics, anti-depressants,
benzodiazepines, and stimulants for ADHD - can trigger new and more
severe psychiatric symptoms in a significant percentage of patients."
Ms Downing has been on a non-stop crusade to prevent the death of more
children since her daughter died and the family's tragedy is featured
in the documentary, "Prescription: Suicide," which also includes the
story of 6 families effected by their encounters with SSRIs and how
their lives changed forever. A copy of the film is available on the
Participate Now web site at www.participatenow.net.
Candace should never have been given Zoloft because it was never
approved for use with kids. Prozac is the only SSRI approved for
children in the US because it is the only drug reportedly shown to be
effective in two pediatric clinical trials, a requirement that must be
met to obtain FDA approval.
But according to ICSPP founder and leading SSRI authority Dr Peter
Breggin, the term "effective" has little meaning because all a drug
company has to do is show better results in kids treated with an SSRI
than in children taking a placebo and can conduct 100 trials if need be
to get the two positive studies. It stands to reason that with 50-50
odds, if enough trials are conducted, an SSRI is bound to do better
than a placebo eventually.
However, with that in mind, experts say it's important to note that,
other than Prozac, the SSRI makers have not been able to provide the
FDA with 2 positive studies out of all the clinical trials that have
been conducted in hopes of obtaining FDA approval for the sale of
SSRI's to kids.
That said, SSRI makers have made a fortune by getting doctors to
prescribe the drugs for unapproved uses. A University of Georgia study
in the June 2006 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 75% of
persons prescribed antidepressants received them off-label. The
researchers reviewed records of more than 106,000 Medicaid recipients
in 2001 to examine the rates of off-label prescribing of drugs that act
on the central nervous system and found 75% of antidepressant patients
received the drugs for unapproved uses.
"More than two-thirds of the studies of antidepressants given to
children showed that the medications were no more effective than a
placebo, and most of the positive results came from drug company
sponsored trials," Dr Karen Effrem reported in her presentation at the
Litigation against drug companies has established this fact. In 2004,
New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer brought fraud charges
against Glaxo for hiding studies that "not only failed to show any
benefit for the drug in children but demonstrated that children taking
Paxil were more likely to become suicidal than those taking a placebo."
Two months later, Glaxo agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle the
Mr Spitzer pointed out that Paxil was never approved to treat any
condition in children, and yet doctors prescribed the drug to kids two
million times in 2002, the same year that Paxil became Glaxo's top
seller with $3.8 billion in sales.
On November 1, 2006, the Associated Press reported that Glaxo "has
agreed to pay $63.8 million to settle a lawsuit's claims that it
promoted its antidepressant drug Paxil for use by children and
adolescents while withholding negative information about the
medication's safety and effectiveness."
Critics say it's not difficult to track the industry money involved in
the promotion of TeenScreen. The program's Executive Director, Laurie
Flynn, was the Executive Director of National Alliance for the Mentally
Ill (NAMI) for 16 years, which bills itself as a patient advocacy
group, but in reality is the most heavily industry-funded front group
in the US.
Mother Jones Magazine obtained NAMI documents for the period between
1996 and mid-1999, while Ms Flynn was running the show, which revealed
that NAMI received a total of $11.72 million during that 3-year period
from 18 drug companies, including Janssen, $2.08 million; Novartis,
$1.87 million; Pfizer, $1.3 million; Abbott Laboratories, over $1.24
million; Wyeth-Ayerst, $658,000, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, $613,505.
NAMI's top donor during that period was none other than Lilly, the
maker of Prozac and Zyprexa, which coughed up a total of $2.87 million
out of the goodness of its heart.
Ms Flynn also wrote an article promoting TeenScreen entitled, "Before
Their Time: Preventing Teen Suicide," in which she stated: "The
TeenScreen Program developed 10 years ago by Columbia University and
offered in partnership with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
helps communities across the nation identify teens with mental illness
who might be at risk for suicide."
If TeenScreen is "offered in partnership" with NAMI, critics say, it
goes without saying that millions of dollars of drug company money was
invested in the program.
The efforts to implement TeenScreen by use of "this partnership" cannot
be understated. A video-taped presentation at the annual convention of
NAMI, obtained by researcher Sue Weibert, shows the TeenScreen crew
telling the army of NAMI members from all across the country that
helping set up TeenScreen might require contacting a child's insurance
company to check on coverage or driving a child to an appointment with
The video also shows the presenter passing around a notebook for
signatures from members who would be willing to act as volunteers and
rise up against anyone who speaks out against TeenScreen.
The presenter also explains the importance of bribing kids with movie
coupons, pizza or other perks, because parents won't agree to allow the
children to be screened, so they need to win the kids over first and
send them home to talk the parents.
Early on, NAMI and TeenScreen did not even hide the fact that drug
money was funding the screening. In June 2002, the Tennessee Department
of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Update Newsletter
reported that NAMI and Columbia University sponsored the screening of
170 Nashville students with TeenScreen and that the survey was funded
by grants from AdvoCare and Eli Lilly.
But two years later, in March 2004, Ms Flynn appeared at a
congressional hearing trying to drum up the allocation of tax dollars
to set up TeenScreen in public schools. During her testimony, she as
much as defined the customer base the drug companies were after when
she told the lawmakers that, "close to 750,000 teens are depressed at
any one time, and an estimated 7-12 million youth suffer from mental
On September 27, 2007, psychologist Michael Shaughnessy, professor in
Educational Studies at the Eastern New Mexico University and columnist
for the educational news and information site, EdNews.org, was
interviewed about his views on TeenScreen by Doyle Mills, an
independent researcher in Clearwater, Florida who was instrumental in
blocking TeenScreen from setting up shop in schools in Pinellas and
Hillsborough Counties, two of Florida's most populated counties, and
has published several articles critical of TeenScreen.
Mr Mills shared his interview with Dr Shaughnessy at the ICSPP
conference, in which the Professor called TeenScreen "a program aimed
at locating, identifying and procuring new customers for the mental
He says TeenScreen is a creation of psychiatrist David Shaffer, a paid
spokesman for Lilly and paid consultant for drug companies Hoffman la
Roche, Wyeth and Glaxo.
TeenScreen started out by claiming the program was free and required no
government funding. But as it turns out, taxpayers are funding this
marketing scheme from start to finish. Government money is being used
to set up TeenScreen in schools all over the US and tax dollars are
paying not only for the follow-up visits to prescribing shrinks but
also for the majority of drugs prescribed.
The pilot programs of TeenScreen in five counties in Ohio were funded
by five $15,000 grants allocated by mental health boards within the
Ohio Department of Mental Health.
Medicaid record show that taxpayers in Ohio are footing the bill for
most of the child drugging as well. In July 2004, over 39,000 children
covered by Medicaid were found to be taking drugs for depression,
anxiety, delusions, hyperactivity and violent behavior, and Medicaid
spent more than $65 million for mental health drugs prescribed to
children in 2004, according to an investigation by the Columbus
The massive drugging of patients covered by public health care programs
is similar in states all across the US. In 5 years, prescription costs
for Iowa Medicaid increased 82.5%, and by class, antipsychotics
reflected the largest increase for mental health drugs.
In 2005, while the average cost for a first generation antipsychotic to
Medicaid was only $36 a month, a month's supply for a new
antipsychotics cost between $100 - $1,000, according to the December 8,
2005, Mental Health Subcommittee Report to the Medical Assistance
Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee.
For the record, TeenScreen is not free, and it is costing tax payers a
bundle. On November 17, 2004, the University of South Florida announced
the receipt of a grant of $98,641 from the US Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration to expand the TeenScreen program
in the Tampa Bay area.
Florida Medicaid is also being bilked. On July 29, 2007, the St
Petersburg Times reported that, in the last 7 years, the cost to
taxpayers for atypicals prescribed to kids rose nearly 500%, and on
average it cost Medicaid nearly $1,800 per child in 2006.
The Times reported that more than 18,000 kids on Medicaid were
prescribed antipsychotics in 2006, including 1,100 under the age of 6
and some as young as 3, even though guidelines from the Florida Agency
for Health Care Administration says that, with children under 6,
psychotropic drugs should "only be considered under the most
extraordinary of circumstances."
In setting up TeenScreen to screen students in Brimfield, Illinois,
"organizing the system and employing a part-time counselor specifically
for the program is estimated to cost about $100 per student," the July
11, 2005, Peoria, Illinois Journal Star reported.
Overall, the "Brimfield High School program alone will cost around $20,000 for the first semester," the Journal noted.
The TeenScreen gang claims that it always obtains parental consent
prior to screening students and that it does not diagnose students with
However, Michael and Teresa Rhoades, from Indiana, attended the DC
conference and as a featured speaker, Teresa described how her daughter
was TeenScreened in December 2004, without parental consent, and was
told that she had not one, but 2 mental illnesses.
Teresa recalled the day that her distraught daughter came home and
informed her parents that she had been diagnosed with obsessive
compulsive disorder and a social anxiety disorder.
Michael and Teresa say they were furious to the point that they filed
the nation's first lawsuit against TeenScreen, charging that their
daughter was wrongly screened, diagnosed, and labeled mentally ill in a
public school without their consent.
"TeenScreen itself is a questionnaire with invasive and probing
questions which indoctrinate young people into a belief that all their
feelings and behaviors are indications of a mental disorder," Dr
Shaughnessy told Mr Mills in the interview.
He said, "the child is convinced of it, the parent is convinced of it,
and then the child becomes a customer of TeenScreen's local mental
health 'partner,' which sells counseling or drugs and profits tens of
thousands of dollars per child."
Dr Shaughnessy acknowledged that adolescence is a hard time for
everyone but said, "maybe it's supposed to be," that's how we learn.
He says TeenScreen labels the normal pain and uncertainty of
adolescence as a mental disorder for profit and asks, "When did
adolescence become a disease or something unnatural or deadly that
needs intervention if anyone is going to make it through?"
""What a ridiculous concept," Dr Shaughnessy added.
He also points out that school records for children are intended to be
secure but says, once committed to paper or computer, nothing can be
100% secure. "Normal school records are fairly harmless no matter who
sees them," he states.
"TeenScreen records on the other hand," he warns, "contain unscientific
evaluations which can be taken to mean that the child has a permanent,
incurable mental disorder."
He also says these records can then be used against a child as an
adult, to take away his rights, limit his opportunities or "just as a
"As there is no scientific way to prove that anyone has a mental
disorder," Dr Shaughnessy points out, "there is likewise no scientific
way to disprove it."
He told Mr Mills that this is one aspect that parents are never made
aware of prior to allowing TeenScreen access to their children. "Once a
person is diagnosed, he may never be able to escape that label," he
Advocates against school screening have set up a web site that lists
the TeenScreen locations throughout the US, which also posts a petition
for people opposed to the program to sign at [TEENSCREEN-LOCATIONS]
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