"Issues and Action in Education"
Follow the Money on TeenScreen
Dangerous coalition between financial interests and state take-over of parenting.
An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization.
Posted on May 11, 2007
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) "black box" warning states: "Antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents." With this clear and present danger, why has the use of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs for children in general, for poor children on Medicaid, and for foster children skyrocketed in recent years? Follow the money and follow the state take-over of parenting.
The Minnesota House of Representatives, for example, responded to massive opposition against funding the controversial psychological screening program, TeenScreen, by disguising it as “suicide prevention” in the safe schools levy. It remains in the massive House education funding bill, awaiting conference committee action.
Continuing to cover up the dangers and problems of screening and the resulting drug use was the bill's author, Rep. Mindy Greiling, who also serves as a national board member for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). TeenScreen is a project of NAMI, but not without the ugly appearance of corporate manipulation. NAMI is massively funded by the drug companies that are reaping huge profits from the use of psychoactive drugs.
This is an enormous conflict of interest: NAMI fronts for and is funded by drug companies as an "advocacy" group for the mentally ill; NAMI pushes government programs and grants that lead to the wildly increased use of dangerous, ineffective, and expensive drugs on children, contrary to the advice of the FDA. It's a strategy that's working in Minnesota and many other states.
Growing criticism about the corrupting influence of corporate cash in medical and legislative affairs brought first-ever disclosure from Eli Lilly about who it's funding. A May 1st Wall Street Journal story titled Under Criticism, Drug Maker Lilly Discloses Funding chronicles these contributions to several groups and institutions, totalling $11.8 million -- in three months alone. NAMI received over half a million dollars from this one company for programs that are likely to aggressively promote controversial mental screening schemes.
Two of the three classes of psychiatric drugs used for children are under the FDA’s strongest black box warning, short of a ban, for causing suicide or increased death rates. Just this past week the FDA increased the black box warnings on antidepressants, including Prozac, to cover 18 to 24 year olds. The connection of Prozac to suicide and violence has been known by Lilly since the 1980s and not disclosed except via lawsuits. None of these drugs have shown long-term effectiveness in treating the various mental disorders for which they are prescribed, especially in children.
And yet TeenScreen, pushed by NAMI and by politicians closely allied with NAMI, admits to an 84% false-positive identification rate. Lots of children will be falsely labelled as being "mentally ill" by this vague and unreliable psychological screening program, and psychotropic drug sales will go up even more.
Lilly also did not disclose other issues. For example, its drug Zyprexa has serious diabetes-causing effects and other harmful metabolic effects. Lilly is under intense criticism and multiple lawsuits by thousands of patients, 7 state attorneys general, the company’s own shareholders, as well as Congressional investigation charged with failure to disclose these life threatening side effects, for illegally marketing Zyprexa for unapproved uses in vulnerable populations like foster children, and for making unsubstantiated claims about the drug.
Lilly is also sponsoring “research” to “treat” adolescents who are “at risk” of schizophrenia, but have not yet been diagnosed with the disorder, with this very controversial, dangerous, and ineffective drug, Zyprexa. (See here for details).
While rank and file NAMI members are doing their best to cope with friends and family members dealing with mental and emotional problems, their leadership dances to the drug industry tune, rarely asking questions or raising concerns about the dismal history of these drugs’ safety or effectiveness or the industry’s constant stonewalling and cover-up of damaging, yet crucial clinical information, such as that in the center of the Zyprexa controversy.
According to a 1999 expose in Mother Jones Magazine, Lilly was NAMI’s number one donor during the period between 1996 and 1999. The company gave $2.87 million of the $11.72 million that NAMI received from 18 different drug companies during that period. In addition, Lilly executive Jerry Radke was “on loan” to NAMI for so-called “strategic planning.” One could legitimately ask the question if the “strategic” planning included the hatching and promotion of TeenScreen.
Lori Flynn, the current executive director of TeenScreen, was also the executive director of NAMI while Lilly was doing “strategic planning” for NAMI and contributing massive amounts of cash. Later Ms. Flynn was caught lying to Congress about the Pinellas Country School Board rejection of TeenScreen by a large margin. She had to formally apologize to the school board for misrepresenting them.
In addition, the same public relations firms that have been promoting TeenScreen have as clients many of the same pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Eli Lilly, that are seeing massive profits from use of these psychotropic drugs in children who are captive in these government programs. Columbia University, the developer of TeenScreen, and NAMI, its promoter, are also on the list. One of these firms, Rabin Strategic Partners, actually brags on its website:
- “We provided Columbia University with a ten-year strategy including the marketing, public policy and funding steps needed to launch the program nationally. Rabin Strategic Partners developed and managed public relations, lobbying and advertising to implement the plan. Now on a daily basis we track the media and political landscape to make sure the plan meshes with the current environment. So far the strategy is paying off. Programs are established in almost 500 communities in 42 states and over 250 sites are in development. Thirty-four national organizations support voluntary, mental health check-ups for teens. Just recently federal grants were awarded to four states to implement the program as part of their overall suicide prevention efforts.”
The financial self-interest of the drug companies and NAMI is very important to understand because of NAMI’s relentless push for psychiatric screening programs from birth to death, including TeenScreen. However, more dangerous yet is the alliance between the lucrative financial interests of the drug companies with the primarily Democrat big-government ideology that considers our children’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as the domain of the state. Our children are to be assessed and remediated according to their utopian vision. These interests together are driving dangerous anti-parent, anti-child legislation at the state and federal levels.
Underhanded attempts by the drug company Merck to manipulate states’ vaccine policy via Women in Government in order to mandate the HPV vaccine to enhance its profits were exposed and stopped this year, at least temporarily. In the same way psychiatric screening and Eli Lilly along with other pharmaceutical companies via NAMI and hired gun public relations firms must be exposed and stopped. As eloquently stated by AHRP, the future health and freedom of our children depend on it:
- “Let this be a warning to all those who attempt to side-step parental rights and public debate by conducting medical or mental screens--e.g. TeenScreen in America's schools. The goal is to broaden the consumer market for medical products. It is a back door approach of providing unsolicited medical interventions that expose children to risks of harm.”
MyFoxTwinCities.com report, May 7, 2007
Drug companies pay doctors $500 to take a phone call and $2,000 to read a speech prepared by someone else. "The problem is there's no free lunch, there are strings to all of these" said Dr. Speaks, of Hennepin County Medical Center. Doctors are approached by drug companies to give seminars on various health topics for thousands of dollars.
-- THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 21, 2007
Doctors' Ties to Drug Makers Are Put on Close View, March 21, 2007
By GARDINER HARRIS and JANET ROBERTS
The Times graphic illustration shows that drug company fees for physician marketing services increased by leaps and bounds beginning in 1997. Topping off the chart among medical specialties is psychiatry. In Minnesota 550 psychiatrists raked in $6.7 million. (See AHRP commentary.)
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