Drugging our children to death

NewAuthorPhotoGwen Olsen spent more than a decade as a sales rep in the pharmaceutical industry, working for health care giants such as Johnson Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories. A well-known media resource, she has been in numerous print, radio, and television media reports, and testified before Congress and the FDA. A 2007 Human Rights Award winner, she currently devotes her time to writing, national speaking engagements, and mental health activism and is the author of the new book, Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher. Here are two videos on this blog that feature Gwen.

Drugging our children to death 

By Gwen Olsen

In Massachusetts, a four-year-old girl named Rebecca became the center of a murder investigation after being found dead from an overdose of a dangerous combination of drugs. Both her parents and psychiatrist are facing criminal prosecution and will stand trial later this year.

In Florida, a seven-year-old boy named Gabriel made headlines because he hanged himself with a shower hose in his foster home. It was later discovered that the boy was on an unauthorized cocktail of psychiatric drugs while in the state’s protective custody. He had been taken from his mother who was herself deemed a danger to the child because of drug addiction.

In Texas, a fourteen-year-old boy named Matthew died suddenly after taking only 29 days of a powerful stimulant for ADHD. His devastated parents are suing the drug manufacturer and were recently interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America”.

The Washington Post reported that the results of a controversial long-term trial on the atypical antipsychotic, Seroquel, known as Study 15, had been buried by drug makers. The fact that the average patient taking Seroquel gained eleven pounds in one year was successfully hidden for many years. Details of Study 15 finally emerged as lawsuits began playing out in courtrooms around the country. These suits alleged that Seroquel caused excessive weight gain, hyperglycemia and diabetes in thousands of patients. Many of the 9,200 plus lawsuits filed were on behalf of children.

The New York Times profiled a prominent Harvard psychiatrist, Joseph Biederman, whose claim to fame was the popularization of bipolar disorder in adolescents and children. Biederman’s research contributed to a forty-fold increase in the diagnoses of pediatric bipolar disorder from 1994 to 2003. However, his recent publicity centered on his failure to report nearly $1.6 million in pharmaceutical manufacturers’ consulting fees he collected from the years 2000 to 2007. His “oversight” was uncovered by Senator Grassley’s investigative committee.

The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration released a study featured in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found children and teens that died suddenly were 7.4 times more likely than not to have been taking stimulant medications.

These are all taken from recent headlines. These are national current events.

The onslaught of direct-to-consumer advertising to parents and educators about the benefits of stimulant drugs designed for focusing attention and curbing misbehavior has resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries to our nation’s children. And to what benefit? Even the most recent follow-up results of the prestigious MTA Study concluded that any minor benefits exhibited by stimulant drug use in the initial treatment stages of ADHD symptoms in children were not sustained in the long term.

The black boxed warnings added to stimulant treatments for ADHD, antidepressants, atypical anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and anti-seizure drugs all indicate a causal link between these drugs and suicide. Some package inserts even contain warnings related to violence and homicide. Most labels warn of the possibility of experiencing anxiety, sleeplessness, aggression, loss of appetite, agitation, depression, hallucinations and psychosis.

Nearly all psychiatric drugs have withdrawal and addiction potential, as well as links to other serious illnesses including endocrine issues like excessive weight gain and diabetes. Yet, these drugs are marketed and prescribed nonchalantly to our children—even our toddlers—to control behavior. Is it because the drugs’ benefits truly exceed their risks…what is known as the risk-to-benefit ratio evaluation of treatment? Or, is it really because our children have been identified as the most lucrative expansion market available to the pharmaceutical industry?

Children are known to be compliant patients and that makes them a highly desirable market for drugs, especially when it pertains to large-profit-margin psychiatric drugs, which can be wrought with issues of non-compliance because of their horrendous side effect profiles, but require no medical tests to diagnose the disorders for which these drugs are prescribed.

Children are forced by school personnel to take their drugs, they are forced by their parents to take their drugs, and they are forced by their doctors to take their drugs. So, children are the ideal patient-type because they represent refilled prescription compliance and “longevity.” In other words, they will be lifelong patients and repeat customers for Pharma!

Branded drugs representing $17 billion in sales lost their exclusivity in 2007. Even though sales grew 3.8% and totaled $286.5 billion, “the U.S. pharmaceutical market experienced its lowest growth rate since 1961,” said IMS’s Murray Aitken, Sr. Vice President of Healthcare Insight. Manufacturers are scrambling to make up these lost revenues just as the average American further tightens his belt in anticipation of a downward spiraling economy.

As insured patient populations capable of paying for exorbitantly priced pharmaceuticals diminish, the importance of government mandated vaccinations, government funded health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and mandatory mental health screenings that result in prescription psychotropic drug sales, will all increase in value to Pharma. Sales managers must search for ways to expand market share. As a consequence, Pharma’s lobbyists will intensify their efforts in Capitols across America to promote government endorsed programs funded by tax payers that have a guaranteed reimbursement plan–No matter what price the manufacturers choose to charge!

According to a study published in the May/June 2009 edition of the Journal of Health Affairs, from 1996 to 2006, prescriptions for psychiatric drugs increased by 73 percent among adults and 50 percent among children in the United States. In fact, more money was spent on the treatment of mental disorders for children aged 0 to 17 than was spent on any other medical condition in 2006. That year, as reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality on April 22, 2009, total expenses for mental health treatment totaled $8.9 billion.

Additional campaigns to screen our children for mental illness, newborns included, are being launched and in various legislative stages. In the April issue of Pediatrics, the government’s U.S. Preventive Services Task Force urged physicians to routinely screen all American teens for depression using unscientific questionnaires that produce a high rate of false mental illness diagnoses. Diagnosis equals treatment recommendation. Treatment equals drugs and exposes our children to the dangers of mind-altering chemicals that have been proven to have only nominal efficacy.

The initiative to drug our children for profit has exceeded all common sense boundaries and is threatening the welfare of every American child. It is up to each and every one of us to stop this madness! We have allowed ourselves to be “sold down the river” by savvy marketing executives who care more about their corporate bottom line than they do about our children or our families. The scope of the collective greed and malice has now reached epidemic proportions and, sadly enough, can be measured in body counts…many of them being our children’s.

The numbers don’t lie. The verdict is in. We are drugging our children to DEATH!

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