02/15/2001 – Writing May Be on Wall for Ritalin

Once again I must apologize for sending so much info at once over the next
couple of days. I have been traveling again as I work to educate more and
more areas of the country about these drugs and the articles that I have
needed to get out to you have backed up yet again.

The following is an incredible article once again written by Kelly O’Meara of
Insight Magazine. Kelly has published several very informative articles over
the last year or so educating the public about the drugging of our children.

We will work to keep you updated on all the latest on this class action suit
filed against Ritalin by the attorneys that took on the tobacco giants and
won.

Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition For Drug Awareness
www.drugawareness.org

http://www.insightmag.com/archive/200010163.shtml
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10/16/2000

Writing May Be on Wall for Ritalin
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By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
omeara@…
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A lawsuit challenging the validity of the science behind mental
illness and psychotropic drugs will have repercussions for drug makers as
well as for the mental-health establishment.

Hardly a mention was made in the national media concerning the
class-action lawsuit filed in May by the Dallas law firm of Waters and Kraus.
It named the Novartis Pharmaceutical Co. (the maker of the drug Ritalin), the
American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Children and Adults with Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as defendants for conspiring, colluding and
cooperating in promoting the diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder (ADD)
and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Last week, however, a second lawsuit made a bang when even
bigger guns were rolled out in California and New Jersey to take aim at an
industry that has enjoyed a special relationship with the Clinton/Gore
administration. Indeed it is a relationship which, based on numerous speeches
by the vice president and his wife – who has been the president’s White House
mental-health guru – would continue if Al and Tipper Gore are allowed to make
the White House their new residence on Inauguration Day.

And if the beating the tobacco industry took at the hands
of these attorneys is any indication of what the defendants should
anticipate, the psychiatric community, pharmaceutical industry and
mental-health advocacy groups finally may be called upon to put their science
where their mouths are. Putting aside the legal jargon, what appears to be in
question is the ever-increasing influence of pharmaceutical companies over
public and private mental-health organizations and, ultimately, whether that
influence is responsible for the growing number of “mental illnesses” and the
subsequent increased use of psychotropic drugs.

The class-action lawsuit that was filed last week in
California and New Jersey names Novartis and the APA as defendants for
conspiring to create a market for Ritalin by targeting millions of children
and misdiagnosing them with ADD/ADHD for the strategic purpose of expanding
use of the drug.

Both the APA and Novartis have a great deal at stake
professionally and financially. To fight the claim that children have been
and still are being misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD, the APA – the nation’s
leading psychiatric professional group – will be required to cough up its
medical and scientific data to support the ADD/ADHD diagnosis. This may be
difficult given the growing number of physicians, scientists and even
psychiatrists who long have argued that the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD is not
based in science – that the diagnosis is a fraud based on subjective
assessments.

Furthermore, should the APA fail to provide the necessary
scientific data, Novartis could be forced by the courts to return to
consumers hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars made from the
sale of Ritalin. Even more devastating to Novartis, should it be exposed that
the diagnosis of ADD/ ADHD is scientifically baseless, would be an end to the
prescribing of the drug. This type of judgment could open the industry to
additional lawsuits requiring proof of thousands of alleged mental illnesses.
The reverberations through the pharmaceutical industry could be devastating.

Considering that Ritalin has been in use since the
mid-1950s, one has to wonder how tens of millions of children and adults
could be prescribed a highly addictive drug for more than 40 years without
concrete scientific data to support the diagnosis. According to psychiatrist
Loren Mosher, it isn’t that tough. Mosher is the former chief of the Center
for Studies for Schizophrenia at the National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH) and author of the definitive book Community Mental Health, A Practical
Guide. Mosher explains that the Ritalin phenomenon comes down to a very
simple theory: “If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.” Long
aware of infiltration by the pharmaceutical companies into professional
psychiatric organizations, Mosher resigned his membership in the APA with a
stinging 1998 letter in which he wrote:

“The major reason for this action is my belief that I am
actually resigning from the American Psychopharmacological Association.
Luckily, the organization’s true identity requires no change in the acronym.
. At this point in history, in my view, psychiatry has been almost completely
bought out by the drug companies.”

According to Mosher, “The APA receives a huge amount of
money from the pharmaceutical companies through grants, but the most obvious
and obnoxious examples are the two meetings the APA has each year. At both,
the drug houses basically lease 90 percent of the exhibition space and spend
huge sums in giveaway items. They have nearly completely squeezed out the
little guys, and the symposiums that once were dedicated to scientific
reports now have been replaced by the pharmaceutical-industry-sponsored
speakers.”

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI),
explains Mosher, “gets the pharmaceutical money and then says they spend it
on their ‘anti-stigma’ campaign. They say that mental illness is a brain
disease. And it works well for the people who suffer from this to use their
drugs. This is why NAMI is pushing for forced medication. It is an amazing
selling job on the part of NAMI.”

A nonprofit, grass-roots, self-help support and advocacy
organization for people with severe mental illness, NAMI was featured in a
November/ December 1999 Mother Jones article, “An Influential Mental Health
Nonprofit Finds Its ‘Grassroots’ Watered by Pharmaceutical Millions,” by Ken
Silverstein. The article focused on the enormous amount of funding which NAMI
receives from pharmaceutical companies, with Eli Lilly and Co. taking the
lead by donating nearly $3 million to NAMI between 1996 and 1999. In fact,
according to Silverstein, NAMI took in a little more than $11 million from 18
drug companies for that period. Nonetheless, NAMI, Eli Lilly and the others
deny any conflict of interest.

While Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Prozac, admits making
substantial contributions to NAMI and the National Mental Health Association
(NMHA), it claims that for “proprietary reasons” it is unable to provide a
list of specific contributions. According to Jeff Newton and Blair Austin,
spokesmen for the company, “The key issue here is that these are unrestricted
grants. The groups can use the money any way they want. Lilly’s support of
these initiatives presents no conflict of interest since they represent
efforts to raise public awareness around issues that Lilly publicly
supports.”

According to Bob Carolla, director of Media Relations for
NAMI, “We represent a constituency that uses their [pharmaceutical] products.
Why shouldn’t they give us money? They’re making money off of our members and
some of it has to go back into the community to help us get better
mental-health programs to help people. Much of what we do has nothing to do
with the pharmaceutical industry. We do not advocate or endorse any specific
medications or products, but we also are not going to back off from saying
that millions of Americans lead productive lives because of the medications
they are prescribed.”

Meanwhile, NAMI has no problem stating that “mental
illnesses are disorders of the brain.” In fact, according to Carolla, NAMI
“has been trying to educate people that mental illnesses are a result of
brain disorders and they are treatable. Stigmas still exist and stigmas need
to be overcome.” Asked to provide scientific data that mental illness is a
disease of the brain, Carolla deferred to a higher authority explaining that
“this [question] reminds me that one small interest group denies that mental
illness even exists.”

Carolla added, “Mental illnesses are biological brain
disorders. Go read the dominant body of medical information out there. It is
a function of biochemistry. I encourage you and recommend you talk to the
surgeon-general’s office.”
Carolla was referring to the Report on Mental Health
released by the U.S. surgeon general in December 1999, which he says “stands
as the national baseline.” This enormous document goes into great detail
about mental health in the United States. But it does not provide a single
piece of scientific data supporting the claim that even one mental illness is
caused by a brain disease. In fact, what it says is “the body of this report
is a summary of an extensive review of the scientific literature, and of
consultations with mental-health-care providers and consumers. Contributors
guided by the Office of the Surgeon General examined more than 3,000 research
articles and other materials. .”

According to the report, “The review of research supports
two main findings: 1) the efficacy of mental-health treatments is well
documented, and 2) a range of treatments exists for most mental disorders.”

Voilà! The review of research came up with findings about
treatments, not with scientific causes of mental disorders. And there even
appears to be some question about the validity of the treatments.

The surgeon general nonetheless places Ritalin in a
category where the “efficacy of mental-health treatments is well-documented,”
when in Chapter 3 of his report he writes that “because the symptoms of ADHD
respond well to treatment with stimulants,” and because stimulants increase
the availability of the neurotransmitter dopa-mine, the “dopamine hypothesis”
has “gained a wide following.”

The surgeon general may want to review the Drug
Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 1995 report on methylphenidate, which
makes clear that Ritalin has the same effect on children and adults with ADHD
as it does upon those not diagnosed with ADHD. According to the report:

“There is a considerable body of literature on the
short-term efficacy of stimulant pharmacotherapy on the symptoms of ADHD.
From 60 to 90 percent of children have been judged as positive drug
responders to methyl-phenidate medication. However, contrary to popular
belief, stimulants like methylphenidate will affect normal children and
adults in the same manner they affect ADHD children. Behavioral or
attentional improvements with methylphenidate treatment therefore are not
diagnostic criteria of ADHD.”

NAMI, however, is not the only group apparently being
misled by the surgeon general’s report. Take, for instance, the Mental Health
Early Intervention, Treatment, and Prevention Act (S2639), a broad piece of
federal mental-health legislation sponsored by Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.,
Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. According to one staffer
familiar with the legislation, Domenici’s staff took the lead in writing it.
The first of Congress’ “findings” states that “almost 3 percent of the adult
population, or 5 million individuals in the United States, suffer from a
severe and persistent mental illness.” When asked where Domenici got these
figures, the same source explained that “the numbers come from various
federal agencies, various studies that have been conducted and the surgeon
general’s report. The senator takes into consideration that there are those
who argue there is no such thing as a medically diagnosable mental illness
but, when someone like Dr. Steven Hyman [director of NIMH] shows a brain with
schizophrenia and one without, then the senator takes it seriously. Hyman is
well-respected.”

While it appears that Hyman’s “brain” slide show has wowed
a great many people, the fact is that even Hyman has contradicted his own
presentation. For instance, as Hyman explained in a Feb. 28, 1999, New York
Times Magazine article, “indiscriminate use of MRI and PET scans . as a
high-tech form of phrenology . are pretty but inconsequential pictures of the
brain.” While Domenici may place a great deal of trust in the “science”
presented by doctors such as Hyman, he also has a more personal interest much
closer to home: His wife served on NAMI’s board for nearly three years.
Domenici’s office did not respond to inquiries about whether the senator had
received campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies.

NAMI’s Carolla openly admits that NAMI worked with the
sponsors of the legislation, and one doesn’t have to look too hard to see the
similarities between the Senate bill and NAMI’s proposed Omnibus Mental
Illness Recovery Act, which Eli Lilly paid to print.

NAMI fully supports the Senate bill, which features such
programs and expenditures as Section 581 in which $75 million would be
appropriated to fund an anti-stigma advertising campaign – which many argue
is a promotion for the pharmaceutical industry and should not be funded with
taxpayer dollars. In question also is why taxpayers should be burdened with
funding an anti-stigma campaign which many believe was created by the
mental-health community when it first began labeling individuals as
defective.

Section 582 would provide $50 million in training grants
for teachers and emergency-services personnel to recognize (read: diagnose)
symptoms of childhood and adolescent mental disorders. This would allow
service personnel such as firefighters, police officers and teachers to make
referrals for mental-health treatment – a difficult task given that each of
these categories of personnel appears to have its hands full with jobs for
which they already are trained.

Section 583 would provide another $50 million for
emergency mental-health centers within which mobile crisis-intervention teams
would be established. This would allow for the designation of a central
receiving point in the community for individuals who may be cited by, say, a
firefighter, to be in need of emergency mental-health services. And this is
just the beginning of the programs proposed under the Mental Health Early
Intervention, Treatment, and Prevention Act, now pending in Congress.

Larry Sasich, a pharmacologist who handles Food and Drug
Administration drug-safety issues for the Washington-based Public Citizen’s
Health Research Group, tells Insight that “conflicts of interest are kind of
a fact of life in the scientific community. At some point groups like NAMI
are going to have to pay the piper – they’re going to have to answer for what
they are promoting. But it’s hard to tell how much influence the
pharmaceutical companies have. It could be subtle or overt influence
depending on what they want.”

One thing that is certain, concludes Sasich: “The group that is
paying the money wields the big stick.”

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