CELEXA: Youth in India Dies During Clinical Trial

Paragraph 10 reads: “Concerns about the ethics of clinical trials do not exist merely in the realm of speculation. The GVK exposés are not unusual. An increasing number of reports are coming to light of unethical and illegal practices that exploit people’s social and economic vulnerability, subject them to serious risks without their knowledge and consent, and do not even assure them of access to the drugs developed from the trials. Certain types of trials depend on paid volunteers who desperately need money. In Gujarat, unemployed diamond workers and migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar get paid between INR 5000 and INR 20,000 to take part in bioequivalence trials – sums large enough for them to put money over personal safety. Indeed, trial participants may be both financially and socially vulnerable. It is reported that Surender, who died in the Hyderabad felodipine trial, was one of a number of Dalit students being recruited for clinical trials in that city. Likewise, some years ago, a 22-year-old Adivasi youth died in a bioequivalence trial of the antidepressant citalopram [Celexa] by the Sun Pharma Advanced Research Centre in Vadodara. ”

http://www.himalmag.com/Bodies-for-hire;-The-outsourcing-of-clinical-trials_nw3213.html

Bodies for hire; The outsourcing of clinical trials August 2009
By: Sandhya Srinivasan

Medical testing by Western countries is having a staggering impact on India, if only we were to care to pay attention. And the government’s own policies are encouraging this.

Karen Haydock
In November 2008, the Hindustan Times’ LiveMint broke the story of an infant in Bangalore having died after being administered a vaccine in a drugs trial. The Drugs Controller-General of India (DCGI), Dr Surinder Singh, halted the testing, reportedly the first time that the office of the DCGI had taken such action. The trial, for a new pneumonia vaccine, was being conducted by a Hyderabad-based contracted research organisation, GVK Biotech, for the US-based multinational Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. The infant had been recruited from St. John’s Medical College, a reputed private medical institution in Bangalore.

GVK’s spokesperson claimed that the vaccine had nothing to do with the death, as the child had received an approved and widely used vaccine – not the experimental product. However, the DCGI’s investigation revealed that the infant had a heart condition, and that the trial had been meant to be conducted only on healthy babies. According to C M Gulhati, editor of the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities, India and a Delhi-based expert on clinical-trial regulations, the investigation revealed a number of other irregularities as well: the informed-consent document had not been signed before the child was recruited; and the St John’s ethics committee had not been properly constituted, as it was not chaired by an external member to ensure independent functioning.

Yet the infant’s death was not an aberration. In December 2008, 25-year-old K Surender, of Hyderabad, died in a ‘bioequivalence’ trial of a blood-pressure drug, felodipine. Bioequivalence trials test generic versions of drugs to ensure that they are as effective as the original, and involve administering the drug and then monitoring the individual through blood tests and other investigations. These tests are conducted on healthy people who are paid for their participation. The Hyderabad trial also happened to be run by GVK Biotech, which subsequently issued a statement that Surender had simultaneously been part of many bioequivalence studies, with GVK as well as other contracted research organisations. This multiple trial participation could have accounted for his death, argued the company.

Such an explanation is unconvincing. If Surender had taken part in many trials, it would only have been for the money, which would amount to an inducement according to national and international ethical guidelines for research – an inducement that might have made him overlook the risks of the trials. And, in any case, why did the company let him take part in the felodipine trial when it was aware that he had taken part in many others? The answer to this question lies in the compulsions of the global pharmaceutical industry. The GVK trials are among the increasing number of international clinical trials that are taking place in India – and the concerns that they raise will come up increasingly frequently in the future. The reports of various government and private bodies put the potential of the clinical-trial industry into billions of dollars, though the method of calculating these numbers is not available. One market-research company, Frost and Sullivan, reportedly estimates a USD two billion turnover by 2010.

Marcin Bondarowicz
The growth of the outsourced clinical-trial industry in India followed changes in the law in January 2005 that encourage clinical research in India. The most important of these was an amendment to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, permitting clinical trials in India to be carried out at the same time that they are done in other countries, rather than waiting until the results of drug trials in other countries were made public. Previously, this ‘phase lag’ had ensured that India was of no interest to big pharmaceutical companies to test their drugs. At that time, Phase II trials were permitted in India only after the results of a Phase III trial abroad were declared. And Phase I trials of foreign drugs were simply not permitted. (Phase I or safety trials are done on healthy ‘volunteers’, Phase II trials look at the drug’s safety and effectiveness on patients, and Phase III trials also look at safety and effectiveness, but in large numbers of patients.) It should be noted, though, that an exception was made for drugs deemed of importance to India. While the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules do not specify, such drugs would probably include the HIV vaccine.

This changed in January 2005, and India is now prominently on the radar screen of the international pharmaceutical industry in terms of clinical trials, given its vast population of potential trial subjects. As of today, the bulk of clinical trials are still located in rich countries. To illustrate, as of 19 July 2009, the US government clinical-trial database lists a total of 76,018 trials, of which 44,758 have sites in North America and 17,878 have sites in Europe – accounting for the bulk of trials. In contrast, only 1021 clinical trials have sites in India, in addition to 122 in Pakistan, 61 in Bangladesh and 12 each in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

However, the number of trials in India is growing fast. Figures given by the DCGI’s office show that the number of newly approved trials every year went from 100 in 2005, when the new rules kicked in, to about 500 in 2008. What is of concern here is that many of the trials that come to countries such as India are likely to be those rejected as unethical in Western countries. As trials shift to countries such as India, there has been an international debate on ethical concerns of the outsourcing boom. This debate has been partly responsible for amendments in the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki, “Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects” in 1996, 2000 and in October 2008. Drug regulators in Europe and the US require that clinical trials submitted to them adhere to the Declaration.

Some of these changes have dealt with placebos or ‘sugar pills’. The October 2008 revision took a strong stance against the use of a placebo in a trial when a treatment exists. Clinical trials compare the effect of an experimental drug to an existing drug. If there is no drug for the condition, the experimental drug may be compared to a placebo. Using a placebo when a treatment exists deprives the trial participant of effective treatment. The ethical guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research and the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki both forbid the use of a placebo when an effective treatment exists, with certain specific exceptions. While both of these documents have been a bit ambiguous in the past, the 2008 revision of the Helsinki Declaration is clear: placebos can be used only when absolutely methodologically necessary, and when the risk to the participant is low. This revision was reportedly preceded by behind-the-scenes lobbying by the drug industry to permit greater use of placebo controls.

In the same month that the revised Declaration was announced, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended its own requirements for clinical trials. While placebos are rarely necessary, regulatory bodies such as the FDA require placebo-controlled trials to give marketing approval to new drugs. Yet as of October 2008, trials conducted for FDA approval no longer had to adhere to the Declaration of Helsinki – an internationally accepted document, but not binding unless incorporated into national regulations. The FDA would continue to require placebo controls, and no one was going to tell them otherwise.

Concerns about the ethics of clinical trials do not exist merely in the realm of speculation. The GVK exposés are not unusual. An increasing number of reports are coming to light of unethical and illegal practices that exploit people’s social and economic vulnerability, subject them to serious risks without their knowledge and consent, and do not even assure them of access to the drugs developed from the trials. Certain types of trials depend on paid volunteers who desperately need money. In Gujarat, unemployed diamond workers and migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar get paid between INR 5000 and INR 20,000 to take part in bioequivalence trials – sums large enough for them to put money over personal safety. Indeed, trial participants may be both financially and socially vulnerable. It is reported that Surender, who died in the Hyderabad felodipine trial, was one of a number of Dalit students being recruited for clinical trials in that city. Likewise, some years ago, a 22-year-old Adivasi youth died in a bioequivalence trial of the antidepressant citalopram by the Sun Pharma Advanced Research Centre in Vadodara.

Certain types of trials are more likely to be conducted in India and other countries where regulatory and monitoring mechanisms are weak, or regulators are too willing to please drug companies. The use of placebos is a good example, as it is not difficult to conduct placebo trials in India. In 2005-06, Indian patients with schizophrenia were taken off their regular medication and given either a new, ‘extended-release’ formulation of an approved drug (quetiapine, marketed by AstraZeneca) or a placebo, to compare the time it took for people in each group to have a relapse attack of schizophrenia. The trial was conducted by a Contract Research Organisation (CRO) called Quintiles, in India as well as a number of countries in Eastern Europe. One patient (not in India) who was on the placebo committed suicide. Experts are unanimous in their view that a placebo was methodologically unnecessary in that trial, as the new formulation could have been compared to the existing ‘immediate-release’ drug. But the European regulators required a placebo-controlled trial, noted Irene Schipper and Francis Weyzig of the Dutch research organisation Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, in a 2008 report. They also argued that placebo-controlled trials for severe conditions, which put the participants at greater risk, are more likely to be conducted in developing countries.

Trials in government hospitals in India can also be of special concern. In one trial, 290 people who had been hospitalised because they were having a severe attack of acute mania were given either a drug (risperidone, marketed by Johnson & Johnson) or a placebo. The idea, of course, was to examine how many people recovered with the drug, and how many with the placebo. This subjected seriously ill people to harm. The majority of patients in this India-only trial, also conducted by Quintiles, were recruited from government hospitals where, according to the principal investigator of the trial, the most seriously ill patients could be found. It is also where patients can be recruited easily, because trial participation ensures a hospital bed and free, quality treatment.

Another concern about trials in government hospitals is that they are conducted on poor people who may have no access to the drugs tested on them after the trial is over. In August 2008, the media reported that 49 children died in 42 clinical trials that were conducted over two and a half years in the Department of Paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi. An investigation ordered by the National Human Rights Commission concluded that the trials were conducted properly: the children in the trials were seriously ill, and all the deaths occurred because of the serious illnesses, not the treatments. However, the committee’s report left many questions unanswered. What, for instance, was the purpose of these trials? Would they help other poor children in India?

One of these trials tested the blood-pressure drug valsartan, supplied by its manufacturer Novartis. Paediatric hypertension is indeed a serious condition, but companies conduct paediatric trials for various reasons, including to get information for the benefit of doctors who prescribe the drug to children. Another reason is because the US FDA extends a drug’s exclusive marketing rights when it is tested on children; this provision is meant to encourage research on children who are otherwise prescribed drugs based on the results of research on adults. However, companies also use this clause to maximise their profits. Another trial was linked to gene-activated human glucocerebrosidase, a treatment for Gaucher’s disease, a serious genetic condition in which a fatty substance (lipid) gets deposited in cells and specific organs. The drug for this trial was provided by the US-based Shire Human Genetic Therapies. Will the drug be made available in India once it is proved effective? Both the Helsinki Declaration and the ICMR’s guidelines emphasise that a community on which a drug is tested should have access to the drugs, if proven effective, once the trial is over. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Although all of the new drugs being tested in India will indeed be available in India, this will be at prices unaffordable to the very people who agree to have them tested on their bodies.

More generally, but of no less concern, AIIMS has stated that the trials did not “target” children from poor backgrounds. But there is no need to target poor people at AIIMS – they constitute the majority of patients at this government referral hospital. The simple fact is that the vast majority of people seeking care at the AIIMS centre would be there because they cannot afford treatment elsewhere.

Body market
The pharmaceutical industry depends on constantly getting new drugs into the market. New drugs include new uses for old drugs (a cancer drug that can also be used for infertility?) or ‘improved’ or ‘me-too’ versions of older drugs (all those antacids, blood-pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-depressants or antibiotics). These drugs must be tested on human beings before they can go into the market. Permission has to be obtained, patients have to be recruited, trials carried out and the results filed – all at top speed, because time is money.

This is where the Contract Research Organisation – the CRO, such as GVK Biotech referred to earlier – steps in. The CRO undertakes all aspects of the process involved in getting regulatory clearance: getting the necessary permissions, tying up with doctors and hospitals to recruit patients on whom the drugs are to be tested, analysing the data that emerges from the trials, monitoring the trial to make sure that the information collected meets standards, putting together reports and even ghostwriting articles for publication in medical journals. Of course, the most important aspects of all this is the recruitment of patients. The best place to recruit patients for, say, a diabetes-drug trial, is a country with a large diabetic population. And diabetics who have not received treatment make better trial subjects, as the results of drugs tested on them will not be ‘contaminated’ with the results of drugs that they have already used.

Clinical trials in developing countries depend not only on physical infrastructure – hospitals and laboratories – and trained human power. They also depend on drug companies getting access to bodies on which they can test their drugs. So, CROs in India market Indian bodies. In a 2006 advertisement on their website (which has since been removed), a CRO named Igate advertised the ‘India advantage’ as “40 million asthmatics, about 34 million diabetics, 8-10 million people HIV positive, 8 million epileptic patients, 3 million cancer patients.”

CROs in India all claim to have ‘access’ to patients with various health problems for which drugs can be tested. For instance, a research group called Veeda claims to have “access to vast patient populations and has specific expertise in recruiting patients with cardiovascular disease, oncology, diabetes, renal disease”. The CRO Quintiles India once boasted that, for a paediatric-flu-vaccine trial, it recruited 201 one- to three-year-olds from three sites in India in just six days. What kind of network does Quintiles have, and what kind of influence does it have with the medical profession, that it can round up 200 children and convince their parents to let them get an experimental flu shot – all in just six days flat?

It seems that at least some of this is able to take place through wilful misinformation. Spectrum Clinical Research specialises in recruiting patients, collecting patients through networks of private clinics, hospitals, specialists and family physicians. It also runs ‘awareness campaigns’ – for instance, a “white ribbon initiative” on osteoporosis, co-organised with the women’s magazine Femina of the Times of India stable, collected data on 2000 patients with osteoporosis. Another campaign, this time to “defeat diabetes”, collected data on 1000 patients with diabetes. In these ways, people who think they are joining patient-support groups are actually being tracked so they can potentially be put on a trial.

Behind a veil
Other than the boasts of CROs, there is little information available on the hundreds of clinical trials being conducted in India. This is despite the evidence that many of these trials are conducted for the benefit of international drug companies, at unacceptable cost to the local population; that trial subjects could be put at risk; that subjects often have not given their informed consent to participate; that they might be provided care that is of lower quality than if they had been recruited for a trial in the West; that injuries during a trial might not be investigated thoroughly, and that those injured may not receive treatment of the highest standard, or even compensation; and that drugs that are tested are often too expensive for people who need them in India.

The only institution to have direct power over the conduct of a trial is the ethics committee (EC). Research institutions appoint their own institutional ethics committee to conduct an ethics review of all research proposals from within the institution. Independent or freelance ethics committees undertake ethics review for a fee, from anyone who applies – usually the CRO or drug company who coordinates the trial at a number of small nursing homes or private clinics, which don’t have their own ethics committee. The EC is a collection of specialists from various fields who review trial documents, including the trial design, the manner in which subjects are recruited, the patient information sheet and the informed-consent form, and approve or reject the application. These committees also have the authority to investigate a trial, and even to stop it if they feel that something is not right.

Ethicist Amar Jesani points out that ethics committees have a lot of power, as the DCGI requires that all trials be passed by such an appointed group. In fact, the DCGI only requires approval by an ethics committee, since it does not monitor the actual conduct of the trial – it does not check that informed consent is taken, that the investigators do their job correctly, that subjects are not harmed, and so on. Thus, says Jesani, it is the ethics committee, not the DCGI, that is the real regulator of clinical trials.

Yet the effectiveness of an ethics committee depends entirely on the setting in which it functions. Important factors, for instance, include the institution that funds the committee’s work or that determines its level of independence, the training of its members, and their competence in terms of doing a proper ethics review. Likewise ‘independent’ or freelance ethics committees are more accountable to the companies that pay for their services. Even the patient information sheet and informed-consent document are treated as confidential documents by the ethics committee – and, of course, the trial’s sponsor. These contain the information on the purpose of the trial, its risks and benefits, and an assurance that a patient’s treatment will not be jeopardised by refusal to participate, or withdrawal from a trial. There is nothing here of proprietary value – on the contrary, everything in these documents is of public interest, and they should be available to the public. Ethics committees are also often poorly educated in their responsibilities.

The reports of people dying in trials are likely to be merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And many more are likely to suffer an injury related to the trial drug, injuries that require treatment and that could result in temporary or permanent disability. Indian guidelines require that trial participants be compensated for injuries suffered during research. However, a study by Urmila Thatte and others in a 2009 issue of the UK-based Journal of Medical Ethics found that many trial investigators as well as ethics committee members are not even aware of this requirement. The guidelines of trial sponsors – such as drug companies – provide for medical treatment of any participant who suffers a trial-related injury, or reimbursement of their medical costs. However, Thatte and her colleagues found that none of the companies sponsoring trials, or ethics committees reviewing their trials, had a policy of compensation for trial-related disability or death. Yet for ethics committees to be a law unto themselves is hardly surprising, given the overall environment of lax regulation and monitoring.

Now, the FDA’s decision to do away with the Declaration of Helsinki will create a dilemma for the DCGI. If CROs in India are to follow the FDA requirements – such as using a placebo even when it is not absolutely necessary, and when it might put subjects at risk – they will be violating Indian regulations, which require that the Declaration of Helsinki be followed. The latest revision of the Declaration is quite clear that the placebo may be used in very few circumstances. At the moment, however, the DCGI’s record – permitting a number of unethical trials – suggests that his office places greater value on the potential financial returns of clinical trial outsourcing than on protecting the people who take part in drug trials in India.

Sandhya Srinivasan is a Bombay-based journalist specialising in public health and development issues. She is executive editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.

581 total views, no views today

PROZAC: Man Hallucinates for Two Weeks: U.S.A.

Paragraphs 2 and 3 read: “I had a bout of hallucinations about 10 years ago. I was suffering quite badly with depression and had been on anti-depressants for years. Then came along Prozac®. The doc thought they would be good so off I went!

The three stages of my hallucinations always happened at night and in bed. I had always been asleep for a while and was awakened by the goings on. They happened in quite quick succession, perhaps over the space of two weeks, then stopped.

http://www.clusterflock.org/2009/08/dear-clusterflock-have-you-ever-hallucinated.html

August 1, 2009

Dear Clusterflock: Have you ever hallucinated?

I had a bout of hallucinations about 10 years ago. I was suffering quite badly with depression and had been on anti-depressants for years. Then came along Prozac®. The doc thought they would be good so off I went!

The three stages of my hallucinations always happened at night and in bed. I had always been asleep for a while and was awakened by the goings on. They happened in quite quick succession, perhaps over the space of two weeks, then stopped.

1. I woke violently as a tiger jumped from sitting above the bedroom door, onto my pillow and then jumped up onto a shelf (which didn’t exist in reality) above the bed. I woke my wife, quite calmly pointed out said tiger, but was told to return to sleep as there wasn’t one. He only appeared once.

2. I woke to see a man standing in the doorway of the bedroom — that would have been about 4 feet from me. He didn’t scare me. I came around slowly to see him standing there. I don’t remember colour — I do remember him being an Abe Lincoln type ­ stovepipe hat, and a beard. He wasn’t moving. I woke my wife and asked her quite calmly if she could see the man stood in the corner ­ she could not. I lay there for a while looking at him, closing my eyes and opening them. He stayed for a while and then left.

He returned for quite a few nights. He was always in the same place, always in monochrome and he never spoke. Unfortunately, I never spoke to him.

3. I woke one night. I was lying on my back, and as I looked up at the ceiling it was alive with a sea of frogs ­ all moving as one. I again woke my wife ­ just for the reality check. They stayed until I closed my eyes, say 20 minutes, then disappeared.

409 total views, no views today

DEPRESSION MED: Violence: Man Beats Up Frail Neighbor: England

Fourth paragraph from the end reads: “Rod Hunt, in mitigation, said his client had been mixing alcohol with anti-depressant tablets, which had made him turn violent.”

Paragraphs four & five read: “In a letter to the court, Mr Hodgson described Summersgill as a decent man and said the brutal assault was out-of-character.”

“The pair were friends at the time, and Summersgill and his partner, Heather Barnett, acted as carers for their neighbour.”

Paragraphs seven & eight read: “Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said that without warning, Summersgill turned to his housebound friend and said he would kill him.”

“He then grabbed him by the throat and squeezed tightly as he pushed him onto a bed in his front room.”

SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states that antidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the antidepressant in the human body.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/4515923.Man_jailed_for_threats_to_kill_frail_neighbour/

Man jailed for threats to kill frail neighbour
1:06pm Tuesday 28th July 2009

By Neil Hunter »

A DRUNK who throttled a wheelchair- bound neighbour after threatening to kill him was yesterday jailed for four years.

Paul Summersgill left the frail pensioner on the floor of his home and stole his mobile phone and spectacles before fleeing.

Teesside Crown Court heard that Bernard Hodgson, 65, blacked out during the attack, which left him covered in wounds and bruises.

In a letter to the court, Mr Hodgson described Summersgill as a decent man and said the brutal assault was out-of-character.

The pair were friends at the time, and Summersgill and his partner, Heather Barnett, acted as carers for their neighbour.

On the day of the attack, April 9, Summersgill had been at Mr Hodgson’s home watching television and drinking his beer.

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said that without warning, Summersgill turned to his housebound friend and said he would kill him.

He then grabbed him by the throat and squeezed tightly as he pushed him onto a bed in his front room.

On the brink of consciousness, Mr Hodgson then had his face pushed into a pillow.

Summersgill then loosened his grip and took the phone and glasses.

After a short time, Summersgill threw a chair at Mr Hodgson, knocking him to the floor.

Mr Newcombe said: “He then straddled him, using his knees on the victim’s shoulders to pin him to the floor. He again put his hands around the victim’s throat, strangling him and striking him repeatedly across the face.”

Rod Hunt, in mitigation, said his client had been mixing alcohol with anti-depressant tablets, which had made him turn violent.

Summersgill, 34, of The Bungalows, Grangetown, Middlesbrough, admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The court heard that last year he throttled his girlfriend, now pregnant, until she lost consciousness.

Judge Tony Briggs, who described Mr Hodgson’s supportive letter as “unusual and extremely generous”, said: “It was a nasty, vicious attack and custody is inevitable.”

324 total views, no views today

MEDS FOR PTSD: Soldier with brain injury, treated for PTSD commits suicide

Note: Anyone who has suffered a brain injury should never be given an antidepressant according to Dr. Jay Seastrunk, a neurologist. It can lower the seizure threshold and produce seizure activity faster than normal.

Also keep in mind that antidepressants affect memory so strongly that “amnesia” is listed as a “frequent” side effect. Combine that with the information we have that Alzheimer’s is a condition of elevated serotonin levels and antidepressants are designed to specifically increase serotonin levels and you can see how many of the problems Ray was dealing with we being caused by the medication he was being given.

Dr. Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director, International Coalition for Drug Awareness, www.drugawareness.org
____________________________________________________________________________________

In the very hours we were celebrating Andrew in Washington, tragedy was unfolding in Texas. Lt. Col. Raymond Rivas, a 53-year old civil affairs officer who had dedicated his career to rebuilding war torn countries, was found dead in his car in the parking lot of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Texas.

Colleagues of Ray’s said prescription pills and notes he wrote to his family and wife, Colleen, were found. A military source told me all indications are Ray took his own life.

His devastated family understandably declined to talk publicly, and the military won’t discuss the case citing privacy concerns. But friends and colleagues I spoke to confirmed that Ray had suffered multiple blast injuries to his brain from bomb attacks during several deployments over the years.

In October 2006, Ray survived an attack in Iraq that rendered him briefly unconscious. He was transferred to Europe but somehow talked the doctors into sending him back to the war zone. A week later, ill and confused, he was sent back to the United States.

A close associate tells me that at first, despite being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury in Iraq, some doctors thought Ray might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They didn’t realize he had all the symptoms of traumatic brain injury. He had trouble talking, reasoning and remembering.

He was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio so he could be near his family, but for the first few months he just sat in his room. Fellow soldiers helped him with his bathing, dressing and eating.

Finally, Ray was assigned a case manager, and things began to move rapidly. He got therapy and was able to go home.

But by all accounts from his friends, Ray had become seriously debilitated by the injuries to his brain. A private email shown to CNN revealed that Ray had been diagnosed with rapidly emerging Alzheimer’s disease. The cumulative impact of all those bomb blasts were destroying his brain. Colleagues say Ray knew he might have to move to an assisted living facility.

Ray’s doctors are not discussing his treatment because of privacy concerns.

A colleague told me Ray was tired and in pain on the night of July 15. He was found in his car in the parking lot at the army hospital where he had spent so long trying to get better.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/27/starr.extraordinary/index.html?iref=24hours
Behind the Scenes: Triumph and tragedy for two wounded soldiers

* Story Highlights
* CNN’s Barbara Starr celebrated a victory and mourned a loss on July 15
* An injured Marine was celebrating getting into Harvard Law School
* On same night, a warrior with a traumatic brain injury was found dead in his car
* Men’s stories are linked — both pleaded with the government to aid injured soldiers

By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Where were you on the night of July 15? You may not even remember, but for me it was an extraordinary evening, an evening of unimaginable triumph and unbearable tragedy.

But I would not actually know everything that happened until the night was long over.

A couple of weeks before July 15, a friend who works with injured troops emailed me to say it was time for Andrew’s going away party.

Andrew Kinard is a young Marine I first met a few years ago at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington where he was recovering from a devastating IED attack in Iraq. He had stepped on the roadside bomb and lost his entire body below the hips.

The party being arranged was Andrew’s farewell to D.C. Andrew is off to the rigors of Harvard Law School. He’s says he’s itching to get into a courtroom.

You need to remember the name Andrew Kinard. Many of his friends believe Andrew is such an amazing man that he will become president of the United States. If I had to bet, I’d say it could happen.

I wouldn’t have missed the party for the world. I was touched that this tight-knit community of wounded warriors had included me in this very special, very intimate evening.

There was a display of photos of Andrew serving in Iraq. I suddenly realized I never knew how tall he was before the war. There were a few sniffles and wiping of eyes in the room for a Marine whose dream of service to his country ended within a few months of getting to Iraq. But sniffles didn’t last long and the evening became one of hugs, laughter and good wishes (and more than a few beers) for a young Marine who had triumphed over what the war had dealt him.

But my warm feelings didn’t last long. The next day another source in the wounded troop community came to me in the Pentagon hallway with another tale.

“You have to do something about the story of Ray Rivas,” he said.

In the very hours we were celebrating Andrew in Washington, tragedy was unfolding in Texas. Lt. Col. Raymond Rivas, a 53-year old civil affairs officer who had dedicated his career to rebuilding war torn countries, was found dead in his car in the parking lot of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Texas.

Colleagues of Ray’s said prescription pills and notes he wrote to his family and wife, Colleen, were found. A military source told me all indications are Ray took his own life.

His devastated family understandably declined to talk publicly, and the military won’t discuss the case citing privacy concerns. But friends and colleagues I spoke to confirmed that Ray had suffered multiple blast injuries to his brain from bomb attacks during several deployments over the years.

In October 2006, Ray survived an attack in Iraq that rendered him briefly unconscious. He was transferred to Europe but somehow talked the doctors into sending him back to the war zone. A week later, ill and confused, he was sent back to the United States.

A close associate tells me that at first, despite being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury in Iraq, some doctors thought Ray might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They didn’t realize he had all the symptoms of traumatic brain injury. He had trouble talking, reasoning and remembering.

He was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio so he could be near his family, but for the first few months he just sat in his room. Fellow soldiers helped him with his bathing, dressing and eating.

Finally, Ray was assigned a case manager, and things began to move rapidly. He got therapy and was able to go home.

But by all accounts from his friends, Ray had become seriously debilitated by the injuries to his brain. A private email shown to CNN revealed that Ray had been diagnosed with rapidly emerging Alzheimer’s disease. The cumulative impact of all those bomb blasts were destroying his brain. Colleagues say Ray knew he might have to move to an assisted living facility.

Ray’s doctors are not discussing his treatment because of privacy concerns.

A colleague told me Ray was tired and in pain on the night of July 15. He was found in his car in the parking lot at the army hospital where he had spent so long trying to get better.

But Ray will be remembered for all he did for others. Even with all his suffering, he wanted to make sure other injured troops were helped. In April he and his wife Colleen went to Capitol Hill to testify with other wounded warriors about their needs.

Sitting on that panel with Ray was Andrew Kinard.

All AboutBrooke Army Medical Center

761 total views, no views today

MED for DEPRESSION: 5 Dead at Baghdad Psychiatric Center: May 11th: Ir…

Paragraphs 8 through 10 read: “Russell went to the combat stress center at Camp Liberty where mental-health workers evaluate soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Russell was close to the end of his deployment. He was given medication and his sidearm was taken away, a routine precaution for soldiers receiving counseling.”

“On May 11, after a dispute at the center, Russell was ordered to leave. Outside, he allegedly grabbed a gun from his escort, burst into the center and started firing. He submitted to arrest minutes later.”

Dead were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C.; Maj. Matthew Philip Houseal, 54, of Amarillo; Staff Sgt. Christian Enrique Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Spc. Jacob David Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo., and Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.

http://www.amarillo.com/stories/072809/new_news8.shtml

Web-posted Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Soldiers’ families await hearing
Los Angeles Times

SHERMAN – Tears come to Elizabeth Russell’s eyes when she thinks of the five American soldiers her son is accused of gunning down in a moment of rage in Iraq.

She prays for them: the Navy officer, the Army psychiatrist, and three enlisted men, and their widows, parents and children.

She also prays for her son, Army Sgt. John Russell, who faces five counts of premeditated murder for what happened May 11 at a combat stress center near Baghdad.

Russell, 44, is in custody in Kuwait, awaiting an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing. Under military law, a conviction can carry a death sentence; the minimum is life in prison.

In more than seven years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been cases of alleged attacks among U.S. troops, but never one in which a soldier stands accused of killing five colleagues.

The Russell case also brings up issues of how the Army evaluates the mental health of troops in combat zones, many of whom, like Russell, have endured repeated deployments. The Army is now studying the psychological services available to soldiers in Iraq.

Russell had been a competent communications technician but hardly a stellar performer. After 16 years, he was still a sergeant. He had lost a stripe earlier for unauthorized absence.

Russell went to the combat stress center at Camp Liberty where mental-health workers evaluate soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Russell was close to the end of his deployment. He was given medication and his sidearm was taken away, a routine precaution for soldiers receiving counseling.

On May 11, after a dispute at the center, Russell was ordered to leave. Outside, he allegedly grabbed a gun from his escort, burst into the center and started firing. He submitted to arrest minutes later.

Dead were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C.; Maj. Matthew Philip Houseal, 54, of Amarillo; Staff Sgt. Christian Enrique Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; Spc. Jacob David Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo., and Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.

455 total views, no views today

Postpartum Depression & Medication: Mother Dismembers her Infant: Texas

Paragraph 3 reads: “‘She was a sweet person and I still love her, but she needs to pay the ultimate price for what she has done,’ the baby’s father, Scott W. Buchholtz, told the San Antonio Express-News Monday. ‘She needs to be put to death for what she has done’.”

Paragraph 8 reads: “Sanchez and Buchholtz lived together during the pregnancy and the first two weeks after their son was born, Buchholtz told the Express-News. The paper reported that an infection complicated Sanchez’s recovery from giving birth, and she was required to use a catheter for about a week. That setback darkened her mood, and she was soon diagnosed with postpartum depression.”

Paragraphs 9 & 10 read: “She moved out of the couple’s shared home July 20. On Saturday, she showed up to see Buchholtz at his parents’ house. She became agitated when he told her he needed a copy of the baby’s birth certificate and Social Security card, Buchholtz told the paper.

Sanchez ran out of the home with her son in a car seat, threw the car seat into the front passenger seat of her car and sped away without buckling him in, the paper said. She left behind a diaper bag, her purse and her medication.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j65NeeVH5ihfMyvu7qiBZWQBV-kgD99NHC180

By PAUL J. WEBER (AP) – 1 hour ago

SAN ANTONIO ­ Relatives of the Texas mother of a 3 1/2-week-old boy found dismembered in his bedroom said she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis, and the father of the slain baby said he wants the woman executed.

Otty Sanchez, 33, is charged with capital murder in the death of Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez. When authorities found the infant’s body Sunday, Sanchez told officers the devil made her do it, police said.

“She was a sweet person and I still love her, but she needs to pay the ultimate price for what she has done,” the baby’s father, Scott W. Buchholtz, told the San Antonio Express-News Monday. “She needs to be put to death for what she has done.”

Relatives and Buchholtz told the newspaper Sanchez’s mental health deteriorated in the week before her son’s death. Buchholtz, who called his son “baby Scotty,” said she often talked about how she needed to see a counselor. Sanchez told detectives she had been hearing voices.

Otty Sanchez’s aunt, Gloria Sanchez, told The Associated Press that her niece had been “in and out” of a psychiatric ward, and that the hospital called several months ago to check up on her.

Sanchez was hospitalized Tuesday with self-inflicted stab wounds and was being held on $1 million bail. Police have said she does not have an attorney. Authorities found the baby with three of his toes chewed off, his face torn away and his head was severed.

Otty Sanchez’s sister and her sister’s two children, ages 5 and 7, were in the house at the time, but none were harmed.

Sanchez and Buchholtz lived together during the pregnancy and the first two weeks after their son was born, Buchholtz told the Express-News. The paper reported that an infection complicated Sanchez’s recovery from giving birth, and she was required to use a catheter for about a week. That setback darkened her mood, and she was soon diagnosed with postpartum depression.

She moved out of the couple’s shared home July 20. On Saturday, she showed up to see Buchholtz at his parents’ house. She became agitated when he told her he needed a copy of the baby’s birth certificate and Social Security card, Buchholtz told the paper.

Sanchez ran out of the home with her son in a car seat, threw the car seat into the front passenger seat of her car and sped away without buckling him in, the paper said. She left behind a diaper bag, her purse and her medication.

Buchholtz’s mother called 911, and a sheriff’s deputy investigated the incident as a disturbance, according to court records. The next day, authorities said, she killed her son.

Officers called to Sanchez’s house at about 5 a.m. Sunday found her sitting on the couch screaming “I killed my baby! I killed my baby!” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.

McManus described the crime scene as so grisly that police officers barely spoke to each other while looking through the house.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

518 total views, 0 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: Suicide: Man Out of Prison for 3 Hours: England

Notice from the article below that this fellow had been abruptly discontinued from his antidepressant when incarcerated in November. Then while still in the critical withdrawal stage was re-introduced to the use of an antidepressant – likely a new one since jails and prisons have access to a select few they prescribe. So he likely had three strikes against him leading to his sudden and very determined suicide.

Dr. Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director, International Coalition For Drug Awareness

Paragraph four reads: “The jury inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court heard Mr Brown had been at the prison for five weeks and was four days away from being released when he was seen by a psychiatrist and given anti-depressants.”

SSRI Stories note: The most likely time for suicidal behaviors and SSRI antidepressants are: 1. When first starting the drugs: 2. When stopping the drugs. 3. While increasing the dose: 4. While decreasing the dose. 5. When switching from one SSRI to another antidepressant.

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/homenews/Coroner-criticises-healthcare-Nottingham-Prison/article-1196220-detail/article.html

Coroner criticises healthcare at Nottingham Prison
Monday, July 27, 2009, 07:00

1 reader has commented on this story.
Click here to read their views.

A CORONER has criticised health services at Nottingham Prison after an inmate committed suicide hours after his release.

Gary Brown, 39, of Cranwell Road, Strelley, drowned on December 24, 2007.

He was seen jumping off Trent Bridge less than three hours after he was released from the prison.

The jury inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court heard Mr Brown had been at the prison for five weeks and was four days away from being released when he was seen by a psychiatrist and given anti-depressants.

Notts coroner Dr Nigel Chapman said there was a “huge gap” between Mr Brown seeing a GP on his arrival at the prison and seeing a psychiatrist.

The inquest heard there was a lack of communication between health workers, and one doctor at the prison called it “an entirely haphazard system”.

Mr Brown arrived at Nottingham Prison on November 15, 2007. He saw a GP, Dr Lloyd, the next day, who said Mr Brown was not showing symptoms of mental health problems.

Mr Brown said he had previously been prescribed anti-depressants but Dr Lloyd did not renew the prescription as he could not obtain any previous medical records.

Other members of the health team said they tried to get hold of Mr Brown’s medical records but were unable to trace them.

Dr Julian Kenneth Henry, who also saw Mr Brown, told the inquest the amount of time between the prisoner arriving and seeing a psychiatrist was “unprecedented”.

He said: “Unfortunately, in a prison setting there are an awful lot of people involved and there are failures of communication on a daily basis.

“It’s an entirely haphazard system. It’s a very disjointed system and there is not an excuse for it.”

Mr Brown saw psychiatrist Dr Trevor Boughton on December 20 and was given a prescription for anti-depressants.

Dr Boughton said Mr Brown seemed anxious but not psychotic or suicidal.

He said: “He seemed very eager to be released from prison. He spoke very fondly of his brother, whom he was hoping to spend Christmas with.”

The inquest heard the medication was not likely to have had any effect on Mr Brown by the time he was released four days later.

Senior prison officer Vince McGonigle said Mr Brown was released between 9am and 9.30am on December 24 and seemed “in an agitated state”.

Less than three hours later, at around 11.45am, a member of the public saw him jump from Trent Bridge into the River Trent.

Kyle Charles told the inquest: “I saw a person in the water and tried shouting at him. I managed to get the orange ring off the wall and threw that into the water but he swam away from it.

“When he saw me taking my jacket off he held his nose and then started to push himself under the water. He went down, came back up, went down and never came back up again.”

Mr Brown’s body was pulled from the water at 2.55pm. There was no evidence of any violence and no alcohol found in his system.

The jury returned a verdict of suicide, with a majority of six to two. They said there had been a “severe breakdown” of communication during Mr Brown’s care.

Coroner Dr Chapman said: “Clearly there have been difficulties here and the prison has taken those on board.”

But he said Mr Brown’s time in prison would have been a good opportunity to put him on medication and monitor him.

He added “a simple phone number” for a crisis team would be beneficial for people leaving prison.

samantha.hughes@nottinghameveningpost.co.uk

423 total views, 0 views today

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: Senate Orders Study on Military Suicides

Paragraphs 7 & 8 read: “By voice vote, the Senate approved a Cardin-sponsored amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that would order an independent study by the National Institute of Mental Health on the potential relationship between suicide or suicide attempts and the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and other behavior-modifying prescription drugs.”

“That study is expected to take two years. In the meantime, Cardin’s amendment also would require a report every June from 2010 through 2015 giving the number and percentages of troops who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had prescriptions for antidepressants or similar drugs.”

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/07/military_suicides_antidepressants_072309w/

Senator: Study prescriptions-suicide link
By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 23, 2009 11:32:42 EDT

The Senate on Wednesday ordered an independent study to determine whether an increase in military suicides could be the result of sending troops into combat while they are taking antidepressants or sleeping pills.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., who pushed for the study, said he does not know whether there is a link, but he believes prescription drug use, especially when it is not closely supervised by medical personnel, needs a closer look.

“One thing we should all be concerned about is that there are more and more of our soldiers who are using prescription antidepressant drugs … and we are not clear as to whether they are under appropriate medical supervision,” Cardin said.

The problem, he said, is that some antidepressants “take several weeks before they reach their full potential,” and during that time there is a risk of increased suicidal thoughts among 18- to 24-year-olds ­ an age group that includes many service members.

When people taking antidepressants are deployed, they may not be under close medical supervision, especially if they are in a unit that is on the move in combat, Cardin said.

“Surveys … have shown that as many as 12 percent of those who are serving in Iraq and 17 percent of those who are serving in Afghanistan are using some form of prescribed antidepressant or sleeping pills,” Cardin said. “That would equal 20,000 of our service members.”

By voice vote, the Senate approved a Cardin-sponsored amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that would order an independent study by the National Institute of Mental Health on the potential relationship between suicide or suicide attempts and the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and other behavior-modifying prescription drugs.

That study is expected to take two years. In the meantime, Cardin’s amendment also would require a report every June from 2010 through 2015 giving the number and percentages of troops who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had prescriptions for antidepressants or similar drugs.

The reports would not include names or any specifics that would identify the service members, Cardin said. “We protect their individual privacy,” he said. “There is no stigma attached at all to this survey.”

Reply

Reply to all

Forward

Reply

|
Atracyphd1@aol.com
to md, Stonefount, gm1000, mis, jvikt, john_clement, cabandckb, shaniapril, Karambelas03, jbaadsk, joyce, Mlscw, sapphire_eyes2, naturesvedicme., me, jjhancock24, lussier_deroin, randysheaven, katieskandies, charleye64, sarinasvoice, sallyatticum, johnamccoy, clboorman, eleeta.schreij., ghostshipsolit.

show details Jul 24 (4 days ago)

Reply

Follow up message

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Atracyphd1@aol.com
To: post@drugawareness.org, DCKCCPAS@aol.com, Atracyphd2@aol.com
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 03:08:48 EDT
Subject: ANTIDEPRESSANTS: Senate Orders Study on Military Suicides
Paragraphs 7 & 8 read: “By voice vote, the Senate approved a Cardin-sponsored amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that would order an independent study by the National Institute of Mental Health on the potential relationship between suicide or suicide attempts and the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and other behavior-modifying prescription drugs.”

“That study is expected to take two years. In the meantime, Cardin’s amendment also would require a report every June from 2010 through 2015 giving the number and percentages of troops who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had prescriptions for antidepressants or similar drugs.”

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/07/military_suicides_antidepressants_072309w/

Senator: Study prescriptions-suicide link
By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 23, 2009 11:32:42 EDT

The Senate on Wednesday ordered an independent study to determine whether an increase in military suicides could be the result of sending troops into combat while they are taking antidepressants or sleeping pills.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., who pushed for the study, said he does not know whether there is a link, but he believes prescription drug use, especially when it is not closely supervised by medical personnel, needs a closer look.

“One thing we should all be concerned about is that there are more and more of our soldiers who are using prescription antidepressant drugs … and we are not clear as to whether they are under appropriate medical supervision,” Cardin said.

The problem, he said, is that some antidepressants “take several weeks before they reach their full potential,” and during that time there is a risk of increased suicidal thoughts among 18- to 24-year-olds ­ an age group that includes many service members.

When people taking antidepressants are deployed, they may not be under close medical supervision, especially if they are in a unit that is on the move in combat, Cardin said.

“Surveys … have shown that as many as 12 percent of those who are serving in Iraq and 17 percent of those who are serving in Afghanistan are using some form of prescribed antidepressant or sleeping pills,” Cardin said. “That would equal 20,000 of our service members.”

By voice vote, the Senate approved a Cardin-sponsored amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that would order an independent study by the National Institute of Mental Health on the potential relationship between suicide or suicide attempts and the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and other behavior-modifying prescription drugs.

That study is expected to take two years. In the meantime, Cardin’s amendment also would require a report every June from 2010 through 2015 giving the number and percentages of troops who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had prescriptions for antidepressants or similar drugs.

The reports would not include names or any specifics that would identify the service members, Cardin said. “We protect their individual privacy,” he said. “There is no stigma attached at all to this survey.”

469 total views, no views today

DEPRESSION MED: Mother Kills her 7 Month Old Twins: Attempts Suicide: …

First four paragraphs read: “Police are investigating reports the mother of twins found dead inside a Perth home was suffering depression.”

“Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Fyfe said prescription drugs for the woman were found alongside the unconscious mother and her seven-month-old twins, who media reports have named as Sophie and Lachlan.”

“Police believe the woman may have killed her son and daughter before attempting to take her own life.”

“Det Sen Sgt Fyfe said family members had told police the mother had been suffering postnatal depression and been prescribed drugs for treatment.”

http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/dead-twins-mother-was-depressed-report-20090707-dakd.html

Dead twins’ mother was depressed: report

Aleisha Preedy
July 7, 2009 – 1:49PM

Police are investigating reports the mother of twins found dead inside a Perth home was suffering depression.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Fyfe said prescription drugs for the woman were found alongside the unconscious mother and her seven-month-old twins, who media reports have named as Sophie and Lachlan.

Police believe the woman may have killed her son and daughter before attempting to take her own life.

Det Sen Sgt Fyfe said family members had told police the mother had been suffering postnatal depression and been prescribed drugs for treatment.

He said police had ruled that no one had forced entry into the house and the incident was being investigated as an apparent murder suicide.

“We are investigating reports the mother was suffering postnatal depression,” Det Sen Sgt Fyfe told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have been unable to confirm that at the moment.

“It appears she may have taken an overdose of prescription drugs but until later today when the toxicology reports are out, I can’t confirm that.”

He said the distraught father had been sedated and police hoped to speak to him later in the day.

The mother remained in a critical but stable condition in Royal Perth Hospital.

Major crime squad detectives were called to the home at the end of a cul-de-sac in Flintlock Street, Cloverdale about 3.30pm (WST) on Monday.

The twins were the couple’s only children.

© 2009 AAP

429 total views, 0 views today

DEPRESSION MED: Woman Turns Into a “Botox Bandit” Florida

Paragraph 19 reads: “In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.”

http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1015369.ece

Spa manager believes she is a victim of the Botox Bandit
By Justin George, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, July 3, 2009

TAMPA ­ The woman came in looking to peel off her past.

Blond hair, blue eyes, gym shorts. Like the girl next door, thought the manager of Skin NV, a med spa that opened in May.

The client said her 10-year high school reunion was around the corner and she wanted to be the envy of everyone else.

The spa obliged.

Chemical peel: $50. Laser treatment: $348. A protein-rich recovery cream: $155. Clarisonic Skin Care Brush: $195. Prescription-grade Vitamin A: $74.

Then came the bill: $851.68, not uncommon in South Tampa, where looks matter and women have the means, said Anne Nelson, Skin NV’s manager.

The client wrote a check and signed it Jaimie Merk.

Five days later, on June 15, the check bounced. It bounced again on repeat tries. Nelson has the bank paperwork to prove it.

That’s when she learned the story of the Botox Bandit.

“What kind of girl does this?” she asks now. “I just don’t understand.”

• • •

On Jaimie Merk’s Facebook page, her profile photo flashes an even, bright white smile.

She’s single, 32, and says she works as a weight-loss clinic director.

She majored in psychology at the University of North Florida.

Yoga is her new obsession, she notes on Facebook. She loves lying in the sun, hearing a baby laugh and getting facials.

She has nearly 400 friends. Some write her daily.

She doesn’t like to be called “ma’am.”

Elsewhere, a different picture of Merk appears.

Once, in a courtroom, a doctor testified that her self-esteem was so low that she resorts to stealing Botox to feel better, according to an attorney who was part of the proceedings.

In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.

People victimized by Merk do not have much sympathy.

Their names show up in lawsuits and court judgments.

• • •

In August 2007, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office asked the public for help catching the “Botox Bandit.”

A woman had shown up at Rejuva Plastic Surgery Center and Medi-Spa, received a facial and cosmetic procedures, and then disappeared leaving an $850 bill. She used an alias.

The Sheriff’s Office had a picture of the suspect ­ made possible because the plastic surgeon had taken a “before” photo.

A tip led deputies to Jaimie Merk, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said at the time.

It was just one of several cases that landed her on probation until 2012 for several convictions of grand theft and worthless checks in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Her civil court and probation files contain claims from pet supply stores, renters and even an adoption agency saying she owes them money.

Those who have dealt with Merk wonder whether there are other victims.

• • •

Pregnant in 2004, Merk agreed to turn over her unborn child to adoptive parents through Heart of Adoptions of Tampa, according to a lawsuit the agency filed.

She told the adoption agency that she had no idea who the father was, the lawsuit stated. She said she met him at a bar.

Medical records stated that Joshua Sean Squires was the father. But Merk signed a notarized statement disputing that, the lawsuit said.

The adoptive parents and the agency paid her more than $5,000 for living expenses, attorney fees and other costs.

A few weeks later, the agency heard from Squires.

In an interview with the Times, he said he was in a weeks-­long relationship with Merk when she became pregnant.

“She knew she was pregnant with my child,” he said. “There was no one-night stand with anyone, and I was in the delivery room on Dec. 23, 2004.”

Squires, 30, now has custody of the 4½-year-old girl.

In 2006, a judge ordered Merk to pay the agency $6,113, court records show.

The agency’s executive director, Brigette Barno, said Monday that Merk has paid nothing.

• • •

In January 2008, prospective renters responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising a Seminole Heights house that belongs to Merk’s mother, according to Hillsborough property records.

Two of them, Angela Hart and Eric Younghans, wound up suing Merk in small claims court. Hart also sued Merk’s mother.

They say Jaimie Merk showed them a house and collected $1,900 from each of them.

Hart, suspicious after Merk delayed the move-in date, looked her up on Google and learned of her Botox Bandit past. She asked for her money back. In a court document, she said Merk agreed.

Younghans, meanwhile, learned from Merk that the house wouldn’t be available. Merk told him she would refund his money, he said.

Neither got a refund. Merk made excuses, they said. Sometimes she didn’t return calls.

In 2008, a judge ordered her to pay each $2,075. In Hart’s case, Merk’s mother was also held responsible, according to the final judgment.

So far, Hart, 30, has received $150, she said.

“She’s never going to learn her lesson,” Hart said of Merk. “People say people change. They don’t.”

Younghans, 56, has received $150, he said.

“She seemed very believable,” he said. “She’s very good at it.”

• • •

Merk did not respond to a voice mail message from the Times for this story. A note was left at her door seeking comment. An attorney who represented her did not call back.

“I’m not giving any comments,” said her mother, Debra Merk, who owns a $1.1 million waterfront house in Clearwater Beach. “As far as I know, what you’re saying is not true.”

• • •

In hindsight, the Skin NV manager said she felt a little wary about Merk’s June 10 check when she noticed the address in a neighborhood of rentals.

After the check bounced, she tried to call Merk. The phone numbers Merk left didn’t work.

Nelson sent her business partner to Merk’s stated address, a pink apartment building. The partner left a note.

No one called back.

Nelson contacted the Hillsborough County Victims Assistance program. A counselor helped her start the process of filing a bad check complaint. That process is now under way. No charges have been filed.

Nelson even tried to connect with Merk by inviting her to be a “friend” on Facebook.

Merk didn’t respond.

On June 25, after a Times reporter left messages for Merk, she sent an e-mail to the spa.

“I’m very sorry I did not contact you sooner,” she wrote. “I have not had a phone since you left that letter at my apartment, and I just received another letter in the mail today.

“I just want you to know that I am very sorry for this, and of course I’m going to pay for the services I received,” she wrote. “I am just not sure why you have chosen to take this further without even giving me the opportunity to rectify the situation.”

Merk said she would bring the money in this week.

Nelson told her the spa would be closed Friday.

By the end of the day Thursday, Merk hadn’t paid.

• • •

On a Facebook quiz, Merk writes that she loves the smell of flowers and wants to meet the man of her dreams.

Two things she is proud of? Her daughter and family.

Two things she is not proud of? “Let’s keep those in the closet,” she wrote.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368.

504 total views, no views today