Sen. Grassley Investigates Lilly/WebMD link Reported by Washington Post

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Freelance writer and
cartoonist Martha Rosenberg has worked diligently to reveal the conflict of
interest in many of the pharma/medical  situations.

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rate this column. The rating buttons are at the top of the page after you click
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Rosie Meysenburg
Moderator:
www.SSRIstories.com

http://www.opednews.com/articles/GrassleyInvestigates-Lill-by-Martha-Rosenberg-100224-629.html

Grassley Investigates Lilly/WebMD link Reported by Washington
Post

By Martha Rosenberg (about the
author
)     Page 1 of 2 page(s)

opednews.com Permalink

For OpEdNews: Martha Rosenberg – Writer

It is
not too hard to find evidence of links between WebMD and drug giant Eli
Lilly.

A 2002 article on the gigantic medical site about pain and
depression says “Lilly is a WebMD Partner,” and an advertising award in 2004
went to the FCB “client” Eli Lilly & Co./WebMD–not clients.

Banner
and skyscraper ads for Lilly‘s blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta on WebMD‘s
home page never seemed to yield to other advertisers in 2009–and the Washington

Post reported Lilly and WebMD to be partners in 2000.

Now Sen. Charles
Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is
investigating financial ties between Lilly and WebMD Health Corp because of a

WebMD TV ad exhorting people to undergo a Lilly depression screening.

You
can joke about the need to tell people they are depressed–do people need to be
told they have a headache?–but pharma’s screening ruse to recruit new
patient pools for the volatile drugs among teens, adolescents and new mothers is
not funny.

3,500 news articles about antidepressant linked violence
appear on the web site, SSRIstories.com, including 700 murders, 200
murder-suicides, 51 school shooting incidents and 54 postpartum depression cases
since 1989.

In addition to WebMD, WebMD Health Corp. includes the web
sites Medscape, MedicineNet, eMedicine, eMedicine Health, RxList, theHeart.org,
and drugs.com. Original partners and investors says the Washington Post included
“Microsoft, DuPont, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (and his Fox TV networks),
Silicon Graphics and Netscape founder Jim Clark, drug maker Eli Lilly, and EDS,
the computer services company founded by H. Ross Perot.”

Lilly is not the
only pharma company receiving unmarked product placement on WebMD.

Last
summer, a video featured a woman patient confessing she was fearful of life
while a voice over said she needed treatment for “general anxiety disorder” and
the camera showed bottles of Forest Pharmaceuticals’ antidepressant
Lexapro moving down the manufacturer’s assembly line
. Get it? No disclaimer
on the video or “sponsored content” appeared.

Another unsponsored WebMD

video last summer urged people on antidepressants to remain on their therapy
“despite side effects” and a third suggested women concerned about cancer, heart
attack and stroke risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy should continue their
treatment at lowered doses. Hang in there, valued customers.

A search for
Wyeth (now Pfizer) antidepressant Effexor a few months ago on WebMD elicited a
JAMA study finding Effexor superior to other antidepressants by a Wyeth funded
second author, Graham Emslie, MD. Effexor was the drug Andrea Yates took when
she drowned her five children in 2001, a case found on
SSRIstories.

Questions about conflict of interest have surfaced at
WebMD‘s Medscape too which administers many of the lucrative drug company
sponsored continuing medical education [CME] courses in the US which doctors
must complete to keep their state licenses.

Last year psychiatrist Daniel
Carlat, MD–who recounts his adventures as a Wyeth paid Effexor promoter in the
New York Times magazine–writes that he received, as a member of Medscape, an
envelope with “a brochure from Forest Laboratories advertising Lexapro, and
nothing else. It was creepy, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

While
Lilly is known for launching the SSRI antidepressant revolution with Prozac,
Cymbalta does much of the heavy lifting now with worldwide sales of $3.075
billion in 2009.

Many remember Cymbalta as the drug 19-year-old healthy
clinical volunteer Traci Johnson killed herself on, during trials on the Lilly

campus in 2004–soon after FDA investigations into suicide/antidepressant
links.

Traci had no depression history said Rev. Joel Barnaby, a
spokesman for the Johnson family, who called Lilly‘s decision to proceed with
Cymbalta’s launch as scheduled “offensive” posturing.

Five others
suicides occurred during Cymbalta clinical trials, said the FDA and twice the
rate of suicide attempts were seen in women prescribed the drug for stress
urinary incontinence–also patients with no depression to blame.

Others
remember Cymbalta as the drug Carol Anne Gotbaum, daughter-in-law of New York
City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, was taking during her macabre death in
police custody at the Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport in 2007.

But now Lilly
and WebMD are pushing Cymbalta for pain since it was approved for
fibromyalgia in 2008. “Across cultures, patients who complain of pain tend to be
depressed,” says the 2002 article which calls WebMD and Lilly partners, a
finding from a “huge international study by Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly and
Company.”

“Could your muscle aches be related to depression?” hawks WebMD

text under the heading, “Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression.” Next to it is
a picture of a depressed women with arrows pointing to the pain in her head and
neck, chest and stomach, arms and hands, legs and feet and of course
back.

“Print out this symptom diary, and fill it out. Then take it to
your doctor to discuss what may be causing your symptoms.”

This content,
we’re told, is “selected and controlled by WebMD‘s editorial staff” but “funded
by Lilly USA.”


Martha Rosenberg is
columnist and cartoonist based in Chicago I

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6/26/2001 – Part 1 – Creating an Epidemic of Columbine Shooters!!!

This week I was interviewed on CNN about new “research” on treating anxiety
in children with the SSRI, Luvox.

[I will first send you research out of Australia about anxiety and serotonin
levels along with an e-mail that just came in from a mother whose son had his
life ruined by Luvox and then I will send the Washington Post article next on
the study.]

I must say that we have taken insanity to an all new height with this recent
study out on anxiety in children. The same drug Eric Harris was on in the
Columbine High School shooting, Luvox, is the drug that was used in this
study to treat anxiety in children. But look at what behavior was considered
to be abnormal enough to give this drug that has “psychosis” listed as a
“frequent” side effect!

“Extreme separation anxiety disorder, he said, would be displayed in a child
who avoided birthday parties and sleepovers. A medium-grade example would be
children who refused to sleep in their own rooms and wanted to get into bed
with their parents.”

Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had a child that often jumped
in bed with mom and did not like birthday parties very much. Given a choice
between waiting for children to grow out of that as opposed to drugging them
into psychosis, should not be a difficult choice at all!

We don’t get to enjoy these little children in our lives for very long.
Before we know it they are grown and gone. Why not enjoy the short time they
want to crawl into bed with mom and dad to be cuddled and reassured that
everything is okay? But to look at this as a serious mental disorder for
which they need to be drugged?!! This is greed beyond anything imaginable!

When we look at the science behind anxiety disorders the insanity grows by
leaps and bounds because medical research over the last several decades has
continued to show (as documented in Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?) that
anxiety, along with other mood disorders, is associated with ELEVATED levels
of serotonin, rather than decreased levels of serotonin. So in a patient
suffering from anxiety, WHY would we want to increase already elevated levels
of serotonin with an SSRI?

Dr. Murray Ellis at the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne,
Australia found last year that 75% of those suffering from various anxiety
disorders had EIGHT times higher levels of serotonin even on days when they
did not demonstrate anxiety symptoms.

So, as I asked on CNN, I once again ask, “Why on earth would we want to do
anything to increase serotonin in those who already demonstrate symptoms of
ELEVATED serotonin?”

My heart aches for these children who were tortured and maimed as guinea
pigs, given this deadly drug for the sole purpose of increasing the profits
of those who still have their hands dripping with the blood of all the
Columbine victims.

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

http://theage.com.au/news/20000514/A59189-2000May13.html

Dramatic reversal in research on anxiety

By STEVE DOW
Sunday 14 May 2000

Startling and unexpected findings on panic disorder patients could
fundamentally change the way anxiety and anxiety-related depression are
treated.

The findings by Melbourne’s Baker Medical Research Institute, presented to a
recent scientific meeting and soon to be submitted to the medical journal The
Lancet, have unsettled scientists and turned upside down their ideas on brain
chemistry among the anxious.

But the evidence from the work by cardiologist Professor Murray Esler and
colleagues is so strong that it is being taken seriously.

The scientists tested the levels of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin in
20 patients who suffer panic attacks and found that, even on a good day, the
average levels of the chemical in the brains of at least 15 of the patients
were eight times higher than normal.

Until now, the theory has been that anxiety, panic and anxiety-related
depression are caused by a lack or underactivity of serotonin in the brain.
Based on this theory, the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI)
wonder drugs that emerged in the ’90s – marketed as Prozac, Aropax and Zoloft
– are intended to increase serotonin around the brain neurons involved in
anxiety.

Professor Esler emphasised that the SSRIs were “great drugs” and should
remain worldwide bestsellers.

However, there were two important implications of the new research, he said.

First, the conventional view of how SSRIs operate has been challenged. It
would appear that the drugs are effective because, over time, they somehow
decrease, rather than increase, serotonin as originally thought.

Second, the new findings could spark drug companies to create drugs that stop
serotonin directly. Such a response might stop the common problem of
“serotonin agitation” experienced by many patients on SSRIs. These patients
experience increased anxiety in their first weeks of treatment on drugs such
as Prozac, Aropax and Zoloft; the drugs making the problem “worse before they
make it better”, Professor Esler said.

He said there was now compelling evidence that panic disorder and depression
were on a par with high blood pressure and smoking as risk factors for heart
disease. A study of several panic disorder patients had shown a spasm of
coronary arteries was common after an attack. One patient, a woman of 40,
suffered a clot and subsequent heart attack because of her panic disorder.

The Baker Institute wishes to recruit patients who suffer panic disorders and
depression for future studies. Contact the institute on 95224212.

NEWS 14: The Health Report
_____________________________________

Teenager on Luvox – aggressive, homicidal
3/26/01

This letter is for your feedback section on the net. In July of 1999 our son,
then 14 years old, was started on Luvox by a psychiatrist for treatment of
his compulsive behavior. We had actually taken him there for treatment of
depression, but the doctor said he was depressed because of his compulsive
disorder. As our son was 6 foot tall and 300+ pounds, the doctor eventually
had him on a dose up to 300 mg a day. Our son started to act very aloof and
irritable. When he was depressed he talked about killing himself, he would
sleep a lot, and he drew pictures of guns. But once on the Luvox, he became
aggressive towards us and would swing at us at the least provocation.

Just before Christmas he came up to me, his mother, and said, “Something is
wrong with me,” but he couldn’t explain it. I didn’t realize at all what he
meant. On Christmas he opened his gifts methodically with no expression on
his face. He had always loved this holiday and now he was acting like a
zombie.

In the winter of 2000, we got a call from his school that he had threatened
some people. The police were called. Apparently our son, who had never done
anything wrong in school or out, had been talking in the cafeteria about
killing the family of a girl he knew, then killing her. He went into graphic
detail and then looked at two boys who were sitting nearby listening and said
to them, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you”. The boys turned him in.

We found out through interviews the police had with other kids in the school
that our son had also plotted the same demise for another family of a girl he
knew. He had told this girl to her face. She and her family, however, knew
our son and knew this was not his normal behavior. They therefore did nothing
about it.

To make a long story short, he was arrested but not taken to jail
immediately because we begged to take him home and watch him 24 hours a day.
He had to be drug tested. He had to go to a partial program for troubled kids
for two weeks. He was given 10 days out of school suspension and the story,
of course, went all over the school. He lost his best friend because the
mother would not let him hang around with our son anymore. No one called to
support him or us. We were isolated from the community. We had to hire a
lawyer because the local police wanted to put him in jail. They had written
up a report that made our son look like he was insane. The report went to the
juvenile court and Children’s Services. We were visited by Children’s
Services and interviewed. Our son went through approximately three different
psychiatric evaluations; however, all of these were done after he was taken
off the Luvox. We had taken him off the drug after this all happened because
we were afraid it might have caused his behavior problem. I had read about
Columbine and knew the boy involved had been on Luvox too. The psychologists
who evaluated him found him to be fine except for depression; again, these
evaluations were after he was taken off the Luvox. Everyone who interviewed
him after he was off the Luvox could not believe he had threatened people
the way he did, he was not the same person.

We were lucky enough to have the case dismissed as it was our son’s first
offense as a juvenile and our state allows one mistake. They supposedly
closed the file, but the local police will have it open until our son is 18.
In the meantime, if he gets into any trouble, they will use it against him.

We pulled our son out of school and homeschooled him to keep him away from
the cruelty of the kids at school. We had to have him tutored and sent him to
summer school so that he could keep up with his class. He is now called a
“Sophomore” instead of a “Junior” because he was short 3/4ths of a credit,
even with all of our effort; although he will graduate with his class as a
Senior next year. The school told us he just won’t ever be a “Junior”. Our
son faces taunting to this day, not as bad as when he first went back to
school in the fall. A boy said “rape” next to him in class and a girl in the
class told her mother and the mother called the police about our son because
she had heard the story and thought he was the one talking about rape. The
guidance counselor told him this year that he has to watch everything that he
says. He cannot say certain words at school, like “gun”, “shoot”, “murder”,
etc because he could get in trouble.

This child will never be the same because of Luvox. His high school years are
a nightmare now and people in this small town will know him as being
“dangerous”. On the bright side, the families of the two girls that he
threatened refused to file any charges against our son because they knew this
was not his usual behavior and that something was “obviously wrong”.

The psychiatrist who gave our son the Luvox became very defensive immediately
after the episode and said that it was not the Luvox, it was our son. He said
that no cases had ever been won against SSRIs. He also told our son that what
he did was horrible, that nobody would ever forget it or forgive him and that
even if he went to another school, they would find out about it.

Can you imagine a psychiatrist saying this to a patient? Needless
to say, we left him after the legal aspect of the case was closed.

My son told me later that when he was on Luvox, he wasn’t afraid to do
anything. He said he had “no fear”.

We hope this will help make people aware of the dangers of Luvox and the
other SSRI drugs. I only wish there was some way to help the people like my
son who have lost so much to this drug.

Please do not print our name or our e-mail address.

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4/13/2001 – Another school shooting & antidepressants

Well, now that it is public information we can let you know that once again
antidepressants were involved in another of the recent school shootings. Beth
Bush had been on antidepressants before shooting a classmate. This article is
from the Washington Post. Of course we are led to believe that the
“antidepressants failed to help”, rather than being educated to the fact that
they were the CAUSE of the shooting.

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

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/nation/latestap/A13049-2001Apr12.html

H.S. Shooter Talks of Taunting

The Associated Press
Thursday, April 12, 2001; 9:19 PM

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. A 14-year-old girl said she shot a classmate last month
to make the victim “know my pain” from repeated teasing and taunting.

Elizabeth Bush told the ABC News program “20/20” that the shooting has played
over repeatedly in her mind since March 7, the day she shot Kim Marchese at
the cafeteria of Bishop Neumann Junior-Senior High School.

Elizabeth, who had transferred into the school a year earlier, told
interviewer Connie Chung that she was deeply depressed and counseling and
anti-depressants failed to help.

“They’d just call me an idiot, stupid, fat, ugly, faggot, whatever,”
Elizabeth said in the interview, which is scheduled to air Friday.

Elizabeth said her depression caused her to cut her arms with a razor. She
said Kim had befriended her but told others about the self-mutilation,
leaving her feeling betrayed.

“People express their anger different ways,” Elizabeth said. “Crying helps.
That didn’t help me. So I thought maybe I’d try this and maybe it will help.
And it’s just like the actually the pain is it just takes away all your
depression and for a minute you’re not depressed anymore.”

She was sentenced April 4 to an open-ended term at a psychiatric facility.

Kim Marchese, who was wounded in the right shoulder, told Chung that she now
knows she should have acted differently.

“I knew the teasing was wrong and that’s why I asked her if it was bothering
her so I would stop,” Kim said, “I mean, I should have stopped right away.”

© 2001 The Associated Press

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02/15/2001 – Doctors Say Drug Trial's Approval was Backdated

Pfizer, makers of Zoloft and Viagra cannot seem to stay out of trouble
lately. This is one of several messes they have found themselves caught in
around the world lately. I thought all of you who barely survived your bouts
with Zoloft would be interested.

Not that Pfizer is the only drug company out there doing this type of thing.
They just got caught. I have learned over the last decade of doing research
on these issues that most drug companies would not blink an eye in deciding
to do the same. They are so often caught in such underhanded dealings that I
wonder why they are allowed to continue business.

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

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63515-2001Jan15.html

Doctors Say Drug Trial’s Approval was Backdated

THW WASHINGTON POST

By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2001; Page A01

The Nigerian doctor who supervised a 1996 Pfizer Inc. drug experiment on
desperately ill children said in an interview that his office created a
backdated ethics approval document that the American pharmaceutical company
later used to satisfy U.S. regulators and to justify its conduct of the
human testing.

Abdulhamid Isa Dutse, the physician who oversaw the test of the antibiotic
Trovan on children with meningitis, said the letter may have been written as
long as a year after the test was completed when Pfizer officials asked him
for proof the test was reviewed by a Nigerian ethics board. Nigerian
officials are now examining the roles played by Dutse and others in
conducting the American company’s drug trial, which was the subject of an
investigation by The Washington Post.

Pfizer spokesman Andy McCormick said last week that he was unaware of
possible irregularities in the Nigerian ethics approval document. “We are
currently investigating it. We are cooperating with the authorities in
Nigeria,” he said.

The New York-based company gave the letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration in 1997 during an audit of records supporting its application
to use Trovan for treatment of children during a meningitis epidemic. U.S.
regulations require that if a company intends to use foreign medical
research to support a drug application, the experiments must be reviewed and
formally approved in advance by an ethics committee.

FDA officials last week declined to comment on the Pfizer case, but one
official said it is a violation of federal law to knowingly submit false
documents to a government regulatory agency.

Typed on the letterhead of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and dated March
28, 1996 — six days before Pfizer’s experiment began — the letter said the
hospital ethics committee had reviewed the plan to test Trovan on 100
children with meningitis and found the protocol to be “adequate.” The letter
gave permission for the test to proceed.

But Sadiq S. Wali, the hospital’s medical director, recently told The
Washington Post the document was “a lie.” He said the hospital had no ethics
committee at the time Pfizer’s test was underway and did not organize it —
or create the letterhead stationery bearing his name that was used in the
approval letter — until months later.

“The hospital is quite clear: We had no ethical committee,” he said in a
telephone interview.

Reached by telephone in Kano last week, Dutse said it was “possible” that
the approval letter was drafted up to a year after the trial.

Dutse, who was listed as Pfizer’s “principal investigator,” said he felt
that the letter reflected the informal approval he had obtained from three
doctors, who reviewed Pfizer’s test plans and told him they saw no ethical
problems. No records were prepared at the time, he said.

But one of the doctors Dutse cited, Idris Mohammed, last week disputed
Dutse’s account. Reached in London, Mohammed said: “There was no ethical
committee at the time of the trial, none met, and no approval was properly
given for the trial.”

In fact, Mohammed said that he challenged the legality of Pfizer’s
experiment while it was underway and that he demanded unsuccessfully to see
documents proving it had been properly authorized.

“You shouldn’t try an experiment in an epidemic,” said Mohammed, a medical
professor who now heads the Nigerian federal immunization program. “You
needed to give these patients something that was proven.”

Mohammed said that in 1996 he took his concerns to a senior official in the
Nigerian government — then controlled by a military dictator, Gen. Sani
Abacha — but was overruled.

Since the experiment, Pfizer repeatedly has cited the Nigerian committee’s
approval as proof its experiment was ethical. The testing was carried out on
children and infants during a record-breaking meningitis epidemic that
killed more than 15,000 Africans.

The Post’s Dec. 17 article recounted how Pfizer physicians tested the
company’s then-unapproved antibiotic in the impoverished northern Nigerian
state of Kano. The drug was later associated with liver damage and deaths in
the United States and its use was restricted.

Pfizer described the Nigerian test as a humanitarian venture, but medical
specialists and international aid workers attacked it as unethical and
challenged the company’s claim that the children knew they were part of an
experiment.

Pfizer officials have said that the Nigerian ethics committee approved
giving some Nigerian children an oral formulation of the antibiotic instead
of a fast-acting intravenous version used in U.S. meningitis tests.

A Pfizer spokeswoman also said the ethics committee decided there was no
need to warn Nigerian parents that young lab animals given Trovan-class
antibiotics had suffered joint damage. American parents were told of the lab
animal results in a subsequent Trovan trial.

After receiving a copy of the ethics approval letter from The Post, Wali
said he confronted Dutse and the doctor “did admit to me he was wrong,”
although he provided few specifics.

Tim Menakaya, Nigeria’s health minister, said he had appointed a federal
investigative panel charged with determining whether the trial was conducted
legally and, if so, whether the experiment was “morally right.”

“I am investigating all of it,” Menakaya said.

The probe is headed by Abdulsalami Nasidi, a senior health official who said
that he, like Mohammed, considered the experiment to have been unethical in
1996 but failed in attempts to block it.

“It is a very serious problem; procedures were not followed,” Nasidi said.
“We are going to get to the root of the problem.”

Nasidi said that his investigation, whose findings will be forwarded to
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, failed in initial attempts to locate
“detailed evidence” that Pfizer’s investigators had secured the needed
authorization before launching the experiment. Dutse said he spent two days
last week addressing a closed session of the panel.

The Post’s investigation has generated a flurry of stories in the Nigerian
press, which have reported that “widespread condemnation rages.” Editorials
have called for international investigations, federal lawsuits and criminal
prosecutions.

Nigerian newspapers — always fiery and at times less than entirely
factual — have quoted parents who contend their children had serious
disabilities or died after treatment.

“The government has a duty to tell us whether our children were used as
guinea pigs and, if so, who committed such criminality and who is liable,”
said the Vanguard newspaper.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pfizer accused of irregularities during clinical trial in Nigeria

THE GUARDIAN
Sarah Boseley, health editor
Wednesday January 17, 2001

http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,423222,00.html

An inquiry is under way in Nigeria into allegations that the multinational
pharmaceuticals company Pfizer used an experimental drug on sick children
during a major outbreak of meningitis, without official approval.
Yesterday the Nigerian doctor employed by Pfizer to run the clinical trial
in Kano said that the letter certifying approval by the ethics committee at
the hospital where the children were treated was probably written a year
after the experiment took place.
Pfizer admitted last night that there did “appear to be possible documentary
irregularities” and said they were co-operating fully with the inquiry.
Pfizer sent a team in to Kano at very short notice in 1996, when it heard of
the outbreak of spinal meningitis. The company wanted to test the efficacy
of its new drug Trovan on children, and such outbreaks in the west are now
relatively rare……

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12/02/1999 – Boys Will Be Boys

We shout a public “WELL DONE AND THANK YOU!!!!” to George Will and the
Washington Post for their encouraging article on the Colorado School
Board Resolution. Ann Blake-Tracy who was one of three invited to present
documentation to the school board on the damage caused by these drugs
will be doing a radio show this Saturday on this issue. She will be
joined by Patti Johnson, the Colorado School Board member who
introduced the resolution. The interview will be with Phyllis Schlafly,
national head of the Eagle Forum (www.eagleforum.org) at 11:30 AM
Central Time. For a station near you that may carry the show check
their web site or the drugawareness.org site or members.aol.com/atracyp
hd.

Boys Will Be Boys
Or you can just drug them.
By George F. Will
Thursday, December 2, 1999; Page A39

A reaction is underway against drugging children because they are
behaving like children, especially boy children. Colorado’s elected
school board recently voted to discourage what looks like drug abuse in
the service of an ideological agenda. The board urged teachers and
other school personnel to be more restrained about recommending drugs
such as Ritalin for behavior modification of children, and to rely more
on discipline and instruction.

One reason for the vote is that some school violence has been committed
by students taking psychotropic drugs. But even absent a causal
connection between the drugs and violence, there are sound reasons to
recoil from the promiscuous drugging of children.

Consider the supposed epidemic of attention deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) that by 1996 had U.S. youngsters consuming 90percent of
the world’s Ritalin. Boys, no parent of one will be surprised to learn,
are much more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. In1996, 10
percent to 12 percent of all American schoolboys were taking the
addictive Ritalin. (After attending classes on the dangers of drugs?)

One theory holds that ADHD is epidemic because of the modern
acceleration of life–the environmental blitzkrieg of MTV, video games,
e-mail, cell phones, etc. But the magazine Lingua Franca reports that
Ken Jacobson, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of
Massachusetts, conducted a cross-cultural study of ADHD that included
observation of two groups of English school children, one diagnosed
with ADHD, the other not. He observed them with reference to 35
behaviors (e.g., “giggling,” “squirming,” “blurting out”) and found no
significant differences between the groups.

Children, he says, tend to talk, fidget and fool around–“all the
classical ADHD-type behaviors. If you’re predisposed to label any child
as ADHD, the distracted troublemaker or the model student, you’ll find
a way to observe these behaviors.” So what might explain such a
predisposition? Paul R. McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns
Hopkins, writing in Commentary, argues that ADHD, “social phobia”
(usual symptom: fear of public speaking) and other disorders certified
by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders” are proliferating rapidly. This is because
of a growing tendency to regard as mental problems many characteristics
that are really aspects of individuality.

So pharmacology is employed to relieve burdensome aspects of
temperament. “Psychiatric conditions,” says McHugh, “are routinely
differentiated by appearances alone,” even when it is “difficult to
distinguish symptoms of illness from normal variations in human life,”
or from the normal responses of sensitive people to life’s challenges.
But if a condition can be described, it can be named; once named, a
distinct disorder can be linked to a particular treatment. McHugh says
some experts who certify new disorders “receive extravagant annual
retainers from pharmaceutical companies that profit from the promotion
of disorders treatable by the companies’ medications.”

The idea that most individuals deficient inattentiveness or confidence
are sick encourages what McHugh calls pharmacological “mental
cosmetics.” This “should be offensive to anyone who values the richness
of human psychological diversity. Both medically and morally,
encumbering this naturally occurring diversity with the terminology of
disease is a first step toward efforts, however camouflaged, to control
it.” Clearly some children need Ritalin. However, Ken Livingston, of
Vassar’s department of psychology, writing in the Public Interest, says
Ritalin is sometimes used as a diagnostic tool–if it improves a
child’s attention, ADHD is assumed.

But Ritalin, like other stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine,
improves almost everyone’s attention. And Ritalin is a ready resource
for teachers who blur the distinction between education and therapy.
One alternative to Ritalin might be school choice–parents finding
schools suited to their children’s temperaments. But, says Livingston,
when it is difficult to change the institutional environment, “we don’t
think twice about changing the brain of the person who has to live in
it.” This is an age that tries to medicalize every difficulty or
defect. Gwen Broude, also of Vassar, believes that the rambunctiousness
of boys is treated as a mental disorder by people eager to interpret
sex differences as personal deficiencies.

Danielle Crittenden of the Independent Women’s Forum sees the “anti-boy
lobby” behind handwringing about the supposed dangers of reading the
Harry Potter novels, which feature wizardry, witchcraft and other
really neat stuff. The androgyny agenda of progressive thinkers has
reduced children’s literature to bland gruel because, Crittenden says,
there is “zero tolerance for male adventurousness.” The Potter books
recall those traditional boys’ books that satisfied boys’ zeal for
strife and Adventure. Today, Crittenden says, that zeal causes
therapists–they are everywhere–to reach for Ritalin. Harry is brave,
good and constantly battling evil. He should point his broomstick
toward Colorado, where perhaps boys can be boys.

Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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