Sources: Asheville Global Report (British Medical Journal),No. 284, June 24-30, 2004, Title: “Bush Plans To Screen Whole U.S. Population For Mental Illness,” Author: Jeanne Lenzer, http://www.agrnews.org/issues/284/#2; Truth News, September 13,2004, Title: “Forcing Kids Into a Mental Health Ghetto,” Congressman Ron Paul,http://www.truthnews.net/world/2004090078.htm
Faculty Evaluator: David Van Nuys Ph.D.
Student Researchers: John Ferritto, Matt Johnson
In April of 2002, President Bush appointed a 22 member commission called the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in order to “identify policies that could be implemented by Federal, State and local governments to maximize the utility of existing resources, improve coordination of treatments and services, and promote successful community integration for adults with a serious mental illness and children with a serious emotional disturbance.”1 Members of this commission include physicians in the mental health field and at least one (Robert N. Postlethwait) former employee of pharmaceutical giant Ely Lilly and Co.
In July of 2003 the commission published the results of their study. They found that mental health disorders often go undiagnosed and recommended to the President that there should be more comprehensive screening for mental illnesses for people of all ages, including pre-school age children. In accordance with their findings, the commission recommended that schools were in a “key position” to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adult employees of our nation’s schools.2
The commission also recommended linking the screenings with treatment and support. They recommended using the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a model treatment system.3 TMAP, which was implemented in Texas’ publicly funded mental health care system while George W. Bush was governor of Texas,4 is a disease management program that aids physicians in prescribing drugs to patients based on clinical history, background, symptoms, and previous results. It was the first program in the United States aimed at establishing medication guidelines for treating mental health illnesses.5 Basically, it is an algorithm that recommends specific drugs which should be used to treat specific diseases. Funding for TMAP was provided by a Robert Wood-Johnson Grant as well as several major drug companies. The project began in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from pharmaceutical companies, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas.6
Critics of mental health screening and TMAP claim that it is a payoff to Pharmaceutical companies. Many cite Allen Jones, a former employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General. He was fired when he revealed that many key officials who have influence over the medication plan in his state received monetary perks and benefits from pharmaceutical companies, which benefited from their drugs being in the medication algorithm. TMAP also promotes the use of newer, more expensive anti-psychotic drugs. Results of studies conducted in the United States and Great Britain found that using the older, more established anti-psychotic drugs as a front line treatment rather than the newer experimental drugs makes more sense. Under TMAP, the Ely Lilly drug olanzapine, a new atypical antipsychotic drug, is used as a first line treatment rather than a more typical anti-psychotic medication. Perhaps it is because Ely Lilly has several ties to the Bush family, where George Bush Sr. was a member of the board of directors. George W. Bush also appointed Ely Lilly C.E.O. Sidney Taurel to a seat on the Homeland Security Council. Of Ely Lilly’s $1.6 million political contributions in 2000, 82 percent went to Republicans and George W. Bush.7
In November of 2004, Congress appropriated $20 million8 to implement the findings of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. This would include mandatory screening by schools for mental health illnesses. Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas introduced an amendment to the appropriations bills which would withhold funding for mandatory mental health screenings and require parental consent and notification. His amendment, however, was voted down by a wide margin (95-315 in the House of Representatives).9 Paul, a doctor and long-time member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) states, “At issue is the fundamental right of parents to decide what medical treatment is appropriate for their children. The notion of federal bureaucrats ordering potentially millions of youngsters to take psychotropic drugs like Ritalin strikes an emotional chord with American parents.” Paul says the allegation “that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment is patently false,” and warns that mental health screening could be used to label children whose attitudes, religious beliefs, and political views conflict with established doctrine. Paul further warns that an obvious major beneficiary of this legislation is the pharmaceutical industry. The AAPS has decried this legislation, which they say will lead to mandatory psychological testing of every child in America without parental consent, and “heap even more coercive pressure on parents to medicate children with potentially dangerous side effects.”
Update by Jeanne Lenzer: Whether it’s the pills we take or the oil we use, it would be reassuring to know that the information used to develop new medicines or to utilize natural resources wisely is based on science-not corporate spin.
But blandishments from Big Pharma to politicians and doctors have a profound effect on health care in the U.S., making medical research closer to propaganda than science at times.
One way drug companies, in collusion with doctors, increase their market share is to expand the definition of diseases. When diagnostic criteria were liberalized for attention deficit disorder in 1991, the number of children diagnosed jumped by about 60 percent.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) acknowledged in the July 2004 issue of Advocacy News that, “The BMJ story has gained some traction in derivative reports on the Internet.” But, they boasted, “mainstream media have not touched the story, in part thanks to APA’s work, for which the [Bush] Administration is appreciative.”10
The APA’s boast is curious. The article was the most downloaded article in the history of the BMJ. It clearly struck a nerve with a public wary of doctors and politicians whose pockets are lined with drug company money.
Given the interest in the BMJ story, it would seem that the APA, instead of attempting to keep the story out of the mainstream media, would be anxious to counter the widely circulated statements in the article. It would also seem that the mainstream press could provide the Administration and the APA the best possible vehicle to counter these supposed factual errors in the BMJ article.
But, the facts might prove difficult to square with the public. More than one in every 100 toddlers and preschoolers in the United States are on powerful psychiatric drugs, such as Ritalin and Prozac, according to a study published in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Joseph T. Coyle, M.D., wrote in an accompanying editorial, “It appears that behaviorally disturbed children are now increasingly subjected to quick and inexpensive pharmacologic fixes, as opposed to informed mutimodal therapy.” He concluded, “These disturbing prescription practices suggest a growing crisis in mental health services to children and demand more thorough investigation.”
But instead of issuing warnings about overmedication or inappropriate prescribing, the experts on the New Freedom Commission warn ominously that too few children are receiving treatment for mental illness. They cite escalating numbers of toddlers expelled from daycare as evidence of potentially serious psychological problems-problems to be diagnosed and cured with mental health screening and pills. Social and economic reasons for the rise in kiddie expulsions are left unexamined.
As bad as this is for those put on drugs and labeled “mentally ill,” the far bigger concern is the creation of a disease for every drug, a situation made possible by the hand-in-glove relationship between industry and the government.
10. See Medicating Aliah: http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2005/05/medicating_ aliah.html.
Alliance for Human Research Protection “http://www.ahrp.org” http://www.ahrp.orghttp://www.psych.org/join_apa/mb/newsletters/advocacy/AdvNewsJuly2004.htm#21.
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