Emord & Associates
By Peter Arhangelsky
April 4, 2013
On April 4, 2013, AbleChild.org filed an appeal with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) seeking release of Adam Lanza’s medical records held by the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s Office. That appeal, prepared by Emord & Associates and filed by the Heitke Law Office (Rhode Island), contests the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s refusal to disclose the shooter’s records. A copy of the submission is available here.
AbleChild is a non-profit organization that represents the interests of parents, caregivers, and children. It seeks to ensure the safety of caregivers in every state, including Connecticut, when those whom they care for are diagnosed as mentally ill and prescribed drug treatments that may induce adverse events. In response to a growing body of evidence associating psychotropic drugs with thoughts of murder, homicide, or suicide, AbleChild requested disclosure of the autopsy, toxicology, and prescription drug records of Adam Lanza so that an evaluation can be made: (1) to determine if those drugs contain agents associated with increased thoughts of hostility, murder, homicide, and suicide; and (2) to determine if such drugs contributed in whole or part to Adam Lanza’s commission of murder and suicide.
On March 19th, the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) denied AbleChild’s request for information, claiming that records were private documents. AbleChild challenges that decision on six grounds, including Constitutional claims under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (and related clauses in the Connecticut Constitution). The interplay between private government function and public transparency is at the core of this dispute. The United States Supreme Court recognizes a constitutional right to gather information under the First Amendment.
The use of psychotropic drugs is prevalent in mental health fields. Of course, not all patients entertain thoughts of criminal activity, or act on those impulses. In a percentage of those patients, however, treatment with certain drugs may substantially increase the likelihood of an adverse event. Information presently available correlates certain drugs with outrageous criminal behavior. AbleChild reports, for example, that:
More research is required to assess the causative factors. But to further those research efforts, AbleChild needs information from state governing bodies. Please contact Jonathan Emord at 202-466-6937 (email@example.com) or Sheila Matthews-Gallo at AbleChild.org (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Leaving the war is half the battle. Leaving the war behind is the other. How everyday efforts can help veterans be civilians again.
By David Sutherland & Paula Caplan
February 10, 2013
There’s no mystery, but people talk as though there is. Some leaders in the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as some psychotherapists and other citizens, express puzzlement about why, in the last 11 years, the rates of suicides, family breakdown, substance abuse, and homelessness among war veterans have steadily risen.VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki spoke recently about suicide without offering explanations beyond “some increased level of stress,” scant improvement over a Defense Department press release titled “Uncertainty About Military Suicides Frustrates Services.”
Is there really a mystery? Do we really not know why 22 veterans take their own lives every day – 70 percent among vets over age 50? Or why veterans are 50 percent more likely to end up without a home than other Americans? Why the divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How it is that nearly two million veterans from all wars are substance abusers?
Based on our years of on-the-ground and clinical experiences, respectively, working with veterans, we believe there is no mystery. Four primary factors cause the emotional devastation and moral anguish that plague so many who have been to war.
First, war is vile. Imagine holding in your arms a 5-year-old girl shot in the face by an insurgent because her father served in the Iraqi police force. Or driving in a convoy, with children running playfully beside you, when a terrorist drives his pickup into the children, killing them all. The horror and barbarism are chilling: comrades die, innocents are maimed, local “friendly” forces betray you.
Contributing to veterans’ suffering is the soul-crushing isolation most experience when they return home. Friends and family rarely know what these men and women have experienced, and many veterans hesitate to talk openly for fear of upsetting loved ones, facing harsh judgment, or simply not being understood. For many, the silence and isolation continue for decades.
Increasing the isolation is the fact that people traumatized by war are often mislabeled as mentally ill. The “disorder” labels most often used – post-traumatic stress, major depressive, generalized anxiety, bipolar – further distance veterans from their communities. Civilians assume that they are unqualified to help, believing that only therapists have the needed tools. Nothing we propose precludes veterans from seeking help from a therapist. Anyone who is suffering deserves attention and care, and for some, that might include traditional approaches used by therapists. However, not all suffering constitutes a mental disorder, and our nation’s knee-jerk reaction to call all war trauma “mental illness” ends up hurting veterans.
Finally, psychotropic drugs often intensify the veterans’ suffering and isolation. Once labeled with a mental illness, veterans are routinely prescribed cocktails of psychiatric drugs that alter in troubling ways their emotions and cognition. Tragically, the kinds of harm the drugs can cause include precisely those that are increasing among service members and veterans: suicide, family breakdown, substance abuse, and homelessness. Many senior Defense officials have voiced their concern about the dangerous effects of these drugs.
There are many effective and nonpathologizing solutions to the epidemic problems destroying our war veterans. All of us – including the military, the VA, and mental-health professionals – must stop automatically labeling war veterans “mentally ill.” Being shaken to the core by war is a deeply human reaction. Calling it mental disorder alienates veterans from themselves and their communities and causes moral anguish. It blinds civilians to veterans’ pain and cuts civilians off from their common humanity with those who have gone to war.
There are low-risk ways that community leaders or any citizen can help veterans heal, primarily helping them create or connect, which in turn will help their communities. Unlike drugs, these do not have dangerous side effects, and they could not differ more from the isolation intensified by labeling and drugging. These options include involving veterans in mentoring, volunteering, meditation, promoting the arts, sports and recreation, nonprofit leadership, and political action, and providing them service animals for connection and comfort. The recent “A Better Welcome Home” conference at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation featured several examples. (Visit http://bit.ly/OToAwc for more information.)
Even something as simple as listening can make a difference. Veterans taking part in the Welcome Johnny and Jane Home project reported that having the chance to tell their stories was helpful and healing, according to a study conducted at the Harvard Kennedy School.
And citizens can speak up. Our military and political leadership need to hear that Americans care about our veterans and are willing to do their part to help. As our military men and women continue to return, scarred and battered, American communities must not isolate veterans. Avoid the misplaced labels of mental illness. Listen. Help veterans heal on their own terms and at their own speed. With the right community support, with deep connections, our veterans will truly come home.
David Sutherland is a retired U.S. Army colonel and director of the Center for Military and Veterans Community Services (Dixon Center)
Paula J. Caplan is a Harvard University psychologist and author of “When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans”
Fact: Despite 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, and dozens of high profile shootings/killings tied to psychiatric drug use, there has yet to be a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence.
Fact: Between 2004 and 2011, there have been over 11,000 reports to the U.S. FDA’s MedWatch system of psychiatric drug side effects related to violence. These include 300 cases of homicide, nearly 3,000 cases of mania and over 7,000 cases of aggression. Note: By the FDA’s own admission, only 1-10% of side effects are ever reported to the FDA, so the actual number of side effects occurring are most certainly higher.
Fact: It took months for the release of information showing that police had found psychiatric drugs in the apartment of Aurora Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes—including the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam and the antidepressant sertraline, the generic version of the antidepressant Zoloft.
Colorado shooter James Holmes was under the care of psychiatrist Lynne Fenton prior to the shootings. Police found antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs in Holmes apartment.
A bill introduced in New York in 2000 proposed police investigate psychiatric drug in all cases of violent crimes and suicides. This is a bill that must be reintroduced and passed on state and federal levels. Click image to read the bill
Despite 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, and dozens of high profile shootings/killings tied to psychiatric drug use, there has yet to be a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence.
The correlation between psychiatric drugs and acts of violence and homicide is well documented – both by international drug regulatory warnings and studies, as well as by hundreds of cases where high profile acts of violence/mass murder were committed by individuals under the influence of psychiatric drugs.
Unfortunately that bill stalled out in the finance committee. By reviewing the international drug regulatory warnings, studies, and adverse reaction reports submitted to the US FDA below, it is evident that the reintroduction of the New York bill is needed on a federal level in order to determine just how many crimes and acts of violence are being committed by individuals under the influence of drugs documented to induce violence, mania, psychosis, aggression, hostility and homicide.
As the world’s leading mental health watchdog, CCHR has for decades investigated hundreds of acts of senseless violence, working alongside investigative reporters, law enforcement, as well as legislative hearings, such as those held in Colorado following the 1999 Columbine massacre (ringleader Eric Harris was found to be under the influence of the antidepressant Luvox, Dylan Klebold’s autopsy reports were never unsealed).
Click image to read MANIA—The shocking link between psychiatric drugs, suicide, violence and mass murder
In determining what would prompt a person to commit such brutal and senseless crimes, the press must ask the right questions, including: What, if any, prescribed psychotropic drugs the perpetrator may have been on (or in withdrawal from).
See the recent study from PLoSOne here on psychiatric drugs being linked to violence.
Watch this short interview with Michael Moore, author, director and producer of Bowling for Columbine, where he calls for a federal investigation into the link between prescribed drugs and mass shootings such as the 1999 Columbine massacre.
At least 31 school shootings and/or school-related acts of violence were committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs. It is important to note the following lists cases where the information about the shooters psychiatric drug use was made public.
It took months for the release of information showing that police had found psychiatric drugs in the apartment of Aurora Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes—including the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam and the antidepressant sertraline, the generic version of the antidepressant Zoloft.
Note that all these mass shootings didn’t just occur in the United States.
Of these 31, ten were seeing either a psychiatrist (8 of them) or psychologist (2 of them). It is not known whether or not the others were seeing a psychiatrist, as it has not been published.
St. Louis, Missouri – January 15, 2013: 34-year-old Sean Johnson walked onto the Stevens Institute of Business & Arts campus and shot the school’s financial aid director once in the chest, then shot himself in the torso. Johnson had been taking prescribed drugs for an undisclosed mental illness.
Snohomish County, Washington – October 24, 2011: A 15-year-old girl went to Snohomish High School where police alleged that she stabbed a girl as many as 25 times just before the start of school, and then stabbed another girl who tried to help her injured friend. Prior to the attack the girl had been taking “medication” and seeing a psychiatrist. Court documents said the girl was being treated for depression.
Planoise, France – December 13, 2010: A 17-year-old youth held twenty pre-school children and their teacher hostage for hours at Charles Fourier preschool. The teen was reported to be on “medication for depression”. He took a classroom hostage with two swords. Eventually, all the children and the teacher were released safely.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – September 21, 2011: 14-year-old Christian Helms had two pipe bombs in his backpack, when he shot and wounded Socastee High School’s “resource” (police) officer. However the officer was able to stop the student before he could do anything further. Helms had been taking drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.
Huntsville, Alabama – February 5, 2010: 15-year-old Hammad Memon shot and killed another Discover Middle School student Todd Brown. Memon had a history for being treated for ADHD and depression. He was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.” He had been seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist.
Kauhajoki, Finland – September 23, 2008: 22-year-old culinary student Matti Saari shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine. He was also seeing a psychologist.
Fresno, California – April 24, 2008: 17-year-old Jesus “Jesse” Carrizales attacked the Fresno high school’s officer, hitting him in the head with a baseball bat. After knocking the officer down, the officer shot Carrizales in self-defense, killing him. Carrizales had been prescribed Lexapro and Geodon, and his autopsy showed that he had a high dose of the antidepressant Lexapro in his blood that could have caused him to be paranoid, according to the coroner.
Dekalb, Illinois – February 14, 2008: 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amount of Xanax in his system. He had been seeing a psychiatrist.
Jokela, Finland – November 7, 2007: 18-year-old Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School in southern Finland, then committed suicide.
Texas – November 7, 2007: 17-year-old Felicia McMillan returned to her former Robert E. Lee High School campus and stabbed a male student and wounded the principle with a knife. McMillan had been on drugs for depression, and had just taken them the night before the incident.
Cleveland, Ohio – October 10, 2007: 14-year-old Asa Coon stormed through his school with a gun in each hand, shooting and wounding four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon had been placed on the antidepressant Trazodone.
Sudbury, Massachusetts – January 19, 2007: 16-year-old John Odgren stabbed another student with a large kitchen knife in a boy’s bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. In court his father testified that Odgren was prescribed the drug Ritalin.
North Vernon, Indiana – December 4, 2006: 16-year-old Travis Roberson stabbed another Jennings County High School student in the neck, nearly severing an artery. Roberson was in withdrawal from Wellbutrin, which he had stopped taking days before the attack.
Hillsborough, North Carolina – August 30, 2006: 19-year-old Alvaro Rafael Castillo shot and killed his father, then drove to Orange High School where he opened fire. Two students were injured in the shooting, which ended when school personnel tackled him. His mother said he was on drugs for depression.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina – April 2006: 17-year-old William Barrett Foster took a shotgun to school and took a teacher and a fellow student hostage at East Chapel Hill High School. After being talked out of shooting the hostages, Foster fired two shots through a classroom window before fleeing the school on foot. Foster’s father testified that his son had stopped taking his antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs without telling him.
Red Lake, Minnesota – March 21, 2005: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, on Prozac, shot and killed his grandparents, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead 5 students, a security guard, and a teacher, and wounded 7 before killing himself.
Greenbush, New York – February 2004: 16-year-old Jon Romano strolled into his high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano had been taking “medication for depression”. He had previously seen a psychiatrist.
Red Lion, Pennsylvania – February 2, 2001: 56-year-old William Michael Stankewicz entered North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School with a machete, leaving three adults and 11 children injured. Stankewicz was taking four different drugs for depression and anxiety weeks before the attacks.
Ikeda, Japan – June 8, 2001: 37-year-old Mamoru Takuma, wielding a 6-inch knife, slipped into an elementary school and stabbed eight first- and second-graders to death while wounding at least 15 other pupils and teachers. He then turned the knife on himself but suffered only superficial wounds. He later told interrogators that before the attack he had taken 10 times his normal dose of antidepressants.
Wahluke, Washington – April 10, 2001: Sixteen-year-old Cory Baadsgaard took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. He had been taking the antidepressant Effexor.
El Cajon, California – March 22, 2001: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor, opened fire on his classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School. He had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting.
Williamsport, Pennsylvania – March 7, 2001: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush was taking the antidepressant Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.
Oxnard, California – January 2001: 17-year-old Richard Lopez went to Hueneme High School with a gun and shot twice at a car in the school’s parking lot before taking a female student hostage. Lopez was eventually killed by a SWAT officer. He had been prescribed Prozac, Paxil and “drugs that helped him go to sleep.”
Conyers, Georgia – May 20, 1999: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with the stimulant Ritalin when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.
Columbine, Colorado – April 20, 1999: 18-year-old Eric Harris and his accomplice, Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves. Harris was on the antidepressant Luvox. Klebold’s medical records remain sealed. Both shooters had been in anger-management classes and had undergone counseling. Harris had been seeing a psychiatrist before the shooting.
Notus, Idaho – April 16, 1999: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a prescribed antidepressant and Ritalin.
Springfield, Oregon – May 21, 1998: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac. Kinkel had been attending “anger control classes” and was under the care of a psychologist.
Blackville, South Carolina – October 12, 1995: 15-year-old Toby R. Sincino slipped into the Blackville-Hilda High School’s rear entrance, where he shot two Blackville-Hilda High School teachers, killing one. Then Toby killed himself moments later. His aunt, Carolyn McCreary, said he had been undergoing counseling with the Department of Mental Health and was taking Zoloft for emotional problems.
Chelsea, Michigan – December 17, 1993: 39-year-old chemistry teacher Stephen Leith, facing a disciplinary matter at Chelsea High School, shot Superintendent Joseph Piasecki to death, shot Principal Ron Mead in the leg, and slightly wounded journalism teacher Phil Jones. Leith was taking Prozac and had been seeing a psychiatrist.
Houston, Texas – September 18, 1992: 44-year-old Calvin Charles Bell, reportedly upset about his second-grader’s progress report, appeared in the principal’s office of Piney Point Elementary School. Bell fired a gun in the school, and eventually wounded two officers before surrendering. Relatives told police on Friday that Bell was an unemployed Vietnam veteran and had been taking anti-depressants.
Winnetka, Illinois – 20 May 1988: 30-year-old Laurie Wasserman Dann walked into a second grade classroom at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Illinois carrying three pistols and began shooting children, killing an eight-year-old boy, and wounding five others before fleeing. She entered a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20-year-old man before killing herself. Dann had been seeing a psychiatrist and subsequent blood tests revealed that at the time of the killings, she was taking the antidepressant Anafranil.
Note: Psychiatric Drugs Can Also Cause Severe Withdrawal Symptoms—Violent and Suicidal Thoughts – Watch This 2 Minute Video
12 additional recent murders and murder-suicides, resulting in 46 dead and 23 wounded:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – March 8, 2012: 30-year-old John Shick, former patient of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and former student at nearby Duquesne University, shot and killed one and injured six inside UPMC’s Western Psychiatrist Institute. Nine antidepressants were identified among the drugs police found in Shick’s apartment.
Seal Beach, California – October 12, 2011: Scott DeKraai, a harbor tugboat worker, entered the hair salon where his ex-wife worked, killing her and seven others and injuring one. At DeKraai’s initial hearing, his attorney indicated to the judge that DeKraai was prescribed the antidepressant Trazodone and the “mood stabilizer” Topamax.
Lakeland, Florida – May 3, 2009: Toxicology test results showed that 34-year-old Troy Bellar was on Tegretol, a drug prescribed for “bi-polar disorder,” when he shot and killed his wife and two of his three children in their home before killing himself.
Granberry Crossing, Alabama – April 26, 2009: 53-year-old Fred B. Davis shot and killed a police officer and wounded a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a call that Davis had threatened a neighbor with a gun. Prescription drug bottles found at the scene showed that Davis was prescribed the antipsychotic drug Geodon.
Middletown, Maryland – April 17, 2009: Christopher Wood shot and killed his wife, three small children and himself inside their home. Toxicology test results verified that Wood had been taking the antidepressants Cymbalta and Paxil and the anti-anxiety drugs BuSpar and Xanax.
Concord, California – January 11, 2009: Jason Montes, 33, shot and killed his wife and then himself at home. Montes had earlier begun taking the antidepressant Prozac for depression related to his impending divorce and a recent bankruptcy.
Little Rock, Arkansas – August 14, 2008:Less than 48 hours after Timothy Johnson shot and killed Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney, the Little Rock Police declared they were investigating shooter’s use of the antidepressant Effexor, which was found in Johnson’s house. A Little Rock city police report later stated that Johnson “was on an antidepressant and that the drug may have played a part in his ‘irrational and violent behavior.’”
Omaha, Nebraska – December 5, 2007: 19-year-old Robert Hawkins killed eight people and wounded five before committing suicide in an Omaha mall. Autopsy results confirmed he was under the influence of the “anti-anxiety” drug Valium.
North Meridian, Florida – July 8, 2003: Doug Williams killed five and wounded nine of his fellow Lockheed Martin employees before killing himself. Williams was reportedly taking two antidepressants, Zoloft and Celexa, for depression after a failed marriage.
Wakefield, Massachusetts – December 26, 2000: 42-year-old computer technician Michael McDermott had been taking three antidepressants when he hunted down employees in the accounting and human resources offices where he worked, killing seven.
Buffalo, New York – May 1, 1998: 37-year-old Juan Roman, an Erie County sheriff’s deputy, pursued his estranged wife into their children’s elementary school and shot her dead, and a school aide was hit in the elbow. Roman was taking antidepressants and seeing a psychiatrist.
St. Petersburg, FL – May 25, 1992: 30-year-old David Doyle Rittenhouse shot and killed a man that went on a date with his wife. Rittenhouse said he was taking a drug somewhat similar to the controversial drug Prozac, and that the drug impeded his perception abilities and he thought the man had raped his wife, though he said “He knows it didn’t happen that way – but he said that is what was in his mind.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – March 14, 2012
By Michael A. Fuoco
School shooters under the influence of psychiatric drugs documented to cause violence/mania have left 57 dead and 109 wounded
Law enforcement authorities who searched John F. Shick’s North Oakland apartment following his deadly shooting rampage Thursday found 43 medications ranging from psychotropic drugs to pain pills to erectile dysfunction tablets that had been prescribed by about a dozen different doctors, sources close to the probe said.
Additionally, they found the address for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, the scene of the shootings, written on a piece of paper hanging from a wall in Mr. Shick’s fourth-floor flat in the Royal York Apartments.
Rambling messages were written on the walls themselves and in notebooks scattered throughout the apartment. And there were handwritten complaints about his medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments, sources reported.
The notations included complaints about various doctors and what Mr. Shick characterized as their misdiagnoses of his ailments. But Mr. Shick’s ire was particularly centered on a UPMC internal medicine physician who appeared to have treated Mr. Shick, sources said. Mr. Shick and the doctor lived in the same apartment building, the sources said, and they had argued. The doctor could not be reached for comment, so the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is not identifying him.
Mr. Shick, 30, who killed one person and wounded five others in Western Psych’s first floor before University of Pittsburgh police fatally shot him, had the night before the carnage asked someone in his apartment building to call an ambulance. He vomited in the lobby before being taken to UPMC Presbyterian. There, he complained of having worms in his bowels.
Previously, residents of his apartment said, Mr. Shick sometimes left yellow Post-Its on his door that said, “Now cleaning up vomit of pancreatitis. Please do not disturb.”
Mr. Shick also ranted in his writings about the evils of “corporate America,” sources said, and had a gas mask and a biohazard suit in the apartment.
Executives at the Sterling Land Co., which owns the Royal York Apartments, said in a letter delivered to tenants last week that they “had no knowledge of John Shick’s health problems.” They said Mr. Shick moved to the apartment last July. In a second letter sent to residents this week, they advised “worried, upset or grieving” tenants to seek counseling via the re:solve Crisis Network in the East End.
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said he had no comment on what investigators found in the apartment and no further update on the investigation into Mr. Shick’s motivation in the attacks.
Neither he nor UPMC officials would say if Mr. Shick had been a patient at Western Psych. But Karl E. Williams, the Allegheny County medical examiner, said Tuesday that as part of his investigation he had obtained a court order compelling UPMC hospitals, including Western Psych, to provide any medical records for Mr. Shick it may have.
Paul Wood, spokesman for UPMC, said Tuesday he knew nothing about such a court order being served on the institution.
“In order for everything to be purely correct, legally correct, the [medical examiner] has to request a subpoena and it has to be ordered by the court and then we supply any records we have on that person,” Mr. Wood said. “We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement.”
Mr. Wood said UPMC’s legal understanding of the federal privacy law is that it cannot confirm or deny that someone has been a patient or received any care at one of its hospitals — even after that person has died.
In another development, a surveillance video from a Rite Aid Pharmacy at 209 Atwood St. in Oakland obtained by WTAE-TV shows a man that appears to be Mr. Shick shopping at the store about an hour before the shootings. On Tuesday afternoon, an employee said she had seen Mr. Shick in the store at least once in the past two weeks, but she declined to comment further.
Cmdr. Stangrecki said he could not confirm if the man was Mr. Shick, but police had formally requested the surveillance video from Rite Aid.
Top prescribers wrote $47 million in Medicaid prescriptions for antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs in the two years, the analysis showed. The top five doctors wrote $18 million worth. Most of the drugs went to children and adolescents
A Texas health agency has begun investigating more than three dozen healthcare providers who prescribed large quantities of powerful psychiatric drugs — some to children — after a U.S. senator raised questions about the medications.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has referred three providers to the attorney general for criminal prosecution, state Health Commissioner Thomas Suehs wrote to Sen. Charles Grassley last month. Some have been excluded from the Texas Medicaid program, including one convicted in a criminal case and another accused of inappropriate billing and coding of hours related to patient services.
The state has referred another provider to the state’s private Medicaid claims processor for “further recoupment.” Two providers were referred to licensing boards for action. All of the providers were sent what the agency calls educational letters. The state didn’t identify them.
In 2010, Grassley, R-Iowa, began investigating the use of addictive mental-health drugs that have the potential for fraud and abuse. In response to his inquiries, the state listed the top 10 prescribers of eight psychotropic and pain medications, although commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said Texas already had psychotropic medications under review.
In a letter to Grassley last month, Suehs outlined what the state did to detect, though not necessarily curb, overprescribing.
Suehs said that while a high prescription rate may be cause for concern, “the presence of this high rate may not necessarily be indicative of fraud or abuse on its own.”
Most of Suehs’ letter is in response to specific questions from Grassley. For example, Grassley asked whether the state has a system to identify and monitor excessive prescription-writing.
Suehs responded that investigations are not based on the volume of prescriptions: “Investigations arise from the receipt of a specific allegation of fraud, provider self reports and computer data matches.”
He wrote that the inspector general verifies that each provider is in good standing before Medicaid enrollment.
In December 2010, the Star-Telegram used prescriber numbers to identify the doctors and to sort and tally their prescriptions by medication type. The newspaper’s analysis also looked at other mental-health drugs that have cost taxpayers about $1.3 billion over five years. The analysis found that in two years, the 72 Medicaid providers identified by the state for writing the most prescriptions handed out 186,992, averaging 2,597 each.
Topping the list was G.K. Ravichandran of Houston’s Shamrock Psychiatric clinic, who wrote 27,000 scripts for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in two years. Under his license, 44,138 prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs were written, at a cost to Medicaid of $6.4 million.
Top prescribers wrote $47 million in Medicaid prescriptions for antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs in the two years, the analysis showed. The top five doctors wrote $18 million worth. Most of the drugs went to children and adolescents, although prescribing the drugs to children, such as a toddler, is considered “off-label,” or a use not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Another study of 16 states found that Texas had the highest rate of prescribing multiple mental-health drugs to youths in foster care.
Since 2005, Suehs wrote, the use of psychotropic drugs in foster-care youths has been on a downward trend, from 29.9 percent in 2004 to 20.6 percent in 2010. That was an overall drop of 31 percent for children prescribed the drugs for 60 days or more.
Goodman said tight controls are in place for medicating foster-care children. “There’s a lot greater review, looking at case files, questioning the drug usage,” she said.
A 3-year-old may be put on two psychotropic drugs, for example, because the child suffers from seizures and “the drug is really treating that,” Goodman said.
As of June, Texas Medicaid requires authorization before antipsychotic medication is prescribed to children under 3, whether in foster care or not.
“We will continue to evaluate our programs and procedures to help ensure they recognize changes in practices by prescribers that are intent on committing fraud and will take strong action when fraud, waste or abuse is suspected,” Suehs wrote.
Grassley’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“I am giving Houston, and all the others, and each of us, a standing ovation by speaking out against the irresponsible, duplicitous, misleading and dangerous prescription drug propaganda and use in America.”
By Nori St. Paul
February 17, 2012
It’s time to take back our human potential, and find the answers within, where they have always been.
It’s time to take back our human potential, and find the answers within, where they have always been.
It happens every day to people of all ages, but there are certain people who in death shine a spotlight on paradigms of cultural fragmentation and social inconsistency, even though most of us don’t see it at first.
Even while America and the rest of the world celebrate these icons’ lives, these “stars” illume a sad state of the American condition, and in some ways perhaps focus a beam on the collective human suffering. These public figures ante up the unnecessary ultimate price for a peoples that more and more feel alone in a crowd and are turning to Big Pharma to sate our appetites for some kind of reprieve from our psychic suffering. We are looking for that missing mirror of wholeness, and many believe it’s in a bottle.
On the outset, let me say I am not against all prescription drugs. Just most psychotropic medicines. I am passionately against the mass epidemic promotion and consumption of drugs in a world that cannot seem to produce unbiased numbers that substantiate efficacy in the realm of pill popping bliss.
It looks like the latest sacrifice to this devastation, of course, is Whitney Houston. While toxicology results are pending, it is widely known that Houston used, and allegedly abused prescription drugs.
As I have been known to do, allow me to get away from the drama of the bathtub in which she allegedly died, the glamorous dresses and Grammy parties, even her incredible musical talent, because these specifics are irrelevant fodder for the American frenzy toward sensationalism. Today a blue collar middle aged man with a wife and small children may suffer the same death as Houston, without the fanfare, because tens of thousands of people die each year from drug overdoses, including prescription medication. Now, believe me, I know you might be well tired of hearing this, but since I am not here to win a popularity contest, let me shed light on perhaps the deeper and more sensitive issue.
The scientific evidence doesn’t fit, and itself is cause for concern and the promulgation of a return to sanity is adding to the insanity, not fixing it. This is a grave issue for society.
I am giving Houston, and all the others, and each of us, a standing ovation by speaking out against the irresponsible, duplicitous, misleading and dangerous prescription drug propaganda and use in America.
The big dollar is winning out for doctors, pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, investors, and the government. Is this game somehow killing a part of the human potential, even before stealing lives to their last broken breath? I believe the answer is “yes.” The sad thing, too, is that people who turn to drugs are searching for an answer to their suffering, but I believe are really succumbing to the huge anatomy of the big cult of Big Pharma. The result is not a natural state of happiness. It’s high, or numb. Or worse. It’s a manufactured brand of happiness that is widely accepted by consumers that are suffering, and thing is, the message is so enticing, there seems nowhere else to turn.
It seems like we all see this happening, but as a whole we are in denial. Houston’s death is amid a pattern, and perhaps started years ago, at the height of her career, when Houston joined the ranks of an ever-growing world of “wanna-be-fixed-by-a-pill” culture. When I say by a pill, I really mean any mind altering drug, including illegal drug use, but critical, however, is that the problem includes an ongoing and aggressively promoted upward spiral of prescription drug use in America.
Research into this prescription drug issue uncovers some alarming facts. For example, Kenneth Kendler, coeditor in chief of Psychological Medicine, wrote in 2005, “We have hunted for big simple neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them.”
On the promotion side, suffice it to say that research reveals a gaping and frightening discrepancy in the direct marketing vs. research dollars for American drug companies. That’s right. More money is spent to entice us than is spent to insure our safety and well-being when it comes to drugs for anxiety, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar illness. And worse, there is no evidence this tack is working. Mental illness has not abated, it has grown more widespread. This subverted reality keeps a lot of people working, and some are making a lot of money, while a lot of people are dying, or just living drugged up lives unaware of who they really are, or could be.
It’s like walking a tight rope, where we will find that “perfect balance” between total death and drug induced bliss or balance or walking zombies.
Back to Houston. Is it possible that compounding this is the potential that as a result of her death, or other high profile deaths like Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, we actually experience a deeper delusion in some ways, as the fodder flies for weeks or years over these untimely deaths? “Well, gosh, I’m not that bad.” Or, “He’s not as bad as that. Oh, what a loss of a great talent. Wow, look at that.” In fact, are we living in a world of truncated human potential and looking for the answers outside of ourselves?
I am giving Houston, and all the others, and each of us, a standing ovation by speaking out against the irresponsible, duplicitous, misleading and dangerous prescription drug propaganda and use in America.
It’s time to take back our human potential, and find the answers within, where they have always been.
Even from the campaign trail, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has not forgotten his roots, his vision and, most importantly, his liberty-first philosophy.
As a practicing physician, Paul has the most insight into what is right – and wrong – with the U.S. healthcare system among all the GOP candidates. As such, when he re-introduces legislation such as the Parental Consent Act, which he first proposed in 2009 and which would keep federal funds from being used to establish or implement any universal or mandatory mental health, psychiatric, or socioemotional screening program, you should listen.
“Many children have suffered harmful side effects from using psychotropic drugs. Some of the possible side effects include mania, violence, dependence and weight gain” Paul has said. “Yet, parents are already being threatened with child abuse charges if they resist efforts to drug their children. Imagine how much easier it will be to drug children against their parents’ wishes if a federally-funded mental-health screener makes the recommendation.”
Though first introduced a couple of years ago, the repackaged Parental Consent Act of 2011 (H.R. 2769 – previously H.R. 2218 in 2009) would keep “federal education funds from being used to pay any local educational agency or other instrument of government that uses the refusal of a parent or legal guardian to provide consent to mental health screening as the basis of a charge of child abuse, child neglect, medical neglect, or education neglect until the agency or instrument demonstrates that it is no longer using such refusal as a basis of such charge,” according to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International.
All About the Children
In a House floor speech April 30, 2009, when he first introduced the legislation, Paul said the impetus behind his opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund so-called “mental health screening” without parental consent was the fact that it was not in the best interests of those parents, or their children.
“Already, too many children are suffering from being prescribed psychotropic drugs for nothing more than children’s typical rambunctious behavior. According to Medco Health Solutions, more than 2.2 million children are receiving more than one psychotropic drug at one time,” Paul said. “In fact, according to Medico Trends, in 2003, total spending on psychiatric drugs for children exceeded spending on antibiotics or asthma medication.”
He decries the recommendations of a mandated group called the “New Freedom Commission on Mental Health,” which he says “has recommended that the federal and state governments work toward the implementation of a comprehensive system of mental-health screening for all Americans.”
That commission, he says, wants “the implementation of a comprehensive system of mental-health screening for all Americans,” a process which would begin “in public schools as a prelude to expanding it to the general public.”
Looking for Support
In addition to looking for votes on the campaign trail, Paul is also searching for support for his bill. As such, he’s established an online petition supporters can use to send a message to Congress that they back what the Texas congressman is selling.
Besides establishing “a parent’s right to refuse mental health screening of their child,” Paul says the bill is “crucial” in protecting parental rights in general.
How important are parental rights to the mainstream media? Well, a Google news search using the terms “ron paul parental consent act,” as of this writing, produced no appreciable results.
The United States has a passion for pills, being the world’s biggest users of psychotropic drugs, consuming 60 per cent of them. And pharmaceutical firms are keen to keep cashing in on the multibillion-dollar market, even if it costs people’s health.
America is regarded as a country with a prodigious appetite for consumption. Today, a widespread fondness for pharmaceuticals has turned the US into a nation of pill-poppers.
With over $14 billion in annual sales, antipsychotics remain the top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the US.
Dr. Harriet Fraad believes Big Pharma has manufactured a climate of insanity by manipulating and even creating illness for capital gain.
“One of the things that drives Big Pharma is to find a diagnosis that is very vague, so that everybody can fall into that,” she told RT. “Everybody is sad sometimes. There are good reasons. The point is to market pharmaceuticals. And the advertising strategy is to have vague diagnosis and then find wiggle room so that they apply to everyone.”
The US is the only Western country that allows direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. For example, an ad for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder warns that untreated patients will likely end up divorced. Another commercial promises to make you happier, but side-effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.”
Critics also say Big Pharma uses its financial muscle to ply doctors with gifts, cash kick-backs and research funding in exchange for endorsing or prescribing the latest and most lucrative drugs.
Harriet Fraad says there is a whole network of doctors hustling these drugs.
“If a patient comes in with a knee injury and says, ‘I’m so sad.’ Oh, are you depressed? Hey write a prescription! They’re given out like M&Ms.”
Last year, prescription drug abuse became the number one cause of accidental death, with more than 30,000 Americans overdosing.
For instance, Seroquel, medication for bi-polar disorder, generated $4.4 billion in sales last year.Listing all its side-effects requires 49 seconds of air-time.
The number of children consuming antipsychotic medication has doubled in the past decade. Millions of American adolescents are taking drugs like Adderall, doled out by doctors to treat hyperactivity.
Author of Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic, psychologist Bruce Levine, told RT that, “All these drugs are very similar to illicit or illegal drugs, except they’re more dangerous. Marijuana is a little safer. But kids have no choice.”
Pfizer, America’s most profitable multinational pharmaceutical company makes anti-depressants not only for people, but also for animals. In 2009, the pharmaceutical giant paid $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations over illegally marketing one of its drugs. It was the largest healthcare fraud settlement and criminal fine in US history. That being said, the fine amounted to less than three weeks of Pfizer’s drug sales.
“The money is so huge that the fines are immaterial. They’re not thinking about the social effects of what they’re doing. They’re thinking about the profits they accrue,” says psychotherapist Harriet Fraad.
The pharmaceutical industry remains the most profitable business in the US. More success and financial gain for the companies will always remain possible as long as more Americans are encouraged to take drugs.
By JOSEPH DIAZ and CLAIRE WEINRAUB
Dec. 2, 2011
Not long ago, 7-year-old Brooke was on a medical regimen that might seem extreme, even for an adult: The 43-pound girl was prescribed multiple mind-altering psychotropic drugs.
Dealt a tough hand early in life — her birth mother had a history of drug dealing and prostitution — Brooke was prone to extreme tantrums and wild behavior. Her foster mother, Lisa Ward, says a Florida foster care agency instructed her to take the girl to a mental health clinic. The clinic prescribed anti-psychotic medication, often used to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
“Within a few weeks, probably two, they decided that it wasn’t working. They needed to do something else,” Ward recalled. “At this point, she’s getting worse, she’s not getting any better.”
Brooke was given 10 different prescriptions in four months, with the clinic frequently increasing her doses.
As a foster mother, Ward felt she had no choice. She worried that the state would take Brooke away if she didn’t give the girl the medication.
“We were told to put our faith in the system and that’s what we did,” Ward said. “They kept saying she needs more medication.”
Foster children are medicated with psychotropic drugs up to 13 times more than other kids. Michael Piraino, the chief executive of the National CASA Association, a foster children’s advocacy group, said that, as a population, foster children tend to be more troubled than their peers.
“If you’ve been hurt the way these kids are, you or I would feel the same way,” he said.
But Piraino said helping the children is not about always trying “to change their brain chemistry.”
“When a doctor tells me that the drug is working, I would ask, ‘Who’s it working for? Is it working for the kid? Is it working for the caretaker? Is it working for the system? It only matters to me whether it’s working for the kid,” he said. “Frankly, we want the doctors and nurses who are prescribing these medicines to look at their behavior and think – and ask this question: ‘Are we doing something wrong here?’ And to the extent that we are, individually or collectively, let’s change that.”
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper held a congressional hearing Thursday, demanding changes in the foster care system.
“In my judgment, no children in this country should be taking at the same time five different kinds of psychotropic drugs,” he said. “None.”
A Different Kind of Medicine
Despite the increases in dosage, Brooke’s rages continued. Finally, Ward had enough — she decided to pay for the services of a private doctor, Dr. Luis Quinones. a psychiatrist.
Quinones was stunned by the pills Brooke was taking.
“The first thing we’ve got to think about: Is the medicine causing this?” he said. “There always has to be a high index of suspicion when we’re using these agents.”
December 1, 2011
by BRINDA ADHIKARI, JOAN MARTELLI and SARAH KOCH
Across America, doctors are putting foster children on powerful, mind-altering drugs at rates up to 13 times that of children in the general population. What’s more, doctors are prescribing foster children drugs at doses beyond what the Food and Drug Administration has approved, sometimes in potentially dangerous combinations, according to a new report by the federal Government Accountability Office.
“It’s just almost beyond comprehension,” said Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., who asked for the GAO investigation. “We want the doctors and nurses that are prescribing these medicines to look at their behavior and think and ask this question. Are we doing something wrong here?”
In Florida, regulator Gabriel Myers, killed himself in 2009 after being prescribed a powerful mix of psychotropic medication.
In Florida, regulators have been grappling with that question since a 7-year-old boy, Gabriel Myers, killed himself in 2009 after being prescribed a powerful mix of psychotropic medication.
His psychiatrist, Dr. Sohail Punjwani, had, at different times, prescribed two drugs that carry black box labels — warning of the need to carefully monitor patients because of the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children, which call for careful monitoring. However, even though Gabriel visited Punjwani’s office seven times, his foster father said Gabriel usually only spent about five minutes talking to the doctor.
Gabriel’s death was ruled an accident, but investigators pointed to the possibility that the medication may have contributed to his death. The tragedy triggered a storm of outrage across the state.
“I don’t accept that the only way to reach a child who is 7 years old is through psychotropic drugs,” said Florida Sen. Ronda Storm, during hearings over Gabriel’s death. “I do not accept that.”
The boy’s doctor settled a lawsuit in 2010 accusing him of prescribing a toxic cocktail of psychotropic drugs to a 16-year-old patient, who suffered a sudden heart attack and died. Punjwani settled that case but admitted no wrongdoing.
Additionally, Punjwani was arrested for driving under the influence and cocaine possession. He pleaded not guilty to those charges but went through a court-ordered rehabilitation program.
When ABC News caught up with Dr. Punjwani, he told us, “Sad stories happen but that does not mean that everything else the doctor is responsible for it because we are in the business of taking care of these children,” he said.
Antipsychotic medication, which can cause a litany of health problems such as severe weight gain, an increased risk of diabetes and irreversible movement disorders, is among the top-selling drugs in America.
Four drug makers have paid a total of more than $2 billion to settle claims they illegally marketed antipsychotics to children. All deny wrongdoing.
“How do antipsychotics, drugs supposedly for people who have lost touch with reality, how do they develop such a wide market?” said neuropsychiatrist Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, who won millions of dollars as a key whistleblower against drug companies.
There have been very limited long-term studies on antipsychotics in children. And for drugs already on the market, the duration of the studies that were used to get FDA approval for children have been as short as three to six weeks.
ABC News interviewed a social worker now working in a state foster care system, who asked not to be identified.
“Every child that I saw was basically on some type of psychotropic medication,” the social worker told ABC News. “It’s much easier to medicate a child than it is to physically restrain them, than it is to pay $200 an hour to a therapist to talk through their problems with them.”