The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) states it is no wonder that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a group that claims to be an advocacy organization for people with “mental illness,” opposed the black box warnings on antidepressants causing suicide for under 18 year olds in 2004, and black box warnings on ADHD drugs causing heart attack, stroke and sudden death in children in 2006, when you look at their biggest source of funding: Pharma.
Today’s New York Times article, “Drug Makers Are Advocacy Group’s Biggest Donors” states “A majority of the donations made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s most influential disease advocacy groups, have come from drug makers in recent years, according to Congressional investigators. The alliance, known as NAMI, has long been criticized for coordinating some of its lobbying efforts with drug makers and for pushing legislation that also benefits industry. Last spring, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent letters to the alliance and about a dozen other influential disease and patient advocacy organizations asking about their ties to drug and device makers. The request was part of his investigation into the drug industry’s influence on the practice of medicine.
The mental health alliance, which is hugely influential in many state capitols, has refused for years to disclose specifics of its fund-raising, saying the details were private. But according to investigators in Mr. Grassley’s office and documents obtained by The New York Times, drug makers from 2006 to 2008 contributed nearly $23 million to the alliance, about three-quarters of its donations.”
Read NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/health/22nami.html?_r=2
More on NAMI:
• NAMI’s pharmaceutical funding was first exposed in the November 1999 Mother Jones article “An influential mental health nonprofit finds its grassroots funded by Pharmaceutical millions,” Internal documents obtained by Mother Jones found 18 drug firms gave NAMI a total of $11.72 million between 1996 and mid-1999. These include Janssen ($2.08 million), Novartis ($1.87 million), Pfizer ($1.3 million), Abbott Laboratories ($1.24 million), Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals ($658,000), and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($613,505). And that NAMI’s leading donor was Eli Lilly and Company, maker of Prozac, which gave $2.87 million during that period. In 1999 alone, Lilly will have delivered $1.1 million in quarterly installments, with the lion’s share going to help fund NAMI’s ‘Campaign to End Discrimination’ against the mentally ill.”
• In a 2000 Insight Magazine article, NAMI spokesperson Bob Carolla stated, “Mental illness is a biologically based brain disorder” and deferred to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1999 Report on Mental Health as evidence of this. Yet the author of the article, Kelly Patricia O’Meara reviewed the entire report looking for this evidence, and found, “The Surgeon General’s report does not provide a single piece of scientific data supporting mental illness as a brain disorder or disease.”
Factually, the Surgeon General’s report admitted there is no medical proof to substantiate NAMI’s claims. The report states, “The diagnoses of mental disorders is often believed to be more difficult than diagnoses of somatic or general medical disorders since there is no definitive lesion, laboratory test or abnormality in brain tissue that can identify the illness.”
Psychiatrist Loren Mosher, former Chief of Schizophrenic Research Studies National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stated, “The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) gets the pharmaceutical money and then says they spend it on their ‘antistigma’ campaign. They say that mental illness is a ‘brain disease.’ And it works well for the people who suffer from this to use their drugs. This is why NAMI is pushing for forced medication. It is an amazing selling job on the part of NAMI.”
• December 18, 2003, The New York Times reported that NAMI bused scores of protestors to a hearing in Frankfort, Kentucky, took out full page ads in Kentucky newspapers, and sent angry faxes to state officials, all protesting a state panel proposal to exclude the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa from Medicaid’s list of preferred medications. According to the article, “What the advocacy groups did not say at the time was that the buses, ads and faxes were all paid for” by the manufacturer of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, Eli Lilly.
In 2004, NAMI opposed the FDA issuing “black box” warnings on antidepressants about their increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in under 18-year-olds.
In 2006, despite overwhelming evidence of serious adverse cardiac events and sudden deaths caused by ADHD drugs, NAMI took the position that the “black box” warning on ADHD drugs was “premature.”
If NAMI was truly a patient’s rights advocacy group as they purport to be, the question must be asked why they opposed legislation that forwards patients rights.
Take for example the Child Medication Safety Act, a bill that passed the House of Representatives 425-1 in 2003. The bill stated that as a condition of receiving federal funds, states develop policies and procedures that prohibit schools from requiring a child to take psychiatric drugs as a condition of attending school. NAMI reported in their Policy Alerts section of their Beginnings newsletter that summer that they were “not opposed to the intent of the bill.” However, in the same article they stated “given the bill’s stern enforcement provisions—threatening the loss of federal education funds—it’s enactment would inevitably have a chilling effect on schools across the country.” They went on to encourage people contact their Senators to “express concern” about the bill.
Despite NAMI’s efforts, the bill, hailed as a protection for parents rights, was passed in December 2004 as the Prohibition on Mandatory Medication Amendment, a bill CCHR and many other concerned groups had been strongly in support of, after numerous parents came forth stating they had been forced to have their children take psychiatric drugs as a condition of attending school, and even had been charged with medical neglect for failing to comply.