Trib Talk – August 26, 2014 By F. Scott McCown A decade ago, Texas had a serious drug problem. Psychotropic medications — like antipsychotics, stimulants, mood…
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.
Sixteen months after 7-year-old Gabriel Myers committed suicide while taking psychotropic drugs, the state of Florida has banned allowing any children in the state’s custody from participating in clinical drug trials.
Some critics insist too many foster parents, lacking the skill or patience to work with troubled children who arrive as strangers, are still too quick to see medication as the way to curb problem behavior or just keep foster children quiet, no matter the side effects. But whatever the truth of that, the study group recommended some good changes, and one made sense immediately, I thought: Ban the use of foster kids in drug trials.
Now, the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, chaired by Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, has asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the drugging of foster care children. The investigators will attempt to account for estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars of possible fraud arising from prescriptions for drugs explicitly barred from Medicaid coverage. The GAO is collecting data from Oregon, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, and Texas, to search for patterns of abuse.