The first in a four-part series by investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara written for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) a psychiatric watchdog organization. The series will explore the epidemic of suicides in the military and the correlation to dramatic increases in psychiatric drug prescriptions to treat the emotional scars of battle. The first installment looks at the statistical data, military suicides and unexplained deaths among the troops tied to prescription drugs.
It would be laughable if it weren’t tragic. This week Surgeon General Regina Benjamin introduced a plan to stem the nation’s growing suicide rate without addressing the nation’s growing use of suicide-linked drugs.
Antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil, antipsychotics like Seroquel and Zyprexa and anti-seizure drugs like Lyrica and Neurontin are all linked to suicide in published reports and in FDA warnings. (Almost 5,000 newspaper reports link antidepressants to suicide, homicide and bizarre behavior.) Asthma drugs like Singulair, antismoking drugs like Chantix, acne drugs like Accutane and the still-in-use malaria drug Lariam, are also linked to suicide.
The first week in May brought a new leader in France and new prospects for same sex couples seeking marriage. But at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, attended by 11,000 psychiatrists, it was the same old same old. Instead of listening to the public outcry about overmedicated children, soldiers, elderly and everyday people watching too many drug ads, the psychiatry group re-affirmed its resolve to pathologize healthy people and even rolled out new groups to target.
An influential U.S. senator is grilling officials in nearly three-dozen states, demanding to know how they are cracking down on physicians who prescribe massive amounts of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.
Iowa Republican Charles Grassley sent letters to 34 states Monday asking what steps they had taken to investigate doctors whose prescribing of antipsychotics, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to Medicaid patients far exceeds that of their peers.
It’s no secret that advertising works. Big Pharma wouldn’t spend over $4 billion a year on direct-to-consumer advertising if it didn’t mean massive profits.
What is more unknown is why drug ads that sow hypochondria, raise health fears and “sell” diseases are often the most common–and effective–even when the drugs themselves are of questionable safety.
The nation’s fourth most frequent drug ads in 2009 for were Cymbalta, making Eli Lilly $3.1 billion in one year, despite the antidepressant’s links to liver problems and suicide. Pfizer spent $157 million advertising Lyrica for fibromyalgia in 2009, despite the seizure pill’s links to life-threatening allergic reactions. The same year, it spent $107 million advertising the antidepressant Pristiq, even though it also had links to liver problems.