Monday, December 20, 2010

Link Dump

The Hill references a new study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. The study found that in the last decade Big Pharma paid out twice as much as defense contractors under the False claims act. And NPR link on the subject.

Faculty of Stanford still don't want to comply with the school's policy on taking Big Pharma money.

And the first in a three-part series on the poor getting their children diagnosed with mental disorders so that they can collect SSI checks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad Behavior Squared

Besides The Guardian and other mainstream newspapers, Foreign Policy magazine has also been reading through the most recent batch of Wikileaks cables and publishing what it finds on a special section of its website called Wikileaked.

Today, they published this little gem. I think the title says it all: "More stellar corporate behavior in Nigeria". (Newsflash: Diplomats are jaded, cynical bunch.)

This brief article discusses the behavior of Pfizer in the aftermath of its illegal clinical trial of the Trovan antibiotic during a meningitis epidemic in 1996 in Kano, Nigeria. It was an illegal clinical trial because the parents of the children had no idea that Pfizer was using their children as human test subjects and therefore had no way to give informed consent. Of the 100 children given the antibiotic, five children died and dozens of others were left maimed for life due to liver complications. Pfizer's actions would later serve as the basis of John le Carré's novel The Constant Gardener.

There was a great deal of legal wrangling in both Nigerian and US courts and Pfizer finally reached a $75 million out-of-court settlement in early 2009.

The leaked cable, however, discusses how Pfizer tried to intimidate the Nigerian Attorney General to drop his legal inquiry by instigating a smear campaign:

According to Liggeri [Pfizer's manager for Nigeria], Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases. He said Pfizer’s investigators were passing this information to local media, XXXXXXXXXXXX. A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa’s “alleged” corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa’s cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.

I'm not particularly shocked that a multinational corporation would try to interfere with the affairs of a sovereign government because the corporation wasn't getting its way. I am far more shocked that a corporate executive would so casually discuss his company's bad behavior with a diplomat and neither would feel remorse.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Real Life Hurt Locker

This is more than a little weird.

I appreciate what happened at Virginia Tech, but this simply doesn't pass muster. Whittington didn't make actionable threats. He wasn't even vaguely threatening. He just simply articulated his reactions to the very dark and crazed business of combat. And he did it quite well, it seems.

And really, what he was writing about is exactly what won The Hurt Locker all those Academy Awards.

I don't think he needs a psych eval. I think he needs to be encouraged to write more.

I think it's sad that we should glorify these wars in this country, but not allow our returning vets to speak honestly of them. We expect them to keep hushed about it because war doesn't affirm a positive, sunny outlook about the good intentions of mankind, I guess.

I feel sorry for this guy and I hope psychiatry doesn't damage him even more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can you say Party Town?

Something to pick him up. Something to chill him out. And for those extra-special times when he can't tell if his heart is still beating, he can have a hit of some prescription poppers. Good times.

from Pharmagossip

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This is very exciting.

There aren't many works by Giotto left in the world. Many of his works were whitewashed and repainted over by later Renaissance artists. He is given the title "First Painter of the Renaissance," although his rendering of the human form was not quite there, as it would be with the work of the later artists.

His Flight into Egypt is the one most often seen in the anthologies:

One of my all time favorite works is his Adoration of the Magi:

I like it because of the camels. Giotto had obviously never seen a camel before. Like most people of 14th century Europe, he was insulated from things and experiences outside of his small world. He could only paint the camels from other people's descriptions and how he imagined them to be. They are not accurate camels, but they are *honest* camels, painted as passionately and as honestly as he could humanly paint them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Winners and Losers

This dude just got elected for Florida governor. His resume sounds just as impressive as Meg Whitman's. CA had the good sense to reject nutMeg. However, endemic stupidity seems to have overcome all hurdles in FLA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moniz Madness

--shamelessly stolen from WunderNutbar, a newly found blog. I think it's appropriate for Nobel Prize week because Moniz, the man who perfected ramming an ice pick through another person's brain, won a Nobel Prize for it. In hindsight, it wasn't one of the Committee's better choices...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

As a recovering addict and a psychiatric survivor, this kind of makes my blood boil:

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a representative survey of 43,000 Americans in 2001-2002, called the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Following are exact quotes from the NIAAA Web site.

# Twenty years after onset of alcohol dependence, about three-fourths of individuals are in full recovery; more than half of those who have fully recovered drink at low-risk levels without symptoms of alcohol dependence.

# About 75 percent of persons who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, including specialty alcohol (rehab) programs and AA. Only 13 percent of people with alcohol dependence ever receive specialty alcohol treatment.

In short:

75% of those who recover do so without any sort of treatment;

25% of the recovered are split between those who receive general therapy and those who enter rehab or AA.

I was told by the experts that psychotherapy and/or AA was the only way to get sober. I never found rehab or AA to be particularly helpful for my situation.

However, my older friends who'd also been through some very debilitating addictions to drugs and alcohol had a totally different perspective. They told me that eventually one day I'd wake up, decide I'd had enough and that would be the end of it. I always told my friends they were nuts. I was going to party till the day I died.

My friends were right. Both the experts and I were wrong. It happened more or less the way my friends said it would. I'm sitting here clean and sober for 14 years, a proud member of that 75%.

I have absolutely nothing against AA. A great many people swear by it because it has worked for them. I'm all for what works for people, particularly if that help is virtually free.

Perhaps, however, if we need to rein in health care costs, we need to look at the utility and cost of the psychotherapists and rehab programs. From the statistics, these "experts" earn only a fraction of their paycheck.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Same old crap, different day

Over the week end, the New York Times published an article called "Side Effects May Include Lawsuits". It discusses the government's ongoing fines and lawsuits brought under the federal False Claims Act against pharmaceutical companies and their peddling of antipsychotics for off label uses.

As the article points out, the False Claims Act has largely been used in the past by the government to defend against fraud in the defense industry. If you look through this list, you'll see defense contractors like General Electric, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed Martin on the perp walk. Their historic and ongoing fines pale, however, in comparison to the recent fines and criminal penalties levied against the pharmaceutical industry.

Certain people in the c/s/x community feel that this new prosecution by the government will rein in the over-prescription and off-label uses for a class of very dangerous drugs with debilitating, if not deadly, side effects. Sadly, I don't think this will be the case for at least three reasons.

One, as you can see from this list of defense contractors, prosecution and conviction under this law has never stopped them from showing up to bid on the next round of contracts. It's just the simply the cost of doing business with a very lucrative customer, a customer who know he gets cheated every time but who is always willing to come back for more.

Secondly, you need to look at the attitudes of the drug companies. In the article, they claim that they're going to change their ways, but in the next breath they are reported as claiming, "The drug makers also say that there is a large population of patients who still haven’t taken the drugs but could benefit from them."

And third, the scientific discipline behind the promotion of the drugs, psychiatry, is so inexact, so fuzzy. These two quotes from two separate mainstream psychiatry professors at prestigious universities are quite instructive:

“If you have a lot of money on the table and you have clinical uncertainty over mental health conditions, where you don’t have a blood test or objective test for it, you see it’s kind of a combustible mixture,” says Dr. Mark Olfson, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and researcher.


...Dr. Robert Rosenheck, a professor of psychiatry and public health at the Yale School of Medicine, who has received research support from drug makers and federal agencies. “Psychiatric disorders are vaguely defined enough that you can stretch definitions,” he says. “So many treatments are completely ineffective, people are willing to try anything.”

In other words, psychiatrists can prescribe these drugs for whatever they want to prescribe them for and their medical decisions are beyond reproach.

It's a very sad situation. To me, there's a sort of parallel here with another long and ugly incident involving psychiatry.

To me, there's sort of a parallel here. When lobotomies were practiced heavily in the 1940s and 1950s, psychiatrists gushed about how wonderful they were and a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon. It took a while for the general public to determine what the people who'd had them already knew--that they weren't that great. And of course the people harmed by them received very little, if any, compensation.

Flash forward to this day and age. These second generation atypical antipsychotics were heralded as being such an improvement over the old ones. Lots of people jumped on the bandwagon thanks to the marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and the happytalk of the shrinks. A great many of the patients have discovered that they aren't that great and the general public is only beginning to catch up with what the patients already know.

I think it's very unfair that it's only the government who will be collecting money under these suits and not the patients for having their health so seriously harmed. It is also very alarming to see what the government has done in the past under the False Claims Act. Although the contractor does a bit of marginal window dressing, he's still peddling the same old crap and the government shows up again only to ask, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" Very sad.

h/t Stan.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good News

A psychiatric survivor, Will Hall, was asked to present at SAMHSA's Alternatives 2010 conference. The title of Will Hall's presentation was changed at the last minute by the organizers and he decided not to go.

Good news, however. The organizers will allow him to proceed and present as planned.

This smells vaguely of Robert Whitaker's experience with this conference. At first, he was invited and then he was uninvited. The internet rage machine immediately fired up. The organizers changed their minds again and Whitaker was back on the rostrum.

As a psychiatric survivor myself, I am not at all surprised at this equivocal whipsawing of views and intentions by people who call themselves mental health professionals. It seems to be just part of their interior landscape and I've learned the hard way not to become involved in it. It's simply not healthy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why they hate our freedoms

Burning the Koran is tasteless and oafish, to say the least. I appreciate that Muslims are offended by it, but as this article points out self-expression is the backbone of our rights. We can burn our Bibles. We can burn our bras. And according to the Supreme Court, we can burn our flag to express our political frustration and even sacrifice small animals to express our religious convictions. It only follows that we can burn the Koran. Nothing need be held sacred in this country (except that very statement itself). And there is no constitutional right guaranteeing your right not to be offended.

in reference to: BBC News - Why US government could not have stopped the Koran bonfire (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, September 6, 2010

From the not quite ready to be poster children department

This is kind of old news, at least in internet time, but it was recently submitted to a board I haunt.

Being at the bottom of the food chain doesn't sound very sexy, until a person realizes that it also means being the foundation for life.

It's hard to use microscopic diatoms as poster children for a cause, the way whales and polar bears are used, but in the grand scheme of things, these little critters are exponentially more important than anything else on earth.

Sadly the article never discussed whether disappearing phytoplankton was a cause or an effect of the rapid ocean acidification.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

400 million year old species is threatened

I love this. These little critters are in the fossil record for the Ordovician era 450 millions years ago They might have existed longer than that but older fossil records are spotty. They are basically unchanged from their earliest known forms and they have survived all five major extinction events.

And now they might be threatened. Good going, people.

Want to help a local farmer beat a Monsanto-Backed incumbent for Iowa Secretary of Ag?

This has become popular on reddit. As someone living in the cornbelt, I have to say Mr. Thicke's cause is righteous. He runs an organic farm in Iowa, which is something very peculiar both here and in Iowa, where a farmer has to run an industrial, economy-to-scale farm to make a decent profit.

It's very sad that living in the country doesn't guarantee me the best food :-( Guys like Mr. Thicke seem to want to change that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Northwest and Northeast Passages are now open and ready for business

from the University of Bremen

The Northwest Passage, which is basically the sea route that Columbus was looking for, shaves a few thousand miles off the trip between European and Asian ports. This is the third year in recorded history that it's been open. The other two years were 2007 and 2008. In a few years time with increasingly warmer temperatures, it will become commercially navigable. Canada, Russia, the US and various Scandinavian countries are beginning to quarrel over who can control this traffic.

Denmark is also very excited that the ice melt has exposed possible mineral and oil deposits in Greenland. It will allow the Danes to give the territory independence and to get it off the welfare dole.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lab rats? Drugs for US children tried on Indian children

"by comparison with the reality, my story is as tame as a holiday postcard"

--afterward in The Constant Garderner, John Le Carre

This comes from The Times of India. American pharmaceutical companies are using Indian children in drug trials. The article discusses the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision, which allows drug companies an extra six months of patent exclusivity if they test drugs on children.

According to one critic: “We are now using vulnerable people in vulnerable countries as drug laboratories...It is all about dollars and cents.”

But the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that there is no difference in the way trials are conducted in the US and abroad.

Except we get to that nasty little part about informed consent of the parents. One Pakistani doctor notes, “People actually have blind trust in their doctor in South Asia. They have no idea what drug development is, they have no idea what clinical trials are."

Scary and yet highly profitable if you're a drug company.

Friday, August 20, 2010

With Samaritans Like These, You Don't Need Highway Robbers

I have some friends that live in this town and I thought this was very bizarre. Has anyone else here seen anything like this? Full text of the article:

Samaritan Center opens pharmacy

Samaritan Center has enhanced their patient care by opening a pharmacy at the center’s Bayou office in Vincennes. Samaritan Center CEO John Manning says the goal is for the center to be a one-stop shop for patients. “A lot of folks come by Van Go and by being able to have their prescriptions filled here after their visit will save them a trip,” he said. “We want our patients to have the convenience of being able to have their prescriptions filled onsite, however they can still choose to go elsewhere if they wish.”

The pharmacy’s full-time pharmacist, Alan Kaffenberger says Samaritan Center’s pharmacy is full-service. “Patients of the Samaritan Center will not just be able to have their prescriptions filled here, but they will be able to have their family members prescriptions filled as well,” he stated. “Our pharmacy will also be servicing group homes and cluster apartments as well. For the customers in those places that have chosen our pharmacy, those medications will be packaged and distributed by us.”

The Samaritan Center vendors through QoL meds, based out of Pittsburgh, to bring pharmacy services to its patients. Manning said when the Samaritan Center was looking into the idea of starting a pharmacy he had come into contact with QoL meds at mental health meetings. “QoL did a feasibility study to see if it would be viable to have a full-time pharmacist on site,” Manning said. “We were pleased to learn that the study found we would pull in the volume to have our own pharmacy. It’s really going to be convenient for our patients.”

Kaffenberger has been a pharmacist in the Vincennes community since 1992. He is a Purdue University graduate. The pharmacy is located at the Samaritan Center’s Bayou Office, 515 Bayou Street, their phone number is 812-886-0907.

Samaritan Center - Since 1972, Samaritan Center has been the region's comprehensive mental health center, offering a full range of services for adults, seniors, families, teens and children. Samaritan Center offers counseling, inpatient psychiatric service, diagnostic evaluations, individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, addiction services and much more. All of the Samaritan Center’s services are designed to improve the quality of life for people of all ages, giving them a place to turn and helping them along the path to recovery.

I guess the mental health center needs extra money due to Medicaid cuts. The national pharmacy chain for behavioral health centers QoL lists an exciting career opportunity:

Title: Clinical Medication Coordinator

Job Summary:

The Clinical Medication Coordinator (CMC) meets with each Medicaid or insured consumer of their mental health center to educate them on the benefits of using QoL meds pharmacy as opposed to a local retail vendor. By developing relationships with the entire treatment team (clinicians, family and consumer) the CMC ensures that a Qol meds consumer receives the highest quality of prescriptive service. Some of the duties include:


Become point of contact on behalf of pharmacy for consumer and clinician. Answer patient medication and pharmacy questions.

Provide adherence counseling by contacting each consumer and Report medication count to the responsible party.

Tracking void (no refill) prescriptions through reports from pharmacy.

Occasional delivery of meds to consumers.


Clozapine/Clozaril Phlebotomy:

Set up clozapine clinic for patients on clozapine to have their blood drawn and receive next cycle of medication. Draw blood and send samples to lab. Monitor patient’s attendance at clinic as well as other questions/issues.

It just absolutely boggles my mind how these sorts of people can push poisons and live with themselves. They certainly have to have really good rationalization mechanisms.

With Samaritans like these, you don't need highway robbers.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

23 minutes of your time well-spent

The one thing I take away from this report is that under the New National Healthcare legislation, health insurance companies and the federal government are loathe to pay for the debilitating permanent side effects that drugs like Risperdal cause, so the psychiatrists had better find something else that doesn't cause so many adverse health problems. Or at least, that's what I take away from the current debate, litigation and proposed pharmaceutical guidelines.

The funny thing is that Big Pharma seems to be ready to leave psychiatry high and dry when it comes to new drugs. Perhaps pharma is tired of getting sued, although the video points out that drug settlements are negligible in the grand scheme of profits. Or they're embarrassed at being caught faking data as the video mentions. Or perhaps Pharma is simply tired of having its good name dragged through the mud. I don't know.

I just think it's sad that so many people have to be maimed or killed by psychiatric drugs before anyone else begins to take notice. My heart goes out to that poor guy in the wheel chair in the video. I would bet money that the last thing his shrink said to him as he walked out of the office for the last time was "You'll have to take those medications for the rest of your life. They help you so much."