NAMI Board Member Resigns
Some of you may be aware of the recent efforts of Senator Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa, for those who care). He has been probing the ties between the pharmaceutical industry and doctors, organizations like the APA and AMA, and so-called patient advocacy groups like NAMI.
Touting themselves as a grassroots organization while getting the bulk of their funding from pharma, NAMI’s loyalties have come into question. There is a growing sense among its members that to be involved with NAMI is to be sold on, even bullied into the idea that there is one true approach to what is considered mental illness and that approach is the medical model and its line of drugs. Even their attempts at reducing stigma center primarily on the idea of embracing diagnoses rather than valuing diversity in thought. Let’s face it — there’s not a lot of money in the diversity of thought. There is however plenty of money to be had promoting a social norm and a singular approach to maintaining (or trying to maintain) your standing within that norm — and when you’re taking that much money from the makers of the fix, it’s a safe bet you’re in agreement as to the approach.
That fact was not lost on Dr. H. Richard Lamb who resigned from his position on the board at NAMI citing the pharma connection. As there is no sign of NAMI’s ship sinking any time soon, it appears to be a genuine move on Lamb’s part to separate himself from the mouthpiece-for-pay system that NAMI has worked out with these companies — a move toward acting in the best interest of the very people NAMI has positioned themselves to reach. While it may take a lot more than one resignation to change the face and, more importantly, the heart of advocacy, it is certainly a step in the right direction. People tend not to walk away from such positions within such organizations without a firm nudge. Sometimes that nudge comes in the form of conscience and good judgement. Maybe that sort of thing could catch on. One can only hope. From the NY Times: (emphasis mine)
… [H]e was “shocked to learn that approximately half of NAMI’s income comes from the large pharmaceutical companies,” he wrote in a resignation letter that Mr. Grassley made public… In an interview, Dr. Lamb said that NAMI’s dependence on the drug industry made some actions impossible. For instance, Dr. Lamb said that NAMI should consider warning against the use of some mental health drugs with life-threatening side effects. But Dr. Lamb said the organization could not consider such a move because it could threaten much of its financing.
When you call things what they are, it’s very clear. NAMI is essentially sponsored by drug companies and what’s true in television and radio certainly holds true in large organizations — Never go against the sponsors. It is the one golden rule that governs all other rules. That’s fine when you’re selling sneakers and dish soap but we’re talking about actual human lives and wellness. It takes a lot of nerve to call your organization a patients’ advocacy group when half to two-thirds of your funding comes from companies that are constantly facing class action lawsuits, federal lawsuits or both for not disclosing adverse findings in clinical trials, lying about known health risks, directly causing death and chemical injury and illegally marketing their most powerful and unpredictable drugs off label. NAMI could hardly be more blatant in aligning their methods with the commercial interests of these companies. If that’s advocating, I’d hate to see their idea of throwing people to the wolves.
It should be said that while Lamb appears to be a man of conviction, his convictions and mine are far from lining up in other respects as he is on the board of directors for the Treatment Advocacy Center, a group unparalleled in their efforts to extend the reach of forced psychiatry through involuntary commitment and drugging. It’s likely that, like many, he acts with good intentions but forced treatment has killed and injured millions with good intentions. I say this not to detract from the spirit of his resignation but to point out the importance of being conscious of the vision and motives of those speaking for you.