Archive for January, 2010

A Schizophrenic Mouse?

Somewhere amidst the Pristiq banner, sidebar and pop-up ads, there is an article in Science Daily about a group of scientists at the Medical College of Georgia. They believe they’ve created a schizophrenic mouse by “reducing the inhibition of brain cells involved in complex reasoning and decisions about appropriate social behavior.”

Is that what passes for schizophrenia these days? Maybe in mice. In people, what has traditionally been called schizophrenia is marked by withdrawal, disordered thought and a break from reality — none of which are mutually exclusive with the ability to reason and behave in a socially “appropriate” manner. I’m not sure why they’d choose to attach that label to those traits but let’s face it, the definition of schizophrenia has always been pretty flexible.

While the purpose of this study is investigative, no gene or biological root has been definitively linked to what is known as schizophrenia. The only accurate way to observe schizophrenia in mice would be to find mice that are already suffering from the supposed brain disorder. Good luck with that. To me this whole study is like grafting two mice to determine what causes the occurrence of conjoined twins. Mimicking the effect and truly recreating the occurrence are two very different things. While this approach might otherwise be a step toward isolating a biological cause if there is one to find, the parameters are so far off as to render the study useless in identifying and treating schizophrenia — even if you buy the brain disorder model.

What’s the next step in treating these newly mentally ill mice? Drugs. They are experimenting with the introduction of currently marketed neuroleptics (antipsychotics). I find it interesting that they feel the need to create a schizophrenic mouse model for that, considering the fact that the way these drugs have been used on the labeled public since their inception in the 1950s could best be described as an experiment — albeit one in which the theories are reverse-engineered around the drugs. Of course in the human population, we’d never call it an experiment. It’s treatment.

So what have they really done? They’ve successfully recreated unpopular traits, placed them neatly in a box mislabeled schizophrenia, elevated “appropriate social behavior” to the status of a marker of good biological health and experimented on the existing experiment with drugs. Nothing new here. The real trick is going to be positioning Pristiq’s direct-to-consumer ads in a way that will appeal to the burgeoning psychotic mouse population.

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January 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm 5 comments

The Deadline for Comments to the FDA on ECT is Tomorrow.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking an active role in this instance. The FDA has been in a position to regulate ECT (shock treatment) for decades by way of clinical trials determining its safety and efficacy and has chosen not to. Proponents proclaim its safety and efficacy but oppose its testing. Why? If ECT is as safe and effective as those proponents claim, the device would fly through the testing without a hitch. If not, however, the FDA is our only safeguard from a procedure that many of its recipients have found ineffective at best and debilitating at worst.

Proponents of ECT claim it is fear mongering based on old and outdated methods that opponents use to bolster their argument but little has changed in ECT over the years, other than adding drugs into the mix. The same damaging and unpredictable shock is administered to the brain, intentionally causing a seizure. Ask anyone who has seizures and chances are they will not praise them for their safety and depression reducing qualities. Muscle relaxants are used to minimize muscle contractions and anesthesia is offered, making the procedure more appealing and easier to market but certainly not safer given the increased potential for toxic or allergic effects and harmful drug interactions.

Proponents of ECT claim it is an often life saving last resort that has proven its safety and efficacy through publice use. I’ll simply say two things to that. First,that the same was said about lobotomy and second, that using the public over time to determine the benefits of a procedure is using the public as guinea pigs in a poorly regulated experiment.

When ECT proponents weigh in on the topic, they often frame it in terms of taking ECT out of their arsenal. You know something is wrong when testing something to assure it is safe and useful to the public is tantamount to banning it. The move the FDA is considering is not to ban it but to test it. If those two things are one and the same in the eyes of the shock industry, then it’s no wonder they would rather have us take their word on it.

Please speak up. A brief comment, even a single sentence is all it takes. I’ve commented and it is incredibly easy. If you can post on your friends facebook wall or comment on their myspace photo, you can comment to the FDA.

Simply go to regulations.gov. Copy and paste this docket number into the search bar on the right: 2009-N-0392. A list of comments will come up. You can view the comments of others and add your own.

More info: Jon Breeding PhD on Electroshock

January 7, 2010 at 11:40 am 2 comments

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