Posts tagged ‘Suicide’

Glaxo Testing Paxil on 7 Year Olds

Another Bnet link via Beyond Meds, an increasingly reliable pairing for getting me infuriated about the state of a pharmaceutical industry virtually devoid of ethics.

Glaxo is Testing Paxil on 7 Year Olds Dsepite Well Known Suicide Risks:

It was established years ago thatPaxil carries a risk of suicide in children and teens, butGlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has for the last 18 months been conducting a study of the antidepressant in kids as young as seven — in Japan…

The drug carries a “black box” warning on its patient information sheet, warning doctors and consumers that the antidepressant is twice as likely to generate lethal thoughts than a placebo…

Paxil is being tested against a placebo, so the results won’t be very surprising — even terrible drugs work better than sugar pills.

To what degree Paxil triggers suicide is only a secondary aim of the study. If the results suggest a lower suicide risk, expect GSK to play them up. If they’re bad, expect the company to dismiss them in favor of the primary endpoint results.

About 130 children have been enrolled, according to, which puts about 65 patients in each arm. That means the results won’t be too statistically robust — there only need to be two or three outlier results to skew the numbers by several percentage points.

When do we reach the limit? When is enough enough? For all the talk of evidence based practice and apparently wiping out the need to scientifically determine things like the chemical imbalance these drugs are sold to “correct”,  how is it somehow not enough that real world evidence shows Paxil in particular and drugs like it have terrible outcomes in a lot of people and markedly more so in children? On top of that we have the studies showing that the only effects SSRIs are known to have in appreciably greater amounts than placebo are the negative effects. The kids have already been guinea pigs long enough for use to know the results are not good and certainly not controllable.

It’s gotten to the point that when you see a child in the news that kills himself strangely young and seemingly out of nowhere or shoots his classmates or kills his parents, you can all but assume that child is on antidepressants. Those are the increasingly predictable behaviors that have  earned this class of drugs their little black box. We need to realize that we are putting children on mind altering drugs and unless we know precisely how they work, we have no say over how these forming minds will be altered — here or in Japan.

May 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

Don’t Do It (But First, a Word From Our Sponsors)

This was at the bottom, but given the nature of the post and how some, maybe you, might have found this, I thought it was worth putting first.

There are options out there. Some problems can be left behind with a bus ticket, a breakup, a new job — some  not so easily. Some have to be faced head on but there are options. Those options — while safe and effective — don’t have the power of industry behind them. That’s okay though. If you are on the edge of an irreversible decision, you don’t need industry or Adsense. You sure as hell don’t need to be anybody’s demographic, consumer or marketing opportunity. If suicide seems like a viable option, you’ve probably lost perspective. You may not be seeing your problems from every angle. Enlist the help of a friend — if you are afraid a friend will mess things up further, enlist the help of a stranger. Someone out there would be genuinely concerned about you in particular and what you’re dealing with if they only knew. This is just one option: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)

We’re all familiar with common internet marketing approaches like keyword generated ads and sponsored links on some of our favorite search engines. You can’t really complain when you can breeze through a million interests, look up old friends, find jobs, maybe even stumble upon a ranting impassioned weblog — endlessly, quickly and for free. They have to pay the bills somehow. I expect to see ads in the margins of the page and sponsored links do make sense — sometimes. Sure, If I’m looking for a new car, a tv or a pair of jeans, I expect to see sponsored links from the major makers but what happens when you’re not looking for a product at all?

Immediately after the earthquake in Haiti, I was watching a video clip (from some news outlet or another) of a man pleading for help in finding his missing daughter. He got about four words in before a video pop-up ad…well, popped up. The volume of the ad made it so you couldn’t hear the clip and the smiling, bouncing figures stood right in front of the footage of this pleading, crying father. The ad was for tourism in tropical Saint Lucia. The juxtaposition was glaring and it was as if they were saying, “Is Haiti getting a little corpsey? Come visit bright, sunny and still intact Saint Lucia!” It was a clear case of keyword generated ads gone wrong and I’m sure no one actually thought it would be a good idea to tastelessly suggest other vacationing ideas in light of Haiti’s disaster — or am I?

When you enter the word “sadness” in your Google search bar — which one could conceivably do for any number of reasons — you’ll get a few definitions from the likely sources like Webster’s and Wikipedia and  some fairly random entries for which “sadness” is a keyword but only after a word from your concerned friends in pharma. How strange that you can search for an emotion and get search results for a drug. Remember when drugs were for diseases? Yesterday, the search brought up three ads in the form of sponsored links for Cymbalta, Lexapro and Seroquel (today, only Seroquel). Of course they don’t say they’re for drugs in the links. They merely offer information. Two of them had some misleading heading about symptoms and treatment options for bipolar disorder or depression which of course didn’t lead to any objective information, just sales pitches with as much credibility as the new tv gimmicks on fast weight loss. (You know, the ones with the diagrams and the digital people eating pills and getting smaller.) While I think most major corporations tend to act without conscience, it has to be said — they’re not in the conscience business.If they’re going to crop up in every search that’s even tangentially related to their product, what can you say? They should at least present themselves as purveyors of psych drugs instead of answers.

The worse example, in my opinion, comes up when you search “suicide.”Google has added the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) to certain search result pages based on keywords like “suicide.” They’ve gotten mixed press for intruding on their searches but, by and large, a lot of people think it’s the good and responsible thing and no one is more impressed by them than they are themselves.

What I want to know is why the lifeline comes up second. The first entry is secured by Eli Lilly (presumably at a premium) with the headline “Symptoms of Depression” which of course takes you to an ad page for their antidepressant, Cymbalta. The implication is that if you are searching out of interest in suicide, you’re their target market. There are a number of reasons to search for suicide — statistics, synonyms, history, legal issues but those are not markers that make Lilly think they can sell you something. If you want to kill yourself, however, they have a product for you. It’s pretty shameless  and the last thing someone needs if they are reaching out is someone reaching back with an ad, much less a life on drugs. Never mind the fact that suicide is a side effect for their antidepressants. Sure, some will say the drugs are people’s last hope, but that’s debatable at best and let’s be honest — Eli Lilly isn’t a do-gooder group trying to ease troubled minds. They’re a business trying to move massive amounts of their product for as much money as possible and they have no intentions of letting class, tact or taste  (or even law, effectiveness and patient deaths, but that’s another story) get in the way. This is typical of pharma in general and Lilly in particular, so not too out of character.

If Google is so concerned, they should have the number come up first — before they help anybody sell a product. That, however, conflicts with the notion that the sponsor is always first. I can’t imagine what Eli Lilly and the rest pay for sponsorship but I’m sure it’s an obscenely high number and for that price, you don’t take second place to anything — even suicide prevention. It’s a sadly predictable sign of the state of things when an increase in suicides or coverage of suicides is seen as a marketing opportunity.

I mentioned these meager findings on a social networking site and within five minutes, someone — a stranger, really — mistook my interest for need and sent this simple message, “It sounds like you’re feeling a little down and want to talk.” If more people put themselves out there, quickly and sincerely and with nothing to gain, things would be headed in a different direction. We can talk about alternative mental health, corruption in pharma, government and NAMI, abusive and misguided systems but it’s not enough to complain about the state of things — or even to fight it. We have to be the alternative — and not just for ourselves.

April 16, 2010 at 10:04 am 2 comments

A Senseless Passing, Reckless Drugging and a Strongly Worded Letter

I don’t have the time or energy to really delve into these intertwining stories so I’m just touching on them and providing links but I do think we should be paying attention to what is allowed to pass for care in this country and what is allowed to pass for accountability.

Florida has a terrible track record, pumping its youth and especially its children in foster care, full of pyschotropic drugs. Foster children in Florida are drugged about three times as much as children outside of the system. These drugs have  serious negative effects on developing minds and bodies and one of those effects is suicidal ideation. With that many kids drugged down and such extreme responses, it’s painfully obvious that many of those children are going to suffer terrible outcomes.

This was never more true than in the heart breaking story of Gabriel Myers, a child just seven years old who committed suicide by hanging while on a cocktail of psychotropic drugs including Seroquel. Seven years old. Suicide at that age is unnatural. A child that age taking his own life has been failed by somebody — maybe everybody. It took a long time in my mind to get to even thinking about what this says about broken systems, medication, responsibility and social failure — all I could think about was what a terribly sad, troubled and short life Gabriel had.

Florida’s response? From a CBS News article that does go on to present some critical views of the use of psych drugs in children:

The apparent suicide of 7-year-old boy Gabriel Myers, who was taking several psychiatric medications, has led to the introduction of a bill in the Florida legislature, which would assure that powerful mental health drugs dispensed to Florida foster care children would be more closely monitored…

The bill requires caregivers and doctors to report any adverse side effects, which DCF must document.

The bill also requires children to have a mental health treatment plan that includes counseling for children prescribed such drugs.

Monitoring? We need more than paperwork. Keeping track of your failures and an immediate reversal of your direction are two different things. Gabriel’s prescribing psychiatrist, Sohail Punjwani, is tied to a string of kids drugged down on powerful psychotropics and having horrible negative effects — facing everything from sedation and dizziness to hallucinations, suicidal urges and death either at their own hands or from the drugs directly and while he’s not the only one, he’s certainly at the center of the situation. It’s okay though. He got a strongly worded letter: From the Miami Herald:

A South Florida psychiatrist who was treating a 7-year-old foster child before the boy committed suicide last year has received a warning from federal drug regulators who say he failed “to protect the rights, safety and welfare” of children enrolled in clinical drug trials.

In a strongly worded letter dated Feb. 4, regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Dr. Sohail Punjwani over-medicated children who were enrolled in clinical trials for undisclosed drugs. One girl, the letter said, slashed her wrists while hallucinating.

A strongly worded letter? Strongly worded letters are written in response to bad stays in hotels not children dying at the hands of their reckless doctor. Surely, showing a complete disregard for the safety of your youngest patients warrants more than a letter. But then, it seems disregard for patient safety is just the tip of a particularly damaging iceberg. It would appear as though Punjwani, so far without interference from any overseeing agency, may have been using foster children in clinical trials. If that’s the case, the problem is systemic.

If experimenting on kids is the lowest of the low, I don’t even know what to say about hand selecting discarded or displaced children for a pseudo-science project. It is a clear use of a person’s social viability to define them as candidates for clinical trials.  You will never see a news report of senators’ children being hand picked for psychiatric experiments. With or without the pretense of clinical trials, children in this country have become the little white mice in psychiatry’s living lab and all too often their real lives are the mazes we watch them stagger through. That’s not good enough.

March 20, 2010 at 10:22 am


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