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> The drugs don't work and may cause harm, but prescriptions rise

In March 2011 the New York Times and The Guardian reported on the links between pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrist's over reliance on the prescription of drugs.  The Guardian reports that in the US there is a "widespread practice of paying physicians and psychiatrists heavy subsidies to recommend psycho-pharmaceuticals to their colleagues." 11% of Americans are currently taking leading anti-depressant Prozac, which is just one of 30 on the market. Pharmecutical companies have been instrumental in pathologising emotions as 'diseases' so that they can then market their pills as a magic bullet cure. According to the Guardian, in the US anti-psychotic drugs alone made $14.6 billion for the pharmaceutical industry.  Evidence shows that drugs do not work any better than placebos, and when they do work they only work 25% of the time, further there is evidence that they can cause long term damage. The Guardian reports that "they disrupt brain neurotransmitters and may usurp the brain's organic soothing functions." Evidence shows that Talk therapy is more effective in the long term and does not have harmful side effects, rather talking therapy equips clients with tools which help prevent distress arising again in the future.  Despite evidence on the benefits of talking therapy and the harm caused by drugs, the trend by doctors to prescribe continues. 

The Guardian reports that all 30 anti depressants in the US market have been subject to lawsuits, but little is heard of them as they are often settled with gag clauses.  Pharmaceutical firms have also faced the highest criminal fines ever handed down to corporations for their illegal marketing of anti-psychotic drugs. According to the Guardian, "every major company selling anti-psychotics – Bristol Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca – has either settled investigations for healthcare fraud or is currently being investigated for it."

Doctors paid to promote a drug by pharmaceutical companies may do so in small meetings with collegaues in which a drug company representative is present, the Guardian reports that "if doubt or criticism of the discussed drug is expressed, the doctor's stipend stops." Further doctors may put their names to 'scholarly' articles written by drug company personel, a practice which is not illegal.  Here the disturbing link between the creation of a 'disease' for which the pharmaceutical company develops a 'cure' can be seen; "Drs Biederman and Wilens netted $1.6m each from drug companies for their work in recommending powerful anti-psychotic drugs for children. Biederman, Wilens and other extremely well-rewarded child psychiatrists are in part responsible for giving children the diagnosis of paediatric bipolar disorder for which anti-psychotic drugs like Risperidal and Zyprexa are used." The New York Times reports that much of Biederman's work is financed by drug companies and helped to fuel a 40% increase in the diagnosis of paeditatric bipolar disorder, between 1994 and 2003.  In 2007, in the US, 500,000 children had been prescribed at least one anti-psychotic.

The New York Times reports that in recent years Psychiatry in the US has become part of a profit making machine dominated by large corporations. Wheras a psychiatrist may have once seen 50-60 patients a week for 45 minuntes of talking based therapy, now a Psychiatrist is more likely to see 1200 clients a week for a 15 minute slot for prescription adjustments. According to the ew York Times, the 'medical' focus is now on keeping people functional rather than happy and fulfilled.  There are also unsetttling links between what insurance companies will cover and the increased prescribing of drugs.  The New York Times reports that despite reports on talking therapies efficiency, in the US a Psychitarist may earn $150 for a 15 minute visit for prescriptions and $90 for a 45 minute therapy session.  Simply put, market conditions - whether organic or manipulated, mean that it doesn't pay for Psychiatrists to offer talking therapies.

 

Original articles: The Guardian, Profiting from mental ill-health, 15 March 2011, www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/15/psychology-healthcare.

The New York Times, Talk doesn't pay, so Psychiatry turns instead to drug therapy, 5 March 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/health/policy/06doctors.html?pagewanted=4&_r=1

Posted in Latest News on 21/03/2011

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