July 20, 2002
16-Year-Old Boy Gets Prozac in Mail
The Associated Press reports: that a 16-Year-Old Boy who was never treated for depression received a month’s supply of Prozac in mail. “The Florida Attorney General has already issued subpoenas to Eli Lilly, Walgreen and S. K.’s doctors to determine if any state laws were broken.”
Prozac has been wrapped in controversy since it was first launched: sales outstripped every other drug with a promotional marketing blitz that drowned out thousands of reports of severe side effects. Now that the drug’s luster has been tarnished by hard evidence– which the FDA until now didn’t release — its sales plummeted. This seems to have prompted those who market the drug to venture into illegal practices–such as sending a controlled substance through the mail to children!
Among other severe side effects that Prozac has been linked to, in some people who take it, is violent and suicidal behavior. Several lawsuits are winding their way through the courts. The Boston Globe–which had obtained internal Eli Lilly documents– reported in June, 2000: “This is a story about a drug that changed the world, the bravery of rats, the evolution of a psychiatrist, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of man-made chemicals, the Church of Scientology, and the impulses that lead some people to kill.” [See PROZAC – Science, money drive a makeover, By Mitchell Zuckoff, Boston, 6/11/2000: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/163/nation/Science_money_drive_a_makeover+.shtml;
See also, When Depression Turns Deadly:Can Antidepressants Transform Despair into Suicide? By ANNE McILROY, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, (Canada), April 21, 2001: www.globeandmail.com ]
Question: The marketing of Prozac (and other drugs) is conducted across state lines. Will the Bush Administration favor industry’s business interests, or will it step in to protect children from being solicited to take dangerous drugs?
16-Year-Old Boy Gets Prozac in Mail Fri Jul 19, 7:22 PM ET By THERESA AGOVINO, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – A 16-year-old boy was among southern Florida residents who received unsolicited samples of the antidepressant drug Prozac in the mail in a much-criticized and highly unorthodox marketing campaign.
“I was livid,” said the boy’s mother, Sue Grinstead of Palm Beach. “My son knew enough not to take it, but what about the other kids?”
A spokesman for the Walgreen Co. drugstore chain, Michael Polzin, confirmed the family’s account that a month’s supply of Prozac was sent to 16-year-old Michael Grinstead. He said the boy’s name was among others sent by a local doctors’ office to a Walgreen’s in Palm Beach with instructions to send them the drug samples.
“We apologize to the patients who received the drug,” Polzin said by telephone. He said there were so many names on the doctors’ list of intended recipients that the pharmacy called to doctors’ office to confirm the prescriptions before sending them out.
The mailings already have prompted an invasion of privacy lawsuit by a 59-year-old woman who was among the recipients. Identified only by the initials S.K., she sued Eli Lilly & Co, which makes the drug, Walgreen Co, which sent it, and her doctors.
Michael’s family has retained the same lawyer, Gary Farmer Jr., and plans to file a lawsuit alleging invasion of privacy and possible unauthorized practice of medicine. Under Florida law, it is illegal to prescribe a drug to a minor without consent of a parent or guardian.
The Florida Attorney General has already issued subpoenas to Eli Lilly, Walgreen and S. K.’s doctors to determine if any state laws were broken. More could be issued if warranted, said John Newton, senior assistant attorney general in Florida.
Eli Lilly has also apologized for the mailing, which it believes reached less than 150 people. The Indianapolis-based drug giant said the campaign was not an official promotion and it is trying to determine exactly who is responsible. Several Eli Lilly employees in Florida have been suspended with pay, the company said.
The mailings at first appeared to target people who were already taking an antidepressant and who might then switch to Prozac. However, Michael’s mother said he had never been prescribed such a drug or even been treated for depression.
The family had used a different pharmacy, an Eckerd store, not Walgreen’s. Farmer said the family is worried that Michael’s name was passed along in a customer list, but Eckard spokeswoman Tami Alderman said patient names are not given to drug companies.
“We are still trying to get to the bottom of what is going on,” Farmer said. “But it looks like drug companies are taking marketing to a whole new level.”
Michael’s mother said the Prozac was accompanied by a letter from a doctor who is not their family’s primary physician but works in the same doctors’ group. The letter suggested switching to Prozac.
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