A growing Crisis: Aggressive Marketing of drugs for children_Lou Dobbs-CNN
Fri, 3 Oct 2003
CNN’s anchor Lou Dobbs, an astute business journalist whose program Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN examines politics, the economy and a broad range of issues that affect the quality of life and standard of living of viewers.
When he pointed a flashlight at the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing of psychotropic drugs, Lou dobbs saw a looming crisis. Noting a 73% increase in antidepressant drug sales from 1998 to 2002, and a 167% increase in the use of psychostimulant drugs such as are prescribed for children loosely labeled with ADHD, Dobbs questions the government’s irrational public policy: “the federal government spends $1 billion a month to fight the war on drugs” but “we ignore the worsening problem of over-medication.”
The prescribed drug crisis has been generated by collusion between the aggressive marketing of the pharmaceutical industry and by physicians who violate their professional oath to provide “quick diagnoses” in order to share in the ill begotten drug profits.
FDA officials and organized psychiatry ignore the crisis and the risks of antidepressant drug-induced violence and suicidal behavior. Only after the British media exposed those risks to the public did FDA issue any sort of warning about the risks for children. Paxil / Seroxat and Effexor/ Venlafaxine, the two antidepressants thus far banned for use in children in the UK, had sales of $4 billion last year.
There are reasons that children who tested Paxil and Effexor in clinical trials were at threefold risk of suicidal behavior. Clinical trials are hazardous for children.
Dobbs reminds physicians that “their credo is an appropriate starting point: First, do no harm.” “That concept simply must take precedence over profit motives and casual prescriptions.”
And he calls on “pharmaceutical companies, the FDA and Congress to confront this issue now.”
Congress, however, is primed to pass the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003 which is a 6 month patent extension giveaway to “encourage” drug companies to test their drugs on children–whether the drugs are likely or unlikely to benefit children’s health. Given the huge profits from psychotropic drugs– $12 billion a year in antidepressants alone–children are most likely to be exposed to these increasingly more potent and toxic mind-altering drugs in clinical trials and irresponsible practice.
This legislation is, therefore, anything but equitable. The Pediatric Research Equity Act provides no safeguard to protect children from the harmful drugs and harmful procedures such as forced dose titration experiments that push the limits of children’s endurance.
Over-medication: a growing crisis
Aggressive marketing a major culprit
By Lou Dobbs
TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES
October 2, 2003
The federal government spends nearly $1 billion a month to fight the war on drugs. But while we focus on eradicating illicit drugs, we ignore the worsening problem of over-medication.
From 1998 to 2002, sales of antidepressants increased 73 percent to more than $12 billion, and sales of analeptics (drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, such as Ritalin and Adderall) increased 167 percent, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information and consulting firm. Even more distressing, physicians wrote more than 1 million prescriptions for Strattera, a nonstimulant treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, in its first six months on the market.
Something is very wrong here. These dramatic increases in the sales of these pharmaceuticals not only suggest that Americans are well on their way to becoming depressed, anxiety-ridden and incapable of the focus necessary to understand the world in which we live, but also that we are on our way to becoming a drug-dependent nation.
No one would deny that ADHD, depression and anxiety disorders afflict millions of Americans. But to what degree? Through a combination of pharmaceutical companies’ increased marketing, quick diagnoses from physicians and lack of proper referrals from doctors, we are simply inundating incredible numbers of people with unprecedented medication.
The issue is all the more sensitive and heartrending when it comes to our children. According to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a study of 900,000 youths showed that the number of children taking psychiatric drugs more than doubled in one group and tripled in the two others over a 10-year period ending in 1996.
“Any time a child reads a little more slowly, we’re talking learning disability and administering Ritalin,” says Dr. Arthur Caplan, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Or any time a kid acts up a bit, instead of giving him detention, we’re drugging him. These are definitely problems in that it’s expensive, it may not address the cause of the problem, and I’ve never met a drug yet, including aspirin, that didn’t have some side effects.”
In other words, some pharmaceuticals create greater problems than they treat. In June, British drug officials, later backed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, warned physicians and consumers that GlaxoSmithKline’s antidepressant Paxil carries a substantial risk of prompting teenagers and children to consider suicide. Two months later, Wyeth warned doctors of the same risks in its Effexor. U.S. sales of both drugs totaled nearly $4 billion last year.
The driving force behind the surge is aggressive direct-to-consumer advertising, Caplan says. Following the relaxation of a 30-year drug marketing agreement in 1997, pharmaceutical companies have tripled their annual advertising to consumers, resulting in a 37-percent increase in sales of prescription stimulants for children. Also, roughly one-third of adults have asked their doctor about a drug they saw advertised, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
And those doctors are quick to dole out prescriptions. According to the American Psychiatric Association, primary-care physicians now write upwards of 60 percent of all antidepressant prescriptions.
“I think (doctors are) just overwhelmed now with too much marketing,” Caplan says, “and it drives them toward too much prescribing,”
In fact, American consumers, mostly children, account for more than 90 percent of global consumption of such stimulants.
“If we have four or five times the learning disability or depression or other neurotic illnesses that the Europeans do,” Caplan says, “then either we got a really bad gene pool through immigration, or we’re over-medicating.”
A crisis looms. The pharmaceutical companies, the FDA and Congress must confront this issue now, and the physicians’ credo is an appropriate starting point: First, do no harm. That concept simply must take precedence over profit motives and casual prescriptions.
Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
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