“Real Men, Real Depression” Marketing Masquerading as Medical News_Newsweek

Newsweek’s featured article: “Men and Depression: New Treatments” (February 26, 2007) s is an infomercial masquerading as medical news. It is an example of
corruption in journalism.

Newsweek has surrendered its professional credentials by shamelessly engaging in disease mongering aimed at increasing profits for the mental health industry:

“Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment.”
“The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages,
disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing
society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is
also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers’
pain for the rest of their lives.”

These same hackneyed claims have become the butt of parody. We recommend the
video pitching a new global epidemic–Motivational Deficiency Disorder,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoppJOtRLe4.
Newsweek readers are referred to a depression screening test which is
copyrighted by Pfizer Inc and one of pharmaceutical front groups in the
mental health provider industry:

“The screening test on this web site (Patient Health Questionnaire “PHQ-9”)
is copyrighted ©2005 Pfizer Inc.
All rights reserved. The PHQ-9 © may be
downloaded and printed by visitors to the National Mental Health Association
web site depression-screening.org for their personal use, but may not
otherwise be copied, distributed or transmitted without the written consent
of the National Mental Health Association or Pfizer Inc.”
http://depression-screening.org/screeningtest/screeningtest.htm

Readers of Newsweek would never guess that the mental screening tests are an
industry scheme whose purpose is to expand the market:  “Signs of Suicide”
is a program developed by the non-profit group “Screening for Mental Health,
Inc.” Tax records show that donations from 2001-2004 included money from
Solvay Pharmaceuticals: $27,500, Pfizer: $750,000, Abbott Laboratories:
$35,000, Forest Labs: $153,000, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: $100,000, and Eli
Lilly: $2,157,925.

Why would drug companies donate millions to implement mental health
screening if not to expand the market and increase revenue? 

Industry’s promotion of mental screening tests is understandable given their
implacable record of high false-positives. Take Columbia University’s
TeenScreen, when assessed for accuracy by its inventor, Dr. David Shaffer,
reported that the test misidentified healthy teens as mentally ill 84% of
the time. But Newsweek’s blather misrepresents the flaws of mental screening
tests:  “Depression-screening tests are so effective at early detection and
may prevent so many future problems (and expenses) that the U.S. Army is
rolling out a new, enhanced screening program for soldiers returning from
Iraq. College health-center Web sites nationwide provide the service to
their students, and even the San Francisco Giants organization offers these
tests to its employees.”

The most disturbing information in the Newsweek piece is that NIMH is
experimenting with a chemical product known to induce hallucinations:
“Researchers at the NIMH are also experimenting with the idea of fast-acting
antidepressants that would relieve symptoms in a few hours instead of the
eight weeks or more needed for most antidepressants to take effect. In
clinical trials, scientists found that a single, IV-administered dose of
ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, reduced the symptoms of depression in just
two to three hours and had long-lasting effects. Because of its
hallucinogenic side effects, ketamine can never be used out of controlled
environments. But the success of the trial is giving scientists new ideas
about drugs and methods of administering them.”

Newsweek readers are referred to other resources which are also awash in
Pharma $$: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention <http://www.afsp.org/>
; National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide <http://www.nopcas.com/> ;            Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance <http://www.dbsalliance.org/> .

Big Pharma is clearly emulating Big Tobacco in its last ditch marketing efforts. The “Real Men, Real Depression” marketing campaign appears to be a last ditch effort to gain new customers—and cash–for antidepression treatments.

Another Tobacco look-alike drug marketing campaign are the drug
advertisements for sleeping pills and erectile dysfunction, geared to
teenagers: “Society recognizes that teens don’t have the judgment required
to evaluate messages related to alcohol, tobacco, etc. So why are some
pharmaceutical companies getting away with beaming Insomnia and ED Rx drugs
ads to teens on the Web?”  See: Pharma Marketing Blog:
http://pharmamkting.blogspot.com/2007/02/marketing-drugs-to-teens-online-so.html

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974
veracare@ahrp.org

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17190411/site/newsweek
Newsweek
Men and Depression: New Treatments
By Julie Scelfo
EXCERPTS

Feb. 26, 2007 issue – For nearly a decade, while serving as an elected
official and working as an attorney, Massachusetts state Sen. Bob Antonioni
struggled with depression, although he didn’t know it. Most days, he
attended Senate meetings and appeared on behalf of clients at the
courthouse. But privately, he was irritable and short-tempered, ruminating
endlessly over his cases and becoming easily frustrated by small things,
like deciding which TV show to watch with his girlfriend. After a morning at
the state house, he’d be so exhausted by noon that he’d drive home and
collapse on the couch, unable to move for the rest of the day.

When his younger brother, who was similarly moody, killed himself in 1999,
Antonioni, then 40, decided to seek help. For three years, he clandestinely
saw a therapist, paying in cash so there would be no record. He took
antidepressants, but had his prescriptions filled at a pharmacy 20 miles
away. His depression was his burden, and his secret. He couldn’t bear for
his image to be any less than what he thought it should be. “I didn’t want
to sound like I couldn’t take care of myself, that I wasn’t a man,” says
Antonioni.

Then, in 2002, his chief of staff discovered him on the floor of his
state-house office, unable to stop crying. Antonioni, now 48, decided he had
to open up to his friends and family. A few months later, invited to speak
at a mental-health vigil, he found the courage to talk publicly about his
problem. Soon after, a local reporter wrote about Antonioni’s ongoing
struggle with the disease. Instead of being greeted with jeers, he was
hailed as a hero, and inundated with cards and letters from his
constituents. “The response was universally positive. I was astounded.”

Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But
millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or
unwilling to seek treatment. In a confessional culture in which Americans
are increasingly obsessed with their health, it may seem clichéd—men are
from Mars, women from Venus, and all that—to say that men tend not to take
care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. But the
facts suggest that, well, men tend not to take care of themselves and are
reluctant to own up to mental illness. Although depression is emotionally
crippling and has numerous medical implications—some of them deadly—many men
fail to recognize the symptoms. Instead of talking about their feelings, men
may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming
workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often
view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male
identities.

The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages,
disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing
society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is
also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers’
pain for the rest of their lives. The Gary Cooper model of manhood—what Tony
Soprano called “the strong, silent type” to his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi—is
so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some men would rather kill
themselves than confront the fact that they feel despondent, inadequate or
helpless. “Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not
include being depressed, down or sad,” says Michael Addis, chair of
psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts. “In many ways it’s the
exact opposite. A successful man is always up, positive, in charge and in
control of his emotions.”

…………..For decades, psychologists believed that men experienced
depression at only a fraction of the rate of women. But this overly rosy
view, doctors now recognize, was due to the fact that men were better at
hiding their feelings. Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling
bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their
wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy
service at a restaurant. “Men’s irritability is usually seen as a character
flaw,” says Harvard Medical School’s William Pollack, “not as a sign of
depression.” In many cases, however, that’s exactly what it is: depression.

If modern psychologists were slow to understand how men’s emotions affect
their behaviors, it’s only because their predecessors long ago decided that
having a uterus was the main risk factor for mental illness. During the last
two centuries, depression was largely viewed as a female problem, an
outgrowth of hormonal fluctuations stemming from puberty, childbirth and
menopause. Even the most skilled psychologists and psychiatrists missed
their male patients’ mood disorders, believing that depressed men, like
depressed women, would talk openly about feeling blue. “I misdiagnosed male
depression for years and years,” says psychologist Archibald Hart, author of
“Unmasking Male Depression.”

……………The widespread failure to recognize depression in men has enormous
medical and financial consequences. Depression has been linked to heart
disease, heart attacks and strokes, problems that affect men at a higher
rate and an earlier age than women. Men with depression and heart disease
are two or three times more likely to die than men with heart disease who
are not depressed. Lost productivity due to adult depression is estimated at
$83 billion a year. Over the past 50 years, American men of all ages have
killed themselves at four or more times the rate of women, depending on the
specific age range.

……………the hurried primary-care physician often finds it difficult
if not impossible to assess a patient’s emotional state. To help clear that
hurdle, researchers developed a simple screening test for doctors to use:
Over the last two weeks, have you been bothered by either of the following
problems: (a) little interest or pleasure in doing things? or (b) feeling
down, depressed or hopeless? If a patient responds “yes,” seven more
questions can be administered, which result in a 0 to 27 rating. Score in
hand, many physicians feel more comfortable broaching the subject of
depression, and men seem more willing to discuss it. “It’s a way of making
it more concrete,” says Indiana University’s Dr. Kurt Kroenke, who helped
design the questionnaires. “Patients can see how severe their scores are,
just like if you showed them blood-sugar or cholesterol levels.”
Depression-screening tests are so effective at early detection and may
prevent so many future problems (and expenses) that the U.S. Army is rolling
out a new, enhanced screening program for soldiers returning from Iraq.
College health-center Web sites nationwide provide the service to their
students, and even the San Francisco Giants organization offers these tests
to its employees.

………….For decades, scientists believed the main cause of depression was low
levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Newer
research, however, focuses on the nerve cells themselves and how the brain’s
circuitry can be permanently damaged by hyperactive stress responses,
brought on by genetic predisposition, prolonged exposure to stress or even a
single traumatic event. “When the stress responses are stuck in the ‘on’
position, that has a negative effect on mood regulation overall,” says Dr.
Michael C. Miller, editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. A depressed
brain is not necessarily underproducing something, says Dr. Thomas Insel,
head of the National Institute of Mental Health—it’s doing too much.

………Canadian scientists have had success with deep brain stimulation—a
procedure in which two thin electrodes are implanted in the brain to send a
continuous electrical current to Area 25, a tiny, almond-shaped node thought
to play a role in controlling emotions. In recent trials involving patients
who got no relief from other forms of treatment, all the subjects reported
mood improvements within six months and, remarkably, most said they were
completely cured of depression.

Researchers at the NIMH are also experimenting with the idea of fast-acting
antidepressants that would relieve symptoms in a few hours instead of the
eight weeks or more needed for most antidepressants to take effect. In
clinical trials, scientists found that a single, IV-administered dose of
ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, reduced the symptoms of depression in just
two to three hours and had long-lasting effects. Because of its
hallucinogenic side effects, ketamine can never be used out of controlled
environments. But the success of the trial is giving scientists new ideas
about drugs and methods of administering them. xxxxxCut xxx
(With Karen Springen in Chicago and Mary Carmichael in Boston)

Click here <http://depression-screening.org/screeningtest/screen.cfm>  to
take the confidential depression-screening test.
Copyright © 2005 National Mental Health Association and Pfizer Inc. All
rights reserved.

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