Shame on TIME Magazine–College Suicide Story is a Big Pharma Infomercial

The article is passed off as a news report with the byline of two TIME reporters—Julie Raw and Kathleen Kingsbury–but the  misinformation and slant is clearly a transcription of psychotropic drug company advertising copy.

TIME reports that “student suicides total some 1,100 a year nationwide, making suicide the second leading cause of death among college students, after motor-vehicle accidents.” [No source is provided for this statistic.]

But according to a 10-year research study examining suicide rates at 12 Midwestern campuses, “Big Ten Student Suicide Study” (Silverman et al., 1997) found “College students are far less likely to kill themselves than are nonstudent peers, according to a 10-year research study examining suicide rates at 12 Midwestern campuses.”  The “overall student suicide rate of 7.5 per 100,000, compared to the national average of 15 per 100,000 in a sample matched for age, race and gender.”College students are far less likely to kill themselves than are nonstudent peers, .”

See, Psychiatric Times http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/p021001a.html

TIME further reports, “the number of students diagnosed as mentally fragile appears to be rising. The 2005 National Survey of Counseling Directors, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, found that 95% of directors reported an increase in the number of freshmen who arrive on campus already taking psychiatric medicines.”

These TIME reporters apparently followed the pharmaceutical industry script:  like industry, they failed to mention in their “news report” the very crucial fact that antidepressants—whose widespread use by teens is matter of concern and dismay—carry the strongest FDA-mandated black box warnings disclosing that evidence shows that these drugs increase the risk of suicide.

The article quotes Joanna Locke, a program officer at the Jed Foundation, as if she were an objective, medical authority: “A lot of students who may not have gone to college five years ago are able to attend today because their illness has been recognized earlier and they are on medication.”

Readers are told that “the Jed Foundation is a New York City–based college suicide-prevention and outreach program.”  By the way, the suicide rate, 1,1000 a year, that TIME cites is the first claim on the Jed Foundation website.

What TIME readers are NOT told is that the JED Foundation, established in 2000,  is a pharmaceutical industry front.

Its co-founder, Philip Satow who “has more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience in pharmaceuticals at Forest Laboratories, Inc. and Pfizer, Inc.” “He is both the former President of Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Executive Vice President of Forest Laboratories, Inc., its parent. He is currently a Director of Forest Laboratories and a Director of Crucell, Inc., a publicly traded Dutch biotech company. Phil is a past President of the Columbia College Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Visitors.”
See: http://jedfoundation.org/articles/PhilSatow.pdf

In 2003, Phillip Satow founded JDS Pharmaceuticals whose portfolio now includes LITHOBID®, the leading brand of sustained release lithium.

“JED sought to enter the central nervous system market with a proven product, and thus approached Solvay Pharmaceuticals to purchase LITHOBID®. Solvay Pharmaceuticals believed the transfer of LITHOBID® to JDS Pharmaceuticals offered the best solution to healthcare providers and patients who continue to seek LITHOBID®.
See: http://salesandmarketingnetwork.com/news_release.php?ID=2001859&key=Pfizer

JED serves as a marketing launching pad for psychotropic drug manufacturers—all of whom serve on JED’s Business Council—for “Suicide prevention” campaigns in America’s colleges and universities: “Since its inception in 2000, The Jed Foundation has become the leading organization focusing exclusively on college student mental health and suicide prevention.”

The JED board of directors and medical  advisory board include leaders in academic psychiatry who are financially intertwined with this industry. These are the promoters of mental screening and the increased use of psychotropic drugs.

Although there is absolutely no evidence that suicide can be prevented by mental health professionals who rely almost exclusively on drugs whose adverse effects—whether prescribed for depression, anxiety (personal or social), panic attacks, mood swings, or for non-psychiatric off-label uses, have consistently shown that they are more likely to increase the risk of suicide than placebo. And there is little evidence that the drugs offer any clinically significant benefit.

The latest acknowledgment about the increased risk of drug-induced suicide attempts was by GlaxoSmith Kline, makers of the antidepressant, Paxil (paroxetine):
In a letter to doctors GSK acknowledged:  “patients on the drug may experience “persistently worse” depression, or may “experience emergent suicidality or symptoms that might be precursors to worsening depression or suicidality” and “these symptoms” may be “severe, abrupt in onset, or were not part of the patient’s presenting symptoms.”

GSK advises doctors: “”Consideration should be given to changing the therapeutic regimen, including possibly discontinuing the medication.”
See: http://www.gsk.com/media/paroxetine/adult_hcp_letter.pdf . For an analysis of the import of GSK’s acknowledgement, see : http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/166/28/

The lack of credibility of the information posted on the JED website is demonstrated by its failure to refer to any of the documented evidence showing the medication-induced suicide risk. In fact, the JED website misleads parents and individuals seeking accurate information by linking to an out dated booklet published by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2000, BEFORE the black box warnings on antidepressant labels were mandated.

The central figure in the TIME story is a 20-year old student at Cornell University who “struggled with depression and anorexia since the sixth grade.” We are not informed whether she had been prescribed any drugs. We are told she enrolled in a “double major in German and neurobiology.”  Clearly such a load of school work put her under a great deal of unnecessary stress. Not surprisingly, the young woman couldn’t take the pressure: “the stress was so bad that I knew if I stayed at Cornell one more week, I would kill myself.”

The pharmaceutical industry has used Jed Satow’s suicide to penetrate college campuses for the purpose of expanding psychotropic drug sales. Who, other than pharmaceutical executives would consider exploiting the suicide of a son for commercial purposes?

JED actively engages in “disease mongering” through its online information “resource center” ULifeline.
“Since its inception, ULifeline and The JED Foundation have reached millions of parents, students, administrators…The Jed Foundation provides ULifeline to all colleges and universities free of charge, regardless of the size or type of institution. Currently, more than 530 colleges and universities participate in the ULifeline Network.”

A small note acknowledges: “The Initiative is made possible through educational grants from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company, The E.H.A. Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company, Forest Laboratories, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc, and Wyeth.”
See: http://www.ulifeline.org/page/main/Home.html

TIME magazine failed to reveal ANY of those Pharma connections.

We list the JED Business Council; its Board of Directors; ULifeline Board; and Medical Advisory Board after the TIME story.
See: http://www.jedfoundation.org/documents/2005AnnualReport.pdf

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

http://www.time.com/time
TIME MAGAZINE
Sunday, May 14, 2006
When Colleges Go On Suicide Watch
Schools are getting sued for doing too little–and too much–to help mentally fragile students
By JULIE RAWE, KATHLEEN KINGSBURY

Anne Giedinghagen wanted desperately to stay in school. Having struggled with depression and anorexia since the sixth grade, the rail-thin Cornell junior was meeting regularly with a therapist at the university’s counseling center in Ithaca, N.Y. But late last fall, when she told her therapist about her increasingly strong urge to kill herself, Giedinghagen received an ultimatum from the school she loved so much: she had to get better or she would have to leave. So she did what any crafty 20-year-old would do. She tried to carve out a third option–feigning improvement by, as she put it, acting “as normal as I could.” When she agreed to spend her winter break at a psychiatric hospital, the university stopped threatening to kick her out. But afterward, says Giedinghagen, “I felt like I had to hide how I was doing from my doctor, my counselor, my nutritionist, so that I could stay.”

Giedinghagen is one of thousands of troubled college students who each year are forced to make such stark choices. With two recent court rulings holding that college administrators may be held partly responsible for student suicides–which total some 1,100 a year nationwide, making suicide the second leading cause of death among college students, after motor-vehicle accidents–many universities have hastily adopted mandatory-leave policies in an effort to reduce the risk of self-inflicted, on-campus deaths. But a tragic result, say psychiatrists and student advocates, is that emotionally distressed students may be less willing to come forward and get the professional help they need.

Another unintended consequence: hypervigilant colleges are getting sued by students who allege they are being discriminated against for being mentally unstable. The U.S. Department of Education last year warned at least a handful of schools that receive federal aid that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with mental problems. Several students who were suspended after threatening to commit suicide are in the process of suing their schools; others have been offered settlements before their cases reached the courts. In a sign of just how flummoxed the world of higher education has become over the issue of suicide, United Educators, which insures more than 1,100 colleges and secondary schools, issued a bulletin last month noting that when dealing with emotionally distressed students, schools are left “with the quandary of being sued no matter what they do.”

That is particularly alarming since the number of students diagnosed as mentally fragile appears to be rising. The 2005 National Survey of Counseling Directors, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, found that 95% of directors reported an increase in the number of freshmen who arrive on campus already taking psychiatric medicines. “A lot of students who may not have gone to college five years ago are able to attend today because their illness has been recognized earlier and they are on medication,” says Joanna Locke, a program officer at the Jed Foundation, a New York City–based college suicide-prevention and outreach program.

The pressure to inoculate schools from legal liability has sometimes led them to come across as shockingly insensitive. In a case study of apparent hamhandedness, Jordan Nott had spent less than 48 hours in the psychiatric ward he checked himself into, in October 2004, when he received a terse letter from George Washington University informing the sophomore that he had been suspended for being a danger to himself and others. “It was a huge slap in the face,” says Nott, 20. “They don’t hand out this letter that says, ‘We want you to get help.’ What it says is, ‘You’ve been suspended; you’ve been barred from campus.'” The letter went on to explain that if he returned to campus, he would be arrested. Rather than contest the suspension, he switched schools and is now suing for compensatory damages. A spokeswoman for G.W.U. says that because Nott’s suspension fell within the school’s disciplinary system, the wording of that letter may have seemed impersonal. However, she stresses, “the goal here was to protect a life.”

But how, exactly, does yanking a kid out of college count as protection? “A lot of suicidal people don’t just kill themselves,” says Peter Lake, a higher-education law professor at Stetson University in Deland, Fla. “They also can hurt others, even if it’s unintentionally.” Schools steadfastly reserve the right not to let one person’s disturbing behavior disrupt anyone else’s educational experience. And they argue that their mandatory-leave policy can force emotionally distressed students to get the best possible help. Gary Pavela, a judicial-policy expert at the University of Maryland and author of a book on student suicide, says the approach is designed for “getting rid of troubled kids, getting them into the hands of others, as soon as possible.”

Litigious parents are also to blame for the tough line. After Elizabeth Shin died in 2000 in a dorm-room fire at M.I.T. within hours of threatening to kill herself, the sophomore’s parents filed a $27 million lawsuit against her psychiatrists, as well as her house master and a dean of student life, for failing to take adequate precautions. (They had scheduled an appointment to see her the following day.) When a judge last year refused to throw out the suit, alarm bells went off in administrative offices across the country. “To hold a university liable for simply trying to help a student is extraordinary,” says Nelson Roth, Cornell’s deputy university counsel, explaining why the school joined six others in supporting M.I.T. in the case. Shin’s death was a tragedy, Roth says, “but not every tragedy warrants a lawsuit.”

Although the Shins settled last month for an undisclosed amount–and publicly admitted that their daughter’s death appeared to be accidental–the case has had a chilling effect on student-services professionals and has led to more frequent use of emergency-leave policies. But after several students complained about getting summarily booted, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights started informing schools that a person should be considered a direct threat only when there is “a high probability of substantial harm and not just a slightly increased, speculative or remote risk.” In other words, there needs to be a detailed evaluation and at least some opportunity for students to make a case for why they should be allowed to stay.

Many schools are trying to emulate the University of Illinois, which requires students who express suicidal thoughts to see a counselor for four sessions if they want to remain in school. More than 1,800 students have gone through the program since it was launched in the early ’80s, and none have committed suicide. Only one participant was forced to leave.

While Illinois rarely advocates taking time off from school, Cornell pushes a hundred or so of its students each year to take a voluntary medical leave that allows them not only to get help but also to de-stress. In Giedinghagen’s case, it didn’t take long for her to realize her fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy wasn’t working. By April, she says, “the stress was so bad that I knew if I stayed at Cornell one more week, I would kill myself.” After lengthy discussions with her therapists, the double major in German and neurobiology agreed to head home last month to Kansas City, Mo., with plans to enter a psychiatric hospital. Five weeks later, she’s disappointed that Cornell hasn’t made any follow-up calls to see how she’s doing.

But Cornell’s deputy counsel Roth has an explanation: “Once the student is gone or goes home, the individual becomes the responsibility of parents. Our obligation ends.”

@Copyright  Time, Inc

The JED Foundation Business Council
See: http://www.jedfoundation.org/documents/2005AnnualReport.pdf

Michelle Bartenbach
Associate Product Manager, Bifeprunox Neuroscience US Marketing Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Trey Benson
Senior Product Manager, Depokote Neuroscience Marketing Abbott Laboratories

Stephen Caulfield
Chairman The Chickering Group

Meg Columbia-Walsh
Managing Director Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve

Donald F. Foy, Jr.
Public Affairs Liaison Eli Lilly and Company

Theresa Frangiosa
Director, Global Commercial Leader Johnson & Johnson, Pharmaceuticals Group Strategic Marketing

Mark Friedlander
National Associate Medical Director Aetna Behavioral Health

Robert Goodman
Sales Manager, Connecticut Pfizer Inc.

Catherine Grimes
Associate Director – Integrated Health Bristol-Myers Squibb

Michael Heffernan
President Collegium Pharmaceutical, Inc.

Dennis Langer, MD, JD
President Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Inc.

John MacPhee
Vice President, Branded Sales and Marketing  Par Pharmaceutical

Katherine Rielly-Gauvin
VP Marketing Janssen Pharmaceutica

Gerard Schmitt
Product Director, Effexor XR Marketing Team Wyeth Pharmaceuticals

Patrick Toalson, R.Ph., BCPP
Senior Neuroscience Medical Associations Liaison Eli Lilly & Company

Suneet Varma
Vice President & Global Business Manager Wyeth Pharmaceuticals

Steven Vorrius
Senior Director, CNS & Specialty Marketing Organon Pharmaceuticals. USA, Inc.

Lynn O’Connor Vos
CEO and President Grey Healthcare Group, Inc.

Douglas Young
Senior Director, Neuroscience Marketing Bristol-Myers Squibb

JED FOUNDATION Board of Directors

Jonathan Cole, PhD
John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University, Provost and Dean of Faculties, Emeritus, Columbia University

Ron Gibori
Director, ULifeline™The Jed Foundation

Martin B. Keller, MD
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Brown University, Butler Hospital

Larry Lieberman
Chief Marketing Officer Virgin Comics, LLC

Conrad Lung
President Sunnex, Inc.

Marc Mazur
Business & Financial Consultant

Richard S. Pechter
Chairman (retired) Donaldson, Lufkin, Jenrette Financial Services Group

*Michael S. Satow
Chief Operating Officer *JDS Pharmaceuticals, LLC

*Phillip M. Satow
Co-founder The Jed Foundation

Lynn O’Connor Vos
Chief Executive Officer Grey Healthcare Group

Medical Advisory Board

David Brent, MD
Academic Chief, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

Jonathan Cole, PhD
John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University, Provost and Dean of Faculties, Emeritus, Columbia University

Martin B. Keller, MD
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Brown University, Butler Hospital

Ronald C. Kessler, PhD
Professor of Health Care Policy Harvard Medical School

Ranga K. Krishnan, MD
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry Duke University Medical Center

Jane Pearson, PhD
Chair, Suicide Research Consortium National Institute of Mental Health

David Shaffer, MD
Irving Phillips Professor of Child Psychiatry Director, Department of Child Psychiatry
Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute

Morton Silverman, MD
Senior Advisor National Suicide Prevention Technical Resource Center

ULifeline Board

Greg Eells
Director Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Cornell University

Dan L. Jones, Ph.D.
Counseling and Psychological Services Center Appalachian State University

Amy Katzenberg
VP, Client Services Avenue-e Health Strategies

Ben Locke, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Research and Technology Center for Counseling and Psychological Services Penn State University

Jon McCarus
VP, Business Development Grey Alliance

Glenn Morgan
Chief of Operations Interactive Factory

Jon Williams
Chief Technology Officer Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions