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NY Times Preschool Meds

December 15, 2002

How, one wonders, do the editors of The New York Times Magazine define what’s “fit to print”? Does bias toward promoting increased drug use while avoiding disclosure of conflicts of interest enter the editors’ decision-making process?

Below is a letter to the editor as submitted, followed by what was “selectively” published.

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Nov 25, 2002
The New York Times Magazine
Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s article [Nov 17] about a controversial, government sponsored psychiatric drug experiment conducted on healthy, but rambunctious preschool children–some as young as 3 years old–failed to mention the tough ethical issues raised:

First, young children are being exposed to risks of harm by ingesting Ritalin, a psychostimulant drug, at increasingly higher doses, to test their tolerance of the drug. They are started at 1.25 mg a day and increased to as much as 7.5 mg three times a day.

Whereas the most common adverse drug side effects such as involuntary tics, weight loss, and insomnia, were mentioned, the article fails to mention the most serious: Ritalin is often a gateway drug to abuse and dependency, and no one even claims to know whether the drug will permanently alter or interfere with young children’s brain development.

Indeed, in scientific articles, Dr. Steven Hyman, former director of National Institute of Mental Health, refers to psychostimulant drugs–such as Ritalin, amphetamine, and cocaine–as “addictive drugs of abuse.” The drugs, he explains, cause “perturbations in neurotransmitter function” leading to “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function.” [Hyman S, “Initiation and adaptation: a paradigm for understanding psychoactive drug action.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 1996 vol. 153:151-162]

Other key facts not disclosed to readers is that the researchers conducting the study have received grants and honoraria from the drug companies that stand to gain from the experiment.

Vera Hassner Sharav
Founder and President The Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP)
New York City
212-595-8974

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http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/15/magazine/15LETTERS.html

The most common adverse side-effects to Ritalin (involuntary tics, appetite loss and insomnia) were mentioned, but the article fails to note the most serious: Ritalin is often a gateway drug to abuse and dependency. No one claims to know whether the drug will permanently alter or interfere with young children’s brain development.

Vera Hassner Sharav
New York