November 8

Investigative series finds kids drugged without cause – Journal News

November 08, 2002

Investigative series finds kids drugged without cause – Journal News

The Journal News, a regional NYS newspaper conducted a three month investigation of residential treatment centers (RTC) for troubled children in NYS. The findings reported in a 7-part investigative series show “a pattern of increasing use” of brain altering, psychotropic drugs at children’s residential facilities. “Most centers have between 60 percent and 90 percent of their children on such medications.” These powerful drugs are being prescribed primarily to control the children’s behavior not necessarily to treat a mental disorder.

Residential Treatment Centers were not meant to operate as quasi-medical facilities; they were designed to provide housing and education for children who have nowhere to go. Now they dispense powerful drugs – including psychostimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics. Because these drugs carry severe, even fatal side-effects – such as seizures, diabetes, heart palpitations, mania, and suicide, among others–prescribing them without medical justification is irresponsible.

Pharmaceutical companies whose profits have soured from over prescribed psychotropic drugs encourage the practice. Their representatives visit the facilities dispensing gifts to encourage staff to prescribe their drugs. The Journal News reports that: “The choice of which drugs to use and at what level rests almost entirely with the residential treatment center.”

The Journal News examined FDA data and cite Drug Enforcement Agency statistics. “An analysis of U.S. Food and Drug Administration data on 12 of the most common medications used in local residential centers revealed that they have been classified as the primary suspects in the deaths of at least 71 children nationwide between 1997 and last year, and were a factor in thousands of life-threatening injuries, disabilities and hospitalizations."

“The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration noted that methylphenidate, marketed under the brand names Ritalin and Concerta, “has a high potential for abuse and produces many of the same effects as cocaine or the amphetamines.”

“The United States is by far the world’s leading bulk user and manufacturer of methylphenidate primarily under the brand name Ritalin. The United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board reported that U.S. manufacture of methylphenidate rose from 1.8 tons in 1990 to 12.6 tons in 2000, after peaking at 15 tons in 1999.”

“The Journal News notes that "government officials acknowledge that because the database for reporting adverse effects from drugs is voluntary, the numbers may represent as little as 7 percent of the actual incidents.”

In the absence of a mandatory system of oversight and accountability, “parents are left with little choice but to trust the psychiatrists who are making the diagnoses and prescribing the drugs.”

But the Journal’s findings demonstrate –as did an earlier series in The New York Post, and Insight Magazine–without a mandatory system of oversight and accountability, children are being abused as “parents are left with little choice but to trust the psychiatrists who are making the diagnoses and prescribing the drugs.”

Taxpayer dollars (Medicaid) are being used to finance this gross malpractice, while public officials have been deaf and blind to the widespread abuse.

Among the uncovered facts: “In Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, more than two-thirds of the 2,000 children housed in 13 residential treatment centers, or RTCs, are treated with drugs. Many are on multiple medications despite rising concerns that prescription drugs are replacing psychotherapy and damaging developing young brains.”

“Most centers have between 60 percent and 90 percent of their children on such medications. Some claim as little as 16 percent, but medical experts with knowledge of residential care questioned such a low figure in a modern-day institution.”

The Journal News reports that at St. Agatha Home in Nanuet, “about 85 of 100 children are treated with psychotropic drugs.” The home’s psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Small, “insists that the days of the hard sell, when companies lavished expensive gifts and trips on doctors, are over. Yet, he concedes that pharmaceutical representatives still visit about three times a week. A small purple clock with a white Zyprexa logo sits on his desk a gift from a pharmaceutical representative.”

Eli Lilly’s anti-psychotic drug, Zyprexa, was approved for adults with schizophrenia. It is no ordinary drug it has been linked to severe adverse reactions–including diabetes, mania, and death. Dr. David Healy, a psychiatrist with an international reputation, stated in his article, “Testing Psychotropic Drugs in Children”: “The studies in adults with Zyprexa that Lilly submitted to the FDA demonstrate, as far as I can establish, a higher death rate on Zyprexa than on any other anti-psychotic ever recorded.”

And Dr. Peter Breggin, the director of the International Center for the Study of Psychology and Psychiatry, said that prescribing Zyprexa to children “is like putting cement in the brain of a child.”

But Dr. Small of the Agatha Home acknowledged that Zyprexa, is being used “both on some of the retarded adults in his care as well as in the children.”

As kids get psychiatric drugs, some experts ask why



October 27, 2002
More drugs, less counseling
RTCs choose drugs, often without guidance
Off-label: Adult drugs for young patients
Issue of medicated kids goes beyond RTCs

Excerpt: There are similar concerns over other drugs, including potent antidepressants that have grown in use. The number of “drug mentions” – instances in which doctors provide or prescribe a medication or have an order refilled – more than tripled for antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs for patients under 18 between 1995 and 2000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Increasingly, these drugs are prescribed to children. The number of noninstitutionalized children ages 6 to 18 taking antipsychotic drugs hit 532,000 nationwide in 2000, up from 50,000 a decade earlier, according to a study conducted at the behest of New York state mental health officials by Peter Jensen, director of the Center for Children’s Mental Health at Columbia University. That doesn’t include stimulants and antidepressants, the most commonly used psychiatric drugs.

Since no one keeps track, it is impossible to determine exactly how many children in the region and in the state are taking psychotropic medications. The state Office of Children and Family Services, which licenses the state’s 66 RTCs, includes a review of drug distribution practices and storage as part of its certification.

But, although it says it is working on a tracking system, the office does not actively monitor drug use or review which medications are used. Neither does the state Department of Health, which runs the Medicaid program, which pays for most of the drugs. Nor do the county agencies that place the majority of children. …….cut…

Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, the nation’s largest residential center, is tracking statistics on its own. Concerned over the condition of children in RTCs, including those on medication, center officials are collecting information from 13 RTCs statewide to illustrate the need for systemwide change. About 70 percent of the youngsters at Children’s Village are on medication.

But without a mandatory system of oversight and accountability, parents are left with little choice but to trust the psychiatrists who are making the diagnoses and prescribing the drugs.

“In situations where there’s so much disparity between what the consumer knows and what the health professional knows in terms of drugs, that is a signal for more oversight, not less oversight, because markets do not protect the safety of the public,” said Larry Sasich, a pharmacist and researcher with the advocacy group Public Citizen.

One Dutchess County woman is questioning the mindset of psychiatrists, pediatricians and school officials who are often responsible for a child’s first prescription. She said it happened to her 12-year-old son, who she claims was made mentally ill by years of prescribed drugs.

Patricia Weathers claims in a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in White Plains that the Millbrook, N.Y., school district recommended she start her son, Michael Mozer, on a regimen of medications that began with Ritalin for a diagnosis of ADHD. By 1999, Mozer was taking Dexedrine and the antidepressant Paxil. The lawsuit claims he was hearing voices in his head and, in one instance, repeatedly banged his head on a school table. Mozer now has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a condition Weathers attributes to the drugs.

Courts have, by default, become the primary recourse for victims of psychotropic drugs. A number of lawsuits allege that drugs such as Risperdal can cause tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder marked by involuntary physical movement, tics and pain.

In Denver, Columbine High School shooting victim Mark Taylor is suing Solvay Pharmaceuticals, blaming the manufacturer of the drug Luvox for inducing the deadly rampage of Columbine shooter Eric Harris, a claim the company adamantly disputes.

Both Risperdal and Luvox are routinely used in local RTCs.


Manufacturers push their psychotropics At the heart of the debate over psychotropic drug use in children is the pharmaceutical industry, a $250 billion business that Fortune magazine called the world’s most profitable in its 2000 review of corporate earnings. Fortune listed two psychotropic drugs manufactured by Eli Lilly among the top-selling “blockbuster” drugs: Prozac, with $2.7 billion in sales, and Zyprexa, with $1.9 billion.

Marketing has been instrumental in bolstering sales. Advocacy groups like the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, which promote bipolar awareness, education and treatment, are funded in large part by pharmaceutical manufacturers. Four of the group’s top five corporate donors are drug makers.

Since 1997, pharmaceutical companies have also been allowed to advertise directly to consumers, a rarity in the developed world.

The pharmaceutical consulting and marketing firm IMS Health reported that drug manufacturers spent $19 billion in advertising last year alone.

Pharmaceutical companies are also active lobbyists in Washington, with well over 600 registered lobbyists more than the oil industry. Mitch Daniels, director of President Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, is a former Eli Lilly vice president.

Drug makers made $26.5 million in campaign contributions in 2000, up from $3.1 million a decade earlier, according to the campaign finance watchdog group Open Secrets.

Critics have charged that pharmaceutical influence has seeped into the medical profession as well. Dr. Loren Mosher, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, is one of the leading critics.

In 1998, he resigned his membership in the American Psychiatric Association, charging that the association “reflects and reinforces, in word and deed, our drug-dependent society.”

“The problem is, psychiatry all depends on grants and contracts,” Mosher said. “The big ones, the ones who are doing research, depend a lot on grants from the pharmaceutical companies for staying in business, so to speak. So it’s really pervasive. It’s all over the place. You can’t get away from it.”

For its part, the pharmaceutical industry rebuts criticism of its influence. Jeff Trewhitt, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, or PHARMA, the national trade association for the industry, said drug makers simply produce the medications. They don’t prescribe them.


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