July 15

Psychiatrist Steps to the Plate

An article in TIME Magazine about the "Mother’s Act"– Federal legislation that would require screening all women who give birth for depression–has sparked a cyberspace debate.

Dr. James Douglas Bremner (psychiatrist at Emory University)  joined those of us who challenge the promoters of such legislation by debunking the fundamental flaw in their reasoning:
In his article, "Motherhood is NOT a Medical Disorder" he notes:

 "First of all, there is no evidence that women without a prior history of anxiety and depression have any increased risk of getting post partum depression. So to screen all moms as if giving birth is a risk factor for depression is ridiculous."

Second: "whenever you start screening the general population, you get into problems with over-identification of people and an increase in the number of people that go on antidepressants."

Third: "I am opposed to mandatory screenings of the population, like Teenscreen, which are bonanzas for the pharmaceutical industry, but a major intrusion into the privacy and autonomy of American citizens."

Of note, the "Mother’s Act" was ostensibly prompted by the suicide of Melanie Blocker-Stokes, who leaped to her death from her hotel room in Chicago three months after the birth of her daughter.
However, what is ignored by the promoters–most notably industry funded psychiatrists and industry front groups (who call themselves "advocates") is that Melanie Blocker-Stokes had already been treated with multiple courses of psychotropic drugs and electro-convulsive therapy. So, how exactly would her life have been saved by “screening”??? 

This is but an example of stealth marketing: the pharmaceutical industry with the help of an army of industry supported medical lackeys are medicalizing normal stages of life–including childhood, adolescence, and motherhood. They are promoting public health policies that would vastly increase the size of the market for psychoactive drugs–even as these drugs toxic, life-threatening hazards require Black Box label warnings.

To whit, TIME quotes University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist, Katherine Wisner, MD stating ""Postpartum depression is not a benign, uncommon thing…. Why don’t we screen women for this?" What TIME failed to disclose is that Dr. Wisner is listed on the speakers bureau for Pfizer and Lilly, makers of the antidepressants, Zoloft and Prozac–drugs that carry Black Box label warnings about increased risks of suicide.

Reality: Doctors who serve on pharmaceutical speaker’s bureaus give “promotional talks” on behalf of the company that pays them–the service they render for pay is to advertise drugs to other doctors–despite the confirmed evidence of these drugs serious hazards.

Most of such market-driven prescribing violates medicine’s first principle, "First, do no harm." Indeed, such prescribing does far more harm than good, as individual’s best interest is ignored.

An unfortunate error in the original TIME article–the one that hit the newsstands–misstated Amy Philo’s experience as becoming seriously suicidal and homicidal following the birth of her child.  In fact those violent feelings emerged AFTER being prescribed Zoloft:

"she started having suicidal and homicidal thoughts, which got stronger when another doctor raised her dosage. Eventually, Philo says, she weaned herself off the drug, and her violent feelings disappeared."

A correction on the TIME website states:

"The original version of this article stated that after Amy Philo’s newborn suffered an accidental choking incident, Philo’s preoccupation with his safety included fear of hurting her baby herself. However, Philo says that particular feeling did not intrude until later, after she began taking antidepressant medication."

Posted by Vera Hassner Sharav

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