The tax dollar funded mental health screening programs popping up in
every corner of the nation represent an enormous gift to Big Pharma from the
After all, drug companies can't push drugs without a lucrative customer
base, so the screening programs are a great solution for that little problem.
On April 29, 2002, Bush kicked off the whole mental health screening scheme
when he announced the establishment of the New Freedom Commission (NFC) during
a speech in in New Mexico where he told the audience that mental health centers
and hospitals, homeless shelters, and the justice and school systems, have contact
with individuals suffering from mental disorders but that too many Americans
are falling through the cracks, and so he created the NFC to ensure “that
the cracks are closed.”
In words relevant here, the late President Ronald Reagan aptly described government
intervention this way: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language
are, “I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
According to award-winning investigative reporter, Kelly O’Meara: “Nowhere
is this quote more appropriate than when applied to George W. Bush's New Freedom
Commission on Mental Heath.”
A little over a year after Bush announced the formation of the NFC, on July
22, 2003, government report was released that called for redesigning the mental
health systems in all 50 states. A press release previewing the report stated:
"Achieving this goal will require greater engagement and education of
first line health care providers—primary care practitioners—and
a greater focus on mental health care in institutions such as schools, child
welfare programs, and the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The goal is
integrated care that can screen, identify, and respond to problems early."
About 7 months later, on February 5, 2003, a subcommittee report was released
titled, "Promoting, Preserving and Restoring Children’s Mental Heath,"
and stated in part:
"The extent, severity, and far-reaching consequences of mental health
problems in children and adolescents make it imperative that our nation adopt
a comprehensive, systematic, public health approach to improving the mental
health status of children."
The NFC's final report calls for screening every child in America, including
preschoolers, and points our that, "schools are in a key position to identify
mental health problems early and to provide a link to appropriate services."
In addition, according to the final report, every child plugged into a government
program, will automatically be screened in accordance with the following recommendation:
“Screening should be implemented upon entry into, and periodically thereafter
in, the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, as well as in other settings
and populations with known high risk, such as the Medicaid population."
"When mental health problems are identified," the report says, "youth
should be linked with appropriate services and supports."
Critics say “appropriate services and supports” means doctor’s
prescribing drugs. According to the results of a 2002 survey of recently trained
child psychiatrists, in the Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent
Psychiatry, nine out of 10 pediatric patients under their care were treated
with prescription drugs.
The NFC specifically calls for all screening programs to be linked to "state-of-the-art
treatments" using "specific medications for specific conditions."
The Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) is the centerpiece of the NFC’s
recommendation for “specific medications.” Algorithms are lists
of drugs with guidelines that medical professionals must follow when prescribing
medication to patients for specific mental illnesses, and contain flow charts
that illustrate step-by-step prescribing process.
The TMAP drug lists and guidelines were developed and approved in Texas while
Bush was Governor, through an "expert opinion consensus" by a panel
of medical professionals chosen by the pharmaceutical sponsors of the program
that included Janssen Pharmaceutica, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca,
Pfizer, Novartis, Janssen-Ortho-McNeil, GlaxoSmithKline, Abbott, Bristol Myers
Squibb, Wyeth-Ayerst and Forrest Laboratories.
Critics say TMAP is a marketing scheme thought up by Big Pharma after a slew
of new psychiatric drugs were approved for sale in the 1990’s, and drug
companies realized that there was no way to advertise and promote psychiatric
drugs to recruit customers.
Once approved, TMAP guaranteed an avalanche of sales for Big Pharma in Texas,
because medical professionals were required to follow the TMAP guidelines with
all patients in state institutions, such as mental hospitals and prisons, and
when prescribing drugs to children in foster care or juvenile justice programs,
and for all patients covered by government funded health care programs.
The NFC recommends TMAP as the model program for “specific medications”
to be used in all 50 states. The “specific medications” are the
most expensive drugs on the market and include drugs known as selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors antidepressants (SSRIs), like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, and
Effexor, and the atypical antipsychotics, that include Zyprexa, Risperdal, Geodon,
Seroquel, Clozaril, and Abilify.
Other “specific medications” include the ADHD drugs, fondly known
as “speed” to street addicts, such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Concerta,
Ritalin and Strattera, and a garden variety of “downers,” like Valium,
Xanax, Librium and sleeping pills.
Critics have constantly attacked Big Pharma’s involvement in choosing
the drugs on the lists. As far back as January 1999, Peter Weiden MD, one of
the “experts” on the original Texas panel, openly criticized the
approval process in the Journal of Practice in Psychiatry and Behavioural Health,
because so drug company money was involved.
For instance, he said, the guidelines for the atypical antipsychotics were
funded by Janssen, the maker of Risperdal, and most of the guidelines' authors
also had received financial support of one kind or another from the drug companies
with atypical drugs on the list. "This potential conflict of interest may
create credibility problems," he wrote, "especially concerning any
recommendations supporting the use of atypical antipsychotics."
The way the NFC scheme is set up, tax dollars not only fund the implementation
of the screening programs, but also a large portion of the costs for “specific
medications” that are prescribed to patients to treat mental disorders
detected by the screenings through government health care programs like Medicaid.
The fact is, when Bush took office, he owed Big Pharma a lot favors in return
for all the money he raked in from the industry and the mental health screening
scheme represents a major part of his efforts to cover those debts.
The financial backing that Bush received from Big Pharma is legend and its
safe to say that he would not be sitting in the White House today without it.
In 2004, a report by the advocacy group, Public Citizen, listed 21 drug industry
and HMO executives or lobbyists among Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers –
titles given only to those people who have raised at least $200,000 or $100,000,
respectively, for one of his presidential campaigns.
The list includes 5 executives from drug companies, 6 officials from HMOs,
the CEO of a pharmacy services company, the head of a direct-mail pharmacy,
and 8 lobbyists who represent drug companies and HMOs at the time.
Eli Lilly, a manufacturer of many of the “specific medications”
chosen for the lists, has multiple ties to the Bush family dating back decades.
Before becoming President Reagan’s Vice President, the first President
Bush was a member of Lilly’s board of directors and the current President
Bush appointed Lilly CEO, Sidney Taurel, to the Homeland Security Council.
In the year 2000, eighty-two percent of Lilly's $1.6 million in political contributions
went to Bush and the Republican Party.
Another industry big-wig, retired Bristol-Myers Squibb Vice-Chairman, Bruce
Gelb, was a Bush Pioneer who also had longstanding ties to the Bush family.
Gelb was appointed chief of the US Information Agency, and ambassador to Belgium,
by the first President Bush.
Before the 2000 election, Bristol-Myers executives reportedly were pressured
to make maximum donations to the Bush campaign and reluctant donors were warned
that CEO, Charles Heimbold Jr, whom Bush later named ambassador to Sweden, would
be informed if they failed to give, according a September 5, 2003 New York Times
Pfizer CEO, Hank McKinnell, was a 2004 Bush Ranger and until 2003, served as
chairman of the board of Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America,
the industry’s gigantic trade group, until Republican lawmaker, Billy
Tauzin, quit Congress and took over the position that came with a multi-million
dollar package in combined salary and perks.
Although all of the TMPA medications are only approved by the FDA for treatment
of a limited number of mental illnesses like schizophrenia or major depressive
disorder or bipolar disorder, in specific age groups, and with specific dosages,
drug makers have doctors prescribing the medications off-label for unapproved
uses to persons of all ages for just about any ache and pain, and especially
with patients being screened for mental illness by the government backed programs.
To accomplish this mass screening of the nation’s 52 million school children,
the NFC recommends that the TeenScreen program, billed as a suicide prevention
survey, be set up in public school system nationwide. In May 2004, Illinois
passed a resolution approving the implementation of TeenScreen in all public
schools in that state.
TeenScreen is also an invention of Big Pharma developed and promoted through
back door funneling of money through front groups that bill themselves as advocates
for the mentally ill and promoting suicide prevention.
By far, TeenScreen has become the most controversial of all screening programs,
and critics are quick to point out a number of reasons. According to the June
16, 2006, Washington Post, there were only 1,737 suicides by children and adolescents
in the US during 2003, the last year for which national statistics are available.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2003, for every
100,000 children the rate of suicide for boys was 11.6 and the rate for girls
was 2.7, which amounts to less than 2 boys in every 10,000 kids, and the number
of suicides by girls in every 10,000 children, is too low to even calculate.
In perhaps one of their best arguments against TeenScreen, critics are asking
how such a low suicide rate, when measured against the total student population,
can possibly justify subjecting 52 million children to mental health screening
and the distinct probability that a high number of children will end up on psychiatric
drugs with side effects that cause many more deaths each year than the number
of child suicides.
In fact, overall, the statistics for people injured or killed each year due
to prescription medications are extremely high. According to a study published
by Adverse Drug Reactions, more than 1.5 million people are hospitalized each
year and more than 100,000 die from largely preventable adverse reactions to
drugs that should not have been prescribed in the first place.
Advocacy groups against TeenScreen have posted a petition online with plans
to send it to state and federal lawmakers. Persons interested in signing the
petition can click on the following [link].
Kramer, a records research specialist from Florida, who has been investigating
the TeenScreen program for several years, says the petition is an excellent
way to educate people because it conveys many of the facts about mental health
screening and can be printed off and presented to school board members or legislators.
In 2004, Illinois became the first state to implement mental health screening
programs. Its plan calls for both children and adults to be screened during
their routine physical exams. To that end, the state legislature passed the
Illinois Children's Mental Health Act (ICMHP), which is expected to become a
model for other states.
The final report by the ICMHP Task Force calls for a comprehensive, coordinated
children’s mental health system comprised of prevention, early intervention,
and treatment for children ages 0-18, along with a statewide data-reporting
system to track information on each person.
It requires social-emotional development screens with all mandated school exams
(K, 4th, and 9th), and says to: “Start early, beginning prenatally and
at birth, and continue throughout adolescence, including efforts to support
adolescents in making the transition to young adulthood,” and includes
a plan to screen all pregnant women
Critics of the Illinois plan say they are especially curious about what might
be in store for the infants screened prenatally and at birth, at the ripe old
age of 0.
The Illinois task force stressed the need to (1) improve Medicaid reimbursement
for prevention, intervention and treatment services; (2) recognize diagnoses
for young children described in DC:0-3 and pay for mental health services for
children with any of these diagnoses; and (3) clarify for providers the diagnoses
that create eligibility for children to obtain Medicaid services.
According to former medical services billing analyst, Chris Kelly, in plain
language, this means to make sure and have doctors diagnosis patients with specifically
coded mental illnesses for which Medicaid will pay the costs of the prescription
drugs for treatment.
And studies reveal that talk therapy is a thing of the past because pushing
pills is by far more profitable. A 2003 study by the American Psychiatric Association,
on "financial disincentives" for psychotherapy, found doctors could
earn about $263 an hour for doing three 15-minute "medication management"
sessions, verses about $156 for a single 45- to 50-minute therapy session. Thus,
conducting therapy verses medication management would represents an hourly pay
cut of 41%, the APA study said.
On August 17, 2005, the Wall Street Journal quoted, Juan Riestra, associate
director of medicine in the department of psychiatry at Mountainside Hospital
in Montclair, NJ, as saying a psychopharmacologist is often someone "using
a trendy word as a marketing device."
When a psychopharmacologist sees 30 or 40 patients a day, as some do, Mr Riestra
told the Journal, "it becomes like a factory."
One of the more recent screening programs that has caught the attention of
anti-drugging activists, is a survey called "Signs of Suicide” (SOS),
which is being touted as a self-assessment screening tool and is provided free
online on the internet.
This particular psychiatric screening program claims it is being promoted as
an effort to reduce suicides, alcoholism, depression and eating disorders, to
be used in high schools, colleges, the workplace, and the military.
SOS comes highly recommended by the Bush administration for members of the
military and their families. As of May 26, 2006, Air Force Colonel Joyce Adkins,
a psychologist at the Pentagon's Health Affairs office, claims that several
thousand military people have been screened with the program since it went online
around the beginning of 2006.
According to the May 26, 2006, Boston Globe, if the responses to the screening
indicate possible trouble, SOS suggests options for seeking help.
Obtaining a diagnosis of mental illness could not get any easier than with
SOS. This online survey, "is always available," Ms Adkins told the
Globe. "You don't have to go anywhere,” she said. “You don't
have to have child care or change your clothes."
SOS claims it is the creation of the "nonprofit" Massachusetts-based
corporation, Screening for Mental Health, Inc (SMH). However, as it turns out,
the development of the firm’s screening programs, was funded with millions
of dollars from Big Pharma.
A picture taken at the company during an event in honor of, "National
Depression Screening Day," (whatever that is), on October 18, 2001, shows
Eli Lilly presenting SMH with a check for $500,000.
But Lilly’s half-million dollar grant was just the tip of the iceberg.
SMH has also received millions of dollars in grants from other drug giants including
Pfizer, Solvay, Abbott Labs, Wyeth, Forest Pharmaceuticals, the Robert Johnson
Foundation, AstaZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.
Kevin Hall, New England director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights,
has been investigating mental health screening programs for a number of years,
and was able to obtain the SMH’s tax returns that reveal just how much
money has been funneled to the company to develop and promote the mental health
screening programs since 2001.
All total, the tax records show that Lilly poured $2,157,925 into SMH between
2001 and 2004, and for the year 2004 alone, in addition to Lilly’s $600,000,
Pfizer gave SMH $125,000, Wyeth ponied up $100,000, and Forest Labs gave $153,000
These “free” online mental health screening programs are also being
promoted in colleges all across the country. Brian Hokanson is a college student
in Minnesota who wrote a commentary describing his experience with an online
At the beginning of last fall’s semester, Brian noticed fliers in his
residence hall that were encouraging students to take a free online screening
test for depression.
Brian says he soon found out that any combination of answers on the screening
resulted in a recommendation to see a doctor. The first section of the test,
he says, listed negative behaviors such as “feeling bad about yourself”
and “feeling tired or having little energy.”
For each statement checked, Brian was instructed to chose how often the statement
applied to him in the previous two weeks, ranging from “not at all”
to “nearly every day.”
In the second part of the test, the student is asked to rate how difficult
each of the behaviors checked has made it to function in daily life, ranging
from “not difficult at all” to “extremely difficult.”
Brian says he decided to "test the test," and chose “not at
all” for all of the behaviors except for “poor appetite or overeating,”
and he said that statement applied to him for “several days.” On
the second section, he stated that the problem made it “not difficult
at all” for him to function in daily life.
Upon clicking on the results, Brian was told: “Your screening results
are consistent with minimal depression … You are advised to see your doctor
or a mental health professional for a complete evaluation as soon as possible.”
As for the inventor of this particular screening tool, Brian reports that the
fine print at the bottom of the page of the survey reads: “Copyright 1999
The good news is, that after “testing the test,” things did not
go according to plans because Brian did not become a new SSRI customer for Pfizer,
which means he won’t be experiencing any horrific side effects from SSRI
The NFC also recommends screening for all pregnant women that will predictably
lead to the use of SSRIs, even though a study as far back as the February 2,
2004, American Journal of Pediatrics, said that pregnant women who use SSRIs
"to combat depression could be damaging the brains of their unborn babies."
According to the study, direct evidence of a link between fetal exposure and
disrupted neurological development was apparent in a study of American mothers
and their infants.
"Abnormal sleeping patterns, heart rhythms and levels of alertness,"
the study found, "were linked by researchers to drugs called selective-serotonin
re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)."
The study leader, Philip Zeskind, a psychologist and research professor of
pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, noted that SSRIs disrupt the
neurological systems of children, and said "this is more than just a possibility,
we're talking about hundreds of thousands of babies being exposed to these drugs
"These babies are bathed in serotonin during a key period of their development
and we really don't know what it's doing to them or what the long-term effects
might be," he advised. The Professor warned that "these drugs are
being given away like smarties, and this is a big problem."
Drug makers have also been successful in getting lawmakers to set up mandatory
mental health screening for pregnant women the minute their infants leave the
womb. On June 16, 2006, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Durbin (D-IL)
announced legislation “that aims to eradicate the devastating effects
of postpartum depression on American families.”
According their press release, the “MOTHERS Act was introduced in response
to a recently passed, first-of-its-kind New Jersey law requiring doctors and
nurses to educate and screen expectant mothers about PPD.”
“Many women have successfully recovered from postpartum depression with
the help of therapy, medication, and support groups,” Senator Menendez
said in the press release.
“By increasing education and early treatment of postpartum depression,”
it said, “mothers, husbands, and families, will be able to recognize the
symptoms of this condition and help new mothers get the treatment they need
Anyone interested in a quick course on the potential dangers of this program,
and the lethal effects of the most commonly prescribed drugs for women with
PPD, need only go read the transcripts of the Andrea Yates’ trials and
check out the drugs they were feeding her for PPD, at the time she drowned her
5 children in the bathtub in November 2004.
Dr Anne Blake Tracy, is the author of "Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?"
and a well-known expert on SSRIs and has served as a consultant for many high-profile
cases involving SSRI induced violence, including cases of mothers who have killed
their babies, and often themselves, after being placed on SSRIs.
According to Dr Tracy, investigators found Zoloft in the apartment of Emiri
Padron, after she smothered her baby on June 22, 2004, and then stabbed herself
in the chest twice.
On July 26, 2004, she says, Mary Ellen Moffitt suffocated her 5-week-old infant
before killing herself after being prescribed Paxil for PPD.
In another tragedy in October 2002, Annie Mae Haskew smothered her 10-week-old
baby after she was diagnosed with PPD and placed on antidepressants.
At the other end of the life-cycle, the mental health screening squad is swarming
in on the nation’s 36 million senior citizens, who already represent a
gold mine to Big Pharma because they use so many medications. The screening
program for the elderly is set up through the, “Positive Aging Act of
The Act provides federal tax dollars for community-based mental health treatment
outreach teams and states: (a) In General- The Secretary ... shall award grants
to public or private nonprofit entities that are community-based providers of
geriatric mental health services, to support the establishment and maintenance
by such entities of multi-disciplinary geriatric mental health outreach teams
in community settings where older adults reside or receive social services.
The Act wants outreach teams to:
(1) adopt and implement ... evidence-based intervention and
treatment protocols (to the extent such protocols are available) for mental
disorders prevalent in older individuals (including, but not limited to, mood
and anxiety disorders, dementias of all kinds, psychotic disorders, and substance
and alcohol abuse), ...
(2) provide screening for mental disorders, diagnostic services,
referrals for treatment, and case management and coordination through such teams;
This plan seeks to round up seniors for screening wherever they can be found,
including (1) senior centers; (2) adult day care programs; and (3) assisted
A new recruitment scheme for senior citizens was totally unnecessary because
Big Pharma has been over-medicating these customers for years. Recent research
reveals that nursing home residents in particular are being drugged in record
Kenneth Thomas, a registered nurse with 29 years of experience, says elderly
people in nursing homes are regularly put on antidepressants, even though most
of them,” he notes, “lived 7 or more decades without drugging away
“Based on my direct observation and experience,” he says, “many
of the patients I've seen with so-called “mental illness” actually
have underlying physical conditions that are easily treatable by medical, non-psychiatric,
He makes the point that anyone who has been taken from their home and put into
an unfamiliar place confined to bed or wheelchair would be logically upset.
“Any loss of personal freedom,” he explains, “tends to bring
people downward emotionally.”
According to Mr Thomas, there are many ways to help an elderly person gain
more independence and have some autonomy even in restricted environments such
as nursing homes and rehab centers. “Most of these elderly,” he
notes, “just need someone to talk to, not another pill.”
In October 2005, the Journal of the American Medical Association, published
a meta-analysis of 15 randomized trials of more than 5,000 elderly patients
treated with atypicals that found patients taking the drugs had a 54% increased
chance of dying within 3 months, compared with patients taking a placebo.
Another Big Pharma money-making tactic is to promote the off-label prescribing
of drugs at a higher dose than necessary which, experts say, is extremely dangerous
with older people because their bodies cannot not metabolize or excrete drugs
as rapidly as younger patients.
In a study published in the June 13, 2005, Archives of Internal Medicine, that
examined the quality of antipsychotic prescriptions for nearly 2.5 million Medicaid
patients in nursing homes, “over half (58.2%),” received antipsychotics
that exceeded the maximum recommended dosage or received duplicate therapy or
had inappropriate indications for the drugs to begin with.
The study found that more than 200,000 nursing home residents received antipsychotic
therapy with “no appropriate indications for use.”
As a result of concealing negative information about these psychiatric drugs
and the promotional tactics by the drug makers of encouraging the off-label
prescribing of the medications for so many different uses, experts say, tens
of millions of people are now taking the medications without any valid indication
for their use.
In fact, so many people are being prescribed these expensive drugs that the
TMAP part of the marketing scheme is coming apart at the seams due to pure and
simple greed. State lawmakers say that the costs incurred due to the over-prescribing
of the drugs are bankrupting state Medicaid programs and they have to stop the
practice of over-prescribing to keep from going broke.
According to the July 27, 2005, Wall Street Journal, antidepressants and antipsychotics
are the third and fourth biggest classes of drugs in the US after cholesterol
and heartburn medicines, with sales of $20.7 billion in 2004, with much "of
that cost is borne by government health-care plans," the journal said.
The prices per pill for these drugs are themselves insane. For example, in
South Carolina, Zyprexa is the most expensive atypical covered by Medicaid,
and according to James Assey, a pharmacist with the South Carolina Department
of Health and Human Services, a one-month supply pills costs Medicaid over $700.
The state of Georgia totally removed Zyprexa from its preferred drug list and
any doctor who wants to start a Medicaid patient on Zyprexa, must now submit
a clinical rationale stating why it's the only drug appropriate, according to
the November 28, 2005, Indianapolis Business Journal.
Other states, including Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania also
now require doctors to obtain prior authorization before prescribing Zyprexa
to Medicaid patients, the Journal reports.
Big Pharma is making a ton of money off selling these drugs off-label for kids.
A report in the April 24, 2005, Columbus Dispatch, found that 40,000 children
aged 6-18 who were covered by Medicaid were prescribed psychotropic drugs: 31%
of the children were in foster care, and 22% were in juvenile detention. Medicaid
spent $65.5 million for drugs used primarily as "chemical restraints,"
according to Pyle, P, “Drugged into Submission.”
According to FDA estimates, 11 million antidepressant prescriptions were written
in 2003 for under 19-year-olds, representing a 27% increase in 3 years.
The sale of ADHD drugs, also skyrocked in 2003. In 5 to 9-year-old children
their use increased 85%, and in preschoolers usage was up 49%, according to
Medco Health Solution’s, 2004 Drug Trend Symposium.
Overall, sales of psychiatric drugs totaled $26.7 billion in 2004, according
to NDC Health Corp, a Georgia-based health information firm.
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