U.S. Psycho-Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in his last speech as President of the United
States warned against the potential harm citizens face from the
inordinate power of the Military-Industrial Complex, would, no doubt,
have been alarmed by the documented harm produced by the
Dr. Bruce Levine, provides insights into the burgeoning, profit-driven
mental illness industry:
"Why now are we hearing more from the corporate media about the demise
of the serotonin-deficiency theory of depression? Perhaps it is because
the blockbuster serotonin-enhancer drugs [ such as Prozac, Zoloft,
Paxil] have either lost their patent protection or are soon to lose it
and drug companies are preparing us for the next wave of
patent-protected drugs and biochemical justifications for them."
One of the most insidious government endorsed dragnets is a mental
screening tool with an 84% false-positive rate--TeenScreen. Hard to
imagine that a screening tool whose predictive accuracy is only 16%--yet
it is being promoted and used in schools across the country--43 states
in 450 schools. Healthy children are being branded as mentally unstable
and /or suicidal, serving as a means to increase the market for
psychotropic drugs. See: [Link
For more about the industrial complex and its aggressive marketing of
the most toxic psychotropic drugs specifically targeting children, see
recent presentation at ICSPP conference.
*America's Children Need a Rescue Operation:* [Link
See also, Drugging Our Poor By Bethany Stotts, Accuracy in the Media,
October 23, 2007 "The increasing correlation between psychiatric visits
and medicated therapy may call into question whether mental screening
actually benefits the public." [Link
[Link <http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Z>] Magazine, November 2007 *The U.S.
Psycho-Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex As mental illness has become
profitable, we are seeing more of it By Bruce E. Levine*
In Eugene Jarecki's documentary film Why We Fight, about the U.S.
military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy critic Chalmers Johnson
states: "I guarantee you when war becomes that profitable, you are going
to see more of it." Similarly, as mental illness has become extremely
profitable, we are seeing more of it.
On September 4, 2007, the New York Times reported, "The number of
American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased
40-fold from 1994 to 2003. . . .Drug makers and company-sponsored
psychiatrists have been encouraging doctors to look for the disorder"
("Bipolar Illness Soars as a Diagnosis for the Young").
Not too long ago, a child who was irritable, moody, and distractible and
who at times sounded grandiose or acted without regard for consequences
was considered a "handful." In the U.S. by the 1980s, that child was
labeled with a "behavioral disorder" and today that child is being
diagnosed as "bipolar" and "psychotic"--and prescribed expensive
antipsychotic drugs. Bloomberg News, also on September 4, 2007,
reported, "The expanded use of bipolar as a pediatric diagnosis has made
children the fastest-growing part of the $11.5 billion U.S. market for
Psychopathologizing young people is not the only reason for the dramatic
rise in sales of such antipsychotics as Eli Lilly's Zyprexa and Johnson
& Johnson's's Risperdal (each, in recent years, grossing annually from
$3 to $4 billion). Much of Big Pharma's antipsychotic boon is
attributable to generous U.S. government agencies, especially Medicaid.
The Medicaid gravy train has been fueled by Big Pharma corruption so
over-the-top that it has been the subject of recent media exposures.
The Associated Press, on August 21, 2007, reported, "A groundbreaking
Minnesota law is shining a rare light into the big money that drug
companies spend on members of state advisory panels who help select
which drugs are used in Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled."
Those advisory panels--dominated by physicians--have great influence
over the $28 billion spent by Medicaid on drugs, but only Minnesota,
Vermont, and Maine require drug companies to report monies paid to
physicians. The AP article focused on John E. Simon, a psychiatrist on
the Minnesota advisory panel since 2004, who received $489,000 from Eli
Lilly between 1998 and 2006. The top drugs paid for by Minnesota
Medicaid, according to the AP article, have been antipsychotic drugs,
especially Eli Lilly's Zyprexa.
Serotonin Deficiency and WMDs
With the advent of Eli Lilly's serotonin-enhancer Prozac at the end of
1987, the general public and doctors began receiving a multi-billion
dollar marketing blitz proclaiming that depression is caused by a
deficiency of serotonin, and that this deficiency could be corrected by
Prozac (and, later, other serotonin-enhancer antidepressants such as
Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, and Luvox). Between 1987 and 1997, the
percentage of Americans in outpatient treatment for depression more than
tripled. Of those in treatment, the percentage prescribed medication
almost doubled. In 1985 the total annual sales for all antidepressants
in the U.S. was approximately $240 million, while today it is
approximately $12 billion. In 2006, the American Journal of Psychiatry
reported that the percentage of American adults with major depression in
1991 was 3.33 percent, but by 2001, the percentage had more than doubled
to 7.06 percent.
The serotonin-deficiency theory of depression was so successfully
marketed that it was news to many Americans when Newsweek's February 26,
2007 cover story, "Men and Depression," mentioned that scientists now
reject the theory that depression is caused by low levels of
neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Thomas Insel, director of the
National Institute of Mental Health, told Newsweek that "a depressed
brain is not necessarily underproducing something."
The demise of the serotonin-deficiency theory of depression should not
be considered news in 2007 because in 1998 The American Medical
Association Essential Guide to Depression was already stating: "The link
between low levels of serotonin and depressive illness is unclear, as
some depressed people have too much serotonin." That same year Elliot
Valenstein, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at the
University of Michigan, in his book Blaming the Brain pointed out,
"Furthermore, there is no convincing evidence that depressed people have
a serotonin or norepinephrine deficiency." (Antidepressants that
increase the neurotransmitter norepinephrine as well as serotonin
include Effexor and Cymbalta). In 2002 the New York Times reported:
"Researchers knew that antidepressants seemed to raise the brain's
levels of messenger chemicals called neurotransmitters, so they
theorized that depression must result from a deficiency of these
chemicals. Yet a multitude of studies failed to prove this precept."
Unfortunately, that fact was buried under more than fifty preceding
Similar to the Bush administration, which knew it is was far easier to
sell a war when Americans believed they were threatened by weapons of
mass destruction, antidepressant manufacturers know it is much easier to
sell serotonin-enhancer drugs when people believe depression is caused
by a deficiency of serotonin. The Bush Administration and the mental
health establishment (including the National Institute of Mental Health)
have retreated from their respective theories, but neither has spent a
great deal of time or energy getting the word out. Since each
officialdom's earlier claims were so loudly trumpeted and their later
retractions so quietly whispered, many Americans continue to believe in
mistaken rationales for policies and treatments that continue to affect
millions of lives.
The reality is that when patients report Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft as
"working," it is not because these drugs are correcting any kind of
chemical imbalance. These drugs can temporarily "take the edge off"--as
is the case with many psychotropic drugs, legal or illegal. But for a
significant number of people, these drugs produce extremely unpleasant
side effects, while for many others, these drugs have little or no
effect. So, overall, the difference in effectiveness between
antidepressants and a sugar-pill placebo is "clinically negligible."
This was the conclusion of University of Connecticut professor of
psychology Irving Kirsch, who used the Freedom of Information Act to
gain access to 47 antidepressant studies sponsored by drug companies on
Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, and Serzone that had been
submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (but many of which
had not been published). Kirsch discovered that in the majority of the
trials, the antidepressant failed to outperform a sugar-pill placebo
(Prevention & Treatment, "The Emperor's New Drugs," 2002).
Why now are we hearing more from the corporate media about the demise of
the serotonin-deficiency theory of depression? Perhaps it is because the
blockbuster serontin-enhancer drugs have either lost their patent
protection or are soon to lose it and drug companies are preparing us
for the next wave of patent-protected drugs and biochemical
justifications for them. The Newsweek article on "Men and Depression"
went on to state, "Instead of focusing on boosting neurotransmitters
(the function of the antidepressants in the popular SSRI category such
as Prozac and Zoloft), scientists are developing medications that block
the production of excess stress chemicals."
Big Pharma, FDA, NIMH, and Congress
There are other parallels between the military-industrial complex and
the psychopharmaceutical-industrial complex. Vital to the profits of
both are supportive U.S. government regulatory, research, and purchasing
There is nothing more important for a drug manufacturer than FDA
approval and so it is common sense that a pharmaceutical company will
spend whatever it takes to ensure FDA approval.
In 2000 an article in USA Today, "FDA Advisors Tied to Industry,"
reported that in 55 percent of the FDA advisory meetings on drug
approvals, half or more of the FDA advisers had financial connections to
the interested drug company; and in 92 percent of these advisory
meetings, at least one FDA adviser had a financial conflict of interest.
Joseph Glenmullen, in Prozac Backlash (2000), notes that Paul Leber,
director of the FDA's division of neuropharmacological drug products,
left the FDA in the late 1990s to direct a consulting firm that
specializes in advising pharmaceutical companies attempting to gain FDA
approval for new psychiatric drugs.
The revolving door of employment is also used by Big Pharma to maintain
influence over the National Institute of Mental Health. In Talking Back
to Prozac (1994), Peter and Ginger Breggin report that in 1993 Steven
Paul, scientific director of NIMH, resigned to become vice president of
Eli Lilly (maker of Prozac and Zyprexa). In 2001 Roche Pharmaceutical
(manufacturer of Valium, Klonopin, and other psychiatric drugs) proudly
announced that Lewis Judd, a former NIMH director, had joined its
scientific advisory board.
To the delight of Big Pharma, NIMH uses taxpayer monies to fund
researchers who are financially connected to pharmaceutical companies.
One important example is the "Sequential Treatment Alternatives to
Relieve Depression (STAR*D)," a $35 million U.S. taxpayer-funded study
that proclaimed the effectiveness of antidepressant treatment. The
results of STAR*D were widely reported by the corporate media.
Unfortunately, the NIMH press release about STAR*D excluded the fact
that STAR*D researchers received consulting and speaker fees from the
pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the antidepressants studied in
STAR*D--and this fact went unreported by the corporate media. Also not
in the press release and unreported is the fact that STAR*D researchers
failed to include a placebo control and failed to incorporate relapse
rates in the overall results. So in reality, STAR*D antidepressant
results were no better than the customary placebo results or the results
of no treatment at all--this also unreported by the corporate media.
The corruption by Big Pharma of the FDA and NIMH is not difficult when
these agencies' overseer, the U.S. Congress, has also been corrupted by
Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin, a former Republican congressperson from
Louisiana, is one example. Tauzin, as chairman of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, helped shepherd passage of the Medicare prescription
drug law --a bonanza for Big Pharma. Soon after this favor to Big
Pharma, Tauzin became head of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers
of America (PhRMA), Big Pharma's trade organization. Tauzin's annual
salary as head of PhRMA (as reported on April 1, 2007 by "60 Minutes")
is $2 million.
Robert Whitaker, in his book Mad in America (2001), summarized the
beginnings of Big Pharma's corruption of America's psychiatrists and
their professional organization, the American Psychiatric Association
(APA): By the early 1970s, all of psychiatry was in the process of being
transformed by the influence of drug money. Pill-oriented shrinks could
earn much more than those who relied primarily on psychotherapy
(prescribing a pill takes a lot less time than talk therapy);
drug-company sales representatives who came to their offices often plied
them with little gifts (dinners, tickets to entertainment, and the
like); and their trade organization, the APA, had become ever more
fiscally dependent on drug companies. 30 percent of the APA's annual
budget came from drug advertisements to its journals."
Whitaker also reported that the APA relied on drug company grants to
fund its "educational" programs. Such grants have continued and in the
first quarter of 2007, Eli Lilly reported providing grants of over
$412,000 for two APA programs: "Improving Depression Treatments" and
"Understanding the Complexity of Bipolar Mixed Episodes."
Drug companies have also been successful hijacking university psychiatry
departments. In 2005 the Boston Globe reported that Harvard Medical
School's psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital
received $6.5 million from four drug companies. Marcia Angell, physician
and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and
author of The Truth About the Drug Companies (2004), reported that the
head of the psychiatry department at Brown University Medical School
made over $500,000 in one year consulting for drug companies that make
antidepressants. Angell remarked, "When the New England Journal of
Medicine, under my editorship, published a study by him and his
colleagues of an antidepressant agent, there wasn't enough room to print
all the authors' conflict-of-interest disclosures. The full list had to
be put on the website."
Drug companies also provide major funding for so-called "mental health
consumer organizations," the most well-known of which is the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). NAMI received $11.72 million from
drug companies between 1996 and mid-1999, according to Mother Jones in
1999, which also reported that Eli Lilly was NAMI's leading drug company
funder and that "in the case of Lilly, at least, 'funding' takes more
than one form. Jerry Radke, a Lilly executive, is 'on loan' to NAMI,
working out of the organization's headquarters."
Exposés of Big Pharma methods of influencing NAMI have not stopped the
practice. In the first quarter of 2007, Eli Lilly's "Grant Office 2007"
posted that Lilly provided NAMI with a grant of $450,000 for NAMI's
"Campaign for the Mind of America 2007." For those troubled by the
success of the psycho-pharmaceutical-industrial complex at manufacturing
consent in the United States, the title "Campaign for the Mind of
America 2007" is a chilling one.