Posts Tagged ‘depression’

In our book MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures, we focus on the alarming overmedication of children diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, as having ADHD, depression and other such ailments.

An excerpt from Medical Industrial Complex  follows:

Overmedication of children diagnosed – and often misdiagnosed or even not diagnosed – with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has, it seems, reached alarming levels, and the public debate has been as vocal as that surrounding the issue of overprescribing antidepressants.

By some estimates, around four million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD and more than half of them have been prescribed drugs. This despite the fact there are very real concerns about the impact the drugs have on growth and brain development – especially in preschoolers.

One who has had something to say on this matter of late is Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a certified child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cambridge Health Alliance and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In a Washington Post article dated June 4, 2014, and headed ‘We are overmedicating America’s poorest kids,’ she claims that thousands of children between the ages of two and three are being prescribed stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall for ADHD even though the medicine’s safety and effectiveness has barely been explored in that age group.

Dr. Rappaport says she finds it even more troubling that a disproportionate number of those children were on Medicaid, which to her is an indicator of poverty. “That,” she says, “is the huge red flag”.

Referring to her experience as a child psychiatrist, working with at-risk children for more than 20 years, she points out the simple fact is that underprivileged children often grow up in home environments that lead to troubling behavior.

“To the untrained observer, it looks as if these children suffer from ADHD. But they don’t need medicine. They need stability and support”.

This raises the obvious question: Why are physicians prescribing potentially harmful drugs instead of recommending family-based support services for toddlers who display ADHD symptoms and disruptive behavior?

Dr. Rappaport asks this very question. She says, “Medication may be judiciously used to help ADHD when a biological illness is truly present, but true ADHD cannot be differentiated from other problems at such young ages. We owe it to our children to give the consistent message that we will do whatever it takes to foster their development. And that doesn’t always mean prescribing a pill”.

Amen to that.

It’s a fact that in this modern era most of us look for a quick fix for whatever ails us or for whatever ails our children. Our willingness to pop a pill in order to get a good night’s sleep or to ease a queasy tummy or to clear a foggy head or to…(the list goes on) is frightening. Even more so when we pass such quick fix ideas onto our children.

We seem very willing to overlook the fact that all drugs – prescribed or otherwise – have side-effects. Sometimes deadly side-effects, often unhealthy or otherwise undesirable side-effects.

We also overlook the fact that oftentimes there’s a simple, readily available, natural remedy available for those day-to-day ailments we encounter.

For example, physical exercise has long been recognized as an effective way to combat depression. Not for all, granted, but, we suspect, for many.

The Atlantic article referred to earlier reports that a growing body of research suggests that exercise is one of its best cures for depression. It claims a randomized controlled trial showed that depressed adults who took part in aerobic exercise improved as much as those treated with Zoloft, and a recommendation was made that physicians counsel their depressed patients to try it.

A later study looked at 127 depressed people who hadn’t experienced relief from a commonly used antidepressant and found that exercise led 30% of them into remission – a result described “as good as, or better than” drugs alone.

The article continues, “Though we don’t know exactly how any antidepressant works, we think exercise combats depression by enhancing endorphins: natural chemicals that act like morphine and other painkillers. There’s also a theory that aerobic activity boosts norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood. And like antidepressants, exercise helps the brain grow new neurons”.

The article concludes that “this powerful, non-drug treatment” hasn’t yet become a mainstream remedy. Why not? And why are so many people still popping pills?

We suspect the conclusion speaks volumes about the state of our mental health services and infrastructure, the physician reimbursement system (more about doctors’ kickbacks coming up) and the alacrity with which doctors dispense prescription drugs ahead of advising on diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Regrettably, it also speaks volumes about our unwillingness to take responsibility for, and control of, our own health, preferring, instead, to entrust that to our family doctor.

You have been reading an excerpt from Medical Industrial Complex. To find this book on Amazon go to:  http://www.amazon.com/MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX-Suppressed-Underground-ebook/dp/B00Y8Y3TUM/

MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures (The Underground Knowledge Series Book 3)

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Even more depressing than our ever-increasing reliance on drugs to combat high blood pressure is the overprescribing and over-use of antidepressants – especially where children are concerned.  We address this in our book MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures, and we examine the role mainstream medicine plays in all of this.

 

An excerpt from Medical Industrial Complex  follows:

Statistically, there’s a very good chance you know someone who is taking Prozac or some other antidepressant right now. It may be a neighbor, or colleague, or a friend or family member, or, it may be you.

This no doubt has something to do with the readiness of people to talk about their depression or even their mental illness – conditions which, thankfully, are no longer burdened by stigma. It no doubt also has something to do with the widespread consumer acceptance of antidepressants as a solution for their depression.

According to some estimates, depression, that most common of mental illnesses, affects one quarter of all Americans.

A March 24, 2014 report in The Atlantic claims Americans are awash in pills. “The use of antidepressants has increased 400 percent between 1988 and 2008. They’re now one of the three most-prescribed categories of drugs, coming in right after painkillers and cholesterol medications”.

The situation, it seems, is little better elsewhere in the Western world. In the UK, for example, more than 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants are written every year if latest estimates are correct.

This figure is “staggeringly high,” according to an article in The Guardian dated April 13, 2014. It quotes Dr Matthijs Muijen, head of mental health at the World Health Organization Europe, as saying prescription levels have gone through the roof, claiming “There’s a degree of fashion about antidepressants”.

Dr Muijen admits his worry is “We are medicalising all forms of sadness in the belief that antidepressants are a safe drug that you just prescribe”.

In a report dated August 3, 2013, BBC News asks the question: “Is England a nation on anti-depressants?” It also asks why we are seeing “such huge and rising numbers of people” regularly taking anti-depressants when GPs are advised to prescribe them only for more seriously ill patients.

The report continues, “In some places the number of patients prescribed anti-depressants exceeds the number of people in that area estimated to suffer from depression and anxiety by the NHS England’s Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (PMS)”.

On June 21, 2013, Healthline News reported that a Mayo Clinic study found that nearly 70% of Americans are prescribed at least one medication, with antidepressants (along with antibiotics and opioids) topping the list.

The article quotes the National Alliance on Mental Illness as estimating one in four Americans experience a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, in a given year. “Typical first-line treatments for mental health issues are medication and some type of psychotherapy…Critics who say antidepressant medications are overused often claim there is a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, saying that antidepressants are prescribed for normal human reactions to life events, leading to a lasting diagnosis of mental illness”.

The article concludes, “However, as the public mindset continues to change, there’s now less stigma attached to getting help for mental disorders, which may help explain the rise in antidepressant use”.

“Suicide rates have not slumped under the onslaught of antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, anxiolytic and anti-psychotic drugs; the jump in suicide rates suggests that the opposite is true. In some cases, suicide risk skyrockets once treatment begins (the patient may feel not only penalized for a justifiable reaction, but permanently stigmatized as malfunctioning). Studies show that self-loathing sharply decreases only in the course of cognitive-behavioral treatment.”Antonella Gambotto-Burke, The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide

Predictably, the Psychiatric Times, whose audience is American psychiatrists and mental health professionals, doesn’t agree that antidepressants are overprescribed in the US. In an article dated September 1, 2014, that publication’s editor-in-chief Ronald W. Pies, MD, reports that, “by and large”, he doesn’t agree with the allegation that America has become a kind of Prozac Nation – a none-too-subtle reference to the title of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s 1994 memoirs perhaps.

“In many respects, the claim that ‘too many Americans are taking antidepressants’ is a myth,” according to Dr. Pies. “…To be sure: in some primary care settings, antidepressants are prescribed too casually; after too little evaluation time; and for instances of normal stress or everyday sadness, rather than for MDD (major depressive disorder),” he says.

“And, in my experience, antidepressants are vastly over-prescribed for patients with bipolar disorder, where these drugs often do more harm than good: mood stabilizers, such as lithium, are safer and more effective in bipolar disorder. But these kernels of truth are concealed within a very large pile of chaff”.

Dr. Pies continues, “For example, the media often report that antidepressant use in the United States has ‘gone up by 400%’ in recent years—and that’s probably true…But the actual percentage of Americans 12 years or older taking antidepressants is about 11%—a large proportion of the population, for sure, but not exactly Prozac Nation”.

So, though Dr. Pies – and by default Psychiatric Times and no doubt the majority of psychiatric professionals in the US – disputes the allegation that America has become a kind of Prozac Nation, there seems to be a reluctant acknowledgement that antidepressants are vastly over-prescribed for patients suffering one type of mental illness at least, and that it’s probably true that antidepressant use has risen 400% in the US.

If that doesn’t constitute a Prozac Nation, not sure what does…

Washington D.C. writer Brendan L. Smith, reporting on the American Psychological Association’s website in June 2012, reports that research shows that all too often, Americans are taking medications that may not work or that may be inappropriate for their mental health problems.

Smith observes that writing a prescription to treat a mental health disorder is easy, but it may not always be the safest or most effective route for patients, according to some recent studies and a growing chorus of voices concerned about the rapid rise in the prescription of psychotropic drugs.

“Today, patients often receive psychotropic medications without being evaluated by a mental health professional, according to…the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many Americans visit their primary-care physicians and may walk away with a prescription for an antidepressant or other drugs without being aware of other evidence-based treatments…that might work better for them without the risk of side effects”.

Smith quotes Steven Hollon, PhD, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, as saying at least half the folks who are being treated with antidepressants aren’t benefiting from the active pharmacological effects of the drugs themselves but from a placebo effect. “If people knew more,” Hollon says, “I think they would be a little less likely to go down the medication path than the psychosocial treatment path”.

Smith claims Prozac opened the floodgates. “Since the launch of Prozac, antidepressant use has quadrupled in the United States…Antidepressants are the second most commonly prescribed drug in the United States, just after cholesterol-lowering drugs”.

Smith also quotes Daniel Carlat, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University, as saying health insurance reimbursements are higher and easier to obtain for drug treatment than therapy, which has contributed to the increase in psychotropic drug sales.

“There is a huge financial incentive for psychiatrists to prescribe instead of doing psychotherapy,” Dr. Carlat says. “You can make two, three, four times as much money being a prescriber than a therapist”.

“As James Surowiecki noted in a New Yorker article, given a choice between developing antibiotics that people will take every day for two weeks and antidepressants that people will take every day forever, drug companies not surprisingly opt for the latter. Although a few antibiotics have been toughened up a bit, the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t given us an entirely new antibiotic since the 1970s.” -Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

 

You have been reading an excerpt from Medical Industrial Complex. Watch this space for our take on the prescribing of antidepressants to children. Meanwhile, you can find this book on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX-Suppressed-Underground-ebook/dp/B00Y8Y3TUM/

MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures (The Underground Knowledge Series Book 3)

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Is it our imagination or are the goalposts for high blood pressure ever changing?

We address this issue in book three of our Underground Knowledge Series — MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures. An excerpt from the book follows:

It doesn’t seem that long ago the “safe” systolic blood pressure (SBP) reading was your age + 100. So, for a 60-year-old, your SBP could be 160 over, say, 90 DBP (diastolic blood pressure) without your doctor suddenly becoming flustered and informing you a heart attack or stroke is imminent and immediately prescribing a lifetime course of BP medication.

Then the BP safety guideline dropped to 140 over 90. Imagine how many additional patients that little adjustment resulted in for doctors and medical centers. And perhaps more to the point, imagine how much in additional profits that yielded for the corner pharmacies and the big pharmaceutical companies.

Now all of a sudden – or since 2014 at least – the American Medical Association recommends drugs should be used to treat anyone aged 60 or over whose BP is 150/90 or higher.

That tidbit was gleaned from a February 5, 2014 article in JAMA, the Journal of the AMA. In that article, JAMA states the BP recommendation “is based on evidence statements…in which there is moderate- to high-quality evidence…that in the general population aged 60 years or older, treating high BP to a goal of lower than 150/90 mm Hg reduces stroke, heart failure, and coronary heart disease”.

Okay, so that’s a reversal of the downward trend we referred to, but it certainly fits the ‘moving goalposts’ analogy.

That said, we note the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that BP for an adult aged 20 years or over “should normally be less than 120/80” and if your reading is 140/90 or higher “your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program”. That’s according to AHA’s heart.org website.

By its reckoning, about one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Little wonder given its BP parameters.

Here in New Zealand, our homeland, the Heart Foundation’s BP guideline for healthy adults, according to its website at heartfoundation.org.nz, should be below 140/85.

Back to the American Medical Association’s take on blood pressure – commenting on AMA’s new guidelines, WebMD, which promotes itself as “America’s healthy living magazine,” confirms on its website the AMA guideline sets a higher bar for treatment than the current guideline of 140/90.

WebMD quotes guidelines author Dr. Paul James as saying the recommendations are based on clinical evidence showing that stricter guidelines provided no additional benefit to patients. “We really couldn’t see additional health benefits by driving blood pressure lower than 150 in people over 60 (years of age)…It was very clear that 150 was the best number”.

We wonder how that went down with the drug companies? Not too well, we suspect. The 10-point upward adjustment of the SBP reading is no doubt costing them millions. Or should that read billions?

Certainly, the revised BP guidelines didn’t go down too well, according to WebMD, which reports the AHA expressed reservations. It quotes AHA president-elect Dr. Elliott Antman as saying the AHA is concerned that relaxing the recommendations may expose more persons to the problem of inadequately controlled BP.

Apparently, the AHA’s concerns aren’t shared by American local government and social issues reporter Aaron Kase who is highly critical of what he describes as the over-prescription of blood pressure meds.

Kase came to our attention courtesy of the American law site Lawyers.com, which ran an article first posted in Medical Malpractice on August 27, 2012. In that article, Kase (the author) states that, according to a new study, tens of millions of people taking BP medication prescribed by their doctors may be consuming the drugs for no reason.

“The report, which was conducted independently from any drug company money or influence, found the vast majority of people who take meds for hypertension (high blood pressure) see no benefit from them, and do not show reduced levels of heart attack or stroke”.

The article continues, “According to the Center for Disease Control, some 1 in 3 adults in America, or 68 million people, have high blood pressure. However, for most of them the condition is considered mild. Historically, even those mild cases are prescribed medication; but the study says the drugs do no good for mild hypertension and could cause harm to patients through side effects”.

Kase reports there are dozens of different medications prescribed for high BP, spread across a number of categories – each with its own side effects, ranging from constipation, excessive hair growth, erection problems, rashes and fever to heart palpitations and other adverse reactions.

“A tall price to pay, if the drugs aren’t actually helping people live longer,” he says.

The writer concludes that, unfortunately, big drugs are big business, and wherever money is involved, motivations can come into question when medications are prescribed to people who might not need them.

Such claims aren’t new of course. On January 8, 2012, the UK’s The Observer reported the BP bar was set at 140/90 whereas 15 years earlier the threshold was 160/100.

And way back in June 2005, The Seattle Times reported that, in recent years, expert panels from prestigious medical-research organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH) have called for lower thresholds for blood pressure – and, the report points out, “Behind each of those panels were the giant pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the new and expensive hypertension drugs”.

That report concludes, “The drug industry welcomed the new treatment guidelines and marketed them vigorously. Not surprisingly, as doctors followed the new guidelines and treated hypertension at lower readings, sales of the newer drugs increased”.

High BP is unquestionably a bigger problem in the West, and many experts attribute that to our higher consumption of salt.

This is touched on in The Observer article referred to earlier. It reports that Brazil’s Yanomami tribe, whose members eat a diet low in salt and saturated fat and high in fruit, have the lowest mean blood pressure of any population on earth – 95/61.

Nor, apparently, does their blood pressure increase with age. “By contrast, in the west, where people eat an average of 10-12 grams of salt per day, blood pressure rises with age by an average of 0.5mm Hg a year. That may not sound a lot, but over the average lifespan that is a difference of between 35 and 44mm Hg systolic”.

The article concludes that the most recent meta-analysis of trials involving more than 6000 people from around the world, found that a reduction in salt intake of just 2 grams a day reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 20%.

That may well be the case although we suspect that applies to everyday table salt and not to pure, unadulterated, unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt.

Even more depressing than our ever-increasing reliance on drugs to combat high blood pressure is the overprescribing and over-use of antidepressants – especially where children are concerned.

MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: The $ickness Industry, Big Pharma and Suppressed Cures (The Underground Knowledge Series Book 3)

To read more about overprescribing blood pressure pills — and antidepressants too — you can find Medical Industrial Complex  on Amazon. Go to: http://www.amazon.com/MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX-Suppressed-Underground-ebook/dp/B00Y8Y3TUM/

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