The abuse of ADHD drugs on college campuses has reached epidemic proportions, according to the authors of a recent review in the Journal of Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry. ADHD drugs, like Ritalin and Adderall, have become so commonplace on college campuses that students who abuse these drugs for studying, weight loss and partying are underestimating their risks. As a result, we have seen exponential increases in emergency room visits, overdoses, and suicides by students taking these drugs.
A “not otherwise specified” (NOS) diagnosis is often used when an individual may have some symptoms related to a psychiatric diagnosis but does not meet enough criteria to warrant a full diagnosis. A new study, published online ahead of print in Psychiatric Services, reveals that the proportion of mental health visits resulting in such NOS diagnoses rose to nearly fifty percent, and that these diagnoses do not result in more conservative psychiatric drug prescriptions.
Adverse effects from psychiatric drugs account for almost one in ten adult emergency room visits related to prescription medications and one in five of these visits result in hospitalization.
Democratic Presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders, questioned the nominee for FDA commissioner, Robert Califf, during yesterday’s Senate hearing. Sanders remarked that we need a commissioner who will stand up to the pharmaceutical companies and protect American consumers. Of Califf, he added, “with regret, I think that you are not that person.”
In an open letter to all US presidential candidates published Thursday in the BMJ, a group of global health care experts assert that current research regulations allow drug companies to publish incomplete and misleading results. They ask the candidates to declare whether they support improved transparency measures that would make data on drug studies publically available and open to scrutiny.
"After making an observation and forming a hypothesis as usual, the new third step of the scientific method will now require researchers to embark upon an exhaustive search for corporate or government financing,” the satirical news site the Onion “reports.” “Next, scientists simply modify their study’s goals to align with the vision of potential funders and wait for several months to hear back. At this point—should this step be successful, of course—they can move on to the experimental stage, and then to analysis.”
In his reaction to Dr. Makari’s Opinion piece in the ‘Times, entitled Psychiatry’s Mind-Brain Problem, Dr. Nardo articulates why the legacy of NIMH director Thomas Insel is so dangerous. “He may have kept the researchers from spinning off and following some idiosyncratic path, but he did it by forcing them to follow his own idiosyncratic path.”
In the Atlantic, Ed Yong reports that despite the lack of replicability of individual studies, when you get a pool of psychologists “betting on” the reproducibility of a study their predictions are surprisingly accurate. “Which makes me wonder: What's going on with peer review? If people know which results are really not likely to be real, why are they allowing them to be published?”
For the USC Center for Health Journalism, Martha Rosenberg points out the absurdity of allowing industry funded doctors to teach classes to practitioners about psychiatric drugs. "What if the written road test drivers take were sponsored by BP or Shell and had marketing messages interspersed?"
New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, relates the story of Andrew Francesco, a boy who began taking Ritalin at age five and died from complications with Seroquel when he was fifteen. His father, a former pharmaceutical industry executive, reveals the industry’s greed in his memoir “Overmedicated and Undertreated.” Now the industry is pushing for a first-amendment right to market its drugs for off-label uses.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is increasingly shifting its research emphasis toward attempting to uncover biomarkers for “mental diseases,” which may have dramatic consequences for research and training in clinical psychology. In an article to be published in next month’s Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Marvin Goldfried outlines how the shift in funding priorities for psychological research is tied to the needs of pharmaceutical companies and the biological model in psychiatry.
In 2014, then National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director, Thomas Insel, speculated that ketamine “might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades.” A recent review of the research suggests that while ketamine may produce a rapid short-term improvement in depression, the effect is short-lived and the potential for addiction and dependence warrants considerable caution.
Giving money to people diagnosed with severe mental health issues can significantly improve depression and anxiety. A new study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Community Mental Health, found that giving about $73 US dollars per month for recreational spending can also reduce social isolation and strengthen a sense of self.
Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books writes about the inherent conflict in clinical trials between “the search for scientific answers," on one hand, and “the rights and welfare of human subjects,” on the other.
In an op-ed for the Guardian, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra writes: “Corporate greed and systematic political failure have brought healthcare to its knees. There are too many misinformed doctors and misinformed patients. It’s time for greater transparency and stronger accountability so that doctors and nurses can provide the best quality care for the most important person in the consultation room – the patient.”
In a Science Update, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that steps are already being taken by Medicaid services to implement “coordinated specialty care” (CSC) in response to the RAISE study released last week. “The RAISE initiative has shown that coordinated specialty care for first episode psychosis is better than the standard care offered in community clinics. However, covering the cost of coordinated specialty care can be challenging. When Medicaid agrees to pay for effective treatment programs, patients in need benefit.”
The percentage of seniors in the United States prescribed potentially deadly antipsychotic drugs increases with age. A new study reveals that in the face of serious risks of strokes, fractures, kidney injuries, and death, over seventy-five percent of seniors given antipsychotics do not have a diagnosis for a mental disorder.
Dr. Mickey Nardo adds to the ongoing discussion about the RAISE study results. He writes: “If there is ‘spin’ in the reporting of this study, we need to know about it. I personally think that it’s more important for RAISE to be reported completely and honestly than whether it comes out like they [or I] want it to come out. We don’t need some sanitized version of RAISE to tell us we need to turn our attention to a full bodied approach to the treatment of First Episode psychotic patients. We all already know that. What we do need is to have our confidence restored in our research community – that they will honestly and clearly report their findings whether they are clean as a whistle or an unholy mess.”
In a bellwether case, plaintiffs allege that Pfizer did not adequately warn patients that Zoloft (sertraline) would cause birth defects. The case is scheduled in Federal Court in March, and the verdict will have significant implications for future suits.
The UK Times reports that pharmaceutical companies are actively lobbying to limit the release of clinical trial data to the public. Rather than limiting results and data to medical journals, new transparency initiatives are pushing for making the information publicly available. The push for transparency comes in the wake of the reanalysis of the Study 329 data on paroxetine (marketed as Seroxat and Paxil), which found that the industry study had misconstrued its results.
Results of a new study reveal that sixty-nine percent, or more than two-thirds, of patients prescribed antidepressant drugs have never, in their medical history, met the criteria for major depression. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry this month, also found that several demographic factors, like race and gender, were associated with the prescription of antidepressants.
Last Tuesday, The New York Times and several other outlets (including Mad In America) reported on the highly-touted results of a study on psychosocial treatment for people with first-episode psychosis. Now, claims made about the study, which the ‘Times called “the most rigorous trial to date,” are coming under increased scrutiny.
Writing on his 1 Boring Old Man blog, Dr. Mickey Nardo reflects on the media frenzy around the RAISE study and asks why the prescription data has not been released. He adds skepticism about the political motives of the potentially overblown results, which he sees as a clear push for increased mental health funding.
A massive number of meta-analyses of antidepressant clinical trials have financial conflicts of interest and are unduly influenced by pharmaceutical companies, according to a review to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Researchers also found that meta-analyses with industry ties almost never report any negative findings in their abstracts.
The Scientific American reports on a new analysis of antidepressant trials revealing that the vast majority of meta-analyses have industry links and suppress negative results. The results show that meta-analyses with industry support were much more favorable to the drugs than independent studies. For example, “meta-analyses by industry employees were 22 times less likely to have negative statements about a drug than those run by unaffiliated researchers.”
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