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Monday, April 25, 2005

Prozac Nation

I wish that Prozac-related violence, and Eli Lilly's efforts to whitewash/cover up the evidence, would get as much media attention as whatever the scandal de jour happens to be (U.N. Money for Oil, Time Magazine, Alaskan Drilling, the Michael Jackson freak-show, whatever). Do we have to wait until someone famous goes 'postal'?

Cockburn, from a recent Nation Magazine, writes:
Alexander Cockburn: Death, Depression and Prozac:

Jeff Weise, teen slayer of ten, including himself, at the Red Lake Indian reservation in northern Minnesota, was on Prozac, prescribed by some doc.

The minute the high command at Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Prozac, saw those news stories about Weise you can bet they went into crisis mode, and only began to relax when Weise's web surfs of neo-Nazi sites took over the headlines. Hitler trumps Prozac every time, particularly if it's an Injun teen ranting about racial purity.

How many times, amid the carnage of such homicidal sprees, do investigators find a prescription for antidepressants at the murder scene? Luvox at Columbine, Prozac at Louisville, Kentucky, where Joseph Wesbecker killed nine, including himself. You'll find many such stories in the past fifteen years.

By now the Lilly defense formula is pretty standardized: self-righteous handouts about the company's costly research and rigorous screening, crowned by the imprimatur of that watchdog for the public interest, the FDA. And of course there's the bogus comfort of numbers; if Lilly's pill factory had a big sign like McDonald's, it could boast PROZAC: MILLIONS SERVED.

Each burst in the sewage pipe brings a new challenge to Lilly's sales force, which has had some heavy hitters down the years, including George Herbert Walker Bush (onetime member of the Lilly board of directors); former Enron CEO Ken Lay (onetime member of the board); George W. Bush's former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels (a former senior vice president); George W. Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council member Sidney Taurel (a Lilly CEO); and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (a recipient of Lilly funding).

Long years of rigorous testing? When Fred Gardner and I investigated the selling of depression and Prozac in the mid-1990s, we found that clinical trials excluded suicidal patients, children and the elderly--although once FDA approval was granted, the drug could be prescribed for anyone. According to Dr. Peter Breggin, the well-known psychiatrist who analyzed the FDA's approval of Prozac, it was ultimately based on three studies indicating that fluoxetine relieved some symptoms of depression more effectively than a placebo, and in the face of nine studies indicating no positive effect. Only sixty-three patients were on fluoxetine for more than two years (fluoxetine hydrochloride was branded as Prozac in the mid-1970s). By 1988 the National Institute of Mental Health had not only put the government stamp of approval on corporate-funded depression research but had created a mechanism whereby government money and personnel could be employed to stimulate demand for corporate products.
No such happy chance in the United States, where government is in the pay of drug companies and prescriptions for antidepressants have long since taken over from political manifestoes that would cure depression by collective social action. How they must have cheered at Eli Lilly when the Senate wiped out Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy statutes, fostering family violence, heightened crime and a vast new potential market for Prozac and kindred potions at the stroke of a pen.

Read the rest, if you are a subscriber (and if you read this far down the page, you should subscribe to the Nation, what a great political magazine!)

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Blogger john_m_burt said...

Just one more item to add to the "underreported stories" list.

Good old journotainment industry, we can always count on them to not count very high.

7:34 PM, April 29, 2005


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