invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

9:02 on the clock November 30, 2006

Filed under: family,life,pain — clementine @ 8:08 pm
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i’m a firm believer in… all pain is equal. there are many days when the shit gets bad and i repeatedly say, it could be worse. it could be worse. the phrase life is short is frequently used but i wonder how many people actually hear it or believe it. the truth is, yes, life is short. too short for some. my nineteen year old cousin was killed in kuwait on february 6, 2003. he joined the national guard for one reason: tuition assistance. and now he’s dead. my father’s cousin died eleven years ago. while visiting the memorial site i realized, yes, life is short. seeing his marker surrounded by smaller markers, those of the children killed that same day.

those children didn’t get the chance to really live life. their time here was too short. for those of us here today, as long as we’re breathing, we should be living. doing something differently. opening our hearts. our minds. our souls. we can’t stop the violence. but we have a voice, we can use it. we can’t end poverty. but we can help a few in need. we can’t change the past. but we can learn to live in the present. we can’t stop the hatred. but we can love. today i was reminded of my father’s cousin and thought i’d share something i wrote a few months ago.

9:02 on the clock

a man calls a friend
he asks a favor
could you please pick up some paperwork
at the social security office?
he would drive himself
but he spends his days
in a wheelchair
to the friend, i am sure
it was a simple errand

i imagine
the friend
stood in line, making small talk
possibly with teresa
who was there
to pick up a social security card
for her 8 month-old-son, sean
or maybe
the friend
he no longer waited in line,
he was at the counter
chatting with richard
who had worked there for years
or maybe
the friend
he stood in line, talking to no one
alone with his thoughts
thinking of
the many things
he had to do that day
it was still early, after all

except
this was no ordinary day
it was
the 19th of april
the year, 1995
and the social security office
was in
the alfred p. murrah federal building
in oklahoma city

the clock read 9:02 a.m.
when a truck bomb
made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer
and fuel oil
exploded
outside the building
the explosion could be felt
30 miles away

168 were dead
19 of which
were children
one of which was
the friend
my father’s cousin
thomas was his name

he was a good friend
he was a good husband
he was a good father
he was a good man
he lived a good life

twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. so throw off the bowlines. sail away from the safe harbor. catch the trade winds in your sails. explore. dream. discover. – mark twain

 

FDA warns astrazeneca November 27, 2006

Filed under: antipsychotics,big pharma — clementine @ 8:11 pm
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on november 16th the FDA faxed a letter to AstraZeneca in regards to the company’s misleading sales material on their very popular drug, seroquel. the fda requested that AstraZeneca stop disseminating the material, adding that failure to correct the violations discussed may result in fda regulatory action, including seizure or injunction, without further notice. you can visit their website here and download the letter.

after reviewing a recent professional sales aid for seroquel the FDA found that the piece is false and misleading because it minimizes the risk of hyperglycemia and diabetes mellitus and fails to communicate important information regarding neuroleptic malignant syndrome, tardive dyskinesia, and the bolded cataracts precaution.

seroquel is obviously frequently prescribed by our doctors with global sales reaching $2.8 billion last year. who knows what kind of sales we’ll see this year after the FDA’s approval of seroquel for treatment of bipolar last month.

today the company said, “AstraZeneca takes FDA’s letter seriously. we will work with the FDA to resolve the matter.”

yes, they should take the letter seriously. and i hope our doctors would do the same. i was prescribed seroquel twice, by two different psychiatrists, for treatment of depression and then later bipolar. on both occasions the drug was prescribed after the docs reviewed my medical history and found my maternal grandmother died from complications of diabetes and my father is diabetic. a third doctor wanted to prescribe the drug and i put my foot down, i questioned her knowledge of the diabetes risk linked to seroquel. she backed down but i would bet money (and a lot of it) that she continues to prescribe the drug to many unknowing patients.

how tragic.

 

antipsychotics-who’s to blame? November 26, 2006

Filed under: antipsychotics,big pharma,mental illness — clementine @ 8:12 pm
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three days ago the new york times published a great article titled, proof is scant on psychiatric drug mix for young.

here, i will focus on the antipsychotics simply because, today, it’s the drug doctors love to prescribe. antipsychotics sales have skyrocketed and they are not approved for children.

as we all know, the FDA. requires drug makers to prove that their drugs work safely before they will approve them for sale in the united states. unfortunately doctors can prescribe and combine approved medicines as they see fit. and from there, the parents believe their doctors. they fill the multiple prescriptions for their children and remind them to take their pills everyday. in most cases, i’m sure they demand so. in most cases today, an antipsychotic is in the mix. i wonder, do the parents know that the mixing of these drugs is rarely studied by drug makers? do they know the dangers of these drugs? and if they don’t know, why?

“no one has been able to show that the benefits of these combinations outweigh the risks in children,” said dr. daniel j. safer, an associate professor of psychiatry at johns hopkins university and an author of the 2003 review.

several top experts say, if the evidence for two-drug combinations is minimal, for three-drug combinations it is nonexistent. some experts agree that some children are so violent or suicidal that a combination of psychiatric drugs is worth trying. but recently, more psychiatrists have been asking whether in some cases drugs are being prescribed for children who do not need them, or for problems that fall within the spectrum of normal behavior. the doubters are especially concerned with the growing use of drug combinations for preschoolers.

in case you don’t click on the link to the new york times article, here’s one story of many:

andrew darr of caldwell, idaho, whose sons took medications, said that he was opposed to it from the start. “when you come home from work and instead of getting them clawing at your feet and yelling, ‘daddy, daddy,’ you get a lethargic grunt, it just kills you,” mr. darr said. his wife, leslie darr, eventually agreed to stop the medicines, but only after a family tragedy.

the darrs have four children, Nicholas, 16, Nathan, 15, Becky, 12, and Benjamin, 9. at 3, nicholas suffered a mild brain injury when undiagnosed appendicitis led him to suffer weeks of high fever, mrs. darr said. she was pressured by school officials to give nicholas a stimulant at age 6. nathan soon followed.

three years later, the boys had a traumatic weekend away with relatives. a month after that, mrs. darr said, both were hospitalized for a week and given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and prescriptions for antipsychotic, antidepressant and sleeping medicines.

over the next three years, nicholas’s weight ballooned to 140 pounds from 52. nathan went to 115 pounds from 48. neither boy got much taller, mrs. darr said. they did poorly in school.

then becky developed a brain tumor. a nurse practitioner gave mrs. darr free samples of an antipsychotic drug to help her cope. after starting it, she said, she could not sleep or think straight. she realized that she had been giving similar medicines to her sons for years and she decided to wean the boys off the pills. their behavior immediately worsened. at one point, nicholas left the house during a blizzard wearing only boxer shorts, mrs. darr said. they found him in a tire swing saying, “Baaa.”

“there were several times that we almost gave up,” mr. darr said.

but after four months off medication, the boys’ behavior normalized, the darrs said, and they were transferred out of special education and into regular classes. the darrs recently allowed the boys to spend their first evening at a mall without supervision, and in july they gave both boys their first bicycles. “they’ve come a long way,” mrs. darr said.

in an interview, nicholas said the drugs “were not cool.”

however, most of the parents interviewed for the article said their children’s behavior deteriorated rapidly without medication.

i found a website called, wrong drugs 4 kids. click on the breaking news link at their website, they’ve compiled a long list of articles on just how bad antipsychotics can be. if your child, grandchild or loved one is under 18 and developed diabetes or other blood sugar disorders after taking zyprexa, seroquel or risperdal, they want you to know you have important legal rights.

one must ask. who’s to blame? it’s time we blame someone or several. we can’t sit back any longer. the fda approves the antipyschotics. the doctors prescribe them. and the parents fill the prescriptions. and our children are the guinea pigs.

 

investigating big pharma November 7, 2006

california’s top law-enforcement official is investigating drug makers’ marketing practices for blockbuster antipsychotic medications.

at least four pharmaceutical companies – AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Pfizer Inc have disclosed in recent days they received subpoenas from the california attorney general’s office seeking information about their respective antipsychotics. the drugs are approved to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

eli lilly, which makes zyprexa, and astraZeneca, maker of seroquel, indicated that the subpoenas received in september sought information about their marketing practices for the antipsychotics, as well as the drugs’ status on california’s “formulary,” or list of preferred drugs for a state insurance program. bristol-myers “has received a subpoena seeking documents in connection with” abilify, their antipsychotic. Pfizer also has received a subpoena seeking information about the geodon antipsychotic.

newer antipsychotics have become big moneymakers for drug companies, with zyprexa posting $4.2 billion in sales and seroquel generating $2.76 billion last year. abilify, a newer drug, posted sales of $912 million in 2005.

as stated here before, these drugs have faced scrutiny over their effectiveness and safety.
several are linked to severe weight gain and higher blood sugar. diabetes. suicides. last year, Lilly established a $690 million fund to settle lawsuits that generally alleged zyprexa led to diabetes or related problems in people taking the drug.

this should get interesting, more later…

 

just say no November 6, 2006

“just say no”

the slogan was championed by nancy reagan. the campaign was part of the united states “war on drugs” and prevalent during the 1980s and early 1990s, discouraging children from engaging in recreational drug use.

today we are dealing with a different kind of drug. psychiatric drugs. and doctors are saying yes. over and over. pharmaceutical companies are pushing them. if a child or teenager is depressed or anxious, even though it is situational, they are prescribed a psychiatric drug. or two. or three. or in some cases, eleven. and sometimes they lead to death. like in this case:

(names have been changed here…)
when 13-year-old luisa began complaining of stomachaches, her mother, eva, did what a good mom does-drove her to the pediatrician. after an exam, the doctor agreed with luisa that her stomach pain was likely caused by anxiety. he precribed a psychiatric medicine, zoloft, commonly given to adults to ease depression. when her parents asked about side effects, the doctor reassured them the drug was mild. “if she needed something strong, i would have sent her to a psychiatrist,” he said.

over the next few weeks, luisa-previously a happy, social girl who got along well with her mother, according to oscar, her father- became combative with eva. she often got violent, threatening her mother physically. four weeks after she started with the medication, luisa hanged herself in her home. her parents later learned that zoloft and other so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were well known within the research community to cause suicidal thinking and behavior in young people.

it disturbs me that i read this in the december issue of alternative medicine. the people who should be reading this article are most likely not subscribers to this magazine. people need to hear these stories. people need to question their doctors’ motives and quite possibly take it a step further. send a message to the pharma companies, the doctors, the insurance companies. they’re making millions, billions of dollars off these medications. the process of diagnosing and prescribing should be a lengthy one. and the diagnosis and prescriptions should come from a psychiatrist, not a pediatrician. not your family doctor. parents should just say no to a quickie diagnosis.

tragedies like these occur with startling frequency in this country. behind this we have a pharmaceutical industry that shovels money at state and federal officials and the psychiatric profession to buy their help in pushing high priced drugs for minors. the most frequently prescribed drugs can cause horrific side effects and in cases like luisa’s, death.

the articles goes on to question the mental health screeening program, TeenScreen. a 14-item questionnaire designed to be completed in about ten minutes. defenders praise the program as a godsend to families, helping prevent suicide and identifying youths needing help. critics say the program is a tool used to herd misdiagnosed teens into the clutches of Big Pharma. (the program yields 84% false positives…) i have to agree with the critics. most teens go through periods of depression, anxiety, etc…but it doesn’t mean we throw meds at them. this practice is dangerous. the article also discusses the dangers of the new line of meds-atypical antipsychotics.

i must be clear- i’m not anti-drugs. (although i am against prescribing antipsychotics for depression or bipolar, unless for short-term use). i’m medicated and most likely will be the rest of my life. BUT we must question these doctors. these pharmaceutical companies. i would guess more than half of the patients taking these medications DO NOT need them. especially the children. and teens. even scarier we don’t know the long-term side effects of these drugs. studies are proving that the antipsychotics have dangerous, if not deadly, side effects. if parents don’t want to “just say no”, they should at least be certain their child is mentally ill before filling the prescription. a silly questionnaire is not a diagnosis. and yet, for some reason, it is today. it saddens me. it angers me. it scares the hell out of me.