Are Big Pharma murderers?

An book review in the NYTimes today focuses on Melody Petersen, a former reporter of the Times, who has written a book against  Big Pharma's marketing tactics called Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs. In the book, she asks:

“Could drugs be killing people but escaping all blame, leaving them to harm even more Americans until someone, finally, catches on?” Ms. Petersen asks.

Few of us have. Most of America hasn't. Petersen outlines in great detail – the point of repetition according to Janet Maslin's review – Big Pharma's propensity for skewing clinical trial results so that their drugs perform better than placebo, the increased and ubiquitous DTC marketing, and the "payola-dispensing drug company representatives."

(“Hotel too cold inside,” one said, in an evaluation of a June 1998
drug company program, adding, “Resort places preferred.” From a
different doctor, miffed at the lack of a chauffeur at another event:
“Hired car would have been much preferable.”

Petersen also covers Big Pharma's tactic of fixing side effects of medications by creating medications to fix the side effects leading to medication on medication.

And when the side effects of sleeping pills or antidepressants mean
more elderly people fall down, the solution is not likely to be the
scaling back of such prescriptions. “Instead,” she writes, “the
companies have used the statistics on falls to create a new blockbuster
pharmaceutical market for drugs they claim will reduce the chances of
breaking a bone.”

According to the Maslin's review, the book calls for non-government watchdog agencies and closer oversight on published studies, which Petersen says are ghostwritten by pharma spokespeople. Overall, Petersen's book sounds like a must-read for anyone who is skeptical of Big Pharma's activities. However, I doubt her book will get much press or coverage considering that you can't read any major publication without turning the page and seeing a drug ad then the required 2-page side effect warning that everyone skips over. If anyone reads the book, I'd like to know your thoughts about it.

Sorry if this post sounds hastily written. I'm off to an interview to freelance for a company.

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Suicide: Understanding and Intervening – Introduction

“Won’t you share a common disaster? Share with me a common disaster. Oh, a common disaster.” – Cowboy Junkies, “A Common Disaster”

SuicideI receive weekly counseling at CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) in Glenside, Pennsylvania, The foundation has an outreach program called Resources for Changing Lives that publishes educational material on different topics. One of the small booklets I purchased was “Suicide: Understanding and Intervening (SUI)” by Jeffrey S. Black. The booklet is a tad bigger than a 3 x 5 index card and consists of 31 pages. Of all the things I read in the book, the last paragraph stood out in my mind:

“In the years I have been involved in biblical counseling, I have not completely fathomed the hopelessness and despair in a believer that makes death more attractive than life. I pray that my inability is not merely a lack of empathy for someone who struggles. I hope that it is a vision for Christ and his kingdom that keeps the true ‘meaning’ of suicide out of my reach.”

While I understand Mr. Black has years of counseling those who struggle with suicidal ideations, I can’t help but wonder: What made him qualified to write this book?

In reading SUI, I felt as though the author took an objective stance in writing this. It came across as matter-of-factual rather than empathetic or sympathetic. I read the book – in all honesty – looking for answers and some kind of sympathy. I only received a slew of answers. The book should aptly be renamed “Suicide: A Factual Guide to Intervention.” No understanding required.

The book wasn’t bad; it just felt like the author wanted to keep his distance. “Don’t get too close to the reader lest you understand what a suicidal person is experiencing!” But the lack of emotion to relate to the reader detracted from many of the positive aspects of the book.

Out of five stars, I give the book three stars. Despite the absence of emotion, the book gives great bits of information I hope to share. As a person who struggles with suicidal thoughts on a recurring basis, the book was a bit of a disappointment. I know of other counselors at the foundation who could have written a more sympathetic book than Mr. Black. But he wrote it, so it’s time to delve into it.

Transforming Grace

Originally written on October 16, 2006

orphansIn Rose Marie Miller’s introduction for from fear to freedom, she outlines the orphan mindset of a person who has accepted Christ as his/her Savior through grace but does not recognize his/her son/daughtership:

“- Life consciously or unconsciously is centered on personal autonomy and moral willpower, with grade understood as God’s maintaining your own strength — not as his transforming power.
– Faith is defined as trying harder to do and be better, with a view to establishing a good record leading to self-justification
– Obedience is related to external, visible duties with attitudes and deeper motivation virtually ignored
– ‘What people think’ is represented as the real moral standard, based upon visible success and failure
– An I-am-a-victim attitude is supported by coping strategies, wall building, blame shifting, gossiping, and defending
– All this is accompanied by intense feelings of aloneness, believing that no one understands and that one is trapped by circumstances.”

I identify with all of the above. But it doesn’t stop there. Miller says:

“Here then is my theme: the only hope of liberation for a helpless, resisting caterpillar in a ring of fire is deliverance from above. Someone must reach down into the ring and take us out. This rescue is what brings us from the orphan state into that of the son or daughter. This is not mere supporting grace, but transforming grace.”

So my only hope of help is total deliverance. Meds aren’t a “cure-all” — never have been, never will be. In the meantime, I need to find Someone to pull me out of my “ring of fire.” I can only look to God.

Today’s Mood: 4

Comic books and mental illness

RobinMy husband has alerted me to the fact that comic books have recently been highlighting mental illness. In one comic, one hero lives in a psych hospital while another suffers from schizophrenia.

The standout comic to me, however, was published in Nov. 2006. Robin #156 focused on suicide prevention for the issue. A review of the comic from IGN describes how this “superhero shrink” stands out:


“Superhero shrinks are nothing new, but writer Adam Beechen and artist Freddie Williams II make this worthwhile. I’ve never met Beechen or Williams, but it seems like this story came from a place close to their hearts. It is easy to tell when a creator believes in what is on the page, and that honesty allowed this issue of Robin to be a very good one.”


My husband called it a “PSA” but more than that, I think the issue was dedicated to someone who may have touched either the writer’s or the artist’s life. The plot mainly follows a kid  comtemplating suicide. Robin, himself, is having pretty heavy issues of his own in the meantime. My favorite twist? Robin doesn’t directly talk the suicidal kid out of suicide. It is definitely worth checking out.

Just another day

Originally written October 16, 2006 (Updated edits in bold red)

“So sad / so sad / sometimes she feels so sad” ~ Paul McCartney, “Another Day”

I’m finishing up my third full day in the psych hospital and I’m accomplishing things totally unrelated to my “treatment.”

I’ve gotten through 100 pages of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It’s an interesting book — never read it before – and reading about Tom’s mischevous ways takes me away from the dreariness of a psych hospital. I have a mind to read Huck Finn afterward.

Your Drug May Be Your ProblemI’m reading several books at once, however. (I’ve got ADD when it comes to books; sometimes I finish them, sometimes I don’t.) I’m finally reading my Bible again and trying to plow through Your Drug May Be Your Problem. It’s an interesting book but most of it is alarming. The authors, Breggin and Cohen, argue against psychiatric drugs completely. The books raises some awareness about the use of psychiatric drugs but I think the authors are mostly crying “Fire!” about an unattended candle. The only time I somewhat took them seriously was their discussion about lithium. I’ve already heard — and now seen — its effects. I think lithium is a drug that really shouldn’t be used any more. Are the therapeutic effects of lithium really worth risking a patient to possible toxic levels?

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Separating myself from my depression

Undoing DepressionI have been reading Richard O’Connor’s Undoing Depression. No doubt, it’s not an easy read. I’d started it before but stopped for some unknown reason. Now, I’m reading it much more closely with more insight and some skepticism.

It’s possible that my mind simply can’t wrap itself around the fact that “depression is a disease,” as O’Connor so plainly states many times in the book. My mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that I am not to blame or I am not guilty for depression and my actions as a depressed person. Murderers are held accountable for their actions in their “psycho” state (anyone who kills anyone must be psycho), so why aren’t depressed people held to the same standard with their actions? Murderers don’t get off easy when proven insane, so why should people have compassion and sympathy for those who are depressed?

Bits of cynicism bite at me as I read and hear “it’s not you – it’s the depression.” O’Connor says that because the depression has been a part of the person for such a long time, that the person cannot separate him or herself from the depression and consider both one.

I’ve been told that my depression isn’t me and I am not my depression. This is very difficult for me to differentiate. My anger and rage and crying fits are not me? But they emerge from me, they are my voice and they are my actions but I am not accountable? I often feel lifeless, dull, worthless, hopeless… sometimes empty. Isn’t that what depression feels like?

Depression is me and I am my depression and we are both accountable for what we do together.