Jeanne Lenzer with the British Medical Journal (with follow-ups by World Net Daily) has a strong report: Bush plans to screen whole US population for mental illness.
The sweeping mental health initiative that President Bush will unveil in July is part of the government’s New Freedom Initiative, which has some very laudable goals regarding integrating mentally ill patients into the community.
However, the plan includes a major effort to find mental illnesses that go undiagnosed by using the schools to screen the 52 million students and the 6 million adults who work there. The effort will link the screening with “state of the art treatments” using “specific medications for specific conditions” and specifically using the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a model.
But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with a stake in the medication algorithm (15 May, p1153). He was sacked this week for speaking to the BMJ and the New York Times.
The Texas project started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grantÖand by several drug companies.
Mr Jones told the BMJ that the same “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower report, were “poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab” (http://psychrights.org/Drugs/AllenJonesTMAPJanuary20.pdf).
One of the drugs that would be pushed would be Olanzapine, Eli Lilly’s top-selling drug, which grossed over $4 billion last year.Eli Lilly, manufacturer of olanzapine, has multiple ties to the Bush administration. George Bush Sr was a member of Lilly’s board of directors and Bush Jr appointed Lilly’s chief executive officer, Sidney Taurel, to a seat on the Homeland Security Council. Lilly made $1.6m in political contributions in 2000Ö82% of which went to Bush and the Republican Party.
Jones points out that the companies that helped to start up the Texas project have been, and still are, big contributors to the election funds of George W Bush. In addition, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.
Bush was the governor of Texas during the development of the Texas project, and, during his 2000 presidential campaign, he boasted of his support for the project and the fact that the legislation he passed expanded Medicaid coverage of psychotropic drugs.
Bush is the clear front runner when it comes to drug company contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), manufacturers of drugs and health products have contributed $764,274 to the 2004 Bush campaign through their political action committees and employeesÖfar outstripping the $149,400 given to his chief rival, John Kerry, by 26 April.
Drug companies have fared exceedingly well under the Bush administration, according to the centre’s spokesperson, Steven Weiss.
Identifying mental illness earlier is a good idea. However, if the drug companies are running the show, then what will be the standard for the use of dangerous and expensive medication?
And what message are we sending to our children (to use the prohibitionists’ phrase) if we’re sending armed federal agents to harrass and arrest sick people using medical marijuana, and spending billions to arrest those who traffic in pot, while working with other drug traffickers to pump prozac and olanzapine into children whose behavior is slightly off “normal”?