Big Pharma: if you can’t treat ’em then drug ’em

Powerful mood-altering drugs were prescribed to hundreds of Illinois foster children without the required consent of state child welfare officials, a Chicago Tribune analysis of government data has found.

And increasing numbers of young wards were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given a class of anti-psychotic medicines that some physicians consider risky for youths because they can cause such side effects as metabolic abnormalities and pronounced weight gain.

Psychiatrist Michael Naylor, MD, who reviews psychotropic medicine regimens for DCFS, said that he worries that “marketing efforts” by pharmaceutical companies are driving increasing diagnoses of bipolar disorder leading to more prescriptions for antipsychotic medicines, and that some “physicians are skirting the consent laws.”

A separate report by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s department of psychiatry finds that an Illinois psychiatric hospital used medications as chemical restraints on kids. Streamwood Behavioral Health Center, “one of Illinois’ largest psychiatric hospitals, dosed foster children with dangerous combinations of mood-altering” medications, “sometimes using the medicines as ‘chemical restraints’ to control youth who needed counseling.”

The report also found that the center, “which has treated roughly 475 Department of Children and Family Services wards since 2007, is ‘so understaffed as to be counter-therapeutic,'” and that “hospital staff resorted to extraordinarily high rates of emergency psychiatric medications, physical restraints, and seclusion.”

4 Replies to "Big Pharma: if you can't treat 'em then drug 'em"

  • Saul Wasserman
    December 10, 2009 (3:52 pm)

    In fairness, we should say that these meds are very helpful to some children with very serious problems. The issue that comes up is when these meds are used for situations where the primary problems are psycho-social, eg, the quality of foster homes and residential programs.

  • _anon_TN_EXFoster child
    December 10, 2009 (5:15 pm)

    This was common in TN foster children as well , when there were no foster homes they stuck kids in RTC (Residential treatment facilities. NO ONE was allowed not to have meds , EVERYONE was bipolar and on bipolar meds. Years latter I was told I was never bi-polar to begin with but the label stuck. Everyone had to take meds , everyone HAD to get adivan , everyone had to take deroprovera shots. EVERYONE.

    Doctors attributed miscarriages (as an adult) , chronic low blood pressure (and heart damage) and problems in my hemoglobin (Blood ) Synthesis to this unwarranted usage of high dose medications.

    Medicate them all and they cant tell anyone anything because they cant remember it.

  • Belmont
    December 11, 2009 (6:54 pm)

    This is happening all over. NYT ran an article re: the overmedication of foster children. Washington Post Op Ed Columnist Colbert King spoke about DC Juvenile Services prescribing seroquel as a sleeping pill. DOJ investigated NYS Juv. Justice and found kids with 6 prescriptions of psychotropic drugs. CA overdrugging. Psych Rights estimates that this is a $2 billion dollar/year fraud on the american taxpayer with foster children alone.

    Child advocate and MH advocates are on the take from pharma as well. NAMI gets 56% of its budget from pharmas.

    I’m not opposed to medicine where appropriate, but what is going on is not appropriate.

    Can you say “government sponsored fraud”

  • James R. Marsh
    December 14, 2009 (1:06 pm)

    No surprise here: NYTimes Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics:

    New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.