Mother�s Act promotes pregnancy as lucrative market for Big Pharma
By Evelyn Pringle
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Dec 5, 2008, 00:27
Women of childbearing years represent the most lucrative
market for the makers of psychiatric drugs. The knowledge that infants were
being born with birth defects and suffering a withdrawal syndrome when these
drugs were used during pregnancy was hidden for decades. Knowledge of these
terrible risks would have caused a major drop in sales to this customer base.
Ever since the warnings about birth defects started
trickling out a few years ago, the drug companies apparently have been plotting
to find ways to reverse their negative impact. But the most sinister plot ever
developed is a bill moving for approval in the US Senate right now, called the �Melanie
Blocker-Stokes Mother�s Act,� to set up the screening of all pregnant women for
The bill is promoted under the ruse of screening for
postpartum depression. But a true picture of the target population of this
massive drug-pushing scheme is evident in the propaganda submitted to support
the passage of the original bill in the US House of Representatives and the
programs already in place in various states.
The legislation was first introduced in the House in January
2007 by Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush. Under �Background and Need for
Legislation,� House Report 110-375 states in part: �Depression is twice as
common in women as it is in men, with its peak incidence during the primary
reproductive years -- ages 25 to 45. Because women are more likely to
experience depression during these years, they are especially vulnerable to
developing depression during pregnancy and after childbirth.�
In February 2007, the �Postpartum Mood Disorders Prevention
Act,� was introduced in Illinois.
The orchestrated attempts to pass this bill included planting reports in the
media with claims that pregnant women are at risk for a whole list of mental
disorders. For instance, on March 1, 2007 an article in the Naperville Sun
stated, �New moms face increased
risks for not only postpartum depression, but also bipolar disorder,
schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and other disorders,
according to one of the largest studies of psychiatric illness after
The websites set up by the industry-backed front groups
supporting the Mother�s Act have links to programs that claim new mothers need to
be screened for �postpartum� depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia,
psychosis, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder,
post traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.
When extending the drug-net to all pregnant women, the
groups omit the term �postpartum� and claim women need to be screened for �perinatal�
(which means both before and following birth) disorders. In December 2007, Illinois enacted �The
Perinatal Mental Health Disorders Prevention and Treatment Act,� with the
stated purpose �to increase awareness and to promote early detection and
treatment of perinatal depression.�
But here again, the mention of �depression� only is
deceiving because the websites of hospitals in Illinois show they are screening for the
entire gamut of disorders mentioned above. Advocate
Hospital in Downers
Grove offers �Perinatal Depression Support Services.�
�Any woman who is thinking about becoming pregnant, is
pregnant, or had a baby within the past year can be affected by depression or
other mood disorders,� their website says.
�Mental health screening under the guise of identifying
individuals who are impaired from some supposed mental disturbance is typically
simply another front for pharmaceutical marketing,� according to Dr Bose
Revenel, co-author with psychologist John Rosemond of the new book, �The
Diseasing of America�s Children.�
�Most are funded or the initiative is provided via
pharmaceutical companies and medications are typically promoted as a supposed
�solution,�� he says.
�The problem here is that, among other things, the drugs
promoted have been shown to have potentially serious side effects and their
effectiveness compared to placebo only trivial,� Dr Revenel reports.
�Furthermore,� he says, �the campaign ignores safe and
potentially effective interventions such as dietary and nutritional changes and
supplements as well as cognitive therapy -- all of which are completely free of
potential adverse effects, with effectiveness that rivals or exceeds that of
�If the screening only picked up women likely to benefit
from treatment, then maybe it would be justified,� says Dr David Healy, a
leading expert on psychiatric drugs from the UK and author of �The Creation of
�But screening will pick up a quarter or a third or more of
all pregnant women and will lead to many of these being treated who do not need
treatment,� he warns. �Over 25 percent of women might be diagnosed where very
few of those are likely to need treatment.�
Although no psychotropic drug has FDA approval for use
during pregnancy, the recommended treatment for all these so-called �disorders�
consists of the newest most expensive antidepressants, antipsychotics, and
anticonvulsants. The common practice is to prescribe three or four different
drugs at a time for years on end.
The antipsychotics that will benefit as a result of the
Mother�s Act include Seroquel by AstraZeneca, Risperdal marketed by Janssen, a
division of Johnson & Johnson, Geodon by Pfizer, Abilify from Bristol-Myers
Squibb, Novartis� Clozaril, and Eli Lilly�s Zyprexa.
Lilly also sells two antidepressants, Prozac and Cymbalta,
and Symbyax, a combination of Zyprexa and Prozac. The other SSRI (selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and SNRI (selective norepinephrine reuptake
inhibitor) antidepressants include GlaxoSmithKline�s Paxil and Wellbutrin,
Pfizer�s Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro from Forest Labs, Luvox by Solvay, and
Pregnancy as a cottage industry
New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez is the lead sponsor of
the Mother�s Act in the Senate. New
Jersey is home to a long list of drug companies. The
bill was first introduced in May 2007, but was stuck in committee until Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced an $11 billion omnibus package called �Advancing
America�s Priorities Act.� Senator Reid tried to get the Act passed on July 22,
2008, by slipping it in the omnibus, but failed.
The act is supported by a drug-funded coalition bent on
turning pregnancy into a cottage industry. On September 25, 2008, Susan Dowd
Stone, a member of �Postpartum Support International (PSI),� self-described as
the �bill�s lead organizational sponsor,� issued a Legislation Update,
obviously to pump out propaganda through the Internet.
�Hundreds of thousands of women across the country suffer at
the hands of postpartum depression every year, and they deserve better than the
ideological games being played with legislation intended to bring them relief,�
Senator Menendez declares in the Uupdate.
�This is a cause I am committed to seeing through, and I
will continue to stand up on behalf of mothers suffering from this condition
until the blockade is cleared,� he vows.
�We will again await its inevitable passage at the next congressional
session when reason may more strongly prevail,� Ms Stone writes in the Update.
A gal named Katherine Stone runs the �Postpartum Progress�
blog, described as the �most widely-read blog in the United States on these illnesses.�
She serves on PSI�s board of directors as the public relations outreach
Her blog provides links to the �Top Women�s PPMD Treatment
Programs & Specialists.� Dr Shari Lusskin is listed as a �top� specialist.
She is an advisory council member for PSI. On her website under �Pregnancy-related
Mood Disorders,� the standard talking point about �pregnancy related mood
disorders� being prevalent is restated as follows: �Panic Disorder, Generalized
Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Eating Disorders may also
develop or worsen during pregnancy and postpartum. Women with Bipolar Disorder,
Schizophrenia, or Schizoaffective Disorder are particularly vulnerable during
pregnancy and postpartum.�
A May 28, 2005, presentation brochure shows Dr Lusskin is a
paid speaker for Glaxo, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Wyeth.
The postpartum blogs are also used to sell books written by
the �experts� and promote drug company funded conferences. For instance, on May
13, 2008, Postpartum Progress put out an ad for a June 25, 2008, conference at
the University of Minnesota, titled �Motherhood, Mood Disorders & Anxiety:
Before & After Pregnancy.� The listed sponsors included AstraZeneca and the
National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), the most notorious industry backed
front group on the planet.
Eli Lilly is logically the top giver to NAMI and many other
front groups because it has the most drugs to peddle. Several class action
lawsuits currently filed against Lilly specifically allege that Lilly funneled
money to NAMI to aid in the off-label marketing of Zyprexa.
Between 2003 and 2005, Lilly donated $3 million to NAMI,
according to the May 28, 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer. Lilly�s disclosure records
show NAMI groups received more than $700,000 from the company in the first
quarter of 2008. NAMI�s 2007 Annual Report lists Abbott Labs, AstraZeneca,
Bristol-Myers, Eli Lilly, Forest Labs, Glaxo, Janssen, Pfizer, Wyeth and Solvay
as �Corporate Partners.�
The NAMI website reports that the �National Depression
Screening Day� and the �Stop a Suicide Today� campaign are endorsed by the
American Psychiatric Association and are conducted in partnership with the
American Association of Suicidology, Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and
Mental Health America.
In 2006, the pharmaceutical industry accounted for about 30
percent of the American Psychiatric Association�s $62.5 million in financing,
according to the July 12, 2008 New York Times. Lilly�s first quarter grant
report for 2007 shows Lilly provided the APA with two grants worth over
$412,000. The Suicide Prevention Action Network received $10,000 from Lilly in
the first quarter of 2007.
Mental Health America�s annual report shows the group
received over $1 million from Bristol-Myers, Lilly and Wyeth in 2006. Janssen
and Pfizer gave between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and AstraZeneca and Forest
Labs donated between $100,000 and $499,000. Glaxo gave the group between
$50,000 and $100,000 in 2006.
Other funding sources listed on the MHA website include
three treatment centers for eating disorders with links to their websites. The
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates
that the average cost of private inpatient treatment is $30,000 or more a
month, according to an April 27, 2006, report by Women�s enews.
On May 21, 2008, the president of the Depression and Bipolar
Support Alliance (�DBSA�), Sue Bergeson, posted a message on
Bipolarconnect.com, saying Illinois Senator Dick Durbin�s office had called to
say they were having �a hard time making headway� with the Mother�s Act. She
informed readers that �more than 800,000 women will develop a diagnosable
postpartum mood disorder this year! And this number doesn�t include the 7.5
percent of women who will develop major depression during pregnancy.�
At the end of the article, Ms Bergeson provided a link and
urged people to take �30 seconds� to send a letter to their senators.
The 2006 Annual Report of DBSA shows AstraZeneca gave the
group more than $500,000 in 2006. Companies that donated between $150,000 and
$499,000 include Abbott, Bristol-Myers and Wyeth. Forest Labs, Glaxo, Janssen,
Pfizer, and Shire Pharmaceuticals each gave between $10,000 and $149,000. Lilly
is listed in the section titled, �Matching Gift Companies,� in the report.
Battle lines drawn
A number of influential advocacy groups have come out
against the Act including the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology; Alliance for Human Research Protection; International
Coalition For Drug Awareness; Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Mindfreedom
International, AbleChild, and the National Association for Rights Protection
The website, UniteForLife.org is run by Amy Philo, the Texas mother at the forefront of the �Unite for Life�
campaign against the Act. Amy�s story provides a poster perfect example of what
will happen to hundreds of thousands of women all over the county if the bill
Amy was labeled mentally ill and told she needed to be on
drugs by a nurse making a home visit simply because she got very upset after
watching her first-born infant almost choke to death a few days after he was
When she followed the nurse�s advice and went to the doctor,
the Ob-Gyn would not even take two minutes to listen to Amy talk about what had
happened or allow her to explain why she was experiencing such overwhelming
fear and anxiety.
Instead of viewing this young mother�s reaction to the
near-death of her infant as a normal response, the doctor told her she had a
panic attack and sent her home with samples packets of the antidepressant,
Zoloft, to prevent postpartum depression, apparently expecting her to get over
her traumatic experience by taking a pill.
There were no warning labels on the samples and the doctor
did not alert Amy to any of the potential side effects. �He told me Zoloft was
perfectly safe for me and the baby and it would make my baby happy too,� she
Within three days, the Zoloft pushed Amy into a state where
she started having thoughts of first killing her baby and later of killing her
husband, her mother, herself and even her pets. When Amy confessed to having
these thoughts, instead of recognizing the side effects of Zoloft and stopping
the drug, the medical professionals upped the dose, locked her up in a mental
ward away from her baby, and tried to add Zyprexa, to the mix.
They never told Amy why they wanted her to take Zyprexa, but
the sheet they gave her said it was for schizophrenia, she recalls. Amy refused
to take it because she wanted to nurse and was afraid the drug would harm the
She finally lied her way out of the hospital by claiming she
no longer had the bizarre thoughts because she wanted to be with her baby and
family. But in reality, Amy battled the obsession with suicide and homicide for
months waiting for Zoloft to work.
�The constant ideas of homicide were followed by thoughts of
suicide to protect my son from me,� she says. �I never had thoughts like this
in my life before I took Zoloft.�
They also tried to get Amy to take the sleeping pill,
Ambien, the anti-anxiety drug, Klonopin, and Celexa, another antidepressant,
even though she was nursing. �I always just said no to those,� Amy says.
The Ob-Gyn told Amy that she might have to remain on Zoloft
for life and without the drug she was not in control enough to have more
children. The pediatrician told her, �what�s really scary is that PPD seems to
get worse each time and you have a 90 percent chance of getting it after your
next baby,� she recalls.
She finally quit taking the Zoloft against medical advice
and the obsessive thoughts of homicide and suicide stopped and never returned.
Amy and her husband have since had a second child with no problem whatsoever
without the Zoloft.
She recently obtained copies of her medical records, which
show she was labeled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression.
Those stigmatizing labels will remain in her records forever with no
acknowledgment that Zoloft caused the ordeal.
�Antidepressant-induced mania commonly results in a false
diagnosis of a new disorder leading to stigmatization and a possible lifetime
of unnecessary, harmful treatment with drugs,� says Dr Peter Breggin, author of
the new book, �Medication Madness,� and the man often referred to as the �conscience
Drug companies have a big financial incentive to promote
these drugs. According to DrugStore.com, a 30-day supply of 20 mg Zyprexa costs
$725.93. A 30-day supply of 100 mg Zoloft is $104.84. Klonopin costs $65.93 for
30-days of 2 mg tablets. The price of a 30-day supply of 10 mg Ambien is
$145.99, and 20 mg Celexa costs $96.99 for 30-days. Amy�s two-day stay in the
mental ward cost her family�s insurance company about $8,000 and an $800
co-payment for Amy and her husband.
The assertion that all these sick women are going without
treatment is absurd. More prescriptions are written for psychiatric drugs every
year in this country than for antibiotics or diabetes medications. On June 30,
2008, CNN Money reported that, for the �sixth year in a row,� antidepressants
were the number one class of drugs prescribed in the US
in 2007. CNN cited a report by the pharmacy benefit manager, Medco Health
Solutions, that said 16 percent of women ages 20-44 take antidepressants.
In 2007, the branded atypical antipsychotics generated $15.9
billion in manufacturer sales in the seven major global markets, with $12.3
billion of those sales in the US, according to
an April 2008 report by Sandra Chow on the Decision Resources website.
Thousands of infants harmed
In a September 18, 2008 letter to members of Congress urging
them to vote against the Mother�s Act, Unite For Life reported that the
estimated number of antidepressant-caused infant deaths and injuries over the
past four years, based on data from the FDA�s MedWatch, were: 4,360 babies born
with serious or life-threatening birth defects; 4,160 babies born with
potentially fatal heart defects or heart disease; 2,900 spontaneous abortions;
and 3,000 premature births.
The so-called experts supporting the Mother�s Act constantly
minimize the risks. However, a study titled, �Acute Neonatal Effects of Cocaine
Exposure During Pregnancy,� in the September 2005 Archives of Pediatric and
Adolescent Medicine describes adverse effects for cocaine exposed babies eerily
similar to those in babies born to mothers taking antidepressants: �Several
central and autonomic nervous system findings, which included
hypertonia, jitteriness or tremors, high-pitched cry, difficulty
arousing, irritability, excessive suck, and hyperalertness, were
noted more frequently on the initial physical examination in the
cocaine-exposed cohort. During the hospitalization, the diagnoses of
seizures and autonomic instability were more frequently noted in
The warnings and precautions section on current labeling for
SSRIs and SNRIs contains the following statement: Neonates exposed �late in the
third trimester have developed complications requiring prolonged
hospitalization, respiratory support, and tube feeding. . . . Reported clinical
findings have included respiratory distress, cyanosis, apnea, seizures,
temperature instability, feeding difficulty, vomiting, hypoglycemia, hypotonia,
hypertonia, hyperreflexia, tremor, jitteriness, irritability, and constant
crying. These features are consistent with either a direct toxic effect of
SSRIs and SNRIs or, possibly, a drug discontinuation syndrome.�
Besides the agony endured by these infants and their
families, the additional medical costs are enormous. In 2005, commercial
insurers paid an average of $4,247 per day for babies in neonatal intensive
care, according to Thomson Healthcare. Direct health care costs for a premature
baby average $41,610 or 15 times higher than the $2,830 for a healthy,
full-term delivery, a March of Dimes May 2007 report on Preterm Birth
Advocates of the Mother�s Act claim mental illness poses a
greater risk to the mother than drug use to fetus. �The problem with this claim
is that there is no consideration for the immense stress a mother has to endure
when her baby is sick due to this drug use,� says Kate Gillespie, an attorney
who handles birth defect litigation at the Los Angeles
based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman law firm.
�Not to mention the far greater stress that is created by
having to constantly deal with life and death health issues, like severe heart
defects and respiratory problems, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension of
the newborn, caused by SSRI medication,� she notes.
Baum Hedlund is currently representing over 200 families
whose babies were born with birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects
to PPHN after the mothers used SSRIs.
Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Scoop
Independent News and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption
in government and corporate America. Disclosure: This was written as part of
the SSRI Litigation Round-Up, Sponsored by Baum, Hedlund, Aristei &
Goldman�s Pharmaceutical Litigation Department, www.baumhedlundlaw.com.
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