Wednesday, March 02, 2005


A Front Group for the Psycho-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex

TeenScreen—Psychs and drug companies look for new customers: school kids
TeenScreen is a so-called "diagnostic psychiatric service" aka a "suicide survey" done on children who are then referred to psychiatric treatment. The evidence suggests that the objective of the psychiatrists who designed TeenScreen is to place children so selected on psychotropic drugs.
"...just a way to put more people on prescription drugs" — Marcia Angell
"It's just a way to put more people on prescription drugs," said Marcia Angell, a medical ethics lecturer at Harvard Medical School and author of "The Truth About Drug Companies." She said such programs will boost the sale of antidepressants even after the FDA in September ordered a "black box" label warning that the pills might spur suicidal thoughts or actions in minors. (The New York Post, December 5, 2004)

Suicides on decline, despite TeenScreen/media hysteria

TeenScreen attempts to create in the media, a suicide hysteria, when in fact suicides are on the decline. The suicide rate for ages 10 to 19 fell from 6.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 1992 to 4.6 per 100,000 in 2001, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 1991, 10 of 100,000 people in Florida ages 10-24 committed suicide. By 1999, that number had dropped to six out of 100,000.
TeenScreen was developed by psychiatrist David Shaffer of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute's Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Shaffer is a consultant (see page 21 of this Executive Summary report) and apologist of pharmaceutical companies. Shaffer has served as an expert witness for various drug companies and a consultant on various psychotropic drugs.

Shaffer attempts to block negative British findings

In December of 2003 British drug regulators recommended against the use of antidepressants in the treatment of depressed children under 18 because some of the drugs had been linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. According to a December 11, 2003, New York Times article, Shaffer at the request of a maker of psychotropic drugs attempted to block the British findings, sending a letter to the British drug agency saying that there was insufficient data to restrict the use of the drugs in adolescents.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sent out a press release on May 8, 2000, that said Shaffer was their president and they had just released a national survey they had done on suicide. The funder of the survey? A pharmaceutical company. . Shaffer's American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has also received $1,250,000 from yet another drug company.

FDA orders "black box" warnings on anti-depressants

Just this last October, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, announced that all drugs used to treat depression must carry a black box warning label, advising that children and teens may become suicidal when taking the drugs.

Study in Pinellas County finds links between drugs and psych treatment to suicides

In Pinellas County, Florida, an ongoing research project has already established that a large majority of teens who committed suicide were on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment. In the years 2002 and 2003, 81% of the suicides were either on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment. This percentage may rise as the research continues.
On Feb 2, 2004, a scientific advisory panel urged the Food and Drug Administration to issue stronger warnings to doctors about the possible risks to children because of antidepressant drugs. Shaffer told the advisory committee (see page 76) that he doesn't have a better explanantion for the drop in suicides than the growing use of antidepressants! But he said, "we don't know if they are related".
"Since 1991, the Columbia University Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has invested nearly $19 million in the research and development of the Columbia TeenScreen program."

TeenScreen attempts to rewrite its own history

Since this web page you are reading: "TeenScreen: A Front Group for the Psycho-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex" has gone online, TeenScreen has decided to revise it's history. They sent out a press release May 13, 2003 which was included here on this web page. On January 14, 2005 it was discovered that they revised that old press release by deleting one sentence. This is the sentence they deleted:
Proof that TeenScreen recently revised the old press release:Press release dated May 13, 2003 which was found as an archived web page on Yahoo and the recently revised press release dated May 13, 2003 that shows TeenScreen deleted the first sentence of the 2nd last paragraph which contained the $19 million quote.
TeenScreen no longer has any reference to this $19 million dollars on their web site.
Needless to say, all references are being saved before TeenScreen does anymore of their "disappearing acts".
The $19 million dollar reference can still be found elsewhere on the web sites of organizations TeenScreen does not control, here and here for example.

Drug giant funds TeenScreen

TeenScreen and Columbia University refuse to divulge the source of this funding. One corner of the Internet did give a clue to the funding: A large pharmaceutical company funded the TeenScreen program in Tennessee. (See page 4, left, mid-page).
Although the name TeenScreen was not mentioned, the New York Times, reported, on December 17, 1998 that William J. Ruane, an investment advisor put $8 million into the screening research of Shaffer, the TeenScreen psychiatrist.
As far back as 1995, Ruane already had a "longstanding relationship" (see bottom of reference) with Shaffer. In June of 1995 the Ruanes funded a professorship of Pediatric Psychopharmacology at Columbia University which "supported training and research into the effectiveness of psychopharmacological agents in treating childhood psychiatric disorders".
Laurie Flynn, TeenScreen's director, searches out teens who have committed suicide and then writes letters to the editors throughout the country, promoting TeenScreen as the "solution". Flynn is no stranger to the pharmaceutical industry. She formally served as the head of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill which received millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies. Flynn has a tough time selling TeenScreen. TeenScreen has resorted to luring kids with movie rental coupons and food and drink coupons, simply for the return of a release form, whether or not the student agrees to be screened.
The Psychiatric Times reported in March of 1998 that Ruane and wife Joy, gave 1.5 million to study the effects of psychiatric drugs in children to the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Shaffer's home base.

NY Psychiatric Institute gives psychotropic drugs to kids without informing parents about risks

According to a New York Post article in 1999, the New York State Psychiatric Institute conducted experiments on kids, some as young as 6, with a powerful mood-altering drug and failed to tell the children or their parents about the most serious risks. While testing the drug on 30 severely depressed patients ages 12 to 18, researcher's notes indicated "Some patients have been reported to have an increase in suicidal thoughts and/or violent behavior". Records showed that at least four experiments used this drug on young children including one funded by a large pharmaceutical company.
Flynn perjured herself in a Capitol Hill Hearing on March 2, 2004, in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Bill H.R. 3063, when she testified: "In partnership with the University of South Florida we are piloting district wide mental health screening of 9th graders in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties". But in fact, the day before Flynn's testimony, the Hillsborough County School District said they were not partnering with TeenScreen, did not feel comfortable with the information provided by TeenScreen and had serious concerns about TeenScreen including liability and risk issues. In Pinellas County, TeenScreen is presently prohibited from doing their suicide survey because Board policy protects the identity of students when surveys are done. In addition, the Pinellas County School Board Superintendent, Dr. Clayton Wilcox, has serious reservations about partnering with such an organization.

Shern & Doan lobby to collect names of students

In Florida, David Shern and his sidekick, Justin Doan, both of the Florida Mental Health Institute are attempting to lobby the Pinellas County School Board to change it's policy on anonymous surveys of children. Shern wants the school board policy changed so that he can obtain the child's name after he does his version of the "suicide" survey. He does not want student surveys to be anonymous, as they are now under existing regulations.
Even U.S. governing the Census Bureau requires that any information collected from the public be maintained as confidential. There are penalties of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for wrongful disclosure of confidential census information
What treatment? Psychotropic Drugging, of course
Several professional organizations dealing with survey methods have codes of ethics (including the American Statistical Association) that prescribe rules for keeping survey responses confidential. The recommended policy for survey organizations to safeguard such confidentiality includes presenting statistical tabulations by broad enough categories so that individual respondents cannot be singled out.
Yet, Shern wants to get at the names of individual students so they can be targeted for "treatment".

Foster Care report warns of adverse side effects of drugs on children

A report entitled "Psychotropic Drug Use in Foster Care", by the Florida Statewide Advocacy Council, discovered that of the 1,180 children reviewed 652 were on one or more psychotropic drugs. The report warned of the side effects of these drugs including suicidal tendencies. The report concluded that unnecessary dispensing of psychotropic drugs remains a threat to the children. They recommended that their findings be incorporated into an agenda in order to preserve and protect the health, safety, welfare and rights of children.
The Florida Mental Health Institute under Shern's direction received $180,000 from Columbia's TeenScreen. Mr. Shern and his FMHI have also raked in cash from pharmaceutical companies to study anti-psychotic drugs: $381,664 from a major pharmaceutical company and $130,416 from another.
The Tampa Tribune posed some good questions on March 7, 2004: "What if someone at risk is identified, but there's no one who can help? What if the test misses someone at risk? What if the test falsely identifies someone who isn't at risk?"
"Liability comes up immediately," Shern said.

TeenScreen has no proof that screening reduces suicide rates

As to studies on TeenScreen itself, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (top U.S. Government Research outfit) report of May of 2004 states:A. There is no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.B. There is limited evidence on the accuracy of screening tools to identify suicide risk.C. There is insufficient evidence that treatment of those at high risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.D. No studies were found that directly address the harms of screening and treatment for suicide risk.
TeenScreen has no proof that their survey reduces suicide rates. The co-director of TeenScreen Rob Caruano, says that suicides are so rare that you'd have to screen the whole country to see a difference in mortality between screened and unscreened students.
So much for the workability of TeenScreen.

A dream come true for pharmaceutical companies

In Colorado (in link see 3rd section from the bottom) over 350 youths were suicide screened using TeenScreen's survey. They found that over 50% were at risk of suicide and 71% screened positive for psychiatric disorder(s) at a youth homeless shelter. That's not science! That's a dream come true for pharmaceutical company marketing types and bean counters.
TeenScreen was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1997 . According to a 2003 Tulsa World newspaper article, Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, stated: "To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest number of youth suicides we've ever had during the school year -- a number we find very frightening."
Mark Taylor, who was shot several times during the April 1999 massacre at Columbine high schools says that programs like TeenScreen experiment on kids, who will eventually end up on psychotropic drugs, according to an August 16, 2002 Arizona Republic article. He attributes the Columbine incident to the fact that the shooters were on antidepressants. He pleads to stop the drugging of students.
TeenScreen blatantly hails antidepressants as the "cure" (see slide 11) for suicide.
TeenScreen is purely and simply a marketing scam to sell psychotropic drugs. When they use "even if we save one life" as an argument to arouse emotions in parents that truly care, they are lying. They are not saving lives. TeenScreen is the marketing entrance point for the real killers - psychotropic drugs and the psychotherapists who prescribe them.
Check out Mr. Rabin's 10 year plan to implement TeenScreen so that "every teen in the United States has access to this free mental health check-up".

Pinellas School Board receives hundreds of e-mails against TeenScreen

Note: In Florida, e-mails to public agencies such as school boards are public record. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails continue to pour into the Pinellas County School Board AGAINST TeenScreen. They are being obtained under Florida public records law. It is interesting to note, that of only 4 or 5 written FOR TeenScreen, one was from a Mr. Steve Rabin. Mr. Rabin is the head honcho at Rabin Strategic Partners, a public relations firm in New York City. Rabin complained about a certain website that was "using misinformation to scare the board into inaction". Some of Mr. Rabin's clients include Columbia University, (the homebase for TeenScreen) The Carmel Hill Center for the Early Diagnosis & Treatment of Mental Illness, (oversees the TeenScreen program) and the maker of a psychotropic drug. That pharmaceutical company admitted hiding from the public that their psychotropic drug increases the risk of potentially fatal illnesses. The Miami Herald reported that the drug was commonly used on childen in state care. Child-welfare advocates said the drug was being used by foster care providers as a "chemical restraint" on children.

Penn-Harris-Madison Schools in Mishawaka, Indiana

Teresa and Michael Rhoades, parents in Osceola, Indiana became aware that their daughter was "suicide screened" without any parental consent whatsoever. TeenScreen was administered there by the Madison Center and they used what they call passive consent, a skimpy form with no warnings. Parents who did not sign the form and return it were considered to have given permission for the "suicide" screening. The trouble is Teresa and Michael did not receive a consent form.

Pinellas School Board says NO to TeenScreen

On January 25, 2005, the Pinellas County School Board decided in front of many concerned citizens that TeenScreen should not be implemented there. School Board member Jane Gallucci said that she was angry that Laurie Flynn, of Columbia University, told a U.S. Senate committee on health and education matters 10 months ago that pilot TeenScreen programs were operating in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Board Chairwoman Nancy Bostock called the program "an intrusion for our students.'' False labels could embarrass students and cause turmoil at home. "We could seriously do more harm than good," she said.
Children were "suicide" screened by the Madison Center using TeenScreen's subjective survey and then the students (customers) were referred to the Madison Center. This is a very clear conflict of interest.
The Rhoades family felt that not all parents were fully informed and therefore could not make an informed decision.
The first of a series of newspaper articles that appeared in the South Bend Tribune in Indiana on the subject of TeenScreen described a youth who had committed suicide. Was this young man on psychotropic drugs or had he received psychiatric treatment previous to his death as the vast majority of Pinellas County teen suicides had?
Yes. He had received treatment at the Madison Center. The same outfit who wants to administer TeenScreen there.
Teresa Rhoades and other parents are angry that TeenScreen infiltrated their school system.
Local TV and newspaper covered this entire story. One newspaper reported about a half-page ad that ran in the paper there against TeenScreen: "The ad says diagnosis of psychological problems is entirely subjective and there is no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts."
On February 28th, 2005, the Superintendent recommended in front of concerned parents that TeenScreen be suspended pending a thorough study and also recommended that "passive consent" be abolished.