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Real-Life Horrors Fuel Growing Outrage over Deadly ADHD Drugs

Parents, Human Rights Advocates Call for FDA's Strongest "Black-Box" Warning or an Outright Ban

By Michael Richard Burke

The controversy over the many deaths and irreversible damage caused by psychiatric drugs prescribed for children labeled with ADD ("Attention-Deficit Disorder") and ADHD ("Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder") continues to grow.

It is fueled, at least in part, by the tears and anguish of parents who have experienced firsthand the horror of seeing their once-happy children destroyed by drugs that, it was claimed, would help them. Parents' groups and human rights organizations have joined congressional critics and whistle-blowers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in calling for the FDA to take action.

The explosive nature of the issue was evident at a March 22, 2006, hearing in Gaithersburg, Maryland, during which parents and representatives of human rights groups told the FDA's Pediatric Advisory Committee that parents must be warned these drugs often harm and sometimes kill.

"Parents are being misled and children are being harmed, and in some cases destroyed," testified Bruce Wiseman, U.S. President of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an organization established by the Church of Scientology in 1969 to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. Wiseman charged that the FDA "has turned a blind eye to pharmaceutical marketing strategies that do not fully disclose the life-threatening risks associated with ADHD drugs."

At issue during the hearing was a proposal to order the placing of "black box" warnings — the FDA's strongest action short of an outright ban — on amphetamine-type drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta, known generically as methylphenidate, and others prescribed to children and adolescents for ADHD and ADD. The proposal grew out of an increasing number of scientific studies and mounting evidence that show such drugs cause obsessive thoughts about violence and suicide as well as a host of other dangerous physical and psychological side effects, including psychosis and mania.

From Daydreaming to Suicide

Sharon Keintz told the panel, "I am a retired teacher, a current school trustee, and the grandmother of a 17-year-old grandson, who after 11 years on psychiatric drugs, will NEVER be healthy or whole."

She explained with bitterness that her happy and energetic 6-year-old grandson had been transformed by the drugs into a "shuffling, struggling-to-focus, unable-to-concentrate, academically failing, chemically lobotomized mental patient."

Another witness, Moira Dolan, M.D., deputy director of the Medical Accountability Network, a non-profit organization of health care professionals which seeks to restore integrity in medicine, pointed out that "treatment of ADHD can be fatal." She challenged the panel to recommend suitable warnings, noting, "you are no doubt aware of the extensive post-marketing studies of stimulants as well as Strattera (a drug prescribed for ADHD) that have shown the children who are being drugged for daydreaming are found hanging by their shoelaces in the school bathroom."

At the hearing, battle lines were clearly drawn between parents and human rights groups, on the one side, and drug companies and psychiatrists on the other. While the parents passionately called for the adoption of the black box warnings, drug company representatives and psychiatrists that profit from the multibillion-dollar ADHD drug industry recommended the panel do nothing.

Moratorium Proposed

Top experts such as pediatric neurologist Fred Baughman, M.D., have for years pointed out that the ADD and ADHD diagnoses themselves are fraudulent and based upon no science. "There is no such thing as a psychiatric disease," Baughman told the FDA panel. "Psychiatric drugs appeared in the '50s. Psychiatry and Big Pharma married and gave birth to the chemical imbalance lie."

A special National Institutes of Health panel, Baughman noted, had acknowledged that no independent, valid test for ADHD exists, and that there are no data to indicate that ADHD is a brain malfunction.

"There's nothing more despicable than a physician who knowingly tells normal patients that they are diseased for profit, yet this has become standard practice throughout medicine and at the FDA as well," he testified.

In recent years, the FDA has required black box warnings for psychiatric "antidepressant" drugs for children and adults. Since October 2004, at least 19 official warnings about the hazards of psychiatric drugs have been issued by governmental health authorities around the world, as more and more evidence of harm has rolled in.

But, with a growing number of studies tying ADHD and ADD drugs to sudden death, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, liver toxicity and child suicide, many want the FDA to go beyond a black box warning for these substances.

"The all too obvious bottom line is that the pharmaceutical industry, awash in their billions of child-drugging revenue, will not police themselves," Wiseman of CCHR testified. He challenged the FDA to set aside its bias in favor of the pharmaceutical industry and do its job: protect the American consumer.

"A moratorium should be ordered on these drugs immediately," he told the panel. "Failing that, a black box warning must be ordered for all ADHD drugs so that parents and children are fully and truthfully informed about their life-threatening risks."

The importance of the issue was underscored by speaker number 42, Mrs. Jacqueline Bessner.

She told the moving story of Leanne, her 15-year-old daughter, a high school sophomore who was popular, beautiful, acted in school plays, loved sports, played baseball, and ironically wore number 42 on her high school's varsity basketball team.

Choking back tears, Mrs. Bessner told the panel that Leanne "will not run another base, or shoot another free throw or tease her little sister, or share memories with her own children because on October 9th (2005), she took her life."

Leanne had come to her complaining about problems concentrating, a not uncommon teenage problem. She took Leanne to a counselor, who gave an ADD diagnosis. A recommendation was sent to their family doctor, who prescribed Concerta.

On September 18, 2005, the doctor doubled the dosage after Leanne told her mother she wasn't seeing any improvement.

On October 9, Mrs. Bessner found her daughter in her bedroom, hanging from her loft bed with a belt around her neck.

"Amongst my screams," she explained, "I recall her beautiful brown eyes partially open. She's dead."

Fred Baughman told Freedom, "The psychiatric drugging of normals of all ages is the biggest health care fraud in U.S. history. The right to informed consent — universally abrogated by such lies — must be restored to U.S. medicine."

"Time will tell if the FDA chooses to assume responsibility for its job of safeguarding the American public by issuing a black box warning on the ADHD drugs," said Wiseman, "or if, as one FDA whistleblower, Dr. David Graham, claimed in discussing the Vioxx debacle, there is indeed a basic question as to the 'FDA's commitment to removing unsafe drugs from the market.'"

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