On September 27, Psychiatric Services, a journal of the APA, published an article called Blog Brings Doctors, Patients Together to Address MH Issues. It was written by Vabren Watts, a Psychiatric News Journalist.
The article is a booster piece for the recently-formed CFYM (Care For Your Mind):
“…an online forum for people with mood disorders—along with their families and psychiatrists—to discuss the mental health care system and changes that may affect them under health care reform.”
The article tells us that CFYM is a
“…joint venture by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA).”
The author trots out the usual statistics:
“According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mood disorders affect 21 million people in the United States annually, are linked to 90 percent of the nation’s suicides, and cost $23 billion a year in lost workdays. Despite the prevalence of these illnesses and the serious sequelae, only about half who need care receive adequate treatment.”
Susan Weinstein, JD, director of programming and marketing at FFDA is quoted as saying:
“We are looking at the Affordable Care Act to open a lot of doors for people to get mental health care access.”
Cheryl Magrini, Ph.D., vice president of the DBSA Board of Directors is quoted:
“The ACA can be so confusing….I’m finally learning about what it means for people to get access to insurance and what actions to take that will lead us down the quickest road to access it,”
“Our hope is that, by learning about current mental health care issues and engaging in the Care for Your Mind community, we will all come together to help increase everyone’s access to, and improve the quality of, mental health care in America.”
“By learning about the issues and engaging in this dialogue, you will help increase everyone’s access to, and improve the quality of, mental health care in America.”
At the end of the “About” page, however, you’ll find this:
“The Takeda Lundbeck Alliance’s involvement in Care for Your Mind (CFYM) is solely as a financial supporter. The Takeda-Lundbeck Alliance was not, and is not, involved in the organizing of CFYM, creation of the content on CareForYourMind.org, or content or development of enduring materials created for or related to CFYM.”
I had never heard of the Takeda Lundbeck Alliance, but I discovered on the Internet that it was formed in 2007:
“…to Develop and Commercialize a Portfolio of Novel Compounds in the US and Japan for the Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders”
And CFYM is trying to give us the impression that this alliance’s funding comes with no strings attached. Let them highlight a few hard-hitting survivor articles and see how quickly the funding evaporates.
And speaking of funding, DBSA, one of the creators of CFYM, receives a great deal of pharma money. According to their annual report for 2011, the latest year I could find, Lilly, Forest, Janssen, and Pfizer all made contributions above $25,000; Merck contributed in the $10,000-24,999 range; and Alexza in the $2,500-4,999 range. In the 2010 report, AstraZeneca’s contributions were in the $150,000-499,999 bracket, and in the 2009 report, both AstraZeneca and Wyeth were in the $150,000-499,999 bracket!
I was unable to find an annual report for FFDA. However, according to Dollars for Docs, Scott Aaronson, MD, one of FFDA’s Advisory Board members, received more than $300,000 of pharma money between 2009 and 2012.
CFYM’s inaugural post Access to Care was written by Ron Manderscheid, PhD. He’s the Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Development Disability Directors (NACBHDD).
In the inaugural article, Dr. Manderscheid trots out the standard statistics: e.g.
“Mental disorders affect 1 in 4 US adults (45.6 million) and children/youth (15.6 million)”
He also sings the standard lament that only 40% of these ever get mental health services. Here are some quotes:
“Without diagnosis and treatment, people get sicker faster.”
“Access to evaluation and diagnosis can help prevent or delay the onset of these conditions. Access to early intervention can move people with diagnosed mood disorders and other mental health conditions toward health and recovery.”
Since their inauguration on May 1 of this year, CFYM has been busy. They have put up 67 posts in six months. Their general themes are:
- promotion of the medicalization of human problems
- need for increased access to treatment
- treatment consists primarily of drugs – especially modern drugs
- the need for mental health preventive programs and screening in schools
- need for mental health preventive programs and screening in the workplace
- expansion of mental health coverage
- working to bring about parity for mental health coverage
Intuitively we know why pharma funds these advocacy groups. But there’s an interesting article in PharmExec October 2004, that clarifies the issues neatly and succinctly. It’s called Public Relations: Why Advocacy Beats DTC, and was written by Josh Weinstein, a pharmaceutical executive.
Josh criticizes the in-your-face direct-to-consumer marketing of pharma products.
“…exercises of this type do little to dissuade consumers from the belief that pharma companies have more money than they know what to do with—and those ads are not good for brands, or the industry, in the long run.”
Then the author lays out what he calls the “responsible alternative”:
“On the other hand, working with advocacy groups is one of the most accomplished means of raising disease awareness and enhancing the industry’s image as deliverer of new and tangible value to patients. Often this advocacy work is unbranded, stimulating consumers to ask doctors about their symptoms. Then, companies can compete by promoting their brands to physicians.” [Emphasis added]
CFYM and its sponsors DBSA and FFDA are just cogs in the huge pharma-psychiatric machine in which people’s lives are sacrificed for the sake of corporate profits.