Editorialist Gets It Wrong

Some of these would be mental health experts don’t know what they’re talking about. One case in point is that of Anne Ziegler writing in the editorial corner for the Fierce Healthcare website, No drug reform, no relief for the poor.

Mrs. Ziegler would take two seemingly disparate news stories, 1. Seroquel is being sold as a street drug, and 2. Senator Grassley investigating a certain Miami doctor for over prescribing prescription psychiatric drugs, and she would try to unite these two stories into a single story with a single message. This story being that these drugs are priced so high that the poor can’t afford them.

She even goes so far as to suggest that Seroquel is a life saving drug. That Seroquel can also be a life destroying drug seems to be a bit of information that hasn’t entered her consciousness yet.

Is Grassley target Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil an overprescriber? I don’t know, of course; but I do know that it’s likely some poor people got at least some of what they needed. Should street drug users buy and sell Seroquel? Definitely not, but if they’re too poor to buy it at retail, don’t have insurance and don’t have access to a psychiatrist, they’re going to do it anyway, particularly given that many are the untreated mentally ill.

The people buying these drugs off the street are not the labeled mentally ill as a rule. Seroquel is being peddled for its qualities as a sleeping pill. We may need to look more closely at just who would purchase street drugs, but these drugs are not being sold for their ‘medicinal’ qualities to people who are looking for a cure to their ills. They are also not being sold to people who need Seroquel. You have doctor’s to do that. If these ‘poor people’ had a diagnosis, believe me, paying for the pills wouldn’t be such a big problem.

But thanks to some bought and paid for legislators, we get no cheap drug reimportation, no strong price controls for drugs given to Medicaid patients, no significant pressure to curb “pay-for-delay” schemes bypassing generic competition; in sum, the poor are largely on their own.

‘Bought and paid for legislators’? By whom? By Astrazeneca, the maker’s of Seroquel? Does she have no idea as to whose bank accounts are feeding these legislators? If she does, she doesn’t go into it, laying the blame entirely on the legislators instead.

Then there is this ‘no strong price controls for drugs given to Medicaid patients’. Is this a slip of her typing finger? Her conclusion would be that ‘the poor are largely on their own’. Not those poor who are on Medicaid, our public insurance policy. This Medicaid is paying for their prescription drugs. The poor don’t pay for this insurance, and the drugs it buys for them, the taxpayers pay for it all. The very same taxpayers who are paying the saleries of those legislators she mentioned earlier.

She would make Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil an exception, and perhaps even an exception to be commended. Her assumption is that Dr. Mendez-Villamil is alone in his zealous over use of the prescription drug. He isn’t. The Chicago Tribute, conducting it’s own investigations, has been looking at one Dr. Michael Reinstein who has been overprescribing these drugs to patients in the Chicago area.

Dr. Mendez-Villamil and Dr. Reinstein I feel certain are only the tip of the iceburg. First you need someone in any area who cares intensely enough to launch an investigation into the matter. Dr. Reinstein is being investigated not only because he is quick to prescribe pills, but because some of the people under his care who had been prescribed these pills have died, undoubtably as a result of the drugs they were on.

Dr. Mendez-Villamil and Dr. Reinstein are definitely not the only people in the overprescription of the psychiatric drug business. The British are investigating the overprescription of psychiatric drugs in their nursing homes now. I have commented more than once about ongoing investigations into the overprescribing of psychiatric drugs to foster children and the elderly.

Sometimes two disparate stories, dealing with what’s going on in two different and distant locations, are not so related after all. Sometimes the facts of the matter are not so simple as one might have imagined them to be. Sometimes one needs to take a good long and hard look at all the facts before one jumps to an erronious conclusion. I suggest that Mrs. Ziegler should study the subject of the over prescription of psychiatric drugs more closely before she makes any more preposterous statements on the subject.

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