Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is There Ever An Appropriate Use for Psychiatric Drugs in the Military?

Regarding Military taking steps to limit the use of antipsychotics for PTSD, (David Sell, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/13/12), we are told the Pentagon admits to “suspicions” that the the problem might be the “overprescribing” of antipsychotics when, in fact, antipsychotics mixed with antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs have been killing hundreds, of soldiers and veterans, at home and abroad. Maybe more.

In a February 7, 2008 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, the Army's recently departed Surgeon General, said there has been "a series, a sequence of deaths" in the new "warrior transition units” (WTUs).

On April 13, 2009, Baughman wrote the Office of the Surgeon General (OTSG) pressing Schoomaker about his "series, sequence of deaths" statement and the existence of an analysis of these deaths said to be forthcoming. On April 17, 2009, the OTSG responded: "The assessment is still pending and has not been released yet." Nor has such a disclosure ever been released.

Andrew White, son of Stan and Shirley White was one of four soldiers from the Charleston, WV area, seemingly OK at bedtime only to be found dead in bed hours later. These are not “overdoses” with central nervous system (CNS) depressant drugs causing steadily deepening coma leading to respiratory depression and death, as the the Surgeon General, the Inspector General of the Veterans Administration, and the whole of the Pentagon would have us believe, blaming the victims. Rather, these are “sudden unexpected deaths,” a.k.a. sudden cardiac deaths with most of the deceased having been seen alive and apparently well within the preceding 12 hours. Some, in fact, were seen as recently as 2-3 hours previously when they had laid down to take a nap.

Googling “soldier found dead, “dead in barracks,” “dead in bed,” etc. we have uncovered 314 such deaths of mostly males in their 20s—probable sudden cardiac deaths. Three hundred and fourteen! And we find more each time we return to the grim task.

Sicouri & Antezelevitch (Expert Opinion. Drug Saf. (2008) 7 (2):181-194.) conclude: “A number of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs are known to increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Antipsychotics can increase cardiac risk even at low doses whereas antidepressants do it generally at high doses or in the setting of drug combinations.”

Honkola et al (European Heart Journal, online September 14, 2011 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr368) conclude: “The use of psychotropic drugs, especially the combined use of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, is strongly associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD)…” These are all risks long-known to government and military medicine. Who made such drugging policy?

In June 2011, a Department of Defense Health Advisory Group backed a highly questionable policy of "polypharmacy" (five, ten or fifteen drugs at a time) asserting: "...multiple psychotropic meds may be appropriate in select individuals." The fact of the matter is that psychotropic drug polypharmacy is never safe, scientific, or medically justifiable. What it is, is a means of maximizing profit, while making it difficult-to-+impossible to blame adverse effects on any one drug.

From 2001 to the present, US Central Command has given deploying troops 180 day supplies of prescription psychotropic drugs--Seroquel included. In a May 2010 report of its Pain Management Task Force, the Army endorsed Seroquel in 25- or 50-milligram doses as a 'sleep aid.' Over the past decade, $717 million was spent for Risperdal and $846 million for Seroquel, or $1.5 billion when neither Risperdal nor Seroquel have been proven safe or effective for PTSD or sleep disorders.

Ironically, yet not surprisingly, pay-to-play in Washington becomes more egregious every day. Heather Bresch, daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV) was recently named CEO of WV drug-maker Mylan Inc., that recently contracted with the DoD for over 20 million doses of Seroquel. Defense Department Health Advisory Group chair, Charles Fogelman, warned: "DoD currently lacks a unified pharmacy database that reflects medication use across pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment settings." In essence, through a premeditated lack of record keeping, mandated by law at any other pharmacy or medical office to track potential fatal reactions to mixing prescription drugs, the military is willfully preempting all investigations into the injuries and deaths due to these and other psychiatric drugs.

We call on the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the House and Senate Armed Services and House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to tell concerned Americans and the families of fallen heroes what psychiatric drugs each of the deceased, both combat and non-combat, soldiers, and veterans were on? It is time for the military and government to come clean. Until they do there can be no such thing as the appropriate prescribing of such drugs in the military--either at home or abroad.

By Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD* & Stan White**

**Father of deceased soldiers Andrew (dead in bed at home) and Robert White (dead in combat in Iraq)

No comments: