Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Frightening report on the ABC about dangers of anti-psychotic drug Seroquel

Concerns grow over top-selling drug's side effects. 7.30.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 27/11/2013
Reporter: Louise Milligan

"....doctors are warning the drug is being massively overprescribed and the potentially dangerous side-effects are being ignored."

This is a shocking and important report. Nice work Louise. 

The drug Quetiapine (brand name Seroquel) stands out among other anti-psychotic drugs for two reasons: the astronomical increase in the rate of prescription of this drug in the last ten years in Australia far outstrips the rates of prescription of other anti-psychotic drugs, and the measured rate of cases of serious harm to patients from side-effects of the drug also far outstrip those of other anti-psychotic drugs. As if that is crazy enough, consider the fact that that this drug is also prescribed for depression even though it comes with an increased risk of suicide compared to other anti-psychotic drugs. Something must be seriously wrong with medicine in Australia when increased potential for harm sit alongside spectacular prescriber popularity. 

Grave concerns about side effects are by no means the only reason why this drug has been hitting the headlines in the last few years. Readers of this blog might recall that the celebrity psychiatrist Prof. Patrick McGorry tried to trial this drug on patients thought to be at risk of developing psychosis in 2011 in a trial that was known as the NEURAPRO-Q study, but that study was closed down following objections from McGorry’s international peers. The drug has also been the subject of a deluge of litigation in the United States, which should surprise no one. So why does this drug continue to elicit such huge popularity with Australian doctors, and is even sought after by some as a drug of abuse? I think there’s no over-estimating the power of marketing and there’s no under-estimating the common sense of my fellow Australians. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Please! More truth and less lies about Sri Lanka, asylum-seekers and the Tamil People

It's a disgrace that the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 is scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka, with its long, ongoing and deplorable record of serious and large-scale human rights abuses. If you don't approve of this, now is the time to make your opposition heard.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lili's political thought for the day

What's the deal with Joe Hockey, all sweating and pale? Regardless of politics, I hope it's just a passing and minor thing.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

McGorry to feature on ABC's show One Plus One?

I saw a promo on ABCTV about an upcoming special on the show One Plus One with Jane Hutcheon featuring Prof. Patrick McGorry. I think they were seeking people for the audience or a forum. Unfortunately I can't find anything at the ABC's website about this to verify the details. 

While I would never advocate that anyone personally bother the professor, I do hope that whatever this show is to be that it isn't a festival of back-slapping from a collection of associates and admirers. There are many elements of McGorry's work that deserve criticism, and there are many critics. I hope these perspectives will be well-represented in the upcoming show. 

Great to hear Martin Whitley on the radio

Are children over-diagnosed? Life Matters. ABC Radio National. 17 June 2013.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

New book by Dr Allen Frances

Dr Allen Frances has a new book out, titled
Saving Normal: An Insider's Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.
interviewed on Lateline:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nice work, Tony.

My amazement has grown over the way that journalists at the ABC's current affairs TV program Lateline have firmly challenged the inappropriate use of anti-psychotic drugs by Australian doctors and psychiatrists. In fact a very good argument could be made that there is no appropriate application of these dangerous and harmful drugs, but I think it would be too much to expect that this argument should be found on Australian TV.

In 2011 Tony Jones interviewed the powerful Irish-Australian psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry. At the time I thought this interview was informed but too soft, and the findings of research that has been done since this interview has shown that much of what McGorry claimed about the effectiveness and evidence-base of the interventions he has been advocating for many years was wrong. In 2012 Tony Jones appeared to be quite personally inflamed when he reported about elderly dementia patients having their lives shortened in Australian nursing homes because of the widespread over-prescription of anti-psychotic drugs.

The last couple of editions of Lateline have examined the issue of a 600 per cent increase in the use of the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel in just five years by Australia's Department of Defence, presumably for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers. Allegations have been made that this drug is being used instead of proper and expensive psychological interventions, is being prescribed in dangerous high doses and is being prescribed inappropriately to treat insomnia symptoms of PTSD. Last night Tony Jones was steadfast in asking questions, recounting evidence and seeking answers in an interview with a clearly very irritated senior person in the Australian Defense Force, our Commander Joint Health and the ADF Surgeon General. The interview was a pleasure to watch. I am sure that there are heaps of journalists who would not have had the confidence to question the practices and administration of a qualified doctor and senior bureaucrat on an issue about the rights or wrongs of medical/psychiatric clinical practice. I am sure that many journalists would simply defer to authority, or be too intimidated to be seen questioning that great sacred cow of Australian popular culture; the "mental health" industry. Not Tony Jones. A good journalist should be hot on the inside, cool on the outside, filled to the brim with all the relevant facts, and able to recognize the truth beyond personal agendas. I think Mr Jones approaches that ideal. Nice work Tony.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Another speculative thought about the interesting case of "Doc" Evatt

A couple of years ago I was amazed to be apparently the first person in the world to identify the fascinating, formidable and not bad looking for a pollie late Australian politician H. V. Evatt as a synaesthete, based on biographical information written by others but not previously analysed in terms of synaesthesia. Evatt was a controversial and enigmatic character, and his coloured days of the week synaesthesia was perhaps one of the least amazing of his characteristics. Synaesthesia certainly wasn't the only interesting thing going on inside the brain of the ALP leader. By all accounts he suffered from a dreadful mental decline for an unknown period of time before his death, which seems like an especially cruel fate for a man who displayed a powerhouse intellect since he was a school-boy. Biographers have put forward a number of theories about the cause of his death and decline. Some wrote of atherosclerosis, some offered convincing evidence that epilepsy was treated as a definite or speculative diagnosis by Evatt's doctor. As you'd expect, some who don't like his politics have asserted that he was simply crazy as a loon. Asperger syndrome has been offered as an explanation of his personality, which is really an empty assertion as that label is itself little more than a description of behaviour. Eccentric behaviour has been noted by a biographers and commentators - a terror of flying, stuffing newspapers under his clothes as insulation against hot weather, sloppy dressing accompanied by a "strine" accent, a cruel manner at times, sleeping few hours a day (as appears to be common among political leaders), and meeting guests fully dressed but lying in bed. In not sure exactly during which period in Evatt's life he liked to go nude, a behaviour admired by another colourful past ALP leader, Mark Latham. Our nation came that close to having a nudist PM, that long ago? That's something to consider. I could be accused of anti-intellectualism in my suspicion that there was something interesting behind Evatt's life-long habit of collecting achievements, but when I read in one biography pages upon pages of description of the academic prizes, positions and honours amassed by Evatt since his earliest school-days, I couldn't help wondering about the powerful driving forces and motivations.  Even his nick-name is an academic achievement. He had a doctorate in law. 

Perhaps the oddest behaviour noted by biographers is the being in bed fully clothed. Why? Sleeping in clothes? An odd attempt to hide physical collapse caused by absence seizures? Some other medical problem causing fainting? I was monkeying about on YouTube, as you do, viewing one of my favourite genres of videos - the medical freak-show, when I came across an episode of the TV series Mystery Diagnosis. There were two interesting medical cases in the episode, but it was the case of swallow syncope in long-suffering patient Martha Bryce that made me think of Evatt. If Evatt had this illness or something like it. it would explain a lot of his eccentricities and also the tragic mental decline. This rare medical condition as an explanation would encompass both the seizure-like and the circulatory symptoms that Evatt appeared to have. If he had it way back in the 1950's in Australia I think most likely it would have been misdiagnosed or not medically understood and not treated effectively. I imagine it would slowly but surely destroy the brain and the mind if untreated, and no one would understand what was happening. What a horrible fate. Could there be any link between synaesthesia and neurally-mediated syncopes? God only knows, but I do know that I, a multi-synaesthete, have experienced some memorable episodes of this type of fainting. 

Rare diseases and medical conditions deserve a greater share of research funding, recognition and donations. Individually these conditions are indeed rare, but as a group rare medical conditions and disorders are not rare at all - many people have one or more rare or uncommon medical issue, but it is the common deadly diseases that get all the attention.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An apology diminished

I hate the way that considerations of mental health and psychiatry have made their way into just about everything that Australian government agencies do. In Canberra today a historic apology to those affected by forced adoption has been made, and right in the middle of the speech there was talk about access to mental health services. It wasn't appropriate. The presence or absence of mental health issues and whether or not affected people seek the services or psychiatrists or psychologists is not a measure of what happened, nor are these things a measure of how serious the issue is. I am so fed up with hearing about mental health in discussions and speeches that are about other things. It's like listening to a tedious a religious person who can't help but bring God or Jesus into every discussion.

We live in a secular society, so we no longer have to put up with such nonsense, but what has happened is that psychiatry has replaced religion in the lives of many Australians, so everyone is now compelled to listen to frequent and inappropriate references to mental health issues and therapies seeping into every corner of public and private life. Mental health is the new religion, and we are made to feel obliged to strive for a new kind of perfection of the soul. A state of perfect mental health has replaced moral perfection as the ideal. It is an idea with some merits but I still believe morals are more important than health, even though I'm an atheist and thus don't hold a religious view of morality. I suspect that it might be the amorality of the new religion that is the reason why so many find it personally attractive. We no longer have to deal with old-style moralizing attitudes but the new flock are just as tedious as the Bible-bashers of old, because all religions have zealots, and zealots insert their views into life at every opportunity, regardless of appropriateness. Winston Churchill defined the fanatic as one who ".... can't change his mind and won't change the subject". This is why we have today had to listen to a description of mental health service provision by the government inserted into a historic apology, an annoying and probably in the eyes of some an insulting distraction. Enough already!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A nod still means yes, last time I checked

I couldn't help noticing Kevin Rudd's head nodding rather a lot after he was asked if his supporters are counting numbers for another leadership challenge.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gillard makes a predictable choice

You are the Prime Minister. You note that there is a lack of Aboriginal representation in your political party in federal parliament. Do you initiate in inquiry to find out why there is a lack of Aboriginal representation in your political party in federal parliament? Do you reform the party's preselection process? Do you consider changing party or government policies with the aim of making the party more popular with indigenous Australians? Or do you walk all over everyone and everything and parachute an Aboriginal celebrity into parliament? 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prof McGorry's pet theory loses battle with reality

I've only just found out about the online publication in late November of last year of a study by former Australian of the Year and influential psychiatrist Prof. Patrick McGorry and his research team, which tested the prof's pet theory that elevated risk for developing psychosis can be identified in young people and treated in an early intervention to prevent a conversion to mental illness.The subjects of the trial were 115 young clients of a PACE clinic in Melbourne. Two supposedly effective forms of intervention were tested: the neuroleptic antipsychotic drug risperidone and cognitive therapy. McGorry's team had planned a couple of years ago to trial a different antipsychotic drug, but that trial was abandoned after complaints from other mental health experts. In this trial only a low dose of the drug risperidone was trialed. Three different combinations of drug or placebo and talking interventions were trialed (check the details for yourself), one being only placebo with "supportive therapy". No significant difference in results was found between the three groups. The supposedly effective interventions apparently weren't found to be any more effective than placebo and a nice chat, and as any true expert in the field of trying to predict risk for developing psychosis could have predicted, a large majority of the youths that had been labelled as being at "ultra-high risk for psychosis" did not become psychotic within the year that the trial was run. Call that ultra-high risk? I certainly don't! The sky isn't falling Henny Penny, and your interventions don't work!

Patrick D. McGorry, MD, PhD; Barnaby Nelson, PhD; Lisa J. Phillips, PhD; Hok Pan Yuen, MSc; Shona M. Francey, PhD; Annette Thampi, MRCPsych; Gregor E. Berger, MD; G. Paul Amminger, MD; Magenta B. Simmons, BA; Daniel Kelly, Grad Dip (Psych); Andrew D. Thompson, MD; and Alison R. Yung, MD (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of Interventions for Young People at Ultra-High Risk of Psychosis: Twelve-Month Outcome. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Submitted: March 16, 2012; accepted September 13, 2012. Online ahead of print: November 27, 2012 (doi:10.4088/JCP.12m07785).

Thank you Neuroskeptic for the interesting blog post about the trial:

Neuroskeptic (2012) Neither Drugs Nor Therapy Prevent Psychosis. Neuroskeptic. December 15th 2012.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The high price of Julia

According to demographer and former Labor senator John Black, by the middle of 2012, with most polls showing Labor's primary vote stuck at 30 per cent, Julia Gillard had cost her party two million votes.

- Maxine McKew, page three in her recent book Tales from the Political Trenches published by Melbourne University Press

This book is my pick as a summer read for Australian readers with an interest in politics. The book is part autobiography, blending with commentary and reporting on the events before, during and after the winter of 2010 when a highly popular Aussie PM in his first term was deposed by lesser beings, throwing the ALP into an abyss of voter unpopularity, pretty much the same abyss that Rudd had only two and a half years earlier pulled the ALP out of. In case you didn't know, McKew had a long and respected career in journalism at a public broadcaster before retiring and successfully later running for the ALP in the 2007 Rudd landslide federal election, and in doing so unseating the Liberal Prime Minister John Howard who till then had appeared to be unassailable. McKew was later unseated in the 2010 federal election which was a choice between political leaders that could be summed up as "dumb and dumber". So, Maxine has heaps and heaps to write about, and she's got the skill in spades to write in a clear and engaging manner. This is probably why this book drew me in, even to read stuff that I'd not otherwise find of interest. The main attraction for me in this book is McKew's debunking of many of the points in the official ALP/Gillard and Swan account of why Rudd had to be removed, and also McKew's general arguments against the integrity and competence of Gillard and Swan. Many anonymous but apparently very senior ALP sources are quoted by McKew regretting the coup of winter 2010. I can completely understand why such sources would insist on anonymity. There's also a quote from Rudd. Two and a half years later, many Australians are still feeling outrage at Gillard and Swan's disloyal grab for power. It must surely go down in Australian political history as the stupidest decision ever.