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.


  1. Missed those programs so will be looking for iview later.
    Use of Seroquel generally needs a decent, not a Sir Humphrey, investigation. My view is that of a layman who experienced a family member given this more as a chemical cosh than for anything to do with the indications for use. Tony Jones last year also interviewed Mark Butler re the use of it in Aged Care Facilities where it was estimated thousands of deaths PA could be attributed to the use of Seroquel and the other one Risperidone?. In typical fashion politicians just ignore it and hope the fuss dies down. Mark Butler is on Q&A Monday night so lets hope the question is pursued. In the meantime it's obvious from my personal inquiries that the Medicare/PBS system doesn't detect over-prescription as it is supposed to, the streamlined authority system is a nonsense, the number of scripts for it is accelerating according to the latest data and a huge number of us must therefore be schizophrenic or with Bi-polar! And with all the fuss made about budgetary constraints preventing the listing on the PBS of vital new drugs one could be excused for asking what gives.The info by the way for those statements are derived from the TGA itself in comment by one of the 'grown ups' there.

  2. Interesting observations. We no longer need to cite serious mental illnesses as reasons why anti-psychotic drugs might be prescribed at an accelerating rate. Like many things in psychiatry, the boundaries and rules are being broadened. These drugs aren't limited to bipolar and schizophrenia any more, they are being widely used on mentally disabled people, autistic children (or to be more correct children who have been given an autism spectrum diagnosis), dementia patients in nursing homes and apparently soldiers with PTSD. A few years ago there were some very horrible stories in the US press about the mistreatment of disabled people in institutions. It might have been the New York Times. As I recall it, these drugs were tools of abuse in those cases. This not far from the US state in which the Judge Rotenberg Centre is situated.