prescriptions

  1. Mental illness for everyone

    You might not feel mentally ill -- but you are. You just haven't been diagnosed yet.

    The psychiatric industry is getting ready to update its "bible," the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and you're not going to believe what's inside it.

    Just about every common emotion, condition, quirk, challenging life event, or personal flaw will become a disorder to be diagnosed and treated in the new book.

    It's so wacky even the shrinks themselves are protesting it: More than 11,000 mental health professionals and counting have signed an online petition to stop it before it's published.

    But maybe they don't really mean that -- maybe they're just suffering from "oppositional defiant disorder," one of the many proposed new conditions.

    Yes, I AM serious.

    That one's actually aimed at kids, of course, and it's what we used to just call "being a brat" or maybe even a "teenager." The definition includes "performs deliberate actions to annoy others."

    Can you think of a single kid who has never deliberately annoyed others?

    Of course, children aren't the only ones being targeted. You're in the crosshairs, too.

    Sad over the death of a loved one? No you're not! You're actually mentally ill, locked in a battle with "chronic depressive disorder."

    At least you'll have company: That same label is also going to be slapped on anyone who's lonely or just plain unhappy.

    Don't give a hoot about stuff? You've got apathy syndrome. I'd tell you more about that one...but I just don't care.

    Spending too much time online? You need treatment for Internet addiction disorder. No more House Calls for you!

    Even serious and violent crime would get a makeover in the new book. Rapists, for example, are just sick now -- fighting off "paraphilic coercive disorder."

    You just can't make this stuff up.

    Once you have millions of new "sick" patients, you get millions of new customers -- and not for some simple talk therapy. Talk therapy is on the outs -- many shrinks don't offer it, and many insurance companies offer little to no coverage for it.

    No, the real goal here is to get more patients on meds, because everyone wins: Shrinks make more in 15-minute sessions renewing and tweaking prescriptions than they ever did in 45-minute talk therapy sessions. It's cheaper per patient for insurers. And, of course, the drug industry loves it so much they'd print the new book themselves if they could.

    Everyone wins -- well, except you of course.

    I'm not done with mental health yet. Keep reading for the latest on depression.

  2. Who's paying your doctor?

    Everyone likes free stuff, and your doctor is no exception.

    But when those gifts come from a big drug company, they come with strings attached: prescribe our drugs... prescribe them more often... and prescribe them for more people.

    Soon, it's going to be easier than ever to figure out if your doc is on the wrong end of one of these arrangements -- because every drug company with even a single product covered by Medicare will have to report every last penny they give to doctors.

    Doesn't matter if it's a $50,000 speaking fee for being a "thought leader" or a $50 lunch for his office staff -- it has to be reported to the feds, who will then place it online for the world to see.

    This has been a long time coming, but your doctor probably can't figure out why. He thinks he can't be influenced -- that he might get a gift or cash from Big Pharma, but he can still think for himself.

    The track record says otherwise: Docs who get cash and prizes from drug companies are more likely to use that company's drugs and are even more likely to use them off-label for unapproved conditions.

    One Big Pharma rep told NPR in 2010 that he could pay a doctor $1,500 to deliver a short presentation prepared by the company -- and the following week that doctor will write up to $200,000 in new prescriptions for his company's drugs.

    That's one heck of a return on investment.

    So, starting later this month, you'll be able to search a federal database and see who's giving your doc what -- from those mutually lucrative speaking fees to a cheap lunch.

    Companies that fail to report payments and other gifts will be on the hook for fines of $10,000 per violation -- but with a cap of $1 million a year, that alone is probably not enough to get the industry's attention.

    After all, drug companies routinely pay hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars in fines. Next to that, a million bucks is a bargain -- the kind of spare change they might find in the CEO's sofa cushions.

    But the new law has some other penalties that could turn out to be a lot harsher than any dollar amount: A senior official -- the CEO, CFO or the chief compliance officer -- is going to be held responsible for the accuracy of each report.

    And if it's got a few missing pieces, he could face some consequences.

    Fines might not get their attention -- but that sure will.

  3. New push to drug children

    Statins for kids? The very idea is insane, yet millions of children are already taking these "adult" meds -- and a new set of guidelines aims to give these drugs to millions more, including kids still in elementary school.
  4. The overuse of antipsychotics

    A shocking number of patients are being given atypical antipsychotics off-label for conditions where there's little to no evidence they actually work.

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