EnVivo Pharmaceuticals is touting positive results of research into a drug they’re developing for schizophrenia. The drug right now is called EVP-6124, but will eventually be called Relaxafin or something equally ridiculous. The Phase 2b study of the drug was tested on 319 “chronic schizophrenia patients” in the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and Serbia, a practice that continues to interest me. I wonder, for example, if diagnostic criteria differ in those countries and how cultural differences shape the notion of who is called a chronic case. Phase 3 will focus on the drug’s efficacy in treating cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. For the full press release, go here.
In other news, Targacept is about to go into Phase 2 trials of TC-5619, which the makers are hoping will treat both schizophrenia and ADHD. For the schizophrenia trial, this study will be conducted in the U.S. (25 percent) and Eastern Europe (75 percent) and will enroll 450 participants. For the ADHD trial, the 85 enrollees will be primarily in the U.S.
What’s especially interesting to me about this latter study is the focus on symptoms of inattention in ADHD, which, according to Targacept, are not currently being addressed pharmacologically. What concerns me greatly, however, is that this means we’ll have another drug on the market that is basically intended to treat children. Some children may benefit. But others may be medicated to their detriment and unnecessarily.
Speaking of which:
Stephany at Soulful Sepulcher has the full news release from the Texas Medical Board, which has suspended Charles Fischer’s medical license. Fisher was a child psychiatrist at Austin State Hospital for almost 20 years, which gave him ample time to sexually abuse teenage boys who were inpatient there. I can’t imagine a greater violation of trust.
Austin State, at least in the time I spent in Austin in the 1990s, wasn’t exactly known as a progressive institution. Actually, I once tried to admit myself there, but I was delusional at the time, and wouldn’t relinquish the knife I had with me, which I believed would protect me. Naturally, they wouldn’t take me with a knife in my possession, so they turned me away, which was a good decision for me. In retrospect, however, I do wonder if it was the best idea to let a delusional person with a knife just walk out of the hospital on her own recognizance, though I’m thankful they did because forced hospitalization would have been devastating. I guess they looked at my 5-foot 98-pound frame and figured I wouldn’t be a threat to anyone except maybe a loaf of bread.
What puzzles me about the Fischer case is that the first allegation of abuse was filed in 1992. Why was he permitted to continue with his practice? Between the Catholic Church and the college coaching scandals, I’m starting to believe that young boys are simply seen as throwaway non-humans. Which is odd because all the people taking advantage of them were once young boys themselves.
Friends, it’s been a long, long week (plus change) without you. I was feeling the bite quite keenly, but my mutable work situation — my departure from PW as a full-timer — meant a delay in tending to this blog. Now I’m back, and I have to say, it’s like a nice cold brewski on a really hot day. (Unless you’re in recovery from alcoholism, in which case substitute a cranberry spritzer or whatev.)
I feel pretty good. Sleeping late(r) (since working at alt weeklies doesn’t exactly make you rise with the dawn) is nice, though I’ve been a little anxious. So there’s been a fair amount of Ativan consumption that will have my pharmacist givin’ me the fish eye next month.
Aside from the fact that Bob Novak is dead (about which I feel nothing; sorry) and unremorseful bag of shit Michael Vick is going to be an Eagle (about which I feel rage), the most interesting article I’ve read about mental health issues in my absence marries my passions. It was in the New York Times:
It’s heartbreaking and a must-read, and again, I’ll make the assertion that tends to get me in hot water every time I say it: Prison is worse for people with severe mental illnesses than psychiatric hospitals — though the best solution, ideally, is community-supported intervention. It’s tragic to read about these kids who decompensate in prison and then, because that behavior is criminal in the system, not just pathological, get more time. That’s part of what makes it so much worse to be shuttled into the criminal justice system.
But don’t get me started. Just read the piece. Also:
There’s a great post over at Furious Seasons by Philip about Shari Roan’s LA Times story about a 6-year-old girl, January (pictured), who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. As Philip points out, many of us are skeptical of such an early onset and skeptical of childhood diagnoses in general. The article has caused many reactions–good and bad–which Philip generously breaks down, and questions the strange lapse (from a journalistic standpoint) of omitting facts.
What disturbs me about the whole thing is that if you read her father’s blog (the content of which isn’t mentioned in the piece), which Philip links to, you get an uncomfortable sense that Jani/Janni’s father Michael is really stubborn about his daughter’s “lifetime illness,” as he calls it. Here’s an excerpt that shows some of this recalcitrance; I’m also uncomfortable with the bolded part.
We saw Janni today and she was at her most psychotic in several weeks. I have a nice welt on my arm where she hit me when I refused to call her toy rat “99.” Of course, I was goading her, but I wanted to see if she could deal with it. Of course, she couldn’t. She’d been talking about the rats for awhile (she is back to insisting they are real-these are the rats in her head) but now the violence is back. 400 the cat has reappeared after a long absence, and 400 cat is a bad cat that tells her to hit and scream (which she is also back to doing). She is on 300 mg a day of Seroquel is doing nothing. They need to up her Thorazine from 100 mg a day as that is the only thing that works. However, we are frustrated because the staff and doctors seem to thinking that it is just her “imagination” again, and considering autism and Asperger’s (even though this has already been ruled out time and time again). Yes, she “self-stems” as they call it, rubbing her hands together real fast….but that and the “autistic” behaviors went away at 300 mg of Thorazine. I don’t know why in the hell they are so resistant to labeling her “schizophrenic” but yet so eager to label her “Asperger’s.” Is schizophrenia really so much worse? But she fucking talks to animals and people who aren’t there! And she is violent! That isn’t autism! That’s psychosis! I feel like we are just going around and around in fucking circles here.
Autism and Asperger’s aren’t so cut and dry, but as Michael writes:
It is scary to think you know more than the doctors, but the fact is we do.
Do they? I’m reading and reading his blog and the article and I’m just not sure. I understand that feeling myself, of course. I often think that. And just as often, I’m surprised to discover that I still have so much to learn. Michael Schofield’s voice on his blog makes him come across as a very angry person with serious anger management issues–a person who’s self-aggrandizing and resistant to learning new things (and who can’t seem to spell his daughter’s name the same way consistently, which is just weird).
He comes across as a person who likes the sound of his own voice and a good, punchy, writerly ending to a post more than being open-minded about what’s going on. I understand this, actually, because once we find the Answer (not Allen Iverson, but the initial diagnosis), we cling to that diagnosis, as it’s the first time anyone has taken us seriously. But after clinging to a diagnosis that may or may not be correct, it’s time to let go so that treatment is dictated not by egos and desires (whether doctors or patients or parents) but by eliminating symptoms in a safe, healthy way.
Go to Philip’s page and read the whole argument, including the comments. It’s an important discussion.
Father Of Girl With Schizophrenia Admits Hitting, Starving Girl [Furious Seasons]
[Image by Lawrence K. Ho copyright LA Times. Please don't kill me, LA Times.]
How the media delights in coining new terms — the latest being “tweenorexia.” You can imagine them sitting around in a meeting getting all hopped up on coffee and donuts, and patting each other on the back for thinking of it. Ooh, nice one. Perhaps I’ve been in journalism too long.
The trend, as represented by a recent study, is troubling, though. And what’s truly sad is that even the most well-adjusted teens and women I know would see this video and think, in a tiny, horrible corner of their brain: “God, I wish I could get that thin–just for a while.” Sigh.
liz | 11:31 AM | children
After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”
We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.
Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.
liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence
One time I found a guy’s cell phone on the pavement and I wanted to return it to him. So I looked to see who he’d last called and easily found someone to contact. But then … my curiosity got the better of me. Here in my hand I had someone’s life in miniature, and yes, I looked at his photos.
I guess I thought maybe he had a cat and there’d be photos of his cat. If someone found my phone they’d see photos of my hamster (R.I.P., Popcorn), my sugar gliders and my dog. So why not have a quick Cute Fix? What I found on the phone was all porn. Raunchy porn of men doing things to other men, with closeups. Still photos, mind you. Which made me feel so guilty. I mean, what kind of monster was I? Violating someone’s privacy that way? It was terrible. It vitiated the Good Samaritan vibe I felt when I went to the guy’s house to return his phone. I shamefully handed it over. I wanted to apologize, as well as say, “Your life looks a hell of a lot more fun than mine is.”
Random story, I know. But the world of cell phones is so interesting. The first cell phone my family had was huge. Not quite this bad, but close.
Nowadays, they’re slim and chic and people have porn on them. But there are perils, especially for the mental health of the American adolescent. Take this excerpt from a recent New York Times article:
American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.
The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation. …
“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”
Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”
As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.
“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”
Michael Hausauer, a psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., said teenagers had a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.
“Texting can be an enormous tool,” he said. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”
Remember Rebecca Riley? Susan does, which is why she sent me a link to the newest update on the trial of Riley’s parents. Some people don’t realize that the appeals process won’t work in their favor. You might not remember the case, so let Fox News refresh you:
BOSTON — Parents accused of drugging to death their 4-year-old daughter with an overdose of prescription medication should be tried for first-degree murder, not less-severe charges, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled Monday.
In a decision that outlined horrific allegations of neglect and intentional drugging, the appeals court said there was enough evidence to find probable cause that Carolyn and Michael Riley “murdered Rebecca with deliberate premeditation and with extreme atrocity or cruelty.”
The decision overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who reduced the charges to second-degree murder after finding there was no evidence of premeditation.
The Rileys say they were following the orders of Rebecca’s psychiatrist, who had diagnosed the girl with bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But prosecutors say the couple kept Rebecca and two older siblings loaded with psychiatric drugs to keep them quiet and to collect Social Security disability payments.
Rebecca Riley was found dead on the floor of her parents’ bedroom on Dec. 13, 2006.
A state medical examiner determined that Rebecca died of a lethal combination of prescription drugs. The case reignited a long-running debate within the psychiatric community about whether young children can accurately be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and whether they should be given powerful psychiatric drugs.
The appeals court called the evidence against the Rileys presented to the grand jury “disturbing and graphic.”
“Michael, who was abusive, preferred his car to the children,” the court said.
The seven-page ruling also outlined evidence that Michael Riley directed his wife to give the children Clonidine, a blood pressure medication sometimes prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, “to quiet them down and make them ‘pass out”‘
“Whenever they began to annoy him, he told Carolyn to shut them up with Clonidine — telling her to ‘give them their pills’ and ‘give them their meds’,” the appeals court wrote.
The defense maintains that Rebecca died of pneumonia.
Carolyn Riley’s lawyer, Michael Bourbeau, said he was disappointed with the appeals court decision, but will not appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court.
Yeah. Good idea.
Read the Boston.com story here.