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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

The Real Cause Of The Global Obesity Epidemic: Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

 

Oldspeak:“Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008. The prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic  poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies, You have to look beyond the obvious.” Robert Lustig , Endocrinologist, UC San Francisco Ain’t ‘progress’ grand? In our insatiable lust for ‘more’ convenience, faster, easier, lighter, smaller, ‘safer’, our wondrous technological innovation has led to us poisoning ourselves and our environment in a myriad of yet unknown ways. We’re made to believe it’s all our fault. It’s our poor food choices, our lack of exercise, our lack of discipline and while that may be true in some instances, the problem is much more insidious and variegated than we can imagine. We’ve through genetic modification and chemical manipulation turned our food, our naturally perfect and nutritional sustenance against us. There can be no sadder commentary on the sign of our times than the fact that we wrap our food in petrochemical derived plastics. We literally wrap our food in the derivations of the fossilized remains of ancient dead plants and animals, and have convinced ourselves that it’s safe. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Washington’s Blog:

World Wide Obesity Epidemic

Some 68% of all Americans are overweight, and obesity has almost doubled in the last couple of decades worldwide. As International Business Tribune reports:

Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008.

***

68 per cent of Americans were found to be overweight while close to 34 percent were obese.

Sure, people are eating too much and exercising too little (this post is not meant as an excuse for lack of discipline and poor choices). The processed foods and refined flours and sugars don’t help. And additives like high fructose corn syrup – which are added to many processed foods – are stuffing us with empty calories.

But given that there is an epidemic of obesity even in 6 month old infants (see below), there is clearly something else going on as well.

Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

The toxins all around us might be making us fat.

As the Washington Post reported in 2007:

Several recent animal studies suggest that environmental exposure to widely used chemicals may also help make people fat.

The evidence is preliminary, but a number of researchers are pursuing indications that the chemicals, which have been shown to cause abnormal changes in animals’ sexual development, can also trigger fat-cell activity — a process scientists call adipogenesis.

The chemicals under scrutiny are used in products from marine paints and pesticides to food and beverage containers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one chemical, bisphenol A, in 95 percent of the people tested, at levels at or above those that affected development in animals.

These findings were presented at last month’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A spokesman for the chemical industry later dismissed the concerns, but Jerry Heindel, a top official of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), who chaired the AAAS session, said the suspected link between obesity and exposure to “endocrine disrupters,” as the chemicals are called because of their hormone-like effects, is “plausible and possible.”

Bruce Blumberg, a developmental and cell biologist at the University of California at Irvine, one of those presenting research at the meeting, called them “obesogens” — chemicals that promote obesity.

***

Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes. Like tributyltin, DES [which for decades was added to animal feed and routinely given to pregnant women] appeared to permanently disrupt the hormonal mechanisms regulating body weight.

“Once these genetic changes happen in utero, they are irreversible and with the individual for life,” Newbold said.

***

“Exposure to bisphenol A is continuous,” said Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Bisphenol A is an ingredient in polycarbonate plastics used in many products, including refillable water containers and baby bottles, and in epoxy resins that line the inside of food cans and are used as dental sealants. [It is also added to store receipts.] In 2003, U.S. industry consumed about 2 billion pounds of bisphenol A.

Researchers have studied bisphenol A’s effects on estrogen function for more than a decade. Vom Saal’s research indicates that developmental exposure to low doses of bisphenol A activates genetic mechanisms that promote fat-cell activity. “These in-utero effects are lifetime effects, and they occur at phenomenally small levels” of exposure, vom Saal said.

***

Research into the impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on obesity has been done only in laboratory animals, but the genetic receptors that control fat cell activity are functionally identical across species. “They work virtually the same way in fish as they do in rodents and humans,” Blumberg said. “Fat cells are an endocrine organ.”

Ongoing studies are monitoring human levels of bisphenol A, but none have been done of tributyltin, which has been used since the 1960s and is persistent in the marine food web. “Tributyltin is the only endocrine disrupting chemical that has been shown without substantial argument to have an effect at levels at which it’s found in the environment,” Blumberg said.

Concern over tributyltin’s reproductive effects on marine animals has resulted in an international agreement discontinuing its use in anti-fouling paints used on ships. The EPA has said it plans next year to assess its other applications, including as an antimicrobial agent in livestock operations, fish hatcheries and hospitals.

Bisphenol A is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in consumer products, and the agency says the amount of bisphenol A or tributyltin that might leach from products is too low to be of concern. But the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, is reviewing bisphenol A, and concerns about its estrogenic effects prompted California legislators to propose banning it from certain products sold in-state, a move industry has fought vigorously.

Similarly, the Daily Beast noted in 2010:

[Bad habits] cannot explain the ballooning of one particular segment of the population, a segment that doesn’t go to movies, can’t chew, and was never that much into exercise: babies. In 2006 scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that the prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic of obese 6-month-olds,” as endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, calls it, poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. “Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies,” he points out. “You have to look beyond the obvious.”

The search for the non-obvious has led to a familiar villain: early-life exposure to traces of chemicals in the environment. Evidence has been steadily accumulating that certain hormone-mimicking pollutants, ubiquitous in the food chain, have two previously unsuspected effects. They act on genes in the developing fetus and newborn to turn more precursor cells into fat cells, which stay with you for life. And they may alter metabolic rate, so that the body hoards calories rather than burning them, like a physiological Scrooge. “The evidence now emerging says that being overweight is not just the result of personal choices about what you eat, combined with inactivity,” says Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Exposure to environmental chemicals during development may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.” They are not the cause of extra pounds in every person who is overweight—for older adults, who were less likely to be exposed to so many of the compounds before birth, the standard explanations of genetics and lifestyle probably suffice—but environmental chemicals may well account for a good part of the current epidemic, especially in those under 50. And at the individual level, exposure to the compounds during a critical period of development may explain one of the most frustrating aspects of weight gain: you eat no more than your slim friends, and exercise no less, yet are still unable to shed pounds.

***

Newbold gave low doses (equivalent to what people are exposed to in the environment) of hormone-mimicking compounds to newborn mice. In six months, the mice were 20 percent heavier and had 36 percent more body fat than unexposed mice. Strangely, these results seemed to contradict the first law of thermodynamics, which implies that weight gain equals calories consumed minus calories burned. “What was so odd was that the overweight mice were not eating more or moving less than the normal mice,” Newbold says. “We measured that very carefully, and there was no statistical difference.”

***

`Programming the fetus to make more fat cells leaves an enduring physiological legacy. “The more [fat cells], the fatter you are,” says UCSF’s Lustig. But [fat cells] are more than passive storage sites. They also fine-tune appetite, producing hormones that act on the brain to make us feel hungry or sated. With more [fat cells], an animal is doubly cursed: it is hungrier more often, and the extra food it eats has more places to go—and remain.

***

In 2005 scientists in Spain reported that the more pesticides children were exposed to as fetuses, the greater their risk of being overweight as toddlers. And last January scientists in Belgium found that children exposed to higher levels of PCBs and DDE (the breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) before birth were fatter than those exposed to lower levels. Neither study proves causation, but they “support the findings in experimental animals,” says Newbold. They “show a link between exposure to environmental chemicals … and the development of obesity.” [See this for more information on the potential link between pesticides and obesity.]

***

This fall, scientists from NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and academia will discuss obesogens at the largest-ever government-sponsored meeting on the topic. “The main message is that obesogens are a factor that we hadn’t thought about at all before this,” says Blumberg. But they’re one that could clear up at least some of the mystery of why so many of us put on pounds that refuse to come off.

Consumption of the widely used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity.

Pthalates – commonly used in many plastics – have been linked to obesity. See this and this.  So has a chemical used to make Teflon, stain-resistant carpets and other products.

Most of the meat we eat these days contains estrogen, antibiotics and  powerful chemicals which change hormone levels. Modern corn-fed beef also contains much higher levels of saturated fat than grass-fed beef. So the meat we are eating is also making us fat.

Arsenic may also be linked with obesity, via it’s effect on the thyroid gland. Arsenic is often fed to chickens and pigs to fatten them up, and we end up ingesting it on our dinner plate. It’s ending up in other foods as well.

A lot of endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals and medications are also ending up in tap water.

Moreover, the National Research Council has found:

The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined further, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States.

Some hypothesize that too much fluoride affects the thyroid gland, which may in turn lead to weight gain.

Antibiotics also used to be handed out like candy by doctors.  However, ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills helpful intestinal bacteria. See this and this.

Moreover, many crops in the U.S. are now genetically modified.  For example, 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered, as are:

Some allege that Roundup kills healthy gut bacteria, and that genetically modified crops cause other health problems.

And Cornell University’s newspaper – the Cornell Sun – reports that our  intestinal bacteria also substantially affect our ability to eliminate toxins instead of letting them make us fat:

Cornell scientists researching the effects of environmental toxins to the onset of obesity and Type II Diabetes, discovered that—unlike other factors such as eating too many unhealthy foods—the extent of damage caused by pollutants depends not on what a person puts into her mouth, but on what is already living within her gut.

Prof. Suzanne Snedeker, food science, and Prof. Anthony Hay, microbiology, researched the contribution that microorganisms in the gut and environmental toxins known as “obesogens” have on ever rising obesity levels. Their work, which was published last October in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, reported a link between composition of gut microbiota, exposure to environmental chemicals and the development of obesity and diabetes. The review, “Do Interactions Between Gut Ecology and Environmental Chemicals Contribute to Obesity and Diabetes?”  combined three main ideas: predisposed gut microbe composition can increase an individual’s risk of obesity and Type II Diabetes, gut microbe activity can determine an individual’s metabolic reaction to persistent pollutants such as DDT and PCB and certain pharmaceuticals can also be metabolized differently depending on the community of microbes in the gut.

The microbe community influences many metabolic pathways within the gut, Snedeker said.  Our bodies metabolize chemicals, but how they are metabolized, and how much fat is stored, depends on gut ecology. Microbes are responsible not only for collecting usable energy from digested food, but also for monitoring insulin levels, storage of fat and appetite. Gut microbes also play an integral role in dealing with any chemicals that enter the body. According to Snedeker, differences in gut microbiota can cause drugs like acetaminophen to act as a toxin in some people while providing no problems for others.  While pharmaceutical and microbe interactions are well understood, there is little information in the area of microbe response to environmental toxins.

She said, there are more than three dozen chemicals called obesogenic compounds, that can cause weight gain by altering the body’s normal metabolic responses and lipid production.

“It seems probable that gut microbes are affecting how our bodies handle these environmental chemicals,” Snedeker said. According to Snedeker, enzymes that are influenced by interactions of gut microbes break down approximately two-thirds of the known environmental toxins. Therefore, differences in the gut microbe community strongly affect our bodies’ ability to get rid of environmental pollutants. Obesogens can alter normal metabolic behavior by changing the levels of fat that our bodies store. Snedeker and Hay suggested that the microbes in the gut of humans determine the way in which these chemicals are metabolized and thus could contribute to obesity.

Snedeker and Hay concluded that although high levels of obesogenic chemicals are bound to cause some kind of disruption in the gut microbe community responsible for breaking these chemicals down, the degree of the disturbance is dependent upon gut microbial composition. In other words, the amount of weight an individual is likely to gain when exposed to environmental toxins, or her risk of acquiring Type II Diabetes, could depend on the microorganism community in their gut.

No, Everything Won‘t Kill You

In response to information about toxic chemicals in our food, water and air, many people change the subject by saying “well, everything will kill you”. In other words, they try to change the topic by assuming that we would have to go back to the stone age to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.

But this is missing the point entirely. In fact, companies add nasty chemicals to their products and use fattening food-producing strategies to cut corners and make more money.

In the same way that the financial crisis, BP oil spill and Fukushima nuclear disaster were caused by fraud and greed, we are daily exposed to obesity-causing chemicals because companies make an extra buck by lying about what is in their product, cutting every corner in the book, and escaping any consequences for their health-damaging actions.

In fattening their bottom line, the fat cats are creating an epidemic of obesity for the little guy.

What Can We Do To Fight Back?

Eating grass-fed meat instead of industrially-produced corn fed beef will reduce your exposure to obesity-causing chemicals.

Use glass instead of plastic whenever you can, to reduce exposure to pthalates and other hormone-altering plastics.

Try to avoid canned food, or at least look for cans that are free of bisphenol A.  (For example, the Eden company sells food in bpa-free cans.)  Buy and store food in glass jars whenever possible.   And wash your hands after handling store receipts (they still contain bpa).

Eat yogurt or other food containing good bacteria to help restore your healthy intestinal flora.   If you don’t like yogurt, you can take “probiotic” (i.e. good bacteria) supplements from your local health food store.

And don’t forget to tell your grocery store that you demand real food that doesn’t contain bpa, pthalates, hormones, antibiotics or other junk.  If we vote with our pocketbooks, the big food companies will get the message.

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Obama White House Has Weakened More Lobbyist-Opposed Health, Public Safety Regulations Than Bush Administration

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Oldspeak:”A new report shows that despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. The report deals with issues that are of concern to every American; smog in our cities, collapsing mine shafts that kill workers in West Virginia, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, salmonella in peanut paste, a whole variety of public health threats that agencies of the government were set up to avoid. Unfortunately, although we expected a bright new future with President Obama, he has disappointed us in this area to a large extent, inserting politics and pandering to special interests rather than letting science and technology reign.”-RENA STEINZOR. Yet another campaign promise gone unfulfilled. Sadly, due to the frightfully inept and unelectable presidential alternatives offered by Republicans, it’s not likely Obama will be held accountable to the long list of changes for the worse he’s presided over. Moral of the story? The Corporatocracy rules, no matter who you ‘vote’ for. More change I can’t believe in.

Related Story:

“Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety and the Environment”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

A new report shows that despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. The study, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment,” examines more than a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while Bush changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPArules were changed at a significantly higher rate — 84 percent. We speak to the report’s lead author, Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and President of the Center for Progressive Reform.

AMY GOODMAN: As we end on a new report that shows despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests even more than the Bush administration. The study examines more that 1,000 meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76% of the time while the Bush administration changed them just 64% of the time. EPA rules were changed a significantly higher rate, 84%.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Much of this is due to the man Obama appointed to the head of House of Information and Regulatory Affairs, through which all proposed regulation must pass. Cass Sunstein is know for his academic work on the risks of overregulation. Well, for more we’re joined from Washington, D.C. by Rena Steinzor, Professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and President of the Center for Progressive Reform. She’s the lead author of this exhaustive report, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment.” Rena, welcome to Democracy Now!. Can you talk about this report?

RENA STEINZOR: The report deals with issues that are familiar and of concern to every American; smog in our cities, collapsing mine shafts that kill workers in West Virginia, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, salmonella in peanut paste, a whole variety of public health threats that agencies of the government were set up to avoid. Unfortunately, although we expected a bright new future with President Obama, he has disappointed us in this area to a large extent, inserting politics and pandering to special interests rather than letting science and technology reign.

AMY GOODMAN: Rena Steinzor, the issue of the smog regulations that so blindsided the Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson.

RENA STEINZOR: Yes, Lisa Jackson, was—-when she was appointed there was tremendous relief and joy in the community of public health experts and environmentalists who watch EPA. And she immediately stepped in to try and get a lot of these rules, which were mandated by Congress, back on track and promised to repair the damage that was left by George W. Bush. But, this small office in the White House, which panders to special interests, stepped in and was the president’s point person, point agency to destroy her efforts to strengthen these protections. And anyone who lives in a major American city knows Code Red days when children are not allowed to play outside because the air pollution is so bad.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds, if you can summarize what happened.

RENA STEINZOR: Really, it is remarkable that an effort to clean up smog in American cities should be killed by an office at the White House that caters to special interests.

AMY GOODMAN: Rena Steinzor, we will link to your report, Professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, President of The Center for Progressive Reform, lead author in this report, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment.”

 

UCLA Scientists: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked To Increase In All Diseases And Illnesses

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Oldspeak: Newsflash! Sunlight is good for you! Duh. It is the giver of all life. It helps you fight disease and illness. Isn’t it alarming that in the past 30 years coinciding with the rise of propaganda encouraging us to limit sun exposure and cover our skins with toxic carcinogenic chemicals that block our absorption of  health-promoting Vitamin D generating UVB light we’ve been told to fear, that the incidence of skin cancer has increased  %1,800? And that in that time, incidence of all types of cancer, and all other kinds of disease has exploded? Could it really be the Sun contributing to that? We actually spend much less time in the sun than we did 30 years ago, yet the incidence of skin cancer has exponentially increased . Are we really supposed to believe that our ancient and life-giving Sun has changed that dramatically in 30 years, from life giver to cancer giver? I’ll tell you what definitely has changed dramatically in that time: the western diet. Nutrient deficient and chock full o toxic and artificial chemicals. Grown in nutrient deficient and petrochemical (“Pesticide”) filled soil. The sun isn’t making people sick, our “food” and our toxin laden environment is. You are the People of The Sun. Commune with it!

Related Story: The Skin Cancer Myth

By PC @ PressCore:

A group of scientists from UCLA recently published a paper, “Toll-like receptor triggering of a vitamin D-mediated human antimicrobial response“, wherein they revealed that Vitamin D, a naturally occurring steroid hormone was a very potent antibiotic.  Dr. Philip Liu and colleagues at UCLA wrote that instead of directly killing bacteria and viruses, the steroid hormone Vitamin D increases the body’s production of a remarkable class of proteins, called antimicrobial peptides (link is to a pdf file called “Antimicrobial Peptides…Small, But Potent Killers“).  The 200 known antimicrobial peptides directly and rapidly destroy the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including all influenza viruses, and play a key role in keeping the lungs free of infection.

What is the best source for getting an ample daily dosage of Vitamin D – free of charge? You were probably going to say milk.  But milk isn’t free and the milk Americans depend on for their vitamin D contains no naturally occurring vitamin D at all.  Instead, the U.S. government requires fortified milk to be supplemented with synthesized vitamin D – a paltry 100 units per eight-ounce glass.  The best source for getting an ample dosage of Vitamin D is 20 minutes outside. Exposure to the Sun for just 20 minutes gives your body more Vitamin D than any store bought or man made supplement.

The vitamin D steroid hormone system has always had its origins in the skin, not in the mouth. Until quite recently, when dermatologists and governments began warning us about the dangers of sunlight, humans made enormous quantities of vitamin D where humans have always made it, where naked skin meets the ultraviolet B radiation of sunlight. We just cannot get adequate amounts of vitamin D from our diet. We make about a thousand units of vitamin D a day just from sunlight exposure.

A single, twenty-minute, skin exposure to the summer sun will trigger our body to produce and deliver 20,000 units of vitamin D into the circulation of most people within 48 hours. Our body produces 20,000 units of Vitamin D naturally and freely – without the aid of any supplements or drugs. Twenty thousand units, that’s the single most important fact about vitamin D. Compare that to the 100 units you get from a glass of milk, or the several hundred daily units the U.S. government recommend as “Adequate Intake.”

Humans evolved naked in sub-equatorial Africa, where the sun shines directly overhead much of the year and where our species must have obtained tens of thousands of units of vitamin D every day, in spite of our skin developing heavy melanin concentrations (racial pigmentation) for protecting the deeper layers of the skin. Even after humans migrated to temperate latitudes, where our skin rapidly lightened to allow for more rapid vitamin D production, humans worked outdoors. However, in the last three hundred years, we began to work indoors; in the last one hundred years, we began to travel inside cars; in the last several decades, we began to lather on sunblock and consciously avoid sunlight. All of these things lower vitamin D blood levels. The inescapable conclusion is that vitamin D levels in modern humans are not just low – they are aberrantly low.

Sunlight is the only effective treatment against colds, flus, influenza virus and every major disease known to man. In the last several years, dozens of medical studies have called attention to worldwide vitamin D deficiency, especially among African Americans and the elderly, the two groups most likely to die from influenza. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, depression, chronic pain, depression, gum disease, diabetes, hypertension, and a number of other diseases have recently been associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency accounts for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year? Studies have found the influenza virus is present in the population year-around; why is it a wintertime illness? Even the common cold got its name because it is common in cold weather and rare in the summer. Vitamin D blood levels are at their highest in the summer but reach their lowest levels during the flu and cold season.

Scientific Facts:

1. The flu predictably occurs in the months following the winter solstice, when vitamin D levels are at their lowest,

2. The flu disappears in the months following the summer solstice,

3. Influenza is more common in the tropics during the rainy season,

4. The cold and rainy weather associated with El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which drives people indoors and lowers vitamin D blood levels, is associated with influenza,

5. The incidence of influenza is inversely correlated with outdoor temperatures,

6. Children exposed to sunlight are less likely to get colds,

7. Cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections,

8. Vitamin D-producing UVB lamps reduced colds and flu in schoolchildren and factory workers,

9. Volunteers, deliberately infected with a weakened flu virus – first in the summer and then again in the winter – show significantly different clinical courses in the different seasons,

10. The elderly who live in countries with high vitamin D consumption, like Norway, are less likely to die in the winter,

11. Children with vitamin D deficiency and rickets suffer from frequent respiratory infections,

12. Physicians who gave high doses of vitamin D to children who were constantly sick from colds and the flu, found the treated children were suddenly free from infection,

13. The elderly are so much more likely to die from heart attacks in the winter rather than in the summer,

14. African Americans, with their low vitamin D blood levels, are more likely to die from influenza and pneumonia than Whites are.

Vitamin D deficiency has repeatedly been associated with many of the diseases of civilization. Lack of sunlight exposure is why we are vitamin D deficient and why we are inflicted by disease, colds, flus and influenza viruses. Lack of sunlight exposure is why thousands of people die each year. Sunlight is a hundred times more effective than any toxic and life threatening vaccine.

Can vitamin D cure cancer? The answer is yes. Vitamin D is a powerful hormone that regulates and repairs bodily cells. Vitamin D is needed for optimum functioning of the immune and cardiovascular systems, increases white blood cell production and supports the prostate as well as healthy skin and bones. UVB rays from sunshine is essential to convert cholesterol in skin to vitamin D. The skin cannot produce natural vitamin D without UVB rays. The people who receive $80 billion a year for cancer research knows that and because of this reason they are falsely claiming UVB rays are harmful. In order for them to keep on getting $billions from your government in the form of tax dollars they are telling everyone to lather on layers and layers of clothing and toxic sunscreen to block out the sun’s essential ultra violet light. They want us to cover our Vitamin D producing skin in order to interfere and prevent our body from fighting and destroying cancer cells. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). The estimated 2008 cost of cancer care was $228.1 billion – that figure is a very good motive for them to fraudulently claim that UVB rays from sunshine is harmful and cancer causing when in fact UVB rays exposure is essential for the body to produce vitamin D. 20 minutes of UVB exposure is essential for preventing cancer.

If you have adequate amounts of vitamin D in your body, the cancer cells in your body stop growing and dividing uncontrollably, stops invading and destroying other bodily tissues, stops spreading throughout your body, and begins specialization for specific bodily functions.

Also the cancer cells lose their immortality, and begin to die normally. Vitamin D forces cancer cells to behave like normal cells!

All cancer researchers have found that the singular most important contributor of cancer is vitamin D deficiency. Most, if not all, cancer patients are vitamin D deficient.

What is cancer?

Cancer involves groups of bodily cells growing and dividing uncontrollably, refusing specialization for specific bodily functions, invading and destroying other bodily tissues, and sometimes spreading throughout the body. Most cancers form a tumor, but not all. For example, leukemia (cancer of the blood or bone marrow) doesn’t.

Cancer affects people of all ages, but affects older people more. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer killed 7.6 million people worldwide in 2007!

Cancer is caused by damaged genes within bodily cells. These damages can be caused by tobacco smoke, asbestos fibers, radiation exposure (including from hospital and airport X-rays), fossil fuel (gasoline fumes and its CO2 emissions), chemicals, or viral infections. Cancer-promoting genetic damages can also be inherited.

Normal cells are programmed to kill themselves if they become damaged beyond repair. This program is turned off in cancer cells – allowing them immortality!

Basically, cancer cells are immortal “brain-damaged” cells that act crazy, killing normal cells, interfering with normal bodily functions.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin. Since vitamin D is usually produced by the body’s largest organ, the skin, it’s really a hormone. For a chemical substance to qualify as a hormone, it needs to be produced by one of the body’s organs.

Not only do plants need sunlight to be healthy, humans also need it. Long ago, sunlight exposure was the only way humans got adequate amounts of vitamin D. Most foods are vitamin D-free or contain small traces of it – not enough for best health! The human skin is designed to photosynthesize large amounts of vitamin D from sunlight exposure.

Researchers discovered vitamin D deficiencies among the following people:

People spending most of their time indoors,
People regularly covering all their skin with clothing,
People regularly slathering on sunscreen,
People aged 50 and older,
People with excessive body fat,
People with inflammatory bowel disease, and
People living far from the equator. For example, the following cities have high cancer rates: Seattle, Toronto, Boston, London, Dublin, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, Moscow, and Anchorage.

Researchers found that dark-skinned people living in cold climate regions are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency, because their skin filters out more sunlight than light-skinned people.

Additionally, researchers have discovered that many of the vitamin D deficient people developed medical conditions such as diabetes (a normal bodily function of high and low blood sugar levels being classified as a disease by for-profit drug companies), osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, clinical depression, chronic anxiety, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, psoriasis, eczema, high blood pressure (another normal bodily function of high and low blood pressure being classified as a disease by for-profit drug companies), bone softening diseases, chronic pain, muscle weakness, viral infections, polycystic ovary syndrome, and migraine headaches.

In the past, people believed that taking 600 IU of vitamin D daily was enough for good health. Currently, researchers found that adults need at least 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily for therapeutic anticancer effects!

But how much is too much? Doesn’t vitamin D become toxic at high doses? Vitamin D does become toxic at high doses, but it’s much higher than you think. Researchers recently found that to poison yourself with vitamin D, you need to take at least 40,000 IU of vitamin D daily.

So if you have cancer, a strong and safe therapeutic dose of vitamin D in the range between 10,000 IU and 20,000 IU is needed daily.

Sunlight – Free source of vitamin D.

These days we can no longer rely on our food supply as good sources of vitamin D. Either the soil is contaminated or too nutrient depleted to grow any food of good nutritional value. To make matters worse the FDA is now pasteurizing everything from milk, to eggs, to fruits and vegetables. Heat from pasteurization destroys the last remaining beneficial nutrients in our food. So where can we get an adequate supply of cancer curing Vitamin D? You can buy vitamin D tablets at vitamin and retail stores. It’s more convenient to buy tablets that have the highest dose per tablet. For example, bottles of vitamin D containing 2,000 IU per tablet. So you need to take only five tablets to equal 10,000 IU.

Sunlight exposure is the best way to get adequate amounts of cancer curing Vitamin D, as the body automatically regulates how much Vitamin D it makes from sunlight, and there is the added benefit of controlling cholesterol. Since vitamin D precursors require cholesterol for conversion into the hormone-like vitamin, without adequate sun exposure vitamin D precursors can turn into cholesterol instead of the vitamin.

It is estimated that for each 5% of skin surface exposed, approximately 435 IU of Vitamin D can be manufactured. Just 20 minutes of direct sun exposure to your skin will manufacture 20,000 IU of Vitamin D – enough to prevent and even cure you of cancer. In other words if you don’t have money to buy Vitamin D supplements or your diet doesn’t have enough Vitamin D, turn off your computers, TVs, video games, and go outside. With an adequate amount of daily sunlight exposure, the cancer cells in your body will stop growing and dividing uncontrollably, will stop invading and destroying other bodily tissues, will stop spreading throughout your body, and the Vitamin D produced naturally will begin specialization for specific bodily functions.

Trauma: How We’ve Created A Nation Addicted to Shopping, Work, Drugs And Sex

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2011 at 9:54 am

Oldspeak: “Post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed the conditions required for healthy childhood development. Dr. Gabor Mate discusses some of the elaborate ways we’ve avoided dealing with the unhealthy physiological/psychological consequences of our societal and economic systems in our children and ourselves.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Canadian physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.

Dr. Maté is the bestselling author of four books: When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease ConnectionScattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It; and, with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers; his latest is called In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

In our first conversation, Dr. Maté talked about his work as the staff physician at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, a residence and harm reduction facility in Downtown Eastside, a neighborhood with one the densest concentrations of drug addicts in North America. The Portland hosts the only legal injection site in North America, a center that’s come under fire from Canada’s Conservative government. I asked Dr. Maté to talk about his patients.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. And the commonality is childhood abuse. In other words, these people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again.

And that’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the title of your book mean, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, it’s a Buddhist phrase. In the Buddhists’ psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through, all of us. One is the human realm, which is our ordinary selves. The hell realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The animal realm is our instincts and our id and our passions.

Now, the hungry ghost realm, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths and scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They can never fill their bellies. They’re always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside. That speaks to a part of us that I have and everybody in our society has, where we want satisfaction from the outside, where we’re empty, where we want to be soothed by something in the short term, but we can never feel that or fulfill that insatiety from the outside. The addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, is that there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s just a continuum in which we all may be found. They’re on it, because they’ve suffered a lot more than most of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the biology of addiction?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: For sure. You see, if you look at the brain circuits involved in addiction—and that’s true whether it’s a shopping addiction like mine or an addiction to opiates like the heroin addict—we’re looking for endorphins in our brains. Endorphins are the brain’s feel good, reward, pleasure and pain relief chemicals. They also happen to be the love chemicals that connect us to the universe and to one another.

Now, that circuitry in addicts doesn’t function very well, as the circuitry of incentive and motivation, which involves the chemical dopamine, also doesn’t function very well. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, nicotine and caffeine, all elevate dopamine levels in the brain, as does sexual acting out, as does extreme sports, as does workaholism and so on.

Now, the issue is, why do these circuits not work so well in some people, because the drugs in themselves are not surprisingly addictive. And what I mean by that is, is that most people who try most drugs never become addicted to them. And so, there has to be susceptibility there. And the susceptible people are the ones with these impaired brain circuits, and the impairment is caused by early adversity, rather than by genetics.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “early adversity”?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means—large head, narrow pelvis—we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input.

When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, it takes people off the hook?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, if people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies, we don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women, we don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, so that, you know, most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age on because of economic considerations. And especially in the States, because of the welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day. Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to.

And so, if it’s all caused by genetics, we don’t have to look at those social policies; we don’t have to look at our politics that disadvantage certain minority groups, so cause them more stress, cause them more pain, in other words, more predisposition for addictions; we don’t have to look at economic inequalities. If it’s all genes, it’s all—we’re all innocent, and society doesn’t have to take a hard look at its own attitudes and policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this whole approach of criminalization versus harm reduction, how you think addicts should be treated, and how they are, in the United States and Canada?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the first point to get there is that if people who become severe addicts, as shown by all the studies, were for the most part abused children, then we realize that the war on drugs is actually waged against people that were abused from the moment they were born, or from an early age on. In other words, we’re punishing people for having been abused. That’s the first point.

The second point is, is that the research clearly shows that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behavior is actually stress. In North America right now, because of the economic crisis, a lot of people are eating junk food, because junk foods release endorphins and dopamine in the brain. So that stress drives addiction.

Now imagine a situation where we’re trying to figure out how to help addicts. Would we come up with a system that stresses them to the max? Who would design a system that ostracizes, marginalizes, impoverishes and ensures the disease of the addict, and hope, through that system, to rehabilitate large numbers? It can’t be done. In other words, the so-called “war on drugs,” which, as the new drug czar points out, is a war on people, actually entrenches addiction deeply. Furthermore, it institutionalizes people in facilities where the care is very—there’s no care. We call it a “correctional” system, but it doesn’t correct anything. It’s a punitive system. So people suffer more, and then they come out, and of course they’re more entrenched in their addiction than they were when they went in.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m curious about your own history, Gabor Maté.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You were born in Nazi-occupied Hungary?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, ADD has a lot to do with that. I have attention deficit disorder myself. And again, most people see it as a genetic problem. I don’t. It actually has to do with those factors of brain development, which in my case occurred as a Jewish infant under Nazi occupation in the ghetto of Budapest. And the day after the pediatrician—sorry, the day after the Nazis marched into Budapest in March of 1944, my mother called the pediatrician and says, “Would you please come and see my son, because he’s crying all the time?” And the pediatrician says, “Of course I’ll come. But I should tell you, all my Jewish babies are crying.”

Now infants don’t know anything about Nazis and genocide or war or Hitler. They’re picking up on the stresses of their parents. And, of course, my mother was an intensely stressed person, her husband being away in forced labor, her parents shortly thereafter being departed and killed in Auschwitz. Under those conditions, I don’t have the kind of conditions that I need for the proper development of my brain circuits. And particularly, how does an infant deal with that much stress? By tuning it out. That’s the only way the brain can deal with it. And when you do that, that becomes programmed into the brain.

And so, if you look at the preponderance of ADD in North America now and the three millions of kids in the States that are on stimulant medication and the half-a-million who are on anti-psychotics, what they’re really exhibiting is the effects of extreme stress, increasing stress in our society, on the parenting environment. Not bad parenting. Extremely stressed parenting, because of social and economic conditions. And that’s why we’re seeing such a preponderance.

So, in my case, that also set up this sense of never being soothed, of never having enough, because I was a starving infant. And that means, all my life, I have this propensity to soothe myself. How do I do that? Well, one way is to work a lot and to gets lots of admiration and lots of respect and people wanting me. If you get the impression early in life that the world doesn’t want you, then you’re going to make yourself wanted and indispensable. And people do that through work. I did it through being a medical doctor. I also have this propensity to soothe myself through shopping, especially when I’m stressed, and I happen to shop for classical compact music. But it goes back to this insatiable need of the infant who is not soothed, and they have to develop, or their brain develop, these self-soothing strategies.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think kids with ADD, with attention deficit disorder, should be treated?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, if we recognize that it’s not a disease and it’s not genetic, but it’s a problem of brain development, and knowing the good news, fortunately—and this is also true for addicts—that the brain, the human brain, can develop new circuits even later on in life—and that’s called neuroplasticity, the capacity of the brain to be molded by new experience later in life—then the question becomes not of how to regulate and control symptoms, but how do you promote development. And that has to do with providing kids with the kind of environment and nurturing that they need so that those circuits can develop later on.

That’s also, by the way, what the addict needs. So instead of a punitive approach, we need to have a much more compassionate, caring approach that would allow these people to develop, because the development is stuck at a very early age.

AMY GOODMAN: You began your talk last night at Columbia, which I went to hear, at the law school, with a quote, and I’d like you to end our conversation with that quote.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Would that be the quote that only in the presence of compassion will people allow themselves—

AMY GOODMAN: Mahfouz.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Oh, oh, no, yeah, Naguib Mahfouz, the great Egyptian writer. He said that “Nothing records the effects of a sad life” so completely as the human body—“so graphically as the human body.” And you see that sad life in the faces and bodies of my patients.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He’s a bestselling author. He’s a physician in Canada.

In that first interview, we touched briefly on his work on attention deficit disorder, the subject of his book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It. Well, just about a month ago, we had Dr. Maté back on Democracy Now! to talk more about ADD, as well as parenting, bullying, the education system, and how a litany of stresses on the family environment is leading to what he calls the “destruction of the American childhood.”

DR. GABOR MATÉ: In the United States right now, there are three million children receiving stimulant medications for ADHD.

AMY GOODMAN: ADHD means?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And there are about half-a-million kids in this country receiving heavy-duty anti-psychotic medications, medications such as are usually given to adult schizophrenics to regulate their hallucinations. But in this case, children are getting it to control their behavior. So what we have is a massive social experiment of the chemical control of children’s behavior, with no idea of the long-term consequences of these heavy-duty anti-psychotics on kids.

And I know that Canadians statistics just last week showed that within last five years, 43—there’s been a 43 percent increase in the rate of dispensing of stimulant prescriptions for ADD or ADHD, and most of these are going to boys. In other words, what we’re seeing is an unprecedented burgeoning of the diagnosis. And I should say, really, I’m talking about, more broadly speaking, what I would call the destruction of American childhood, because ADD is just a template, or it’s just an example of what’s going on. In fact, according to a recent study published in the States, nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria or criteria for mental health disorders. So we’re talking about a massive impact on our children of something in our culture that’s just not being recognized.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what attention deficit disorder is, what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, specifically ADD is a compound of three categorical set of symptoms. One has to do with poor impulse control. So, these children have difficulty controlling their impulses. When their brain tells them to do something, from the lower brain centers, there’s nothing up here in the cortex, which is where the executive functions are, which is where the functions are that are supposed to tell us what to do and what not to do, those circuits just don’t work. So there’s poor impulse control. They act out. They behave aggressively. They speak out of turn. They say the wrong thing. Adults with ADD will shop compulsively, or impulsively, I should say, and, again, behave in impulsive fashion. So, poor impulse control.

But again, please notice that the impulse control problem is general amongst kids these days. In other words, it’s not just the kids diagnosed with ADD, but a lot of kids. And there’s a whole lot of new diagnoses now. And children are being diagnosed with all kinds of things. ADD is just one example. There’s a new diagnosis called oppositional defiant disorder, which again has to do with behaviors and poor impulse control, so that impulse control now has become a problem amongst children, in general, not just the specific ones diagnosed with ADD.

The second criteria for ADD is physical hyperactivity. So the part of the brain, again, that’s supposed to regulate physical activity and keep you still just, again, doesn’t work.

And then, finally, in the third criteria is poor attention skills—tuning out; not paying attention; mind being somewhere else; absent-mindedness; not being able to focus; beginning to work on something, five minutes later the mind goes somewhere else. So, kind of a mental restlessness and the lack of being still, lack of being focused, lack of being present. These are the three major criteria of ADD.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to this point that you just raised about the destruction of American childhood. What do you mean by that?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston—University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense.

So what’s really going on here now is that the developmental conditions for healthy childhood psychological and brain development are less and less available, so that the issue of ADD is only a small part of the general issue that children are no longer having the support for the way they need to develop.

As I made the point in my book about addiction, as well, the human brain does not develop on its own, does not develop according to a genetic program, depends very much on the environment. And the essential condition for the physiological development of these brain circuits that regulate human behavior, that give us empathy, that give us a social sense, that give us a connection with other people, that give us a connection with ourselves, that allows us to mature—the essential condition for those circuits, for their physiological development, is the presence of emotionally available, consistently available, non-stressed, attuned parenting caregivers.

Now, what do you have in a country where the average maternity leave is six weeks? These kids don’t have emotional caregivers available to them. What do you have in a country where poor women, nearly 50 percent of them, suffer from postpartum depression? And when a woman has postpartum depression, she can’t be attuned to the child.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about fathers?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the situation with fathers is, is that increasingly—there was a study recently that showed an increasing number of men are having postpartum depression, as well. And the main role of the father, of course, would be to support the mother. But when people are—emotionally, because the cause of postpartum depression in the mother it is not intrinsic to the mother—not intrinsic to the mother.

What we have to understand here is that human beings are not discrete, individual entities, contrary to the free enterprise myth that people are competitive, individualistic, private entities. What people actually are are social creatures, very much dependent on one another and very much programmed to cooperate with one another when the circumstances are right. When that’s not available, if the support is not available for women, that’s when they get depressed. When the fathers are stressed, they’re not supporting the women in that really important, crucial bonding role in the beginning. In fact, they get stressed and depressed themselves.

The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents. In this country, that’s less and less available. Hence, you’ve got burgeoning rates of autism in this country. It’s going up like 20- or 30-fold in the last 30 or 40 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Say what you mean by autism.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is an emotional disconnect. These children are living in a mind of their own. They don’t respond appropriately to emotional cues. They withdraw. They act out in an aggressive and sometimes just unpredictable fashion. They don’t know how to—there’s no sense—there’s no clear sense of a emotional connection and just peace inside them.

And there’s many, many more kids in this country now, several-fold increase, 20-fold increase in the last 30 years. The rates of anxiety amongst children is increasing. The numbers of kids on antidepressant medications has increased tremendously. The number of kids being diagnosed with bipolar disorder has gone up. And then not to mention all the behavioral issues, the bullying that I’ve already mentioned, the precocious sexuality, the teenage pregnancies. There’s now a program, a so-called “reality show,” that just focuses on teenage mothers.

You know, in other words—see, it never used to be that children grew up in a stressed nuclear family. That wasn’t the normal basis for child development. The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.

[…]

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the drugs, Gabor Maté, affect the development of the brain.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: In ADD, there’s an essential brain chemical, which is necessary for incentive and motivation, that seems to be lacking. That’s called dopamine. And dopamine is simply an essential life chemical. Without it, there’s no life. Mice in a laboratory who have no dopamine will starve themselves to death, because they have no incentive to eat. Even though they’re hungry, and even though their life is in danger, they will not eat, because there’s no motivation or incentive. So, partly, one way to look at ADD is a massive problem of motivation, because the dopamine is lacking in the brain. Now, the stimulant medications elevate dopamine levels, and these kids are now more motivated. They can focus and pay attention.

However, the assumption underneath giving these kids medications is that what we’re dealing with here is a genetic disorder, and the only way to deal with it is pharmacologically. And if you actually look at how the dopamine levels in a brain develop, if you look at infant monkeys and you measure their dopamine levels, and they’re normal when they’re with their mothers, and when you separate them from mothers, the dopamine levels go down within two or three days.

So, in other words, what we’re doing is we’re correcting a massive social problem that has to do with disconnection in a society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting, and we’re replacing that chemically. Now, the drugs—the stimulant drugs do seem to work, and a lot of kids are helped by it. The problem is not so much whether they should be used or not; the problem is that 80 percent of the time a kid is prescribed a medication, that’s all that happens. Nobody talks to the family about the family environment. The school makes no attempt to change the school environment. Nobody connects with these kids emotionally. In other words, it’s seen simply as a medical or a behavioral problem, but not as a problem of development.

AMY GOODMAN: Gabor Maté, you talk about acting out. What does acting out mean?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, it’s a great question. You see, when we hear the phrase “acting out,” we usually mean that a kid is behaving badly, that a child is being obstreperous, oppositional, violent, bullying, rude. That’s because we don’t know how to speak English anymore. The phrase “acting out” means you’re portraying behavior that which you haven’t got the words to say in language. In a game of charades, you have to act out, because you’re not allowed to speak. If you landed in a country where nobody spoke your language and you were hungry, you would have to literally demonstrate your anger—sorry, your hunger, through behavior, pointing to your mouth or to your empty belly, because you don’t have the words.

My point is that, yes, a lot of children are acting out, but it’s not bad behavior. It’s a representation of emotional losses and emotional lacks in their lives. And whether it’s, again, bullying or a whole set of other behaviors, what we’re dealing with here is childhood stunted emotional development—in some cases, stunted pain development. And rather than trying to control these behaviors through punishments, or even just exclusively through medications, we need to help these kids develop.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned you suffered from ADD, attention deficit disorder, yourself—

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:—and were drugged for it. Explain your own story.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, I was in my early fifties, and I was working in palliative care at the time. I was coordinator of a palliative care unit at a large Canadian hospital. And a social worker in the unit, who had just been diagnosed as an adult, told me about her story. And as a physician, I was like most physicians who know nothing about ADD. Most physicians really don’t know about the condition. But when she told me her story, I realized that was me. And subsequently, I was diagnosed. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And what was that story? What did you realize was you?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Oh, poor impulse control a lot of my life, impulsive behaviors, disorganization, a tendency to tune out a lot, be absentminded, and physical restlessness. I mean, I had trouble sitting still. All the traits, you know, that I saw in the literature on ADD, I recognized in myself, which was kind of an epiphany, in a sense, because you get to understand—at least you get a sense of why you’re behaving the way you’re behaving.

What never made sense to me right from the beginning, though, is the idea of ADD as a genetic disease. And not even after a couple of my kids were diagnosed with it, I still didn’t buy the idea that it’s genetic, because it isn’t. Again, it has to do with, in my case, very stressed circumstances as an infant, which I talked about on a previous program. In the case of my children, it’s because their father was a workaholic doctor who wasn’t emotionally available to them. And under those circumstances, children are stressed. I mean, if children are stressed when their brains are developing, one way to deal with the stress is to tune out.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about holding on to your kids, why parents need to matter more than peers.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Amy, in 1998, there was a book that was on the New York Times best book of the year and nearly won the Pulitzer Prize, and it was called The Nurture Assumption, in which this researcher argued that parents don’t make any difference anymore, because she looked at the—to the extent thatNewsweek actually had a cover article that year entitled “Do Parents Matter?” Now, if you want to get the full stupidity of that question, you have to imagine a veterinarian magazine asking, “Does the mother cat make any difference?” or “Does the mother bear matter?” But the research showed that children are being more influenced now, in their tastes, in their attitudes, in their behaviors, by peers than by parents. This poor researcher concluded that this is somehow natural. And what she mistook was that what is the norm in North America, she actually thought that was natural and healthy. In fact, it isn’t.

So, our book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers, is about showing why it is true that children are being more influenced by other kids in these days than by their parents, but just what an aberration that is, and what a distortion it is of normal human development, because normal human development demands, as normal mammalian development demands, the presence of nurturing parents. You know, even birds—birds don’t develop properly unless the mother and father bird are there. Bears, cats, rats, mice. Although, most of all, human beings, because human beings are the least mature and the most dependent for the longest period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the importance of attachment?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Attachment is the drive to be close to somebody, and attachment is a power force in human relationship—in fact, the most powerful force there is. Even as adults, when attachment relationships that people want to be close to are lost to us or they’re threatened somehow, we get very disoriented, very upset. Now, for children and babies and adolescents, that’s an absolute necessity, because the more immature you are, the more you need your attachments. It’s like a force of gravity that pulls two bodies together. Now, when the attachment goes in the wrong direction, instead of to the adults, but to the peer group, childhood developments can be distorted, development is stopped in its tracks, and parenting and teaching become extremely difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: You co-wrote this book, and you both found, in your experience, Hold on to Your Kids, that your kids were becoming increasingly secretive and unreachable.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, that’s the thing. You see, now, if your spouse or partner, adult spouse or partner, came home from work and didn’t give you the time of day and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn’t say, “You’ve got a behavioral problem. You should try tough love.” They’d say you’ve got a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavioral problem, we try and control the behaviors. In fact, what they’re showing us is that—my children showed this, as well—is that I had a relationship problem with them. They weren’t connected enough with me and too connected to the peer group. So that’s why they wanted to spend all their time with their peer group. And now we’ve given kids the technology to do that with. So the terrible downside of the internet is that now kids are spending time with each other—

AMY GOODMAN: Not even in the presence of each other.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s exactly the point, because, you see, that’s an attachment dynamic. One of the basic ways that people attach to each other is to want to be with the people that you want to connect with. So when kids spend time with each other, it’s not a behavior problem; it’s a sign that their relationships have been skewed towards the peer group. And that’s why it’s so difficult to peel them off their computers, because their desperation is to connect with the people that they’re trying to attach to. And that’s no longer us, as the adults, as the parents in their life.

AMY GOODMAN: So how do you change this dynamic?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, first we have to recognize its manifestations. And so, we have to recognize that whenever the child doesn’t look adults in the eye anymore, when the child wants to be always on the Skype or the cell phone or twittering or emailing or MSM messengering, you recognize it when the child becomes oppositional to adults. We tend to think that that’s a normal childhood phenomenon. It’s normal only to a certain degree.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they have to rebel in order to separate later.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: No. They have to separate, but they don’t have to rebel. In other words, separation is a normal human—individuation is a normal human developmental stage. You have to become a separate, individual person. But it doesn’t mean you have to reject and be hostile to the values of the adults. As a matter of fact, in traditional societies, children would become adults by being initiated into the adult group by elders, like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony or the initiation rituals of tribal cultures around the world. Now kids are initiated by other kids. And now you have the gang phenomenon, so that the teenage gang phenomenon is actually a misplaced initiation and orientation ritual, where kids are now rebelling against adult values. But it’s not because they’re bad kids, but because they’ve become disconnected from adults.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Maté, there’s a whole debate about education in the United States right now. How does this fit in?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, you have to ask, how do children learn? How do children learn? And learning is an attachment dynamic, as well. You learn when you want to be like somebody. So you copy them, so you learn from them. You learn when you’re curious. And you learn when you’re willing to try something, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else.

Now, here’s what happens. Caring about something and being curious about something and recognizing that something doesn’t work, you have to have a certain degree of emotional security. You have to be able to be open and vulnerable. Children who become peer-oriented—because the peer world is so dangerous and so fraught with bullying and ostracization and dissing and exclusion and negative talk, how does a child protect himself or herself from all that negativity in the peer world? Because children are not committed to each others’ unconditional loving acceptance. Even adults have a hard time giving that. Children can’t do it. Those children become very insecure, and emotionally, to protect themselves, they shut down. They become hardened, so they become cool. Nothing matters. Cool is the ethic. You see that in the rock videos. It’s all about cool. It’s all about aggression and cool and no real emotion. Now, when that happens, curiosity goes, because curiosity is vulnerable, because you care about something and you’re admitting that you don’t know. You won’t try anything, because if you fail, again, your vulnerability is exposed. So, you’re not willing to have trial and error.

And in terms of who you’re learning from, as long as kids were attaching to adults, they were looking to the adults to be modeling themselves on, to learn from, and to get their cues from. Now, kids are still learning from the people they’re attached to, but now it’s other kids. So you have whole generations of kids that are looking to other kids now to be their main cue-givers. So teachers have an almost impossible problem on their hands. And unfortunately, in North America again, education is seen as a question of academic pedagogy, hence these terrible standardized tests. And the very teachers who work with the most difficult kids are the ones who are most penalized.

AMY GOODMAN: Because if they don’t have good test scores, standardized test scores, in their class—

DR. GABOR MATÉ: They’re seen as bad teachers.

AMY GOODMAN:—then they could be fired. They’re seen as bad teachers, which means they’re going to want to kick out any difficult kids.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s exactly it. The difficult kids are kicked out, and teachers will be afraid to go into neighborhoods where, because of troubled family relationships, the kids are having difficulties, the kids are peer-oriented, the kids are not looking to the teachers. And this is seen as a reflection. So, actually, teachers are being slandered right now. Teachers are being slandered now because of the failure of the American society to produce the right environment for childhood development.

AMY GOODMAN: Because of the destruction of American childhood.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s right. What the problem reflects is the loss of the community and the neighborhood. We have to recreate that. So, the schools have to become not just places of pedagogy, but places of emotional connection. The teachers should be in the emotional connection game before they attempt to be in the pedagogy game.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program,Democracy Now!.


US/Monsanto to Vatican: Genetically Modified Food Is a “Moral Imperative”

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Oldspeak: “Ballsy. Orwellian even. One the most AMORAL, ruthless, and anti-democratic multinationals, using U.S. diplomats to invoke morality and religious obligation in disingenuous efforts to pressure the Vatican and other foreign governments into using their morally questionable and demonstrably dangerous food products. Preying on poor people to enrich yourself and threatening retaliation against governments that refuse your products, yes that’s absoltively moral. :-|”

From  Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Secret United States diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks detail efforts to promote genetically modified (GM) crops and biotechnology across the globe, including the Vatican, where US diplomats pushed the Roman Catholic Church to support biotech food in developing nations.

Cables from embassies in Spain, Austria and even Pakistan reveal the US diplomats have clearly sided with the biotech industry, even as court cases and public debates over GM food raged in the US and abroad.

In 2005, a US diplomat and a USAID official met with Catholic leaders in Rome to discuss biotech foods, according to a leaked cable.  The diplomats reported that Catholic leaders said the science and safety of GM food would soon be a “non-issue” in the Vatican and signaled a cautious acceptance of biotech products despite active opposition among the faithful:

Preoccupation at the Vatican, they said, was tied more to economic arguments, as some fear that widespread use of GMO food in the developing world would subjugate its farmer population and become a form of economic imperialism simply serving to enrich multi-national corporations.

US diplomats pledged to continue pushing GM foods as a “moral imperative” to feed growing populations in order to counter opposition to the biotech food industry among Catholic activists and clergy.

A document drafted by scientists linked to the Vatican and leaked to the press in 2010 suggested the Catholic Church could have a moral obligation to promote GM food crops to combat world hunger, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

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Other cables reveal plans to counter anti-GM initiatives across Europe, and in 2008, US diplomats declared the Monsanto MON-810 corn crop in the biotech stronghold of Spain as “under threat” from a campaign to ban GM crops in Europe.

Spain was the first European country to approve the MON-810 corn variety, and by 2009, Spanish farmers were responsible for 75 percent of the MON-810 crop in Europe, according to the leaked cable.

Top Spanish officials warned US diplomats that Spain was under pressure from other European Union (EU) countries to ban MON-810, and Monsanto officials told the diplomats that acceptance of the product was threatened by an agreement between the French government and environmental groups.

Truthout recently reported that, in 2007, the former US ambassador to France wanted to “retaliate” against the French for creating anti-GM momentum in Europe and questioning the safety of MON-810 when the product was up for re-evaluation in the EU.

France suspended cultivation of MON-810 in 2008 despite a EU report that found no new risks associated with the crop. French and independent scientists initiated a rigorous debate with EU scientists over MON-810, and by 2009, bans were in place in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Luxembourg.

Additional cables from the Spanish embassy tracked the country’s approval of GM corn varieties and identified Spain as a “country worth continuing to target” in efforts to promote acceptance of biotechnology.

MON-810 is engineered to excrete the Bt toxin, which is poisonous to some insect pests. A stacked version of MON-810 is also engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide first popularized by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup.



So Young and So Many Pills: Over 25% Of Kids And Teens In The U.S. Take Prescriptions Drugs On A Regular Basis

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Oldspeak:” A vastly expanded and globalized pharmaceutical industry always requires new test subjects- err.. I mean “customers” to sell their “medicine” to. And they’re getting younger and younger. 8 year olds on blood pressure meds. 4 year olds on powerful anti-psychotics. Our children are part of the largest uncontrolled experiment in history. No one really knows the long term health effects of exposing still developing brains to questionably tested drugs that alter brain chemistry. Never mind the psychological effects of socializing the use of pharmaceutical “cures” and unnatural response to illness, rather than dealing with the unseen societal conditions that cause them.”

From Anna Wilde Mathews @ The Wall Street Journal:

Gage Martindale, who is 8 years old, has been taking a blood-pressure drug since he was a toddler. “I want to be healthy, and I don’t want things in my heart to go wrong,” he says.

And, of course, his mom is always there to check Gage’s blood pressure regularly with a home monitor, and to make sure the second-grader doesn’t skip a dose of his once-a-day enalapril.



These days, the medicine cabinet is truly a family affair. More than a quarter of U.S. kids and teens are taking a medication on a chronic basis, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., the biggest U.S. pharmacy-benefit manager with around 65 million members. Nearly 7% are on two or more such drugs, based on the company’s database figures for 2009.

Doctors and parents warn that prescribing medications to children can be problematic. There is limited research available about many drugs’ effects in kids. And health-care providers and families need to be vigilant to assess the medicines’ impact, both intended and not. Although the effects of some medications, like cholesterol-lowering statins, have been extensively researched in adults, the consequences of using such drugs for the bulk of a patient’s lifespan are little understood.

Many medications kids take on a regular basis are well known, including treatments for asthma and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But children and teens are also taking a wide variety of other medications once considered only to be for adults, from statins to diabetes pills and sleep drugs, according to figures provided to The Wall Street Journal by IMS Health, a research firm. Prescriptions for antihypertensives in people age 19 and younger could hit 5.5 million this year if the trend though September continues, according to IMS. That would be up 17% from 2007, the earliest year available.

Researchers attribute the wide usage in part to doctors and parents becoming more aware of drugs as an option for kids. Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise among children, which lead to too much weight gain and obesity, also fuel the use of some treatments, such as those for hypertension. And some conditions are likely caught and treated earlier as screening and diagnosis efforts improve.

Gage, who isn’t overweight, has been on hypertension drugs since he had surgery to fix a heart defect as a toddler, says his mother, Stefanie Martindale, a Conway, Ark., marketing-company manager.

Most medications that could be prescribed to children on a chronic basis haven’t been tested specifically in kids, says Danny Benjamin, a Duke University pediatrics professor. And older drugs rarely get examined, since pharmaceutical firms have little incentive to test medicines once they are no longer under patent protection.

Still, a growing number of studies have been done under a Food and Drug Administration program that rewards drug companies for testing medications in children. In more than a third of these studies, there have been surprising side effects, or results that suggested a smaller or larger dose was needed than had been expected, Dr. Benjamin says. Those findings underscore that children’s reactions to medicines can be very different than those of adults. Long-term effects of drugs in kids are almost never known, since pediatric studies, like those in adults, tend to be relatively short.

“We know we’re making errors in dosing and safety,” says Dr. Benjamin, who is leading a new National Institutes of Health initiative to study drugs in children. He suggests that parents should do as much research as they can to understand the evidence for the medicine, confirm the diagnosis, and identify side effects. Among the places to check: drug labels and other resources on the FDA’s website, published research at www.pubmed.gov, and clinical guidelines from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When a child psychiatrist diagnosed their then 8-year-old daughter with bipolar disorder four years ago, Ken and Joy Lewis, of Chapel Hill, N.C., sought a second opinion from another child psychiatrist.

They also worked with a psychologist. Dr. Lewis, who leads a company that does early-stage drug studies, reads all the available research on each medication suggested for the girl, now 12, who has taken antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications including Risperdal and Haldol.

“If your child has a chronic problem, then you have to invest the time as a parent,” he says.

Parents and doctors also say nondrug alternatives should be explored where possible. Tom Wells, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who sees patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, frequently pushes diet and exercise changes before drugs for hypertensive kids. “Obesity is really the biggest cause I see for high blood pressure in adolescents,” he says. But only about 10% of families adhere to his diet and exercise recommendations, he says.

Beverly Pizzano, a psychologist who lives in Palm Harbor, Fla., spent years struggling with behavioral therapies for her son Steven, 10, who showed symptoms of ADHD at a young age. She worked with a counselor on a system of rewards for good behavior, and even had a research team watch him and suggest interventions. But she turned to medications after he struggled in kindergarten. “We tried everything before I would get to that,” she says.

After a drug is prescribed, children must be closely monitored, doctors say. They may not recognize or communicate a possible side effect, or whether their symptoms are improving. They also don’t always follow prescription instructions.

Robert Lemanske, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, says patients at his pediatric asthma clinic are checked regularly for side effects such as slowed rates of growth. He quizzes parents and young patients on details like where they keep their inhalers to make sure they’re taking their prescribed medicine.

Nichole Ramsey, a preschool teacher whose 9-year-old son Antwone is a patient at the clinic, watches her son’s basketball practices so she can head off any wheezing or other symptoms. She also makes sure she’s around when he gets his regular Advair dose. If Antwone stays at a friend’s house overnight, she asks the parents to watch that he takes steps like rinsing out his mouth to avoid a fungal infection that can be a side effect of the inhaled drug.

“You’re still the best monitor of what’s going on with them,” she says of a parent’s role.

Ms. Ramsey is particularly concerned about Advair, which has been tied to rare instances of asthma-related death, but says it works better than a previous drug he was using. Before he started the medications, Antwone was hospitalized several times for asthma attacks.

As children’s bodies change and grow, they often need different drugs or doses, says Greg Kearns, chairman of medical research at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Jennifer Flory, a homemaker in Baldwin City, Kan., says that after her daughter Cassandra, now 16, started taking a higher dose of the asthma drug Singulair a few years ago, she became more moody and sad. Ms. Flory didn’t connect the change to the drug, but when she eventually mentioned it to a nurse practitioner at the girl’s asthma clinic, the nurse suggested stopping Singulair, which currently has a precaution in its label about possible psychiatric side effects. Cassandra, who continued taking Advair, became far more cheerful and didn’t have any increase in asthma symptoms, Ms. Flory says.

A spokesman for Merck & Co., which makes Singulair, said in a statement that the company is “confident in the efficacy and safety of Singulair,” which is “an important treatment option for appropriate patients.”

Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at anna.mathews@wsj.com

Over Half a Million U.S. Kids Per Year Suffer Health Reactions From Prescription Drugs

From David Gutierez @ Food Matters:

More than half a million children suffer adverse reactions every year in the United States from prescription drugs, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers examined data on emergency room and clinic visits between the years of 1995 and 2005 by children under the age of 18. The average number of children receiving treatment for adverse prescription drug effects each year in that time period was 585,922. The number fluctuated very little from year to year.

Adverse drug events included accidental overdoses, side effects and wrong prescriptions.

Prior research has found that another half million children suffer adverse prescription drug reactions every year while in hospitals, bringing the total annual number of adverse drug effects in children up to more than one million. These numbers do not include negative reactions to over-the-counter drugs.

Researchers in the current study uncovered no reports of deaths caused by adverse drug reactions, but 5 percent of children did require hospitalization. Forty-three percent of the adverse reactions occurred in children under the age of five, with another 23 percent occurring in those between the ages of 15 and 18.

The most common causes of adverse effects in young children were prescription antibiotics. Some of the more common side effects were diarrhea, rash and stomach ache. Birth control pills were a common cause of side effects in teenagers, producing problems such as nausea, vomiting and disrupted menstrual cycles.

Drugs for depression and cancer were also significant causes of negative reactions.

According to lead author Florence Bourgeois, doctors need to inform parents of the possible side effects of any drugs children are given. Parents should watch their children especially carefully when a new drug is taken, she said, because “first-time medication exposures may reveal an allergic reaction.”


Deadly Medicine

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

Oldspeak: “The fruits of privatized, profit-driven medicine: Prescription drugs kill 300% more Americans than illegal drugs. Hundreds of thousands of dead Americans a year. Exported human experimentation on sick Russians, homeless Poles, slum-dwelling Chinese and desperately poor Africans, usually without their consent and lax industry created safety protocols, where the FDA has no ability to regulate. Big Pharma has become the biggest defrauder of the U.S. Gov’t. But pot is illegal. Why are prescription and far more deadly drugs subsidized, while natural ones are stigmatized, criminalized and banned?

From Donald J. Barlett & James B. Steele @ Vanity Fair:


You wouldn’t think the cities had much in common. Iaşi, with a population of 320,000, lies in the Moldavian region of Romania. Mégrine is a town of 24,000 in northern Tunisia, on the Mediterranean Sea. Tartu, Estonia, with a population of 100,000, is the oldest city in the Baltic States; it is sometimes called “the Athens on the Emajõgi.” Shenyang, in northeastern China, is a major industrial center and transportation hub with a population of 7.2 million.

These places are not on anyone’s Top 10 list of travel destinations. But the advance scouts of the pharmaceutical industry have visited all of them, and scores of similar cities and towns, large and small, in far-flung corners of the planet. They have gone there to find people willing to undergo clinical trials for new drugs, and thereby help persuade the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare the drugs safe and effective for Americans. It’s the next big step in globalization, and there’s good reason to wish that it weren’t.

Once upon a time, the drugs Americans took to treat chronic diseases, clear up infections, improve their state of mind, and enhance their sexual vitality were tested primarily either in the United States (the vast majority of cases) or in Europe. No longer. As recently as 1990, according to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, a mere 271 trials were being conducted in foreign countries of drugs intended for American use. By 2008, the number had risen to 6,485—an increase of more than 2,000 percent. A database being compiled by the National Institutes of Health has identified 58,788 such trials in 173 countries outside the United States since 2000. In 2008 alone, according to the inspector general’s report, 80 percent of the applications submitted to the F.D.A. for new drugs contained data from foreign clinical trials. Increasingly, companies are doing 100 percent of their testing offshore. The inspector general found that the 20 largest U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies now conducted “one-third of their clinical trials exclusively at foreign sites.” All of this is taking place when more drugs than ever—some 2,900 different drugs for some 4,600 different conditions—are undergoing clinical testing and vying to come to market.

Some medical researchers question whether the results of clinical trials conducted in certain other countries are relevant to Americans in the first place. They point out that people in impoverished parts of the world, for a variety of reasons, may metabolize drugs differently from the way Americans do. They note that the prevailing diseases in other countries, such as malaria and tuberculosis, can skew the outcome of clinical trials. But from the point of view of the drug companies, it’s easy to see why moving clinical trials overseas is so appealing. For one thing, it’s cheaper to run trials in places where the local population survives on only a few dollars a day. It’s also easier to recruit patients, who often believe they are being treated for a disease rather than, as may be the case, just getting a placebo as part of an experiment. And it’s easier to find what the industry calls “drug-naïve” patients: people who are not being treated for any disease and are not currently taking any drugs, and indeed may never have taken any—the sort of people who will almost certainly yield better test results. (For some subjects overseas, participation in a clinical trial may be their first significant exposure to a doctor.) Regulations in many foreign countries are also less stringent, if there are any regulations at all. The risk of litigation is negligible, in some places nonexistent. Ethical concerns are a figure of speech. Finally—a significant plus for the drug companies—the F.D.A. does so little monitoring that the companies can pretty much do and say what they want.

Consent by Thumbprint

Many of today’s trials still take place in developed countries, such as Britain, Italy, and Japan. But thousands are taking place in countries with large concentrations of poor, often illiterate people, who in some cases sign consent forms with a thumbprint, or scratch an “X.” Bangladesh has been home to 76 clinical trials. There have been clinical trials in Malawi (61), the Russian Federation (1,513), Romania (876), Thailand (786), Ukraine (589), Kazakhstan (15), Peru (494), Iran (292), Turkey (716), and Uganda (132). Throw a dart at a world map and you are unlikely to hit a spot that has escaped the attention of those who scout out locations for the pharmaceutical industry.

The two destinations that one day will eclipse all the others, including Europe and the United States, are China (with 1,861 trials) and India (with 1,457). A few years ago, India was home to more American drug trials than China was, thanks in part to its large English-speaking population. But that has changed. English is now mandatory in China’s elementary schools, and, owing to its population edge, China now has more people who speak English than India does.

While Americans may be unfamiliar with the names of foreign cities where clinical trials have been conducted, many of the drugs being tested are staples of their medicine cabinets. One example is Celebrex, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has been aggressively promoted in television commercials for a decade. Its manufacturer, Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, has spent more than a billion dollars promoting its use as a pain remedy for arthritis and other conditions, including menstrual cramps. The National Institutes of Health maintains a record of most—but by no means all—drug trials inside and outside the United States. The database counts 290 studies involving Celebrex. Companies are not required to report—and do not report—all studies conducted overseas. According to the database, of the 290 trials for Celebrex, 183 took place in the United States, meaning, one would assume, that 107 took place in other countries. But an informal, country-by-country accounting by VANITY FAIR turned up no fewer than 207 Celebrex trials in at least 36 other countries. They ranged from 1 each in Estonia, Croatia, and Lithuania to 6 each in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Russia, to 8 in Mexico, 9 in China, and 10 in Brazil. But even these numbers understate the extent of the foreign trials. For example, the database lists five Celebrex trials in Ukraine, but just “one” of those trials involved studies in 11 different Ukrainian cities.

The Celebrex story does not have a happy ending. First, it was disclosed that patients taking the drug were more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes than those who took older and cheaper painkillers. Then it was alleged that Pfizer had suppressed a study calling attention to these very problems. (The company denied that the study was undisclosed and insisted that it “acted responsibly in sharing this information in a timely manner with the F.D.A.”) Soon afterward the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reported an array of additional negative findings. Meanwhile, Pfizer was promoting Celebrex for use with Alzheimer’s patients, holding out the possibility that the drug would slow the progression of dementia. It didn’t. Sales of Celebrex reached $3.3 billion in 2004, and then began to quickly drop.

“Rescue Countries”

One big factor in the shift of clinical trials to foreign countries is a loophole in F.D.A. regulations: if studies in the United States suggest that a drug has no benefit, trials from abroad can often be used in their stead to secure F.D.A. approval. There’s even a term for countries that have shown themselves to be especially amenable when drug companies need positive data fast: they’re called “rescue countries.” Rescue countries came to the aid of Ketek, the first of a new generation of widely heralded antibiotics to treat respiratory-tract infections. Ketek was developed in the 1990s by Aventis Pharmaceuticals, now Sanofi-Aventis. In 2004—on April Fools’ Day, as it happens—the F.D.A. certified Ketek as safe and effective. The F.D.A.’s decision was based heavily on the results of studies in Hungary, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey.

The approval came less than one month after a researcher in the United States was sentenced to 57 months in prison for falsifying her own Ketek data. Dr. Anne Kirkman-Campbell, of Gadsden, Alabama, seemingly never met a person she couldn’t sign up to participate in a drug trial. She enrolled more than 400 volunteers, about 1 percent of the town’s adult population, including her entire office staff. In return, she collected $400 a head from Sanofi-Aventis. It later came to light that the data from at least 91 percent of her patients was falsified. (Kirkman-Campbell was not the only troublesome Aventis researcher. Another physician, in charge of the third-largest Ketek trial site, was addicted to cocaine. The same month his data was submitted to the F.D.A. he was arrested while holding his wife hostage at gunpoint.) Nonetheless, on the basis of overseas trials, Ketek won approval.

As the months ticked by, and the number of people taking the drug climbed steadily, the F.D.A. began to get reports of adverse reactions, including serious liver damage that sometimes led to death. The F.D.A.’s leadership remained steadfast in its support of the drug, but criticism by the agency’s own researchers eventually leaked out (a very rare occurrence in this close-knit, buttoned-up world). The critics were especially concerned about an ongoing trial in which 4,000 infants and children, some as young as six months, were recruited in more than a dozen countries for an experiment to assess Ketek’s effectiveness in treating ear infections and tonsillitis. The trial had been sanctioned over the objections of the F.D.A.’s own reviewers. One of them argued that the trial never should have been allowed to take place—that it was “inappropriate and unethical because it exposed children to harm without evidence of benefits.” In 2006, after inquiries from Congress, the F.D.A. asked Sanofi-Aventis to halt the trial. Less than a year later, one day before the start of a congressional hearing on the F.D.A.’s approval of the drug, the agency suddenly slapped a so-called black-box warning on the label of Ketek, restricting its use. (A black-box warning is the most serious step the F.D.A. can take short of removing a drug from the market.) By then the F.D.A. had received 93 reports of severe adverse reactions to Ketek, resulting in 12 deaths.

During the congressional hearings, lawmakers heard from former F.D.A. scientists who had criticized their agency’s oversight of the Ketek trials and the drug-approval process. One was Dr. David Ross, who had been the F.D.A.’s chief reviewer of new drugs for 10 years, and was now the national director of clinical public-health programs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. When he explained his objections, he offered a litany of reasons that could be applied to any number of other drugs: “Because F.D.A. broke its own rules and allowed Ketek on the market. Because dozens of patients have died or suffered needlessly. Because F.D.A. allowed Ketek’s maker to experiment with it on children over reviewers’ protests. Because F.D.A. ignored warnings about fraud. And because F.D.A. used data it knew were false to reassure the public about Ketek’s safety.”

Trials and Error

To have an effective regulatory system you need a clear chain of command—you need to know who is responsible to whom, all the way up and down the line. There is no effective chain of command in modern American drug testing. Around the time that drugmakers began shifting clinical trials abroad, in the 1990s, they also began to contract out all phases of development and testing, putting them in the hands of for-profit companies. It used to be that clinical trials were done mostly by academic researchers in universities and teaching hospitals, a system that, however imperfect, generally entailed certain minimum standards. The free market has changed all that. Today it is mainly independent contractors who recruit potential patients both in the U.S. and—increasingly—overseas. They devise the rules for the clinical trials, conduct the trials themselves, prepare reports on the results, ghostwrite technical articles for medical journals, and create promotional campaigns. The people doing the work on the front lines are not independent scientists. They are wage-earning technicians who are paid to gather a certain number of human beings; sometimes sequester and feed them; administer certain chemical inputs; and collect samples of urine and blood at regular intervals. The work looks like agribusiness, not research.

What began as a mom-and-pop operation has grown into a vast army of formal “contract-research organizations” that generate annual revenue of $20 billion. They can be found conducting trials in every part of the world. By far the largest is Quintiles Transnational, based in Durham, North Carolina. It offers the services of 23,000 employees in 60 countries, and claims that it has “helped develop or commercialize all of the top 30 best-selling drugs.”

Quintiles is privately owned—its investors include two of the U.S.’s top private-equity firms. Other private contractors are public companies, their stock traded on Wall Street. Pharmaceutical Product Development (P.P.D.), a full-service medical contractor based in Wilmington, North Carolina, is a public company with 10,500 employees. It, too, has conducted clinical trials all around the world. In fact, it was involved in the clinical trials for Ketek—a P.P.D. research associate, Ann Marie Cisneros, had been assigned to monitor Dr. Anne Kirkman-Campbell’s testing in Alabama. Cisneros later told the congressional investigating committee that Kirkman-Campbell had indeed engaged in fraud. “But what the court that sentenced her did not know,” Cisneros said, was that “Aventis was not a victim of this fraud.” Cisneros said she had reported her findings of fraud to her employer, P.P.D., and also to Aventis. She told the congressional committee, “What brings me here today is my disbelief at Aventis’s statements that it did not know that fraud was being committed. Mr. Chairman, I knew it, P.P.D. knew it, and Aventis knew it.” Following her testimony the company released a statement saying it regretted the violations that occurred during the study but was not aware of the fraud until after the data was submitted to the F.D.A.

The F.D.A., the federal agency charged with oversight of the food and drugs that Americans consume, is rife with conflicts of interest. Doctors who insist the drug you take is perfectly safe may be collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company selling the drug. (ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit news organization that is compiling an ongoing catalogue of pharmaceutical-company payments to physicians, has identified 17,000 doctors who have collected speaking and consulting fees, including nearly 400 who have received $100,000 or more since 2009.) Quite often, the F.D.A. never bothers to check for interlocking financial interests. In one study, the agency failed to document the financial interests of applicants in 31 percent of applications for new-drug approval. Even when the agency or the company knew of a potential conflict of interest, neither acted to guard against bias in the test results.

Because of the deference shown to drug companies by the F.D.A.—and also by Congress, which has failed to impose any meaningful regulation—there is no mandatory public record of the results of drug trials conducted in foreign countries. Nor is there any mandatory public oversight of ongoing trials. If one company were to test an experimental drug that killed more patients than it helped, and kept the results secret, another company might unknowingly repeat the same experiment years later, with the same results. Data is made available to the public on a purely voluntary basis. Its accuracy is unknown. The oversight that does exist often is shot through with the kinds of ethical conflicts that Wall Street would admire. The economic incentives for doctors in poor countries to heed the wishes of the drug companies are immense. An executive at a contract-research organization told the anthropologist Adriana Petryna, author of the book When Experiments Travel: “In Russia, a doctor makes two hundred dollars a month, and he is going to make five thousand dollars per Alzheimer’s patient” that he signs up. Even when the most flagrant conflicts are disclosed, penalties are minimal. In truth, the same situation exists in the United States. There’s just more of a chance here, though not a very large one, that adverse outcomes and tainted data will become public. When the pharmaceutical industry insists that its drugs have been tested overseas in accordance with F.D.A. standards, this may be true—but should provide little assurance.

The F.D.A. gets its information on foreign trials almost entirely from the companies themselves. It conducts little or no independent research. The investigators contracted by the pharmaceutical companies to manage clinical trials are left pretty much on their own. In 2008 the F.D.A. inspected just 1.9 percent of trial sites inside the United States to ensure that they were complying with basic standards. Outside the country, it inspected even fewer trial sites—seven-tenths of 1 percent. In 2008, the F.D.A. visited only 45 of the 6,485 locations where foreign drug trials were being conducted.

The pharmaceutical industry dismisses concerns about the reliability of clinical trials conducted in developing countries, but the potential dangers were driven home to Canadian researchers in 2007. While reviewing data from a clinical trial in Iran for a new heart drug, they discovered that many of the results were fraudulent. “It was bad, so bad we thought the data was not salvageable,” Dr. Gordon Guyatt, part of the research group at McMaster University in Hamilton, told Canada’s National Post.

In addition to monitoring trials abroad, which it does not really do, the F.D.A. is responsible for inspecting drug-manufacturing plants in other countries, which it also does not really do. In 2007 and 2008, hundreds of patients taking the blood thinner heparin, which among other purposes is used to prevent blood clots during surgery and dialysis, developed serious allergic reactions as a result of a contaminant introduced at a Chinese manufacturing facility. It took months for the F.D.A., its Chinese counterpart, and Baxter International, the pharmaceutical company that distributed the drug, to track the source of contamination to Changzhou, a city of 3.5 million on the Yangtze River.

The delay was perhaps understandable, given the manufacturing process. The raw material for Baxter’s heparin comes from China’s many small pig farms. To be precise, it’s derived from the mucous membranes of the intestines of slaughtered pigs; the membranes are mixed together and cooked, often in unregulated family workplaces. By the time the source of the contaminant was pinpointed, many more patients in the United States had experienced severe reactions, and as many as 200 had died. It later turned out that the F.D.A. had indeed inspected a Chinese plant—but it was the wrong one. The federal regulators had confused the names.

The good news was that, in this instance, the F.D.A. at least knew which country the heparin had come from. The bad news is that it does not always know where clinical trials are being conducted, or even the names or types of drugs being tested, or the purpose for which they will be prescribed once approved. Companies may withhold the foreign test data until they actually submit the application to the F.D.A. for approval. By then the agency has lost the ability to see whether the trials were managed according to acceptable standards, and whether the data collected was manipulated or fabricated.

$350 per Child

If the globalization of clinical trials for adult medications has drawn little attention, foreign trials for children’s drugs have attracted even less. The Argentinean province of Santiago del Estero, with a population of nearly a million, is one of the country’s poorest. In 2008 seven babies participating in drug testing in the province suffered what the U.S. clinical-trials community refers to as “an adverse event”: they died. The deaths occurred as the children took part in a medical trial to test the safety of a new vaccine, Synflorix, to prevent pneumonia, ear infections, and other pneumococcal diseases. Developed by GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in terms of global prescription-drug sales, the new vaccine was intended to compete against an existing vaccine. In all, at least 14 infants enrolled in clinical trials for the drug died during the testing. Their parents, some illiterate, had their children signed up without understanding that they were taking part in an experiment. Local doctors who persuaded parents to enroll their babies in the trial reportedly received $350 per child. The two lead investigators contracted by Glaxo were fined by the Argentinean government. So was Glaxo, though the company maintained that the mortality rate of the children “did not exceed the rate in the regions and countries participating in the study.” No independent group conducted an investigation or performed autopsies. As it happens, the brother of the lead investigator in Santiago del Estero was the Argentinean provincial health minister.

In New Delhi, 49 babies died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences while taking part in clinical trials over a 30-month period. They were given a variety of new drugs to treat everything from high blood pressure to chronic focal encephalitis, a brain inflammation that causes epileptic seizures and other neurological problems. The blood-pressure drugs had never before been given to anyone under 18. The editor of an Indian medical journal said it was obvious that the trials were intended to extend patent life in Western countries “with no consequence or benefit for India, using Indian children as guinea pigs.” In all, 4,142 children were enrolled in the studies, two-thirds of them less than one year old. But the head of the pediatrics department at the All India Institute maintained that “none of the deaths was due to the medication or interventions used in clinical trials.”

For years, American physicians gave anti-psychotic medicines to children “off label,” meaning that they wrote prescriptions based on testing for adults, sometimes even for different conditions. That didn’t work out so well for the children, who, when it comes to medicine, really are not just little adults. To provide the pharmaceutical industry with an incentive to conduct clinical trials on children’s versions of adult drugs, Congress in 1997 enacted legislation, known as the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision, extending the patent life of certain drugs by six months. It worked so well that the industry has, in the ensuing years, been able to put younger and younger children on more and more drugs, pocketing an extra $14 billion. Between 1999 and 2007, for instance, the use of anti-psychotic medications on children between the ages of two and five more than doubled.

A study of 174 trials under the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision found that 9 percent of them did not report the location or number of sites of the clinical trials. Of those that did, two-thirds had been conducted in at least one country outside the United States, and 11 percent were conducted entirely outside the United States. Of the 79 trials with more than 100 subjects participating, 87 percent enrolled patients outside the United States. As is the case with adult studies, many children’s trials conducted abroad are neither reported nor catalogued on any publicly accessible government database. There is no public record of their existence or their results.

In the mid-90s, Glaxo conducted clinical trials on the antidepressant Paxil in the United States, Europe, and South America. Paxil is a member of a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. The class includes Zoloft, Prozac, and Lexapro. In the United Kingdom, Paxil is sold as Seroxat. The clinical trials showed that the drug had no beneficial effect on adolescents; some of the trials indicated that the placebo was more effective than the drug itself. But Glaxo neglected to share this information with consumers; annual sales of the drug had reached $5 billion in 2003. In an internal document obtained by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the company emphasized how important it was to “effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact.” The memo went on to warn that “it would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated.” After the document was released a Glaxo spokesperson said that the “memo draws an inappropriate conclusion and is not consistent with the facts.”

“Smoke and Mirrors”

It may be just a coincidence, but as controversy swirls around new drugs, and as the F.D.A. continues to slap medicines with new warning labels—especially the black-box warnings that indicate the most serious potential reactions—most of the problematic drugs have all undergone testing outside the United States. Clinical-trial representatives working for GlaxoSmithKline went to Iaşi, Romania, to test Avandia, a diabetes drug, on the local population. Glaxo representatives also showed up in other cities in Romania—Bucureşti, Cluj-Napoca, Craiova, and Timişoara—as well as multiple cities in Latvia, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Russian Federation, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. That was for the largest of the Avandia clinical trials. But there have been scores of others, all seeking to prove that the drug is safe and effective. Some took place before the drug was approved by the F.D.A. Others were “post-marketing” studies, done after the fact, as the company cast about for ways to come up with more positive results so it could expand Avandia’s use for other treatments. Based on the initial evaluations, Avandia was expected to—and did—become another Glaxo multi-billion-dollar best-seller.

While sales soared, so, too, did reports of adverse reactions—everything from macular edema to liver injury, from bone fractures to congestive heart failure. In 2009 the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit group that monitors the prescription-drug field, linked the deaths of 1,354 people to Avandia, based on reports filed with the F.D.A. Studies also concluded that people taking the drug had an increased risk of developing heart disease, one of the very conditions that doctors treating diabetics hope to forestall. The risk was so high that worried doctors inside and outside the F.D.A. sought to have the drug removed from the market, an incredibly difficult task no matter how problematic the medicine. As always, the F.D.A. was late to the party. In 2008 the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes had warned against using Avandia. The Saudi Arabian drug-regulatory agency yanked it from the market, and the Indian government asked Glaxo to halt 19 of its Avandia trials in that country. In September 2010 the European Medicines Agency pulled Avandia from the shelves all across Europe. The F.D.A. still could not bring itself to take decisive action. This even though the F.D.A. knew that Glaxo had withheld critical safety information concerning the increased risk of heart attacks, and the F.D.A. itself had estimated that the drug had caused more than 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. The agency settled for imposing new restrictions on the availability of the drug in the United States. Glaxo released a statement saying that it “continues to believe that Avandia is an important treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes,” but that it would “voluntarily cease promotion of Avandia in all the countries in which it operates.”

The Avandia case and others like it have prompted the U.S. Justice Department to mount an investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. While it is legal for doctors in this country to accept money from drug companies for acting as consultants, this is not the case abroad, where doctors often are government employees, and such payments can be considered bribes. There are other legal issues. So far, Glaxo has paid out more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits arising from claims against Avandia and other drugs. The Senate Finance Committee calculates that, since May 2004, seven drug companies have paid out more than $7 billion in fines and penalties stemming from unlawful drug dealings. Pfizer paid the largest such fine in history—$2.3 billion for promoting off-label uses of the arthritis drug Bextra.

In theory, pharmaceutical companies are barred from selling a drug for any purpose other than the one that the F.D.A. has approved on the basis of clinical testing. But the reality is different. The minute a drug receives the green light from the F.D.A. for a specific treatment, the sponsoring company and its allies begin campaigns to make it available for other purposes or for other types of patients. The antidepressant Paxil was tested on adults but sold off-label to treat children. Seroquel, an anti-psychotic, was marketed as a treatment for depression. Physicians, often on retainer from pharmaceutical companies, are free to prescribe a drug for any reason if they entertain a belief that it will work. This practice turns the population at large into unwitting guinea pigs whose adverse reactions may go unreported or even unrecognized.

To secure the F.D.A.’s approval for Seroquel, which ultimately would go to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, AstraZeneca, the fifth-largest pharmaceutical company, conducted clinical trials across Asia, Europe, and the United States. Among the sites: Shenyang and more than a dozen other cities in China, and multiple cities in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Ukraine, and Taiwan. The F.D.A. initially approved the drug for the treatment of schizophrenia. But while schizophrenia may have opened the door, off-label sales opened the cash register. Money poured in by the billions as AstraZeneca promoted the drug for the treatment of any number of other conditions. It was prescribed for children with autism-spectrum disorders and retardation as well as for elderly Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes. The company touted the drug for treatment of aggression, anxiety, anger-management issues, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia, and sleeplessness. Up to 70 percent of the prescriptions for Seroquel were written for a purpose other than the one for which it had been approved, and sales rose to more than $4 billion a year.

It turned out, however, that AstraZeneca had been less than candid about the drug’s side effects. One of the most troubling: patients often gained weight and developed diabetes. This meant a new round of drugs to treat conditions caused by Seroquel. In an internal e-mail from 1997 discussing a study comparing Seroquel with an older anti-psychotic drug, Haldol, a company executive praised the work of the project physician, saying she had done a great “smoke-and-mirrors job,” which “should minimize (and dare I venture to suggest) could put a positive spin (in terms of safety) on this cursed study.” After the e-mail was disclosed, in February 2009, the company said that the document cannot “obscure the fact that AstraZeneca acted responsibly and appropriately as it developed and marketed” the drug. In April, AstraZeneca reached a half-billion-dollar settlement with the federal government over its marketing of Seroquel. The U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, where the settlement was filed, declared that the company had “turned patients into guinea pigs in an unsupervised drug test.” Meanwhile, the company was facing more than 25,000 product-liability lawsuits filed by people who contended the drug had caused their diabetes.

Death Toll

The only people who seem to care about the surge of clinical trials in foreign countries are the medical ethicists—not historically a powerhouse when it comes to battling the drug companies. A team of physician-researchers from Duke University, writing last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, observed that “this phenomenon raises important questions about the economics and ethics of clinical research and the translation of trial results to clinical practice: Who benefits from the globalization of clinical trials? What is the potential for exploitation of research subjects? Are trial results accurate and valid, and can they be extrapolated to other settings?” The Duke team noted that, in some places, “financial compensation for research participation may exceed participants’ annual wages, and participation in a clinical trial may provide the only access to care” for those taking part in the trial. In 2007, residents of a homeless shelter in Grudziadz, Poland, received as little as $2 to take part in a flu-vaccine experiment. The subjects thought they were getting a regular flu shot. They were not. At least 20 of them died. The same distorting economic pressures exist for local hospitals or doctors, who may collect hundreds of dollars for every patient they enroll. In theory, a federal institutional review board is supposed to assess every clinical trial, with special concern for the welfare of the human subjects, but this work, too, has now been outsourced to private companies and is often useless. In 2009 the Government Accountability Office conducted a sting operation, winning approval for a clinical trial involving human subjects; the institutional review board failed to discover (if it even tried) that it was dealing with “a bogus company with falsified credentials” and a fake medical device. This was in Los Angeles. If that is oversight in the U.S., imagine what it’s like in Kazakhstan or Uganda. Susan Reverby, the Wellesley historian who uncovered the U.S. government’s syphilis experiments in Guatemala during the 1940s, was asked in a recent interview to cite any ongoing experimental practices that gave her pause. “Frankly,” she said, “I am mostly worried about the drug trials that get done elsewhere now, which we have little control over.”

The pharmaceutical industry, needless to say, has a different view. It argues that people participating in a clinical trial may be getting the highest quality of medical care they have ever received. That may be true in the short term. But, unfortunately, the care lasts only until the trial is completed. Many U.S. medical investigators who manage drug trials abroad say they prefer to work overseas, where regulations are lax and “conflict of interest” is a synonym for “business as usual.” Inside the United States, doctors who oversee trials are required to fill out forms showing any income they have received from drug companies so as to guard against financial biases in trials. This explains in part why the number of clinical-trial investigators registered with the F.D.A. fell 5.2 percent in the U.S. between 2004 and 2007 while increasing 16 percent in Eastern Europe, 12 percent in Asia, and 10 percent in Latin America. In a recent survey, 70 percent of the eligible U.S. and Western European clinical investigators interviewed said they were discouraged by the current regulatory environment, partly because they are compelled to disclose financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. In trials conducted outside the United States, few people care.

In 2009, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, 19,551 people died in the United States as a direct result of the prescription drugs they took. That’s just the reported number. It’s decidedly low, because it is estimated that only about 10 percent of such deaths are reported. Conservatively, then, the annual American death toll from prescription drugs considered “safe” can be put at around 200,000. That is three times the number of people who die every year from diabetes, four times the number who die from kidney disease. Overall, deaths from F.D.A.-approved prescription drugs dwarf the number of people who die from street drugs such as cocaine and heroin. They dwarf the number who die every year in automobile accidents. So far, these deaths have triggered no medical crusades, no tough new regulations. After a dozen or so deaths linked to runaway Toyotas, Japanese executives were summoned to appear before lawmakers in Washington and were subjected to an onslaught of humiliating publicity. When the pharmaceutical industry meets with lawmakers, it is mainly to provide campaign contributions.

And with more and more of its activities moving overseas, the industry’s behavior will become more impenetrable, and more dangerous, than ever.

15 Dangerous Drugs Big Pharma Shoves Down Our Throats

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Oldspeak: Ambien, Lipitor, Crestor, Chantix, Yaz, Yasmin, Lyrica, Topomax, Lamictal, Humira, Prolia, Tamoxifen, Boniva, Prempro and Premarin: If you or anyone you know is on these “medicines” Rethink using them. They cause more illness than they “cure”. In the pharmaceutical industry’s rush to get drugs to market, safety usually comes last. Long studies to truly assess a drug’s risks just delay profits after all — and if problems do emerge after medication hits the market, settlements are usually less than profits. Remember, Vioxx still made money.”

From Martha Rosenberg @ Alter Net:

The following drugs are so plagued with safety problems, it is a wonder they’re on the market at all.It’s a testament to Big Pharma’s greed and our poor regulatory processes that they are.

— Lipitor and Crestor

Why is Lipitor the bestselling drug in the world? Because every adult with high LDL or fear of high LDL is on it. (And also 2.8 million children, says Consumer Reports.) No one is going to say statins don’t prevent heart attack in high-risk patients (though diet and exercise have worked in high-risk groups too). But doctors will say statins are so over-prescribed that more patients get their side effects — weakness, dizziness, pain and arthritis — than heart attack prevention. Worse, they think it’s old age!

“My older patients literally do without food so that they can buy these medicines that make them sicker, feel bad, and do nothing to improve life,” says an ophthalmologist web poster from Tennessee. “There is no scientific basis for treating older folks with $300+/month meds that have serious side-effects and largely unknown multiple drug interactions.” What kinds of side effects? All statins can cause muscle breakdown (called rhabdomyolysis) but combining them with antibiotics, protease inhibitors drugs and anti-fungals increases your risks. In fact, Crestor is so highly linked to rhabdomyolysis it is double dissed: Public Citizen calls it a Do Not Use and the FDA’s David Graham named it one of the five most dangerous drugs before Congress.

— Yaz and Yasmin

It sounded too good to be true and it was. Birth control pills that also cleared up acne, treated severe PMS (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD) and avoided the water retention of traditional birth control pills.

But soon after Bayer launched Yaz in 2006 as going “beyond birth control,” 18-year-olds were coming down with blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. Fifteen-year-old Katie Ketner had her gallbladder removed. Susan Gallenos had a stroke and part of her skull removed. College student Michelle Pfleger, 18, collapsed and died of a pulmonary thromboemboli from taking Yaz, says her mother Joan Cummins.

While TV ads for Yaz in 2008 were so misleading that FDA ordered Bayer to run correction ads, Yaz sales are still brisk. In fact, financial analysts attribute the third quarter slump in the Yaz “franchise” of 28.1 percent to the appearance of a Yaz generic, not to the thousands of women who have been harmed.

Why is Yaz sometimes deadly? It includes a drug that was never before marketed in the U.S. — drospirenone — and apparently causes elevated potassium, heart problems, and a change in acid balance of the blood. Who knew? But not only is Bayer still marketing it, women do not receive “test subject” compensation for using it either.

— Lyrica, Topomax and Lamictal

Why would Americans take an epilepsy seizure drug for pain? The same reason they’ll take an antipsychotic for the blues and an antidepressant for knee pain: good consumer marketing. In August FDA ordered a warning for aseptic meningitis, or brain inflammation, on Lamictal — but it is still the darling of military and civilian doctors for unapproved pain and migraine. Lamictal also has the distinction of looting $51 million from Medicaid last year despite a generic existing.

All seizure drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors according to their mandated labels. An April article in JAMA found seizure drugs linked to 26 suicides, 801 attempted suicides, and 41 violent deaths in just five years.

All three drugs can make you lose your memory and your hair, say posters on the drug rating site askapatient.com. Topamax is referred to as “Stupamax” in the military — though evidently not enough to ask, “Why am I taking this drug again?”

— Humira, Prolia and TNF Blockers

If you think pharma is producing a lot of expensive, dangerous injectables lately, you’re right. Yesterday’s blockbuster pills have been supplanted with vaccines and biologics that are more lucrative and safer…from generic competition, that is. The problem is, not only are biologics like Humira and Prolia creepy and dangerous — they’re made from genetically engineered hamster cells and suppress the actual immune system — the diseases they treat are “sold” to healthy people.

Recently, thousands of college students in Chicago found inserts in their campus newspapers hawking Humira for Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. (“Hate psoriasis? Love clearer skin,” says an ad on the Humira Web site featuring a pretty woman.) And earlier this year Prolia was approved by the FDA for postmenopausal osteoporosis with a high risk of fracture. Do healthy people really want to suppress their body’stumor necrosis factor (TNF) and invite tuberculosis, serious, possibly lethal infections, melanoma, lymphoma and “unusual cancers in children and teenagers” as the Humira label warns? Nor is it clear these drugs work. TheHumira label warns against developing “new or worsening” psoriasis — a condition it is supposed to treat.

— Chantix

How unsafe is the antismoking drug Chantix? After 397 FDA cases of possible psychosis, 227 domestic reports of suicidal acts, thoughts or behaviors and 28 suicides, the government banned pilots and air traffic controllers and interstate truck and bus drivers from taking Chantix in 2008. Four months later, some military pharmacies banned the drug, which reduces both cravings and smoking pleasure. In addition to Chantix’ neuropsychiatric effects (immortalized by New Bohemians musician Carter Albrecht, who was shot to death in 2007 in Texas by a neighbor after acting aggressively), Chantix is linked to angioedema, serious skin reactions, visual impairment, accidental injury, dizziness, muscle spasms, seizures and loss of consciousness. In defending an increasingly indefensible drug, Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation said last year, “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States and we know these products are effective aids in helping people quit.” True enough — but if you smoke cigarettes you can still drive an interstate truck.

— Ambien

Sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and Rozerem only decrease get-to-sleep time by 18 minutes according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

But Ambien has additional cachet compared to its soporific brethren: it is the drug Tiger Woods reportedly used when cavorting with his consorts; and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy was taking it when he crashed his Ford Mustang while driving to Capitol Hill in the middle of the night to “vote” in 2006.

In fact Ambien’s legendary somnambulism side effects — people walk, drive, make phone calls and even have sex while sleeping — has increased traffic accidents say law enforcement officials, with some drivers not even recognizing arresting police. Thanks to bad Ambien press, Sanofi-Aventis has had to run ads telling the public to get in bed and stay there if you are going to take Ambien. (Or you’ll break out in handcuffs, as the joke goes.) Ambien has also increased the national weight problem as dieters wake up amid mountains of pizza, Krispy Kreme and Häagen-Dazs cartons consumed by their evil twins.

— Tamoxifen

Is it a coincidence that Tamoxifen maker AstraZenaca founded Breast Cancer Awareness Month and makes carcinogenic agrochemicals that cause breast cancer? Both the original safety studies of Tamoxifen, which causes cancer, birth defects and is a chemical cousin of organochlorine pesticides, and its original marketing were riddled with scientific error. In fact, FDA objected to AstraZeneca’s marketing claim of breast cancer prevention and the casting of endometrial cancer as an “uncommon” event 10 years ago.

Yet today pharma-linked doctors still tell women to take Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer even though an American Journal of Medicine study found the average life expectancy increase is nine days (and Public Citizen says for every case of breast cancer Tamoxifen prevents there is a life-threatening case of blood clots, stroke or endometrial cancer). A Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation study shows an example of Tamoxifen’s downside: 57.2 percent of women on continuous Tamoxifen developed atrophy of the lining of the uterus, 35.7 coexisting hyperphasia and 8.1 percent uterine polyps. We won’t even talk about eye and memory problems — or the Tamoxifen cousin, Evista, that pharma is also pushing which has a “death from stroke” warning on its label.

 

— Boniva

Why is the bisphosphonate bone drug Boniva available in a convenient, once-monthly formulation? Could patients balk at the fact that after you take it you have to avoid lying down for at least 60 minutes to “help decrease the risk of problems in the esophagus and stomach,” wait at least 60 minutes before eating or drinking anything except water, never take it with mineral water, sparkling water, coffee, tea, milk, juice or other oral medicine, including calcium, antacids, or vitamins, and of course, “do not chew or suck”? Nor should you take Boniva, say the warnings, “if you have difficult or painful swallowing, chest pain or continuing or severe heartburn, have low blood calcium or severe kidney disease or if severe bone, joint and/or muscle pain.”

Bone drugs like Boniva, Fosamax and Actonel are a good example of FDA approving once-unapprovable drugs by transferring risk onto the public’s shoulders with “we warned you” labels. The warnings are supposed to make people make their own safety decisions. Except that people just think FDA wouldn’t have approved it if it weren’t safe.

— Prempro and Premarin

You’d think Pfizer’s hormone drugs Prempro and the related Premarin and Provera would be history in light of their perks: 26 percent increase in breast cancer, 41 percent increase in strokes, 29 percent increase in heart attacks, 22 percent increase in cardiovascular disease, double the rates of blood clots and links to deafness, urinary incontinence, cataracts, gout, joint degeneration, asthma, lupus, scleroderma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and lung, ovarian, breast, endometrial, gall bladder and melanoma cancers — pant pant. But you’d be wrong. Even as we speak, Pfizer-linked researchers are testing the cognitive and cardiovascular “benefits” of hormone therapy, in some cases with our tax dollars, at major universities. Even though thecancer rate in the U.S. and Canada fell when women quit hormone therapy in 2002 (as did the U.S. heart attack rate in women), pharma is rolling out HT “Light” for women who suffer from the “ism” of incredibly short memory.

 

Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets.


What’s Making 7-Year Old Girls Develop Breasts?

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 10:12 am

Oldspeak:“Yet another pseudo-debate involving obesity and abnormal development, that fails to identify the blindingly obvious root cause: the copious amounts of artificial chemical laden, and petrochemical encased (plastic) “food” that today’s children eat their entire lives. Big Food their armies of “food chemists” are never mentioned as the major contributors they are to the skyrocketing incidents of obesity, cancer and countless other forms of mental and physical illness that plague U.S.”

From Denise Grady @ The New York Times:

A new study finds that girls are more likely today than in the past to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8.

The research is just the latest in a flood of reports over the last decade that have led to concern and heated debate about whether girls are reaching puberty earlier, and why it might be happening.

Increased rates of obesity are thought to play a major role, because body fat can produce sex hormones. Some researchers also suspect that environmental chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen may be speeding up the clock on puberty, but that idea is unproved.

The issue is of concern for both medical and psychosocial reasons. Studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, probably because it results in longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can feed some tumors.

Although the new study did not look at menstrual age, breast growth is also a sign of hormone exposure, and some researchers fear that early development might also mean an increased cancer risk.

Socially and emotionally, life can be difficult for a girl who has a child’s mind in a woman’s body and is not ready to deal with sexual advances from men and boys, or cope with her own hormone-spiked emotions and sexual impulses.

“Our analysis shows clearly that the white participants entered puberty earlier than we anticipated,” said Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study showed. But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls’ hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals.

“It’s certainly throwing up a warning flag,” Dr. Biro said. “I think we need to think about the stuff we’re exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it.”

Dr. Catherine Gordon, a pediatric endocrinologist and specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that so far, most evidence showed that neither breast development nor menstrual age had changed for white girls of normal weight.

The new study included 1,239 girls ages 6 to 8 who were recruited from schools and examined at one of three sites: the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital or Kaiser Permanente Northern California/University of California, San Francisco. The group was roughly 30 percent each white, black and Hispanic, and about 5 percent Asian.

At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.

At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics. The percentages for blacks and whites were even higher than those found by a 1997 study that was one of the first to suggest that puberty was occurring earlier in girls.

The new study is being published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics. It was paid for by government grants and conducted at hospitals that are part of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers, a group formed in 2003 after breast cancer advocates petitioned Congress to set aside money to study possible links between environmental exposures and breast cancer.

If there is an ideal age when girls should reach puberty, no one knows what it is, said Dr. Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A girl needs a certain amount of body fat to start menstruating, and girls who are malnourished or ill may have delayed puberty.

In developed countries, the age of puberty dropped from the 19th to 20th centuries, as nutrition improved and infectious diseases were brought under better control, and it was seen as a sign of progress. But if the drop continues, at what point does it become pathological?

The debate over this issue started with a study published in 1997 by a research team led by Dr. Herman-Giddens. In the study, pediatricians around the country rated sexual maturation in 17,077 girls ages 3 to 12. The study found that breasts or pubic hair, or both, were far more common in 7- and 8-year-olds than medical textbooks had been reporting.

The researchers were also surprised to find that black girls developed significantly earlier than whites. But they cautioned that there had been few rigorous studies of puberty, so it was not clear whether their research was detecting a new trend or just discovering that the medical books were wrong.

The study led to a bit of a furor. Some endocrinologists doubted the findings and warned that if doctors and parents started blithely assuming that puberty at 7 or 8 was the new normal, they would overlook serious problems like endocrine diseases or tumors. But others warned that if the new findings were rejected, families would be frightened needlessly and fortunes wasted on batteries of tests for perfectly normal 7- and 8-year-old girls with budding breasts.

Dozens of studies have been published in the years since. Arguments continue, but many doctors accept the idea that heavier girls often develop earlier. And subsequent studies have also found that black and Hispanic girls mature earlier than whites, even when weight is taken into account. No one knows why. Though breasts may be sprouting earlier, the average age of first menstruation, between 12 and 13, has not really changed.

Dr. Vaneeta Bamba, director of the Diagnostic and Research Growth Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that the 1997 study had “somewhat reshaped” endocrinologists’ thinking about the onset of puberty, but that most would still urge a thorough medical evaluation for any girl under 8 who was showing significant breast development or other signs of puberty. She said she doubted that the new study would change medical practice.

One objection to the 1997 study was that the pediatricians may have mistaken fat deposits for breast tissue in some girls, or differed in other ways in assessing the stage of breast development.

In the new study, the researchers went to great lengths to train examiners and make sure all were on the same page when it came to checking girls’ breasts and rating their stage of development.

Dr. Gordon said it would be important to continue the studies, and to try to find out whether environmental chemicals were having an effect.

Five ways to avoid BPAs in your food:

From Sara Snow @ treehugger

study was conducted by a coalition of consumer and food safety groups. It found detectable levels of BPA in the foods of 46 out of 50 canned food products tested. The study indicates that BPA is leaching from the lining of these cans into the foods that we are eating.

Here are 5 ways you can avoid BPA exposure every day:

1. Buy food in jars where you would typically buy cans. Look for stewed tomatoes, beans and soups in glass jars instead of cans. You might be surprised at how easy it is to find these today.

2. Buy more fresh foods and rely on those instead of ones that have been preserved for you. When foods are in season, stock up and freeze these for later use. Tomatoes, green beans and fresh fruits are perfect.

3. Look for BPA-free cans but beware that even these are not foolproof. Some progressive companies like Eden foods and Vital Choice have started moving towards healthier can linings, but even these contained small amounts of BPA in the foods when tested. (It’s likely that the chemical entered the cans through other means – the factory or another environmental source.)

4. Avoid Polycarbonate plastics for warm foods or liquids. These plastic containers should be marked with a number 7 on the bottom or the letters “PC”. When packing up leftovers, look for plastics labeled #1, #2 or #4 as these are generally healthier and don’t contain BPA.

5. If you’re feeding your infant baby formula, opt for a powdered formula rather than a liquid where BPA-lined cans and lids are likely to pose more of a risk.

The Hidden Tragedy Of The CIA’s Experiments On Children

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Oldspeak: “What fresh hell is THIS? So-called medical doctors administering Metrazol LSD and electroshock ‘treatment’ to children.  That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok – and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged.”

From H.P. Albarelli Jr. and Dr. Jeffrey S. Kaye @ t r u t h o u t

Bobby is seven years old, but this is not the first time he has been subjected to electroshock. It’s his third time. In all, over the next year, Bobby will experience eight electroshock sessions. Placed on the examining table, he is held down by two male attendants while the physician places a solution on his temples. Bobby struggles with the two men holding him down, but his efforts are useless. He cries out and tries to pull away. One of the attendants tries to force a thick wedge of rubber into his mouth. He turns his head sharply away and cries out, “Let me go, please. I don’t want to be here. Please, let me go.” Bobby’s physician looks irritated and she tells him, “Come on now, Bobby, try to act like a big boy and be still and relax.” Bobby turns his head away from the woman and opens his mouth for the wedge that will prevent him from biting through his tongue. He begins to cry silently, his small shoulders shaking and he stiffens his body against what he knows is coming.

Mary is only five years old. She sits on a small, straight-backed chair, moving her legs back and forth, humming the same four notes over and over and over. Her head, framed in a tangled mass of golden curls, moves up and down with each note. For the first three years of her life, Mary was thought to be a mostly normal child. Then, after she began behaving oddly, she had been handed off to a foster family. Her father and mother didn’t want her any longer. She had become too strange for her father, whose alcoholism clouded any awareness of his young daughter. Mary’s mother had never wanted her anyway and was happy to have her placed in another home. When the LSD Mary has been given begins to have its effects, she stops moving her head and legs and sits staring at the wall. She doesn’t move at all. After about ten minutes, she looks at the nearby physician observing her, and says, “God isn’t coming back today. He’s too busy. He won’t be back here for weeks.”

From early 1940 to 1953, Dr. Lauretta Bender, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist practicing at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, experimented extensively with electroshock therapy on children who had been diagnosed with “autistic schizophrenia.” In all, it has been reported that Bender administered electroconvulsive therapy to at least 100 children ranging in age from three years old to 12 years, with some reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One source reports that, inclusive of Bender’s work, electroconvulsive treatment was used on more than 500 children at Bellevue Hospital from 1942 to 1956, and then at Creedmoor State Hospital Children’s Service from 1956 to 1969. Bender was a confident and dogmatic woman, who bristled at criticism, oftentimes refused to acknowledge reality even when it stood starkly before her.

Despite publicly claiming good results with electroshock treatment, privately Bender said she was seriously disappointed in the aftereffects and results shown by the subject children. Indeed, the condition of some of the children appeared to have only worsened. One six-year-old boy, after being shocked several times, went from being a shy, withdrawn child to acting increasingly aggressive and violent. Another child, a seven-year-old girl, following five electroshock sessions had become nearly catatonic.

Years later, another of Bender’s young patients who became overly aggressive after about 20 treatments, now grown, was convicted in court as a “multiple murderer.” Others, in adulthood, reportedly were in and of trouble and prison for a battery of petty and violent crimes. A 1954 scientific study of about 50 of Bender’s young electroshock patients, conducted by two psychologists, found that nearly all were worse off after the “therapy” and that some had become suicidal after treatment. One of the children studied in 1954 was the son of well-known writer Jacqueline Susann, author of the bestselling novel “Valley of the Dolls.” Susann’s son, Guy, was diagnosed with autism shortly after birth and, when he was three years old, Dr. Bender convinced Susann and her husband that Guy could be successfully treated with electroshock therapy. Guy returned home from Bender’s care a nearly lifeless child. Susann later told people that Bender had “destroyed” her son. Guy has been confined to institutions since his treatment.

To their credit, some of Dr. Bender’s colleagues considered her use of electroshock on children “scandalous,” but few colleagues spoke out against her, a situation still today common among those in the medical profession. Said Dr. Leon Eisenberg, a widely respected physician and true pioneer in the study of autistic children, “[Lauretta Bender] claimed that some of these children recovered [because of her use of shock treatment]. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to several studies by [Dr. E. R.] Clardy. He was at Rockwin State Hospital – the back up to Bellevue – and he described the arrival of these children. He considered them psychotic and perhaps worse off then before the treatment.” (This writer could find no case where any of Bender’s colleagues spoke out against her decidedly racist viewpoints. Bender made it quite clear that she felt that African-Americans were best characterized by their “capacity for laziness” and “ability to dance,” both features, Bender claimed, of the “specific brain impulses” of African-Americans.)

About the same time Dr. Bender was conducting her electroshock experiments, she was also widely experimenting on autistic and schizophrenic children with what she termed other “treatment endeavors.” These included use of a wide array of psycho-pharmaceutical agents, several provided to her by the Sandoz Chemical Co. in Basel, Switzerland, as well as Metrazol, sub-shock insulin therapy, amphetamines and anticonvulsants. Metrazol was a trade name for pentylenetetrazol, a drug used as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. High doses cause convulsions, as discovered in 1934 by the Hungarian-American neurologist and psychiatrist Ladislas J. Meduna.

Metrazol had been used in convulsive therapy, but was never considered to be effective, and side effects such as seizures were difficult to avoid. The medical records of several patients who were confined at Vermont State Hospital, a public mental facility, reveal that Metrazol was administered to them by CIA contractor Dr. Robert Hyde on numerous occasions in order “to address overly aggressive behavior.” One of these patients, Karen Wetmore, received the drug on a number of occasions for no discernible medical reason. During the same ten-year period in which Metrazol was used by the Vermont State Hospital, patient deaths skyrocketed. In 1982, the FDA revoked its approval of Metrazol.

Here it should be noted that, during the cold war years, CIA and Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) interrogators, working as part of projects Bluebird and Artichoke, sometimes injected large amounts of Metrazol into selected enemy or Communist agents for the purposes of severely frightening other suspected agents, by forcing them to observe the procedure. The almost immediate effects of Metrazol are shocking for many to witness: subjects will shake violently, twisting and turning. They typically arch, jerk and contort their bodies and grimace in pain. With Metrazol, as with electroshock, bone fractures – including broken necks and backs – and joint dislocations are not uncommon, unless strong sedatives are administered beforehand.

A November 1936 Time magazine article seriously questioned the benefits of Metrazol, citing “irreversible shock” as a “great danger.” The article described a typical Metrazol injection as such: “A patient receives no food for four or five hours. Then about five cubic centimeters of the drug [Metrazol] are injected into his veins. In about half-a-minute he coughs, casts terrified glances around the room, twitches violently, utters a horse wail, freezes into rigidity with his mouth wide open, arms and legs stiff as boards. Then he goes into convulsions. In one or two minutes the convulsions are over and he gradually passes into a coma, which lasts about an hour. After a series of shocks, his mind may be swept clean of delusions…. A patient is seldom given more than 20 injections and if no improvement is noted after ten treatments, he is usually given up as hopeless.”

The Army, the CIA and Metrazol

Army CIC interrogators working with the CIA at prisoner of war camps and safe house locations in post-war Germany on occasion used Metrazol, morphine, heroin and LSD on incarcerated subjects. According to former CIC officer Miles Hunt, several “safe houses and holding areas outside of Frankfurt near Oberursel” – a former Nazi interrogation center taken over by the US – were operated by a “special unit run by Capt. Malcolm S. Hilty, Maj. Mose Hart and Capt. Herbert Sensenig. The unit was especially notorious in its applications of interrogation methods [including the use of electroshock and Metrazol, mescaline, amphetamines and other drugs].” Said Hunt: “The unit took great pride in their nicknames, the ‘Rough Boys’ and the ‘Kraut Gauntlet,’ and didn’t hold back with any drug or technique … you name it, they used it.” Added Hunt, “Sensenig was really disappointed when it was found that nothing had to be used on [former Reichsmarschall] Herman Goering, who was processed through the camp. Goering needed no inducement to talk.”

Eventually, CIC interrogators working in Germany would be assisted in their use of interrogation drugs by several “former” Nazi scientists recruited by the CIA and US State Department as part of Project Paperclip. By early 1952, the CIC’s Rough Boys would routinely use Metrazol during interrogations, as well as LSD, mescaline and conventional electroshock units.

Metrazol-like drugs are still used in interrogations today. According to reports from several former noncommissioned Army officers, who served on rendition-related security details in Turkey, Pakistan and Romania, drugs that produce effects quite similar to Metrazol are still used in 2010 by the Pentagon and CIA on enemy combatants and rendered subjects held at the many “black sites” maintained across the globe. Observed one former officer recently, “They would twist up like a pretzel, in unbelievable shapes and jerk and shake like crazy, their eyes nearly popping out of their heads.”

In 2008, at the behest of US Sens. Carl Levin, Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel and in reaction to a March 2008 article in The Washington Post, the Pentagon initiated an Inspector General Report on the use of “mind-altering substances by DoD [Department of Defense] Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror.” It is not known if the investigation has been completed. Among the more famous recent cases of the use of drugs upon prisoners concerns one-time alleged “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla, who had originally been accused of wanting to set off a “dirty bomb.” The charge was later forced, but Padilla was held in solitary confinement for many months and forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The government has gone to great efforts to keep the public uninformed as regards use of drugs on prisoners. In an article by Carol Rosenberg for McClatchy News in July 2010, Rosenberg reported that, when covering the Guantanamo military commissions trials, when the question of “what psychotropic drugs were given another accused 9/11 conspirator, Ramzi bin al Shibh, the courtroom censor hits a white noise button so reporters viewing from a glass booth can’t hear the names of the drugs. Under current Navy instructions for the use of human subjects in research, the undersecretary of the Navy is described as the authority in charge of research concerning consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques,” while at the same time is also responsible for “inherently controversial topics” that might attract media interest or “challenge by interest groups.”

Dr. Bender Discovers LSD

In 1955 and1956, Dr. Bender began hearing glowing accounts about the potential of LSD for producing remarkable results in children suffering mental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Bender’s earlier work with electroshock therapy had brought her into contact with several other prominent physicians who, at the time, were covert contractors with the CIA’s MK/ULTRA and Artichoke projects. Primary among these physicians were Drs. Harold A. Abramson, Paul Hoch, James B. Cattell, Joel Elkes, Max Fink, Harris Isbell and Alfred Hubbard. Some of these names may be familiar to readers. Dr. Abramson, a noted allergist who surreptitiously worked for both the US Army and CIA since the late 1940s, was the physician Frank Olson was taken to see, shortly before his murder in New York City in November 1953. About a year earlier, Drs. Hoch and Cattell were responsible for injecting unwitting New York State Psychiatric Institute patient Harold Blauer with a massive dose of mescaline that killed him. Dr. Elkes was one of the earliest physicians in Europe to experiment with LSD, having requested samples of the drug from Sandoz Chemical Co. in 1949. Elkes was a close associate of Dr. Abraham Wikler, who worked closely with Dr. Harris Isbell at the now-closed Lexington, Kentucky, prison farm, where hundreds of already drug-addicted inmates were given heroin in exchange for their participation in LSD and mescaline experiments underwritten by the CIA and Pentagon. Elkes worked closely with the CIA, Pentagon and Britain’s MI6 on drug experiments in England and the United States.

Dr. Fink, who was greatly admired by Bender, is considered the godfather of electroshock therapy in the United States. In the early 1950s and beyond, Fink was a fully cleared CIA Project Artichoke consultant. In 1951, CIA officials under the direction of Paul Gaynor and Morse Allen of the agency’s Security Research Service (SRS) that oversaw Artichoke, worked closely with Fink in New York City in efforts to thoroughly explore the merits of electroshock techniques for interrogations. The CIA was especially interested in the use of standard electroshock machines in producing amnesia, inducing subjects to talk and making subjects more prone to hypnotic control. According to one CIA document, Fink told officials “an individual could gradually be reduced through the use to electroshock treatment to the vegetable level.”

In addition to Fink, Bender also greatly admired the work of Dr. Lothar B. Kalinowsky, a psychiatrist who also consulted closely with the CIA on electroshock matters. Kalinowsky, who was part Jewish and had fled Germany in 1933, was Fink’s close friend and, like Fink, was widely recognized as an expert on electroconvulsive therapy. Kalinowsky met with the CIA’s Allen and Gaynor frequently and sometimes was accompanied by Dr. Fink at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he worked closely with Dr. Hoch.

While it is clear from Dr. Bender’s papers that she also considered the early LSD work of “Dr.” Alfred M. Hubbard in Vancouver, Canada, to be “very substantial and beneficial,” it is important to state here that Hubbard was not a physician nor did he have any formal medical training. Hubbard, a jovial character who sometimes worked with the FBI and CIA, was a strong proponent of the use of LSD. Despite the fact that he had no medical credentials and once served time in prison for smuggling, he hoodwinked the Sandoz Chemical Co. into supplying him such ample amounts of LSD that he dispersed so widely and abundantly that he earned the title “The Johnny Appleseed of LSD.” Hubbard’s use of LSD in allegedly curing alcoholism is still cited today. How Hubbard so easily passed as a physician is unknown. Even a 1961 paper published by New York Medical College, Department of Psychiatry, and authored by Dr. A.M. Freedman, cited Hubbard’s LSD work with “children, primarily delinquents” to have been 85% successful.”

Other physicians whom Dr. Bender consulted about the effects of LSD on children were Drs. Ronald A. Sandison, Thomas M. Ling and John Buckman. These three worked in England at both the Chelsea Clinic in London and Potwick Hospital in Worcestershire, outside of London. Sandison is credited with having been the first person to bring LSD into England, this in 1952 after he met Albert Hofmann in Basle, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Chemical laboratories. Hofmann handed Sandison a box of around 600 ampules, each containing 100 micrograms of LSD. Back in England, Sandison shared his psychedelic bounty with associates Drs. Ling and Buckman. Before the year was out, Sandison also turned Hubbard on to LSD, guiding Hubbard through his first trip. Sandison also began a new treatment program at the Gothic-looking Potwick facility that he dubbed Psycholytic Therapy. His program’s patients were mostly schizophrenics. In 1958, an LSD treatment unit was established at Potwick. Over the years, it has been reported that the CIA, MI6 and the Macy Foundation secretly helped finance the unit. Dr. Elkes helped by raising about $75,000 for the unit’s operation. For the next ten years the unit administered over 15,000 doses of LSD to about 900 patients.

Drs. Buckman and Ling worked closely with Sandison in the Potwick unit. In 1963, Buckman and Ling wrote in a publication, describing “good examples” of the use of LSD in psycholytic psychotherapy: “The patients’ experiences under LSD have not supported Marx’s dictum that Religion is the opium of the people but rather that there is a deep basic belief in a Supreme Being, whether the religion background be Christian, Jewish or Hindu.”

Dr. Buckman also worked at London’s Chelsea Clinic, often times treating adults and sometimes children. Buckman believed strongly that “frigidity” in women could be treated successfully with LSD. In 1967, he said of LSD: “Many therapists believe that a transcendental experience – a feeling that it is a good world and one is a part of it – is a curative experience in itself.” According to several informed sources in the London, for years MI6, the British intelligence service and the CIA closely monitored the LSD work conducted by Sandison, Ling and Buckman.

Two Sisters, LSD and Dr. Buckman

Marion McGill, today an attorney and college professor in the western United States and her sister, Trudy, were sent in 1960 by their parents to be interviewed by Drs. Ling and Buckman at the Chelsea Clinic in London. At the time, Marion was 13 years old and her sister was 15. Marion says that both her mother and father were “quite taken with the benefits of LSD and thought that we would also benefit from the drug.” Both parents had undergone a series of ten LSD “treatments” at the Chelsea clinic. Marion goes on:

“As a 13-year old at the time, my decision-making capacity was very limited. I was, by nature, fairly compliant and docile, rather eager to please my parents. I understood nothing of what was being suggested for me and my 15 year-old sister – namely that we participate in some sort of ‘research’ that both our parents had also participated in. Whether the word ‘experiment’ was used, I don’t recall. The term ‘LSD’ was vaguely familiar, however, because my parents were ‘taking’ this drug as a form of ‘quick therapy’ – their term for it – that had been recommended by my uncle, a psychiatrist at a well known east coast medical school. Both parents needed therapy, in my view. While highly successful professionally, my father was a tightly wound, rather angry and insecure man, an accomplished academic, but an ‘industrial strength narcissist,’ as I later called him. My mother was a submissive, obedient, Catholic woman without much identity of her own, other than being a doctor’s wife.

“My sister and I, however, were about as ‘normal’ as any two teenagers could be. We were at the top of our classes in school; both of us had lots of friends, participated in extra curricular activities. We didn’t need ‘therapy.’ We were told we would get a day off from school after each overnight stay at the clinic for this LSD. It was perhaps the prospect of a day off from Catholic girls’ school that persuaded us to do it. I wasn’t aware of making a ‘decision.’ The purpose of this program was never explained. There were to be 10 sessions – once a week for 10 weeks. I believe they started in January 1960.

“The experiences at the clinic where the LSD was administered were quite strange. There was a brief ‘interview’ by Dr. John Buckman, asking banal questions about health issues (none), but providing no information about what to expect from the LSD. There was no mention, for example, of hallucinations or perceptual distortions or anything frightening. I was not informed of any persistent effects, such as nightmares. Certainly the possibility of lasting damage was not mentioned. The word ‘experiment’ was not used. There was, in other words, no informed consent whatsoever. I was not told that I could refuse to participate, that I could quit at any time (as provided in the Nuremberg Code). Since I was below the age of consent, my parents would have been the ones to agree to this. Indeed, they were the ones to suggest that we be used in these experiments. It would not otherwise have happened. But my parents would never discuss this in later years and never explained why they did it.

“During the 10 sessions, each of which involved an injection, my sister and I were kept in separate bedrooms, darkened rooms, usually with someone present in the room, but I don’t know who the person was. Occasionally, my mother was also present. At times, I was so frightened by the hallucinations that I screamed and tried to escape from the room. I remember once actually reaching the hallway and being forcibly put back into the bedroom by my mother. I saw a wild array of images – nightmarish visions, occasionally provoking hysterical laughter, followed immediately by wracking sobs. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was terrifying.

“There was no effort to counsel us during or after each of these sessions. There was no ‘debriefing,’ no explanation of what was happening or why this was being done to us. Why I did not refuse to participate after I first experienced it, I don’t know. But as an adult and later as a professional medical ethicist, I recognized this lack of resistance as a function of childhood itself. Most children who are victims of parental abuse do not know how to resist. They fear rejection by parents more than they fear the abuse, it seems. The ‘power differential’ is huge between parents and children and the dependence on parents is virtually absolute. We were also, living in London at the time, away from our friends. My sister and I had been told not to talk about what we were doing. We were Catholics, obedient to parents, etc. Our father was a doctor, after all – it was hard to grasp that he would do harm to us or that our mother would. Children just don’t think this way initially. A child’s dependency usually means trusting one’s parents or caregivers.

“Although each individual session was often terrifying, any lasting effects of the LSD unfolded gradually. In the weeks immediately following the final session, I experienced frequent nightmares – visions of crawling insects, horrible masks, etc. I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid to shut my eyes. I became afraid of the dark. My parents were dismissive and unsympathetic. Their attitude was, in some ways, more disturbing to me than the experiments themselves because it meant that my parents had known full well that the experience would very likely be frightening – and hadn’t cared.

“I discovered that my parents were dishonest and unfeeling in ways that I could not comprehend. They told my sister and me never to talk about the LSD experiences, never to disclose what had happened in London. This further ruptured our relationship with them, a relationship that was, by then, permanently damaged. I was still dependent on them, however and so was my sister.

“Two years after these experiments, during her freshman year in college, my sister suffered a nervous breakdown. I don’t know the extent to which the LSD may have precipitated this. But my parents’ response to what was probably a mild breakdown from which my sister could have recovered, was coercive and drastic. She had been asking questions about the LSD at this time. She was angry about it. We both were. We talked about it together, but I was afraid to confront our parents. My sister was not. The angrier she became, the more she was ‘diagnosed’ as a ‘psychiatric’ case and the more medication she was given. To this day, my sister is heavily medicated. She never fully recovered from that first episode.

“Our parents responded to my sister’s anger in a way that frightened me further. I also felt tremendous guilt for not being able to prevent the horrors that my sister endured. Once she was ‘classified’ as a psychiatric patient, she was lost. Everything that was done to her in the name of ‘treatment’ seemed to me to be a form of ongoing abuse and torture.

“The fact that our father was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected physician – and his brother, who had introduced us to this LSD horror, was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected psychiatrist – made it impossible to expose them or go against them. Their reputations were more important to them than the health and well being of my sister.

“My own response was simply to leave home. I never trusted my parents again after the London LSD experience. I discovered many other ways in which my father and my uncle lied, covered up, dissembled and eventually threatened me, in order to keep this story from being told.

“On a positive note, the experience informed my career choices in both human rights and medical ethics, but it also made me alert to the ways in which academic medicine was – and is – corrupted by the drug industry itself and by the continuing abuse of human subjects to further the development of drugs as weapons – both for interrogation potential and also, more subtle behavior control on a massive scale. My own experience also sensitized me to the special vulnerability of children and teenagers in the medical environment.

“Even when I subsequently confronted my father with the evidence that LSD had been tested by the CIA for use as a military weapon in the 1950s and 1960s, he dismissed his participation by saying that it was an ‘enlightening experience, like visiting an art gallery.’ When I pointed out that this was not my experience as a child, he dismissed it, including the presumption that I must be a ‘conspiracy theorist’ to propose such a thing. At the age of 91, he finally admitted that it had perhaps not been a very good idea to subject my sister and me to LSD.

“Dr. Buckman and Ling were knowing participants in ongoing intelligence-based work with mind altering drugs. I ‘met’ Buckman in London when I was 13, but encountered him again years later at the university medical school in the United States where he was on the faculty.

“I went to see Dr. Buckman in his office. I asked him what he thought about the ethics of using children in an LSD experiment. At first, he didn’t seem to realize who I was. I identified myself as one of his ‘subjects’ and gave him my business card as a Medical Ethicist and lawyer. He was clearly shocked, stood up, refused to talk to me and told me to leave his office. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from my father. His brother, the psychiatrist and colleague of Dr. Buckman, had been alerted to my impromptu visit. Subsequently, both my uncle and my father threatened me, saying they would make sure I lost my university faculty position if I disclosed anything publicly about the LSD experiments in London.

“‘You will never work in bioethics again,’ they said.

“The response of all these men to the threat of disclosure indicates their lack of ethical scruples, their lack of empathy, their own pathology. I don’t know what the exact term would be, but I suspect there is a form of psychological ‘doubling’ at work – the sort of thing that was described in [Robert Jay] Lifton’s book, The Nazi Doctors who were able to ignore their Hippocratic oath to ‘first, do no harm,’ and to inflict unimaginable horrors on their fellow human beings.

“The loss of my sister has been a life long source of sorrow for me. I attribute it to the LSD and its cover up, whether the chemicals themselves ’caused’ her disintegration or not. In law this is called a ‘contributing cause.’ I learned that people cover up the most awful things, not just within a family but within communities, within universities, within ‘polite society.’ There is probably no absolute barrier that will prevent these things from being done, but they have to be exposed and called out for what they are, whenever they occur.”

Dr. Bender’s LSD Experiments on Children

Shortly after deciding to initiate her own LSD experiments on children, Bender attended a conference sponsored by a CIA front group, the Josiah Macy Foundation. The conference focused on LSD research and featured Dr. Harold A. Abramson as a presenter. In 1960, Abramson conducted his own LSD experiments on a group of six children ranging in age from five to 14 years of age. A few short months after the Macy Foundation conference, Dr. Bender was notified that her planned LSD experiments would be partially and surreptitiously funded by the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (SIHE), another CIA front group then located in Forest Hills, New York. The Society, headed by James L. Monroe, a former US Air Force officer who had worked on top-secret psychological warfare and propaganda projects, oversaw about 55 top-secret experiments underwritten by the CIA. These projects involved LSD, ESP, black magic, astrology, psychological warfare, media manipulation, and other subjects. Apparently, Bender’s work with children and LSD raised some concerns at the CIA’s Technical Services Division (TSD). A 1961 TSD memo written to Monroe questioned the “operational benefits of Dr. Bender’s work as related to children and LSD,” and requested to be kept “closely appraised of the possible links between Dr. Bender’s project and those being conducted under separate MK/ULTRA funding at designated prisons in New York and elsewhere.”

In 1960, Dr. Bender launched her first experiments with LSD and children. They were conducted within the Children’s Unit, Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. The LSD she used was supplied by Dr. Rudolph P. Bircher of the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company. (Dr. Bircher also provided Bender with UML-491, also a Sandoz-produced product, very much like LSD but sometimes “dreamier” in effect and longer lasting.) Her initial group of young subjects consisted of 14 children diagnosed schizophrenic, all under the age of 11. (Because diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, autism, and other disorders have changed over the decades, one cannot assess what actual conditions these children really had.) There were 11 boys and three girls, ranging in age from six to ten years old.

Jean Marie is almost seven years old. She came here nearly a year ago after her parents abandoned her to the care of an aunt who had no interest in raising her. Marie, who prefers to be called Jean, is shy, withdrawn, and distrustful of most adults she encounters. There are reports she may have been sexually molested by her uncle … Despite her withdrawn nature she smiles easily, and enjoys the company of other children. After receiving LSD on three occasions earlier this month, Marie ceased smiling at all and lost any interest in others her age … In the past week, she seems to have become easily agitated and has lost any interest in reading, something she seemed to very much enjoy before treatment.

In a published report on her 196 LSD experiments with 14 “autistic schizophrenic” children, Bender states she initially gave each of the children 25 mcg. of LSD “intramuscularly while under continuous observation.” She writes: “The two oldest boys, over ten years, near or in early puberty, reacted with disturbed anxious behavior. The oldest and most disturbed received Amytal sodium 150 mg. intramuscularly and returned to his usual behavior.” Both boys were then excluded from the experiment.

The 12 remaining children were then given injections of 25 mcg. of LSD and then days later were each given 100 mcg. of LSD once a week. Bender’s report states: “Then it was increased gradually to twice and three times a week as no untoward side-effects were noticed…. Finally, it was given daily and this continued for six weeks until the time of this report.”

Bender’s findings and conclusions concerning her LSD experiments indicated she found the use of the drug promising. Bender reported: “In general, they [the children] were happier; their mood was ‘high’ in the hours following the ingestion of the drug … they have become more spontaneously playful with balls and balloons … their color is rosy rather than blue or pale and they have gained weight.” Bender concluded: “The use of these drugs [LSD, UML-401, UML-491] … will give us more knowledge about both the basic schizophrenic process and the defensive autism in children and also about the reaction of these dilysergic acid derivatives as central and autonomic nervous system stimulants and serotonin antagonists. Hopefully these drugs will also contribute to our efforts to find better therapeutic agents for early childhood schizophrenia.”

In an article published in 1970, Dr. Bender reported on the results of LSD dosing upon “two adolescent boys who were mildly schizophrenic.” She reported that the boys experienced perceptual distortions. They thought the researchers were making faces at them, that their pencils were becoming “rubbery,” and one boy reported the other boy’s face had turned green. The boys began to complain that they were being experimented upon. Even so, Bender and her associate continued the two male adolescents on a regimen of 150 mcg. per day, in divided doses, of LSD. While one of the boys supposedly “benefited very much,” Bender reported that he later returned to the hospital as “a disturbed adult schizophrenic.” The other boy kept complaining that he was being experimented upon and they stopped giving him LSD, not because of the drug’s effects itself, Bender explained, but “because of the boy’s attitude towards it,” which she attributed to “his own psychopathology.”

Dr. Bender’s LSD experiments continued into the late 1960s and, during that time, continued to include multiple experiments on children with UML-401, a little known LSD-type drug provided to her by the Sandoz Company, as well as UML-491, also a Sandoz product. Bender’s reports on her LSD experiments give no indication of whether the parents or legal guardians of the subject children were aware of, or consented to, the experiments. Without doubt, parents or guardians were never informed that the CIA underwrote Bender’s work. Over the years, there have been multiple reports that many of Bender’s subject children were either “wards of the State” or orphans, but the available literature on the experiments reveals nothing on this. The same literature makes it obvious that the children had been confined to the Creedmoor State Hospital for long periods of time and that many, if discharged, needed “suitable homes or placements in the community.” There is also no evidence that any follow-up studies were conducted on any of the children experimented upon by Dr. Bender. Today, Dr. Bender is best known and highly regarded in some circles as the creator of the Bender-Gestalt Test, which measures motor skills in children.

On Bender’s use of LSD on children, Dr. Leon Eisenberg said years later: “She did all sorts of things. Lauretta Bender reached success in her career long before randomized controlled trials had even been heard of. She didn’t see the need for trials of drugs because she was convinced she knew what worked.” (See: “A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers” by Adam Feinstein, Wiley-Blanchard, 2010.) Many other physicians speaking privately were far less diplomatic in condemning Bender’s LSD work, but, still today, many are reluctant to criticize her, and, remarkably, many of the aging stalwarts of the arguable “virtues” and “potential” of LSD continue to cite her work with children as groundbreaking science.

Today, nearly 60 years beyond the horrors of Dr. Bender’s CIA-sponsored experiments on children, few people are aware that they were conducted. For most people, regardless of their awareness of the experiments, it is difficult to fathom how intelligent, highly educated physicians and scientists could partake in such brutal, uncaring, unethical and illegal experiments on children. What was the basis of their motivation? Was it the quest for some sort of elusive medical grail? Was it for economic gain? Or was it simply the result of a misguided search for knowledge that appeared so infinitely important that any sense of compassion and respect for human rights and dignity was cast aside in the name of a higher goal or good – a search at times so exhilarating with the sense that one is at the precipice of a momentous discovery that any semblance of respect for humankind was thrown aside?

One can easily come to any and all these conclusions simply by reading the professional papers of such scientists and researchers. Not once do any of these papers express concern for the subjects at hand or denote any pangs of conscience at violating any oaths, codes and statutes regarding patient rights, human rights or human dignity. That America’s most shameful period of human experimentation, the years 1950 through to about 1979, came on the heels of the making and adoption of the Nuremberg Codes only adds to the shame and hypocrisy. Today, human experimentation is still aggressively conducted by US government-sponsored and employed physicians and scientists regardless of those codes, which came directly out of the shocking madness of the Nazi era. That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok – and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged.

(The names Marion McGill and that of her sister Trudy, are pseudonyms. Marion is a highly respected attorney and college professor, who asked that her real name not be used in this article. All other names in this article are real.)