Linda Andre’s new book scheduled for 2008 publication

Linda Andre’s new book scheduled for 2008 publication

If you visit ect.org next year, expect that I’ll be promoting Linda Andre’s new book! And you’d better plan on buying.

Her book was purchased this week by a major publisher!

This book will shed light on an industry that has fed on a plague of self deception, of defensiveness, and of outright lies. Might as well put the shock industry on official notice: the chipping away at your ivory wall continues. This time, Ms. Linda Andre will be wielding a jackhammer.

I confess I’ve had a peek, and the writing is stunning. That’s not a surprise to me and won’t be to anyone who knows Linda’s skills. It may be a surprise to the “gang” (Sackeim, Ricky and friends), who won’t be able to conceive that she’s far more articulate than they are.

This book will illuminate the practices of an industry the way that my favorite book “And The Band Played On” by Randy Shilts did regarding the AIDs epidemic and the Reagan Administration’s failure to react. In a year’s time, Shilt’s book will have to accept its role as “second-favorite” book.

Please check back in a year, or head to your favorite bookstore to purchase Linda Andre’s upcoming book.

Congratulations, Linda!!!!!!!

Sen. Thomas Eagleton 1929-2007

Senator and statesman, Thomas Eagleton dies at 77
By Jo Mannies
POST-DISPATCH POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
St. Louis
Sunday, Mar. 04 2007

eagletona08flash.jpg

Retired U.S. Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton — a towering figure in national and state politics for half a century and the person for whom the federal courthouse downtown is named — died late Sunday morning.

He was 77. He had been ill for several months with various health problems. He died at St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights.

Colorful, blunt and candid, with a booming voice and ready recall of history, Sen. Eagleton exuded the aura of the statesman that adversaries and admirers agreed he had become.

At a time of polarizing partisanship, Sen. Eagleton was proud of his friendships across the aisle, notably with former Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., who served 10 years in the Senate with Sen. Eagleton.

Nationally, Sen. Eagleton, an early opponent of the U.S. role in the Vietnam War, made his mark as chief author of the federal War Powers Act, which limited the authority of the president to wage war without congressional approval.

He was known also for his brief stint in 1972 as the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. Sen. Eagleton was forced to step down when his electric shock treatments for depression in the 1960s became public.

Since 1997, McGovern has stated publicly several times that he made a mistake and should have kept Sen. Eagleton on the ticket.

In Missouri, Sen. Eagleton never lost an election, beginning with his victory in 1956, at age 27, for St. Louis circuit attorney. Within 12 years, he also won statewide contests for attorney general, lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate.

After serving 18 years and a few days in the Senate, Sen. Eagleton retired in January 1987 and declared that — while only 57 — he©ˆd never run for public office again.

He kept that pledge but continued to wield tremendous clout in state and regional politics and civic affairs.

In 1995, Sen. Eagleton was the public point man for the bipartisan political and business effort that wooed the Rams football team from the West Coast to St. Louis.

Even Sen. Eagleton was stunned by the local accolades, with football enthusiasts collaring him on the street, especially after the Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000.

St. Louis also may never live down the senator’s witty description he used to sway the Rams’ owners. Asked about the region©ˆs nightlife, Sen. Eagleton quipped, “We’re like a raucous Des Moines.”

Sen. Eagleton also wrote at least 50 commentaries for the Post-Dispatch, in which he often was critical of whoever was in the White House. He was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, in line with his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s.

In one of his last commentaries, published Nov. 3, 2005, Sen. Eagleton bluntly laid out what he viewed as the no-win situation facing the United States because of what he viewed as President George W. Bush’s “misadventures” in Iraq.

“Hubris is always the sword upon which the mighty have fallen,” the former senator wrote. “From here on, any president will have to level with the American people before going to war.”

Throughout his career, Sen. Eagleton was a strong supporter of labor and took a liberal stance on many social issues. The notable exception was his vigorous, lifelong opposition to abortion, and his criticism while in the Senate of court-ordered busing to desegregate schools.

He played a major role in the creation of the National Institute on Aging and in congressional action in the 1970s that allowed home rule and limited self-government for the District of Columbia.

His one failed quest was his desire, mentioned often and only partly in jest, to become the commissioner for Major League Baseball.

Politics in his blood

Thomas Francis Eagleton was born in St. Louis on Sept. 4, 1929, to Zitta and Mark D. Eagleton. His father later became one of the city’s most prominent civil trial lawyers.

A bright kid, Tom Eagleton was an honors student in school. He graduated from Country Day School in Ladue and, after a year in the Navy, earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst (Mass.) College in 1950 and a law degree from Harvard in 1953.

In 1956, he married the former Barbara Ann Smith, daughter of a former paper company executive. The couple had two children: a son, Terence, and a daughter, Christin.

Sen. Eagleton once recalled that he had caught the “political bug” as a child, when his father was elected to the St. Louis School Board in the late 1930s.

When Sen. Eagleton began his political career in 1956, he was the youngest man in St. Louis history to be elected circuit attorney. That record still stands. His Catholic faith became an issue in 1960, when he waged a successful campaign for Missouri attorney general on the same ticket as a fellow Catholic who was the Democratic nominee for president, John F. Kennedy. Crosses were painted on Sen. Eagleton’s election posters in the Bootheel.

After one term as attorney general, Sen. Eagleton opted to run for lieutenant governor in 1964. He won but often quipped later that the state’s No. 2 post was really only good for standing at the window and “watching the Missouri River flow by.”

In 1968, he challenged incumbent Sen. Edward V. Long, a fellow Democrat, in a free-spending primary race in which True Davis, a millionaire banker from St. Joseph, was also a major contender. Sen. Eagleton won the primary and then went on to defeat U.S. Rep. Thomas B. Curtis, a Republican from St. Louis County.

Sen. Eagleton’s campaign platform took aim at the conflict overseas that his party’s presidents had launched. “The very first priority for any candidate for United States senator must be to help find a peaceful and honorable solution to the Vietnam War,” he wrote.

1972 — peak and valley

True Davis later apologized to Sen. Eagleton for being the source of national columnist Jack Anderson’s unsubstantiated stories that Sen. Eagleton had been charged with drunken driving. No proof was ever furnished, and Anderson later apologized.

The nastiness of that 1968 primary campaign carried over into the presidential race in 1972. That year, what should have been the peak of Sen. Eagleton’s career, spiraled into its lowest point. Sen. Eagleton became McGovern’s choice as his vice presidential running mate after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., publicly declined.

McGovern turned to Sen. Eagleton, both said at the time, because of their common views against the Vietnam War. Both also cited their mutual concern about the nation’s troubled urban areas, many of which had been crippled by race riots, and the already looming problem of lack of access to health care.

McGovern did not know that Sen. Eagleton had been voluntarily hospitalized for nervous exhaustion in 1960, 1964 and 1966 and had undergone electric shock treatment on two of those occasions.

Sen. Eagleton said that before McGovern picked him, he had been asked whether he had any “skeletons in the closet.” In an interview years later, Sen. Eagleton said that he had replied that he had no such “skeletons” because he had not considered his treatments to be in that category. He turned out to be wrong, as far as the McGovern camp was concerned.

Six days after the treatments became public, Sen. Eagleton stepped down. (McGovern ended up with Sargent Shriver as a running mate, and suffered a landslide election loss to incumbent Richard Nixon.)

The episode generated considerable sympathy for Sen. Eagleton back home in Missouri. He arrived to a tumultuous welcome at Lambert Field and handily won re-election in 1974 in a landslide over Curtis.

In 1980, Sen. Eagleton also won re-election — this time over St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary. But his victory was narrow, coming amid a national Republican landslide that carried Republican Ronald Reagan into the White House and swept aside many of Sen. Eagleton©ˆs longtime Democratic colleagues in the Senate.

That 1980 contest also produced another embarrassingly public personal episode involving the senator’s niece, Elizabeth Eagleton Weigand, the daughter of Sen. Eagleton’s brother, the late Dr. Mark D. Eagleton Jr. Sen. Eagleton held a news conference to disclose that Miss Weigand had tried to force him to pay her $220,000 for her minority interest in a family business. She threatened to make public false assertions about his personal life if he refused.

Weigand and her attorney, Stephen E. Poludniak, were convicted of the scheme shortly before the election.

Criticizing Reagan

After winning re-election, Sen. Eagleton spent his final term in the Senate focusing on local issues while strengthening his personal and professional ties with Danforth.

Among other things, Sen. Eagleton used his considerable clout to obtain federal money to rebuild Highway 40©ˆs Vandeventer Overpass and to connect Interstate 170 to Interstate 270. Sen. Eagleton also joined with Danforth to kill the long-authorized federal Meramec Lake and Dam project in the early 1980s, after Missouri voters had overwhelmingly rejected the plan in an advisory referendum in 1978. Sen. Eagleton earlier had supported the dam.

In announcing his plans to retire from office in 1986, Sen. Eagleton acknowledged to reporters that his lifelong love of baseball made him seriously consider applying for the then-open job of commissioner of baseball.

But he did not apply, he explained, because he wouldn’t resign his Senate seat while a Republican was governor, which was the case during most of the 1980s. Sen. Eagleton said that meant that a Republican would be appointed to replace him, and he couldn©ˆt stomach the thought.

During his final term, Sen. Eagleton was among the first voices in Congress to criticize President Ronald Reagan’s foreign and economic policies, and one of the few in the Senate to oppose Reagan©ˆs tax cuts, arguing that they were too deep.

During a speech in rural Missouri, Sen. Eagleton argued that the cuts would wrongly benefit wealthy Missourians like himself while hurting those who needed the government’s help.

“What manner of people are these who cut educational programs and at the same time push through tax credits for people who send their children to Andover, Exeter, Mary Institute, Country Day and John Burroughs?” asked Sen. Eagleton, himself a Country Day graduate.

“Once again, once again,” he roared with his booming baritone, “largesse to the rich!”

Stumping for Carnahan

During his retirement, Sen. Eagleton practiced law and became a favorite speaker at Democratic rallies. But he also joined with Danforth at several speaking events, where the duo made their case for more civility in politics.

Occasionally, Sen. Eagleton would resurrect his razor-sharp partisan skills. After the plane crash on Oct. 16, 2000, that killed the Missouri Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate — then-Gov. Mel Carnahan — it was Sen. Eagleton who held a news conference to quell growing Republican claims that it would be illegal for a deceased candidate to remain on the November ballot.

Sen. Eagleton bluntly jabbed at Republican incumbent John Ashcroft by declaring, “A U.S. senator who can©ˆt beat a dead man doesn©ˆt belong in the U.S. Senate.”

Sen. Eagleton’s rhetoric touched off Republican outrage but helped re-energize his party and became the most-quoted comment of the campaign. Carnahan went on to become the first candidate in U.S. history to be elected posthumously to the U.S. Senate. Last year, even while battling some health problems, Sen. Eagleton campaigned for Amendment 2, the ballot initiative to protect all forms of stem cell research allowed under federal law. Sen. Eagleton was the campaign’s honorary co-chairman along with Danforth, his old Republican friend.

Eagleton is survived by this wife Barbara, his two children and three grandchildren.

Services for Eagleton will be on Saturday at Saint Francis Xavier College Church, 3628 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis.

It’s a blog, blog, blog, blog world

Two more blogs you should check out. Go now – these guys may be rogues in their fields. Somehow I’m picturing Jack Sparrow right now, and you can’t beat a mental picture of that!

First up, The Last Psychiatrist. He doesn’t name himself, but does say he’s an academic who specializes in forensics. Hmm. He doesn’t seem to be the “typical” psychiatrist and says things like this:

Psychiatry is politics, it is politics in the way that running for office is politics. It is not a science, it is not even close to science, it is much closer to politics.

No wonder he doesn’t seem to use him name. That kind of statement isn’t likely to earn him new friends in psychiatry. It’s SCIENCE DAMMIT! And if you say anything to the contrary, then you’re…..a SCIENTOLOGIST! (Or if you’re in the ECT Boys’ Club, you’ll drag a label out of the DSM Scrabble bag and fling that instead.)

So check out Dr. Jack Sparrow, The Last Psychiatrist. He’s got a touch of sardonicism, and I’m always a sucker for that.

Next up, Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, A Closer Look. Start with this article on biased research and then keep reading. He’s got a number of hot buttons and they’re all dandies.

These are two high quality, interesting blogs and if you start reading, I think you’ll have a hard time getting out of your computer chair. I’m not responsible for eye strain.

Two more blogs of note

MindFreedom.org has a blog and has been documenting the ongoing Eli Lilly legal challenges:

MindFreedom Blog

Next blog is from the makers of the film “Side Effects,” and includes news about the pharmaceutical industry. I’ll soon be viewing and reviewing their new film “Money Talks – Profits Before Patient Safety.” The trailer intrigued me and this looks like it could be a dandy!

Mo Productions

Eli Lilly, the big bully

As many of you know, a few years ago I battled Tenet Healthcare Corporation in the case of Kathleen Garrett, an elderly woman who was being forcibly shocked at a St. Louis Tenet-owned hospital. They tried to threaten and bully me into silence with threats of lawsuits, etc. I now keep track of Tenet’s bad behavior (and it’s really quite bad) on this website.

It seems that Eli Lilly is using the same tactics, what are called SLAP lawsuits, in their effort to shut activists up about the dangers of the drug Zyprexa. But they’ve actually filed lawsuits against Mindfreedom.org and a number of activists.

Read all about it and spread the word! Find out what Eli Lilly doesn’t want you to know.

http://www.mindfreedom.org/know/psych-drug-corp/eli-lilly-secrets/

Little merit in ECT, US study finds

Opponents of electric-shock therapy are calling for a ban on its use in the elderly after a new study shows they are at increased risk of permanent brain damage.

The Press (New Zealand)
Feb 7 2007
By KAMALA HAYMAN

The elderly, women and people with lower IQs are the most vulnerable to brain damage, particularly memory loss, according to the first large-scale study on the long-term effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

About 300 patients a year are given ECT in New Zealand. Two-thirds are women and about 60 per cent are over the age of 50.

In a report released last year, the Health Ministry said ECT was “a valuable and sometimes life-saving” treatment for depression, mania and catatonia, although its effects were typically short-term.

In the New York study, just published in the Neuropsychopharmacology international journal, researchers followed 347 patients for six months.

The research team, led by Harold Sackeim, said the study provided the evidence that “adverse cognitive effects can persist for an extended period and that they characterise routine treatment with ECT”.

The “more severe and persisting” memory problems were found in those given ECT to both sides of the brain, leading the team to conclude there was “little justification” for such treatment.

Some patients were given ECT to only the right side of the brain, to protect the memory centre in the left.

Auckland clinical psychologist John Read said some New Zealand patients were still being given ECT on both sides of the brain.

Read, a long-standing campaigner against the use of ECT, has sent a second petition to the parliamentary health select committee calling for a ban on the treatment in older people, pregnant women and those under 18.

Read said the beneficial effects of ECT were short-term and there was no evidence it saved lives by preventing suicide.

He said patients given ECT should be told: “It does make some people feel better for a short period of time and it causes permanent brain damage for a significant proportion of people.”

A Christchurch 53-year-old, given ECT for severe depression last year, said she had consented to her 12-dose treatment but did not believe it was informed consent as she was not warned of the risk of permanent memory loss. “I have lost my long-term memory and I have lost totally the ability to administer and organise things,” she said.

Despite the “dreadful” side-effects, the woman, who did not want to be named, said ECT was a valuable treatment. Severe depression was not only life-threatening, it was a horrendous experience. “I was like the walking dead.”

She said her depression returned several months after the ECT, although it had since lifted, possibly due to acupuncture and meditation.

Canterbury psychiatric patients are among the most likely in the country to have ECT. In the year to June 2005, 79 Canterbury patients had a course of ECT, about one-quarter of the 307 treated nationally.

Health select committee chairwoman and Green MP Sue Kedgley said ECT was a “barbaric and old-fashioned technique” used in New Zealand with little regulation, monitoring or evaluation. The number of patients given ECT varied wildly in different parts of the country, as did the length of each course.

Kedgley was concerned that one in five patients had ECT without giving consent, and the rate was above 50% in some districts.

“If it is going to cause the harm that this research shows, then I certainly question why it should be given to people without their consent,” she said.

Canterbury psychiatrist Richard Porter, who oversees ECT use, said one-sided (unilateral) ECT was usually prescribed unless treatment was particularly urgent or there was no response to unilateral ECT.

“The choice is discussed with patients and family and the pros and cons explained before the decision is made,” he said. This particularly applied to the elderly, in whom it had been “known for a long time” that memory loss was more likely, he said.

Research Investigates Whether Vitamin Folate Helps To Treat Depression

Medical News Today
Feb 3 2007

New research commissioned by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme is looking into whether the vitamin folate can help in the treatment of depression. One in five people experience depression during their lives and only half of these people respond to antidepressant treatment.

Folate, a vitamin found in foods such as green vegetables, helps to produce chemicals that regulate brain functions, including mood, sleep and appetite. A Cochrane review concluded that folate may have a role as a supplement to other treatments for depression, but the evidence is limited and primary research is needed to test this.

“Antidepressants work by improving the way certain chemical messengers work in the brain and folate helps produce the chemicals needed for this process,” says Professor Ian Russell of the University of Wales Bangor.

“Low levels of folate from a poor diet or similar factors could worsen depression and stop antidepressants from working optimally.”

Researchers in Wales led by Professor Russell are set to conduct the biggest randomised controlled trial of its kind to test whether a folate tablet taken daily by people with depression will help their antidepressants to work better. In addition to their antidepressants, participants will be given either a folate tablet or a dummy tablet for three months. Researchers will ask them about the effect this has on their depression, and take blood samples to corroborate this.

“We welcome this research initiative into the potential of folate to enhance the effect of anti-depressant medication,” says Lindsay Foyster, Director of Mind Cymru. “If the research proves folate to be efficacious then an easily acquired simple supplement or an informed improvement in diet could make a significant contribution to the self management of depression.”

For more information visit: http://www.hta.ac.uk/project.asp?PjtId=1537

###

Notes:

1. The HTA programme produces high quality research information about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. This is a programme of the National Institute for Health Research (http://www.nihr.ac.uk) and is the largest and longest running of the national programmes with 340 projects published since its inception in 1993. About 50 are published each year, all available for download free of charge from the website. It is coordinated by the National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), based at the University of Southampton.

Visit http://www.hta.ac.uk for more information.

2. Mind (National Association for Mental Health) is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales and works to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.

Visit http://www.mind.org.uk for more information.

For further information please go to:
National Institute for Health Research And
University of Southampton

When antidepressants don’t work

BY JOYCE RUSSELL
Northwest Indiana Times
Feb 3 2007

PORTAGE | Barbara Layton’s depression had become so severe she had only the energy to sit in a rocking chair all day and slowly rock back and forth.

The Hobart native and Portage resident had suffered from depression since she was a teen. At age 21, she attempted suicide. But it wasn’t until she reached 40 that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Like most with the illnesses, she’d been treated with a cocktail of antidepressants. This time, however, they weren’t working.

Suicide again crossed her mind, but she didn’t have the energy to carry out the thought, Layton said.

Instead, after consulting with doctors and educating herself and family members, Layton agreed to undergo electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, more commonly known as electro shock treatments.

After six treatments, Layton’s depression had eased sufficiently that she was released from the hospital and returned to her normal life. That was in 1998.

“It scared me to death,” she said of her initial reaction to the recommendation, but she knew she had to do something.

“It saved my life. It just saved my life, and it was quick,” said Layton, 57.

Layton, founder and executive director of the Porter County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has been an advocate for the mentally ill for years.

She took it a step further last year by agreeing to be one of a dozen ECT patients portrayed in the book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy” by Kitty Dukakis, wife of former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and Larry Tye. She also was featured in the DVD documentary “Shock,” produced by AMS Production Group. Both are available through Amazon.com.

The reason she agreed to go public on a national level was to continue her efforts to educate people about mental illness, she said. The book, which predominately features Dukakis’ battle with depression and use of ECT, and the DVD both take a look at the pros and cons of ECT.

“I wanted to help fight the stigma. I wanted people to recognize me as me and not as my illness. I am Barbara Layton, not a bipolar,” she said. “I’ve always been vocal about mental illness. There is a lot of stigma attached.”

Layton said her efforts have been to teach others that mental illnesses like hers are not a person’s “fault” and that depression is not something someone can simply “get over.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the leading cause of disability for people ages 15 to 44.

ECT, while administered to 100,000 people annual in this country, is misunderstood, Layton said. The stigma behind the use of the treatments comes from the media, especially the portrayal of the therapy in films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Frances.” The procedures have changed in administering ECT and are depicted in the DVD.

“I’m very pleased with the video. It shows the pros and cons of ECT. If you’re contemplating this, it is a very good source,” she said, adding the video is objective and that stories are about successful and unsuccessful treatments.

“I want people to know it is safe. I want them to go into it (ECT) very educated and look at it long and hard. This is not for someone with a mild case of depression. It is for someone with a debilitating case who has gone through all the medications.”

SEE FOR YOURSELF

The documentary “Shock” featuring Portage resident Barbara Layton is available at Amazon.com for $19.95. The book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy,” which also features Layton’s battle with depression and use of electro shock treatments, also is available at Amazon.com for $17.22.

Parity for mental illness – Swiss may expand assisted suicide

You wanted parity? Swiss may expand assisted suicide to include mental illness

Yahoo News
Feb 2 2007

A ruling by Switzerland’s highest court released Friday has opened up the possibility that people with serious mental illnesses could be helped by doctors to take their own lives.

Switzerland already allows physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients under certain circumstances. The Federal Tribunal’s decision puts mental illnesses on the same level as physical ones.”It must be recognized that an incurable, permanent, serious mental disorder can cause similar suffering as a physical (disorder), making life appear unbearable to the patient in the long term,” the ruling said.

“If the death wish is based on an autonomous decision which takes all circumstances into account, then a mentally ill person can be prescribed sodium-pentobarbital and thereby assisted in suicide,” it added.

Various organizations exist in Switzerland to help people who want to commit suicide, and assisting someone to die is not punishable under Swiss law as long as there is no “selfish motivation” for doing so.

The judges made clear in their ruling that certain conditions would have to be met before a mentally ill person’s request for suicide assistance could be considered justified.

“A distinction has to be made between a death wish which is an expression of a curable, psychiatric disorder and which requires treatment, and (a death wish) which is based on a person of sound judgment’s own well-considered and permanent decision, which must be respected,” they said.

The case was brought by a 53-year old man with serious bipolar affective disorder who asked the tribunal to allow him to acquire a lethal dose of pentobarbital without a doctor’s prescription.

The tribunal ruled against his request, confirming the need for a thorough medical assessment of the patient’s condition.

Whether any Swiss physician would be prepared to prescribe a lethal dose of pentobarbital to a mentally ill person remains unclear. The country’s national ethics commission could not be reached for comment late on Friday.

Switzerland is one of a number of countries in Europe that allow assistance to terminally ill people who wish to die.

Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2001 and Belgium in 2002, while Britain and France allow terminally ill people to refuse treatment in favor of death.

Video Overview of ECT

A video overview of electroconvulsive therapy by Dr. John Friedberg, author of “Shock Treatment is Not Good for Your Brain.

Says the neurologist: “ECT isn’t new and it isn’t effective. It causes brain damage manifested mostly by amnesia. This video is a brief overview from my perspective as a neurologist.”

Click here to view video at You Tube.

[gv data="fBK5Y5rmAy0"width="425" height="350"][/gv]

Device for Depression Criticized

FDA Advisory Panel Sees Marginal Effect of TMS in Depression Treatment
By Todd Zwillich
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
January 29, 2007

Jan. 29, 2007 — An FDA advisory panel on Friday questioned the value of a new brain stimulation device for depressiondepression, potentially damaging its chances for FDA approval.

Members of the panel expressed doubts that the machine, called NeuroStar, helps depressed patients or provides any advantage over placebo treatment.

The device looks much like a dentist’s chair with metal prongs attached to a nearby console.

It works on the same principle as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) — commonly called “electric shock treatment” — a treatment usually reserved for severely depressed patients who do not respond to antidepressant drugs or therapy.

But instead of using electric shocks, NeuroStar stimulates the brain by sending a focused magnetic field into the brain from outside the skull — a treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.

In 2005, the FDA approved an implantable nerve stimulation device made by Cyberonics to treat depression.

The implantable device uses vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, to stimulate the vagus nerve (which runs from the neck to the brain and relays messages to the brain) rather than the brain directly. VNS is already used to treat epilepsyepilepsy.

Neuronetics, the company that manufactures NeuroStar, presented TMS as an advantage to implantable devices because it does not require invasive surgery.

The company sought to show that the device is equivalent to ECT but with fewer side effects and is more accessible to patients.

“Many patients cannot avail themselves of (ECT) … cannot afford this treatment,” says Philip G. Janicak, MD, a researcher who conducted clinical trials of TMS for the company.

Also, “Only 8% of psychiatrists provide electroconvulsive treatment,” says Janicak, a professor of psychiatry at Rush Presbyterian Medical Center in Chicago.

But the advisory panel was generally unimpressed with the company’s studies, even though they showed a slight statistical advantage in treating depressiondepression symptoms vs. dummy therapy after six weeks of treatment.

Several panelists expressed dismay that patients showed no improvement on some depression scales and only minor improvement on the ones that did show a difference.

“Perhaps a reasonable person could question whether there has been an effect at all,” says Thomas G. Brott, a neurologist from Mayo Medical School in Jacksonville, Fla., and the advisory panel’s chairman.

The panel did not formally recommend to the FDA whether or not the machine should be approved.

But FDA scientists suggested at a public hearing that they were also uneasy with the company’s results.

Ann Costello, PhD, an FDA medical official, questioned whether the mixed evidence of effectiveness in Neuronetics’ studies contained “any clinical relevant information.”

Patients who used TMS appeared to avoid the memory loss often seen in those who undergo ECT.

But Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, told the panel the company’s studies did not show the device could help patients.

“It’s not a statistically significant difference, and it’s not a meaningful difference,” says Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist. “Yes, it is safer than ECT, but it doesn’t appear to actually work.”

Steve Newman, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Washington, D.C., chapter, was one of a few patients from Neuronetics’ studies who told experts his deep depression eased after being treated with the machine.

“It was like a light switched on,” he says.

Panel Questions Magnet Therapy Results

By ANDREW BRIDGES
The Associated Press
Friday, January 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — A novel machine designed to treat depression by zapping the brain with magnetic pulses shows no clear evidence of working, federal health advisers concluded Friday.

The device is called the Neurostar TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, system. It uses magnetic energy to induce electrical currents in the region of the brain associated with mood.

Neuronetics Inc. believes those currents stimulate neurons in the region and relieve the symptoms of depression. The Malvern, Pa., company seeks clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to market the machine _ something the panel’s lukewarm reception may make less likely. The FDA isn’t required to follow the advice of its outside experts, but it usually does.

A clinical trial of the device provided results that, in one analysis, suggested it’s no better than sham treatment, according to FDA documents. Still, the FDA asked its neurological devices panel to review the overall safety and efficacy of the device.

Panelists said there was some suggestion the Neurostar works, but they called the effect marginal, borderline and questionable, an FDA spokeswoman said.

The company intends the device to be used by psychiatrists on an outpatient basis as an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy, or shock treatment, for the treatment of major depression. It would be used on depressed patients for whom therapy and antidepressants have not worked.

To gain federal approval, the FDA told Neuronetics that its device doesn’t necessarily have to be as effective as shock treatment if it can be shown to be a safer treatment option. Shock therapy can cause memory and cognitive changes, as well as headaches and burns.

Panelists said there were no important safety issues with the Neurostar. But none of the experts said the device works as substantially well as does shock therapy.

Company spokesman Peter Anastasiou said the company was confident in its efficacy data.

“In our view, we showed efficacy in a very tough to treat patient population,” Anastasiou said.

More here.

Winter blues can affect productivity

By PAULA BURKES ERICKSON
Monday, January 22, 2007

Scripps News

Feeling sluggish lately? Withdrawn? Eating more than usual?

Because of the shortened exposure to daylight, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or its milder form, the “winter blues.”

About 6 percent of Americans have SAD, and another 14 percent have the blues, according to Norman Rosenthal, author of “Winter Blues.” Symptoms begin in the fall and run through February.

Don’t laugh. SAD is a real physical illness with its own diagnosis. Employers should take it seriously, medical and workplace experts agree.

SAD is a subset of recurrent major depression and bipolar disease, or mood swings between depression and anger, said Jenny Boyer, a psychiatrist with Oklahoma University Physicians. Both are physical conditions, she said, that result from an access problem between the brain’s pituitary and hypothalamus glands.

About one in five Americans in their lifetime will suffer from depression, Boyer said. For two or more weeks, they’ll have fatigue, increased guilt, disinterest in their normal activities and increases, or less frequently decreases, in appetite and sleep.”I see people with SAD all the time,” Boyer said. “Patients will say ‘Doc, it’s winter. I always get this way in the winter.’ They’re kind of like bears hibernating. They’ll eat a whole bunch, sleep all the time and be super emotionally sensitive.”

Meanwhile, studies by the National Institutes of Health show depression costs the nation about $44 billion every year in lost work days, decreased productivity and other illnesses. Consequently, it’s important for employers to offer workers ways to cope _ from ample workplace lighting to employee assistance counseling programs to on-site fitness facilities.

People’s brains and behavior change with the shorter days and less daylight exposure, Boyer said. In the winter, people produce more melatonin, a depressive hormone that is made almost exclusively at night and to which SAD sufferers are more susceptible. In conjunction with behavioral counseling, SAD is treated with antidepressants, which are 45 percent effective; phototherapy, which is 70 percent effective; or electric shock therapy, which is 95 percent effective, Boyer said. Medication is the main choice for people who want a quick, convenient option and whose insurance does not pay for counseling or a $200 facial light box unit.

Robert Half International recommends employers position desks near windows or install sufficient ambient and task lighting. Office environment _ including lighting _ affects workers’ creativity, said 93 percent of executives in a recent RHI survey.

Meanwhile, winter blues sufferers might want to simply step up their exercise, said Chris DuRoy, a psychologist with the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.

“The jury is still out whether SAD results from reduced light exposure or reduced activity levels that follow the dark winter months,” DuRoy said.

Melissa Gruenewald, an accountant with Chesapeake Energy Corp., counters the winter blues by exercising 30 minutes or more, four times a week at her company’s on-site fitness center.

“I feel more tired this time of year,” Gruenewald, 31, said. “I don’t know if it’s the winter blues or working full-time and keeping up with my 18-month-old daughter. But working out makes me feel good and gives me more energy to get through the day.”

CIA brainwashing victims seek Canada court action

Monsters and Critics

Americas Features
CIA brainwashing victims seek Canada court action
By James Stairs
Jan 19, 2007

Montreal – In a case that sounds like science fiction, a Montreal court is deciding whether a class action lawsuit can be brought against the Canadian government on behalf of more than 250 psychiatric patients who were unwittingly subjected to radical experiments in the 1950s.

The so-called MK-ULTRA tests were part of a secret mind-control programme funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Canadian government in the 1950s.

The Cold-War-era experiments, carried out by a Scottish doctor in Montreal, included forced isolation, induced-comas, electro-shock therapy and the use of hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD and paralysis-inducing narcotics.

Lawyers for Janine Huard, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, told a Montreal court last week that their client suffered for years as a result of Dr. Ewan Cameron’s experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute, a psychiatric hospital based at Montreal’s McGill University.

The experiments were part of a controversial secret CIA programme, aimed at uncovering techniques of mind control and led by Cameron, who died in 1967.

MK-ULTRA was launched by the CIA in 1953 and headed by the American chemist Sidney Gottleib. It reportedly funded projects both at home and abroad, including the Montreal study, and hoped to be able to find ways to extract information from prisoners and influence foreign leaders through brainwashing.

The project was brought under scrutiny in 1974 when newspaper reporters uncovered that MK-ULTRA had drugged unwitting subjects in the US with hallucinogens and secretly observed their actions. The project had been disbanded a year earlier and all record of its activities were destroyed.

Cameron’s research specifically revolved around ‘psychic driving’ – a potential cure, he believed, for depression and dementia that involved erasing patients memories and then building them back up again.

Huard said that she first came under the care of Cameron, a former president of the World Psychiatric Association, when she consulted him in 1951 regarding a case of postpartum depression after the birth of the second of her four children. She was in his care another two times up to 1962.

The court heard that Huard and hundreds of others were test subjects for Cameron’s ‘de-patterning’ experiments, which included the repeated playing of recorded messages while patients lay in a drug-induced semi-comatose state.

Huard said that she underwent electro-shock treatments and was administered dozens of unknown pills a day, keeping her semi- conscious.

‘She never knew that she was being subjected to these experiments or that she was being used by Dr. Cameron and his staff as a guinea pig,’ Alan Stein, Huard’s lawyer told the court.

The aftermath of the tests, she said, left her unable to function normally, afflicted by memory loss, depression and by migraine headaches.

‘I came out of there so sick that my mother had to live with me for ten years,’ she told reporters. ‘I couldn’t take care of my children any more.’

The CIA paid Huard and several others 67,000 US dollars each as part of a 1988 class action settlement.

In 1994, the Canadian government compensated 77 of the most severely incapacitated former patients 100,000 US dollars each for damage they suffered from the programme.

Huard and 252 others were denied compensation at the time, since the long-term affects of the testing were not deemed serious enough to warrant payment.

In 2004, a court overturned one of the decisions and awarded 100,000 Canadian dollars (85,259 US dollars) to Gail Kastner, a former patient who had undergone severe electro-shock therapy to treat her depression in 1953 at the hospital but whose claim had been previously deemed ineligible.

This decision, Huard’s lawyers argued, opens the door for the current class-action request.

Lawyers for the government did not dispute Huard’s claims but argued that the tests happened too long ago for her to make another attempt at compensation.

‘They demolished me,’ Huard told reporters as she entered the court. ‘They gave me terrible drugs, electroshocks, and made me stay in a bed with a mask over my face listening to recordings for hours a day. I was afraid.’

No timetable has been given regarding a decision from the court.

The Caretaker, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Jan 23-27

The Argus
Jan 19 2007

By Bella Todd

The playwright Terence Rattigan once informed Harold Pinter that he knew exactly what The Caretaker was about: “God, the Holy Ghost and mankind.”

“No,” Pinter replied wearily. “It’s about two brothers and a caretaker.”

When David Bradley first read this jarring modern classic at drama school in the Sixties, he thought he might like to play one of the brothers: Mick, perhaps, alternately brutal and benevolent with a fascinating flicker of sadism, or his dispossessed older brother, Aston, made sweet and slow by electric shock treatment.

“You never think,” he says, “that you’re going to be old enough to play Davies”.

In conversation Bradley is warm and playful and can take on the soft RP of his mentor, Laurence Olivier, or the rhythmic vulgarity of his heroes Pete and Dud with uncanny accuracy.

But at 64, with long, grizzled hair, granite features and a hardening Yorkshire accent, the RSC stalwart seems to be making unconventional caretakers his particular speciality.

Since 2001 Bradley has become known worldwide as Argus Filch, the misanthropic caretaker of Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter films. And he is now starring alongside EastEnder Nigel Harman and Telstar’s Con O’Neill in this touring production of The Caretaker, playing Pinter’s manipulative, belligerent and often grotesquely comic tramp.

Pinter’s 1960 breakthrough play was based on real events which occurred after the playwright, his wife and newborn son moved into a two-room flat on Chiswick High Road.

A kindly man named Austin looked after the other flat in the house for his brother, and one day brought home a tramp he’d met in a cafe.

Pinter’s imagination was sparked by the curious mixture of loneliness and aggression displayed by this unexpected guest, and by his last image of the pair, glimpsed through an open door: Austin, his back to the room, was gazing silently out to the garden. The tramp, apparently given his marching orders, was stuffing his meagre belongings into a grubby holdall.

“He must be the most cantankerous, selfaggrandising, shifty geezer in modern drama,”

says Bradley of the vagabond’s stage incarnation, Davies. “He’s been on the road for most of his life, it seems, and this is his last opportunity to find a bit of warmth, a bit of comfort. He will use any devious means to achieve that, but there’s nothing really complicated about him.

“He’s just a survivor, and no matter how obstreperous he can be, I admire his tenacity.”

In Pinter’s subtle, disturbing and brutally funny play, Aston, in need of a confidant, offers Davies the rather indistinct position of caretaker to the cluttered West London attic. To secure his position, the tramp begins to play off one troubled brother against the other – but reckons without their fraternal love.

“Imagine when this first hit the stage,” says Bradley, himself a working class ex-factory worker who had never heard of RADA until he was advised to audition. “Everyone was used to all these three-act plays with French windows and gin and tonics on the veranda. People with working class accents were confined to being the servants or gardeners.

“Theatre then was a comfort zone, a diversion.

To hear this crackling, aggressive dialogue from the main protagonists must’ve been quite a surprise.”

Simultaneously lyrical yet tough, brutal yet rhythmically precise and full of menacing pauses, Pinter’s style was so groundbreaking in the Sixties that it has become a theatrical adjective. But it’s nothing, Bradley observes, that you wouldn’t hear on the street.

Before rehearsals started for The Caretaker, the actor was driving back from Belgium with his wife and son when he spotted a sign for Sidcup.

It is to this London Borough, where he claims to have left his identifying papers, that Davies spends the play finding excuses not to return.

Curious, Bradley took his family on a detour.

“It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and we didn’t see anything that made me think, this is the world of the play’ until we passed the Working Men’s club,” he recalls.

“Outside there was a whelk stall, and the lady was saying, Awlright darl, what can I do for yer? I ain’t got the prawns today, only got the whelks, jellied eels and cockles.’ “Then this guy in a van screeched off the main road into the car park of the club and shouted, Did you see that? Did you see that bastard? ‘E signalled left, an’ ‘e didn’t even turn left, the bastard. Why? Cos ‘e was on ‘is mobile phone, that’s why’.

“I said, Well, course that’s illegal now’, and he says to me, I don’t care if it is illegal, he shouldn’t be doing it!’ “I thought, my god, that’s Davies talking.”

When Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, the Academy declared him a playwright who “uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”.

A grand statement that is difficult to appreciate the validity or value of – until Bradley describes some of the audience members who came to the production’s opening run at Sheffield’s Crucible last October.

There were people who had had electric shock treatment in their youth who wept through Aston’s monologue, he says. And there was a group from the local homeless centre.

“They’re still sleeping on the streets at night but go to the centre for a bit of warmth and a meal,”

says Bradley. “They’d never been to the theatre in their lives before and they said, That’s my life up there’. One afternoon me, Con and Nigel went and spent some time there. There was a guy called George who is always going on about shoes, just like Davies.

“One guy said to me, You must’ve spent some time on the streets then, have you? Where were you?’ I says no, I’m just an actor.

“They said, We thought you were one of us.’”

In the coming months, Bradley will be appearing as “a terrifying Manchester paterfamilias” in black BBC comedy True Dare Kiss, and reprising his role as “a terrifying Manchester gangland boss, head to foot in leather with a voicebox” in Johnny Vegas’s Ideal.

He also has a cameo in Shaun Of The Dead follow-up Hot Fuzz, as “a psychotic West Country farmer with a shed full of incomprehensible weapons”.

Most eagerly awaited, of course, is the fifth Harry Potter film, released this July. In Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Bradley forms a double act with Imelda Staunton, who plays Professor Umbridge, the Thatcherite new head of Hogwarts.

“Filch loves her because she’s as strict as he is,”

says Bradley. “I had a lot of fun up a 35ft ladder, clinging on with one hand and hammering proclamations into the hall wall with the other, while four crew guys shook the bottom. I’m not very good with heights.”

Now able to step into the character of Argus Filch in the time it takes to put in the fake teeth and hair extensions, Bradley originally went for the role at the suggestion of his children. A previous bid to raise his playground profile, when he auditioned for the part of a French villain in Superman, failed on the grounds of his French accent. (“I ‘ave ze pow-air,” he offers, tentatively.

“See, not one of my best.”) “I said to the kids, What part do you think I should go up for?’ and they suggested Filch. I was a bit disappointed. At least Snape is suave.

“That’s a bit of a wake-up call, learning that’s how your kids see you.”

On accepting the role, Bradley was prepared to become a hate figure for children everywhere.

Instead he receives fan mail from Australia to Singapore and is often approached in the street and asked to croak one of Crouch’s unlikely catchphrases into a mobile phone. “I always oblige,” he says. “For someone of my tender age it’s very nice.”

With four cats of his own, Bradley also enjoys a good off-screen relationship with Mrs Norris, Filch’s feline sidekick, played by two Maine Coons named Max and Alanis – “as in Alanis Morrisette”, he says of the latter, with a sniff. “Bit of a poncey name for a cat isn’t it? I hope she doesn’t get abuse for it in the cattery.”

The cats are “grunged up” with hair wax and fur-pieces to make them look scraggy, and Bradley uses treats to get them to follow him or jump up on his shoulder. “It often takes a few takes to get the cat to jump up at the right angle,” he says, “so that its backside isn’t covering my face.”

The Harry Potter films have been a chance for Bradley to reunite with many old friends, among them Michael Gambon, Richard Griffith and Alan Rickman, with whom he started at the RSC in 1978 (“he seems to have got better looking, somehow, as he’s got older.”) “It’s nice when you get a tea break, and we sit around among all the dusty cables behind the set for Hogwarts Hall,” he says. “They put a special heater in so we can read our papers and have a gossip.”

But of all the great British actors with whom Bradley has worked, none has had as great an impact on him as Olivier, whose Old Vic he joined in the early Seventies. It’s strange to imagine Bradley as an inexperienced youth, overawed by his mentor and, one supposes, cleanshaven.

“He had me in his office once when I was doing Trofimov in the Cherry Orchard,” he recalls. “Because I was from the North I was doing it like myself, not putting on too much of a posh accent.

“Olivier said, Oh, David, about this Yorkshire accent for Trofimov, why are you playing him as working class?’ So I showed him the bit of the script where Trofimov mentions that he’s the son of a grocer, and he said, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I totally missed that – carry on’.

“I saw him a few days later in the corridor and he said, Darling, I’m so sorry about the grocer, terribly sorry about the grocer.’ He’d say it every time I saw him, and it got the point where I was really embarrassed at having to keep saying it was all right.

“After a few weeks,”

continues Bradley, his voice hoarse with suppressed humour, “I realised that he was winking with every apology. He was just taking the piss.”

  • Starts 7.45pm (matinees Thu and Sat 2.30pm). Tickets £15-£25. Call 08700 606650.