Sunday, October 26, 2008

Treatment of Youth Funded by Pharma

The Texas Youth Prison system has come under well-deserved criticism after abuse and maltreatment were turned up. Now it seems to get the drugs to mistreat kids, researchers turned to pharmaceutical companies for the funds to study those companies' products.

-Pharmaceutical company money, initially rejected as being ethically questionable, was eventually sought and used by researchers developing a list of preferred psychiatric drugs for children in state care, according to documents reviewed by The Dallas Morning News.

A spot on the since-suspended children's drug plan could have meant millions to pharmaceutical firms. The documents released to The News were collected by the Texas attorney general's office, which is suing a pharmaceutical company accused of trying to influence researchers on a similar adult drug plan.

Citing the pending lawsuit over the adult plan, officials in two state health agencies declined to comment on the Children's Medication Algorithm Project, or CMAP – which was put on indefinite hold in May. The researchers have insisted that pharmaceutical companies never influenced their work.

The CMAP records obtained by The News don't refute this. Nor were the researchers banned from soliciting funding from drug companies.

However, the records reflect a common pattern in state and university medical programs. Unable to get ample government funding, researchers are increasingly forced to rely on drug company money – even when it's their last resort.

When CMAP was started in the late 1990s, researchers were loath to accept pharmaceutical grant funding. At an April 1998 meeting, "it was concluded that we should try to avoid this if possible," according to minutes of a meeting between CMAP researchers.

By June 1999, researchers needed more grant money and had changed their minds. CMAP's director, M. Lynn Crismon, head of the University of Texas College of Pharmacy, wrote to at least 10 drug companies, asking for donations.

"Although we have received grant funding in support of this effort," he wrote, "these amounts fall short of the funds required to complete this important outcomes project."

By late that year, CMAP budgets included pledges for $10,000 a year from Wyeth and Pfizer, an $80,000 one-time grant from Forest Laboratories, and $70,000 from Eli Lilly. While a few of the line items seem to limit the grant to CMAP's "patient and family education" program, others are listed as unrestricted CMAP "research gifts."

When, in 2006, questions surfaced about drug company connections to the adult drug plan, however, CMAP researchers were again cautious about drug company money.

And as recently as this spring, Dr. Crismon assured top state health officials there was no pharmaceutical link to CMAP, saying that any drug company money was used for a patient and family education study unrelated to CMAP.

The incredible malfunction of TX government continues to amaze. Anyone with any relative caught up in this system ought to take the time, and trouble, to extract them. Our legal system is needed to correct this system from top to bottom.

The state has shown over and over again that it does not qualify to run any system, much less one that has troubled youth in its charge.

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