Monday, June 06, 2005

Researching confusion and the Media

On one of my email lists, a friend brought up the topic of The New Freedom Initiative, once of our imposter President's newest plans. Coincidentally, I'd read an article about this in the Chicago Tribune this weekend. Felt pretty comfortable about it, as described by the Trib.

I really should consider the source, though, shouldn't I? The Trib is a very conservative paper. The past few weeks, I've been looking into press issues and how the media in the US are negatively influencing public policy by keeping diverse opinion and perspectives out of the media. I ought to know better than to depend on the Trib as my sole source of information, eh?

So, after posting my initial thoughts (which were that the idea of universal volunteer screening of children for mental health problems didn't sound all bad to me), I decided to spend some more time looking around. Seemed the responsible thing to do.

The Christian/right wing site World Net Daily (which purports to be a "fiercely independent newssite committe to hard-hitting investigative reporting", but seemed to be mostly interested in bashing the left) , pointed out a "political-pharmaceutical alliance" in the program NFI is modeled on, The Texas Medication Algorithm Project.

I know that there is a sizable faction of conservatives who do not like psychotropic medication, no matter what the circumstances. While I'm not terribly excited about medicating away every ache or pain, be it physical or mental, I've personally experienced the wonders of antidepressants. I'm not willing to assume that a program prescribing such drugs is, prima facie, bad.

OTOH, don't trust the drug companies. Not one bit. Big business is in business for business. They want to make money on the back of mental illness. Despite not liking that World Net Daily, I started reading more about TMAP. TMAP is a set of guidelines/algorithms, ostensibly tools for doctors to use while treating mentally ill patients in the Texas publicly funded mental health care system.

Or is it a program that forces doctors to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs to patients (people incarcerated or in mental hospitals--yeah, let's pick on those who are least able to defend themselves) before physicians were allowed to try older or generic drugs?

Reports on TMAP vary widely. Sigh. I'm getting more and more confused. A number of sources indicated that TMAP was funded by pharmaceutical corporations. Surprise, eh? Apparently, a PA investigator lost his job by reporting pharmaceutical corps pressuring those involved in the program to use their meds. I stumbled across numerous interesting webs (say here or here) that seemed reasonably trustworthy, indicating that I ought to be worried about all of this.

I read "Complications" by Atul Gawande and learned a bit about medical algorithms. So I understand their potential value. But I don't care for algorithms that place emphasis on choosing drugs to make more money for big pharm corps. Not a bit. You can look at the actual algorithms here , which seem to back up all the negative claims.

After two hours, I have determined that I am against the New Freedom Initiative. I will contact my reps in DC to tell them so.

But Arrrgh! It took me two hours to do enough looking around to form an informed opinion on one topic. Who has time to research like this for every topic of importance? No one. But if we don't, who can we trust to give us the information necessary to make good decisions, protest poor government? That's why I've gotten more interested in the media right now. We all need a media source that is trustworthy and thorough. And clearly, we don't have any mainstream media that fit that bill right now. Hello, Fox News?

Big business, be it pharm corps pushing their new pricey drugs or mega media giants owning more and more media outlets, is in this for THEIR benefit. Who is watching out for ours?

Until tomorrow,
Liz

1 Comments:

Blogger Rachel Ann said...

I agree with your wish, but I don't see how it could be implemented. The word "trust" is pretty subjective; no matter how we record and event we must pass that information through a biased filter---the recorder of the event, and then the material must pass through a secondary biased filter; the receiver. Each of us would have a different sense of fairness.

There should however, be a sense that material isn't being deliberatly focused in one direction or another. I don't know how to ensure something like that.

Drug companies should be disconnected from this program, and there should be several choices of treatment, including non-medical where appropriate. I didn't see that they were listing specific brands, perhaps I missed this. It appeared to me they were recommending the drug by chemical content. That should not change radically from company to company, and a brandless name drug should be as effective. Patients should be advised of the cheapest company to fulfil their needs.

The real question is how to keep down the cost of drugs while supporting more research into new drugs, and paying those who work on research and development, as well as producing the drugs and ensuring their saftey, are paid enough that they will want to enter this field and continue their work.

3:56 PM  

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