As a main component of the Psychopharmaceutical Industrial Complex, the so-called "patient advocacy" organizations have become the leading force behind the American epidemic of mental illness over the past two decades.
Drug makers, and their foundations, funnel millions of dollars to these non-profits every year. In return, the leaders recruit their members as foot soldiers to carry out the latest marketing campaigns and to provide a fire-wall so that no money trail can be tracked back to the drug companies.
The psychiatric front groups form a gigantic pyramid and once pharmaceutical money enters the system through a major organization, it gets channeled into a huge spider-web that weaves through many groups, making it nearly impossible to keep track of where it came from or where it all went. Often, when the grant reports of the drug companies list a large donation to one organization, the annual reports of the other groups will show smaller gifts from that same organization.
The "charity" groups are exempt from income tax and the "contributions" funneled through them are tax deductible. The money is used for disease mongering campaigns to both market disorders and pressure public health care programs and private insurers to pay for expensive treatments.
"Presenting themselves as patient advocacy groups is highly disingenuous not only to their membership, many of which may have a sincere desire to help a loved one or a family member with mental problems, but to legislators, the press and the American public -- for they have consistently lobbied for legislation that benefits the mental health and pharmaceutical industries which fund them, and not patients they claim to represent," according to Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a mental health watchdog group.
In a June 2, 2010, commentary titled, "Psychiatric Fads and Overdiagnosis," on the Psychology Today website, Dr Allen Frances points out that it "is too bad that there is no advocacy group for normality that could effectively push back against all the forces aligned to expand the reach of mental disorders."
The leaders of the supposedly "non-profits" earn outrageously high salaries, along with excellent benefit packages, while many of the patients they claim to represent are encouraged to seek federal disability payments of under $700 a month, and apply for public housing, food stamps, and Medicaid, to make ends meet. The top officials will often move from a leadership role in one organization to a higher position in another.
The drug makers rely on the front groups to do their bidding any time profits are threatened. For instance, if the FDA is considering adding a black box warning about a deadly side effect to a drug's label, which may result in a drop in sales, representatives of front groups will show up at the FDA advisory panel hearings to testify against adding the warning.
They will also lobby FDA panels whenever there is a chance to increase profits, such as enlarging the drug customer base. In June 2009, the Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee was set to meet to evaluate AstraZeneca's Seroquel, Pfizer's Geodon and Eli Lilly's Zyprexa for use with 13 to 17 year-olds diagnosed with schizophrenia, and 10 to 17 year-olds diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder.
On June 8, 2009, nine front groups issued a joint statement urging the panel to vote to approve all three drugs for kids. The groups signing the letter included the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Families for Depression Awareness, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.
"As advocates for people living with mental illnesses, we strongly urge the FDA to carefully consider the importance of viable treatment options for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in pediatric and adolescent populations," they wrote. "Access to safe and effective treatments, including more information about all treatment options, is crucial to treating these serious and complex conditions in children and adolescents."
In an obvious attempt to downplay the serious side effects of the antipsychotics, the groups stated: "Other treatments for grave childhood illnesses such as cancer can cause hair loss, nausea, compromised immune systems and even death. However, few people question the necessity of these aggressive forms of treatment."
"Like cancer," they wrote, "aggressive treatment may be needed for some patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, diseases with a higher risk of death than some forms of cancer."
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare only recently began showing up in public pharma campaigns with the other front groups. Last year it was listed as a supporter of one of the most evil customer recruitment schemes ever devised, targeting the roughly four million pregnant women who give birth in the US each year, through passage of federal legislation known as the "Mothers Act."
On its website, the Council is described as "a non-profit association representing 1,300 mental health and addictions treatment and rehabilitation organizations." But a review of the few grant reports available on drug companies found this non-profit received over a half a million dollars since 2008, from Eli Lilly and Wyeth alone.