"Your medicine is called Olanzapine. Pronounced 'o-lan-za-peen,'" says the lime green kids' brochure for the antipsychotic Zyprexa, published by Britain's National Health Service (NHS). "Many children, teenagers and young people need to take medicines prescribed by doctors to help them stay well and healthy," says the text amid cartoons of happy children skating, roller blading and playing soccer.
Similar brochures educate children about "ris-perry-done" (Risperdal), another antipsychotic and "ato-mox-e-teen" (Strattera), an ADHD drug. But when mental health advocate Ben Hansen tried to "educate" US children further by posting the brochures on his web site bonkersinstitute.org, he got a love letter from the NHS.
"I have been informed that you are using our leaflets on your web-site," wrote Deputy Chief Pharmacist with the Central and North West London NHS Trust Sue Eccles in an email this month. "Our objective is [sic] provide written materials to support the verbal counselling given by healthcare professionals -- they are not meant to stand alone as sources of information," says Eccles requesting that only the "front page and our contact details," be shown.
Unfortunately, the NHS caught Hansen on a day he didn't take his meds. "We posted the NHS leaflets to stimulate public scrutiny of your agency," replied Hansen, who writes under the pseudonym Methodius Isaac Bonkers, MD. "We call upon the NHS to stop promoting harmful psychotropic drugs for children. In a spirit of full disclosure and transparency, we have now posted your letter as well."
No wonder Hansen's four-year-old site, the Bonkers Institute, is considered a leader in sunshine activism. Hansen's zeal for unearthing and posting pharma sleight-of-hand even landed him on the front page of the New York Times two years ago in an article called,
"In Some States, Maker Oversees Use of Its Drug."
Twenty states take advantage of the Pharmacy Quality Improvement Project, a "free" program from Eli Lilly that shows states how to save money on...drugs from Eli Lilly. But Hansen, says the Times "obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request that showed a Lilly account executive had asked to take part in planning sessions and offered to have Lilly representatives brief doctors."
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