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The STAR*D Scandal

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compsports

Here is the link to the latest entry on Bob Whitaker's blog. It is by Ed Pigott, PhD psychologist, who has extensively researched the STAR D study and is calling it a scientific fraud.

 

http://www.madinamerica.com/madinamerica.com/Pigott.html

 

As an FYI, John Nardo, a psychiatrist who runs the 1 boring old man blog, agrees. This is a link to his first blog entry on Star D. I think there are about two to three more he writes after that.

 

http://1boringoldman.com/index.php/2011/04/06/recalculating/

 

I am essentially speechless over what has happened. The media should be on this story like a hawk. But when I just searched google news for Ed Pigott and Star D, I couldn't find anything. Surprise, surprise :rolleyes:

 

CS

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Healing

Robert Whitaker's comment in the interview with cinephile was very educational for me -- the current state of science reporting in the US is that it is not investigative. It hasn't developed to that level yet. This must be part of SA's mandate -- to model critical thinking for science journalists.

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compsports

Robert Whitaker's comment in the interview with cinephile was very educational for me -- the current state of science reporting in the US is that it is not investigative. It hasn't developed to that level yet. This must be part of SA's mandate -- to model critical thinking for science journalists.

 

Thanks Healing, I remember that.

 

I think I see this issue as even worse that what Bob described as it isn't even being covered. Not that I would like it but heck, at this point, I would feel we were making progress if Pigott received negative coverage vs. not getting any at all. Like the kid who feels that any type of attention is better than not getting any :)

 

CS

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cinephile

Robert Whitaker's comment in the interview with cinephile was very educational for me -- the current state of science reporting in the US is that it is not investigative. It hasn't developed to that level yet. This must be part of SA's mandate -- to model critical thinking for science journalists.

Hmm, my ears are burning!

 

As it turns out, I was talking with my friend about this very issue. My friend is a died-in-the-wool journalist, and is now an editor of a local community tabloid in Boston. I also have a journalism background, and I asked him just this very question, that is: Why aren't journalists more critical of scientific studies and medicine in general? I reiterated Bob's point that many journalists don't question scientists like they do politicians (basically, they assume politicos are lying whereas scientists/doctors are always pure in intent), but my friend added a great point: it just isn't in journalists' training or background to do such probing. After all, most journalists have humanities backgrounds (English majors, journalism majors, philosophy, etc) and just don't understand what science is and isn't, and its limitations. My friend also admitted he can't make sense of most studies as he's not exactly fluent in stats! BUT, he at least knows to look at who sponsored the study and if it's a medical/pharm company, he'll skip it. We both agreed that is already more than what the average local journalist does.

 

Also, I don't know how many of you have worked in a newsroom, but it's a very busy, hectic place. If a fire/robbery/rubber chicken factory explosion/whatever breaks out, you stop everything and race to cover that (if it's your beat). Often you're so flustered with bigger local news that when a press release from a drug/medical company comes out, it's manna from heaven because you can just use that as your "story" (it's really the only area in journalism where plagiarism isn't absolutely verboten). So it's very tempting for an overworked reporter to just use a press release for a new "study" and inadvertently spread the (biased) hype around.

 

I also think it's a societal thing. Without getting too long-winded (!), I truly do believe science has, for better or worse, become the new religion in this country and much of the West. The problem is, when people rely on science in a religious sense, science is no longer in the realm of science. True science is a long, often arduous process of breakthroughs and stunning setbacks, with much criticism and doubt along the way. But that's not what you'll hear from the media, the pharm companies, or (increasingly) the public. Oh, no. If you believe the media and mainstream medicine, it seems like every year a new "blockbuster" drug or "revolutionary medical discovery" has been released onto a bedazzled public. Sorry folks, but "blockbuster" and "revolutionary" drugs/treatments just don't come out anywhere NEARLY as often as we'd like to think. I mean come on, when was the last time a drug came out that could go toe to toe with antibiotics for true efficacy? Or that could compete with the mind/body's own healing system? If you take a step back and look at the pharmaceutical industry (and much of modern medicine), it is run EXACTLY like other commercial companies: certain "me too" drugs like Lexapro that are touted to have less symptoms can almost be seen as a company modifying an existing product with a new gimmick, like garbage bags with "odor shield technology" that seal in odors. That's not science -- that's advertising.

 

Simply put, science is subject to GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out): If you put in garbage (that is, hurrying science to come up with "breakthroughs" to generate new revenue streams for greedy companies, or by fudging the data), you get garbage out -- pseudoscientific results that get people sick, keep them sick...or worse. I'm sorry but living in a "scientific era" doesn't guarantee the answers are going to be any easier or life is going to suck any less. In fact, I truly think science and the push for "comfort" has made us LESS able to cope with the -- how else to say it? -- the suckiness of life than people living even 50 years ago.

 

We've brought this on ourselves. The pharm companies know Americans (and all humanity, frankly) are lazy and are hungry for scientific breakthroughs (just like people were desperate for easy answers from religion before the Enlightenment...it never changes, folks), so they give them just that: "breakthrough" drugs that come out with stunning consistency ("gosh! it seems like every six months!" we say) and since we're so used to seeing the linear progress in other areas of science (such as the computer/technology sector, where we now enjoy HD quality TVs, Iphones, Ipads), we just naturally assume that medicine's technology is similarly linear in its progress. But BOY OH BOY WOULD YOU BE WRONG! And of course more and more Americans are finding out the hard way that you can't just live any lifestyle you want (drinking like a fish, eating like a savage, and doing all kinds of drugs) and think that when the proverbial poop hits the fan you'll be taken care of by America's amazingly technological health care system which is "the best in the world" because we pay so much for it, right?

 

And what's even sadder is responsible, smart people like those on this board have been duped because they --gasp-- trusted their physicians. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that in this brave new world of ever-increasing technology and the growing pains of a digital transition, you have to be your own expert on EVERYTHING. I mean, you can't entirely trust your doctor/psychiatrist anymore because the literature and health care infrastructure is so tainted, and you certainly can't trust your financial adviser anymore (how many of those guys accurately predicted the 2008 collapse?), and good luck getting "expert" advice on what health care plan to choose. So basically I've come to the conclusion there are few -- if any -- experts out there anymore, and you have to be your own expert. Which is of course massively unfair and exasperating. But such is the existential gnashing of teeth so endemic to modern life.

 

I think pharm companies are in a cultural and societal sweet spot right now. What I mean is, we are now in a society where rapid change is the norm, and no one can keep up. Science and technology has been thrust in our faces so fast that we don't know what ultimate role it should play in our lives, and what its limitations are. Enter the pharmaceutical industry, who takes advantage of this simultaneous confusion/reverence of science to sell their garbage to very vulnerable citizens who are all too eager to believe everything they say, for the reasons outlined in the first few sentences of this paragraph. Really, the pharmaceutical companies know we're eating from their hands, even if we occasionally feel betrayed and bite the hand that drugs us with a few piddling class action lawsuits every year. Even landmark class action lawsuits are just a drop in the bucket of big pharma's profit, and you better believe they know that. I wouldn't be surprised if they allot a certain amount of their budget each fiscal year to what they estimate they'll lose in class action lawsuits, and they've realized it's financially in their interest to lose a few hundred million (or even a few billion) to class action lawsuits than to openly admit the side-effects and true efficacy of their drugs and lose all those potential customers up front. You see, just like Wall Street, big pharma is so huge it doesn't even seem to matter anymore if they get caught. They're just too powerful.

 

Truly, nothing ever changes. And that is what I think many find so troubling about Whitaker's work. Beneath the direct criticism of psychiatry is a subtle (maybe even subconscious) implication that we've been swindled once again by those in power. Power is constantly reconfiguring itself to remain in power...and to get MORE power. I always say that CEOs are the new Kings and Queens. The only difference is these bastards are far more cunning than monarchs ever were in their cruelty. They realized the people wouldn't stand for gross displays of power (beheadings, purges, mass executions) so instead they refined their malice in truly astonishing, ingenious ways. I mean, have you actually SEEN how they rig these scientific studies? These bastards are smart, if anything. They really don't miss a beat: everything from soft, Orwellian language to rigging human physiology to provide a favorable outcome in their trials. But I'll goes so far as to agree with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini when he stated that the "On the contrary (to historical fascism), this consumer society, i.e. this new fascism, has deeply changed this youth. It is a real regimentation which steals their soul from them.”

 

Basically he was saying that while the old power (such as fascists, kings/queens) were indeed brutal and slaughtered and tortured countless millions, it did NOT slowly but surely (and stealthily) rob the lifeforce from the masses and rob them of their most intimate human qualities such as sexuality and emotions. And, of course, psych meds do just that: they rob humans of their sexuality and capacity to feel joy -- even at such a young age that kids may grow up NEVER KNOWING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO FEEL JOY OR BE IN LOVE. Bastards.

 

It really has gotten to the point that the government is so corrupt and inept to provide even basic help to its citizens that I think we should heed the advice of Chris Gardner's mother. Chris Gardner was the guy who was the inspiration for the film THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, and his mother was a depression-era black who was nobody's fool and certainly grew up with a country that utterly failed her. She said, quite simply, "You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry's not coming."

 

I am eternally grateful to Bob for realizing this. He realized that we can't wait around for the FDA to get its act together, or certainly the psychiatric establishment. It's up to us to rally for the transparency in health care (especially psychiatry) that every American deserves. That every American PAYS for. Hell, that a sizable amount of Americans GO BANKRUPT FOR.

 

I certainly don't want to be in the streets when the average person realizes all this. Nope, I'll be chillaxin' in my apartment, sipping on Magnesium citrate while everyone else chomps down Xanax the size of manhole covers and shakes through withdrawal when the supply runs out.

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Neuroplastic

As E.S. Herman and N.Chomsky put it neatly in their seminal "Manufacturing Consent" (five filters for editorial bias);

 

"1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners - often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.

 

2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a "de-facto licensing authority". Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.

 

3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring [...] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become 'routine' news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”

 

5. Flak and the Enforcers: "Flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet's public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.

Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the "War on Terror", as the major social control mechanism."

 

(Wikipedia https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Political_Economy_of_the_Mass_Media)

 

PS There's also the movie - great eye-opener

Edited by surviving
added link

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Healing

Agree with both of you, cinephile and NP.

 

Cinephile -- one word used for the unreasoning *belief* in science is "scientism." When science, itself, becomes a religion.

 

I agree things are in bad shape, and I'm glad you are both naming the corporate conspiracy to control and milk the populace.

 

While I think everything you say is true, I think there are countervailing historical forces at work.

 

In my lifetime, in the US, I have seen the general population become more psychologically savvy -- thanks the the 12-step programs -- something I never would have predicted. This is a form of critical thinking.

 

Now, it's happening with the American anti-bullying movement -- that's also educating people for critical thinking and *anti-authoritarianism." Another movement I never would have predicted.

 

And then we have the wonderful Internet. In the very few years since it came into existence, I have been thrilled to see the democratization of information -- anyone can give out information without having to get corporate support, and anyone can access information, without corporate approval.

 

And all the discussion boards seem to be grass roots training fields for critical thinking -- bottom up. No, top down gate-keeping.

 

But, I think all the dangers you both describe are present, too. So, we have some kind of clash of historical forces going on!

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