Australia's Reckless Experiment in Early Intervention

Scientologists and Psychiatrists expose Patrick McGorry's dangerous youth mental health plan.

U.S. psychiatrist says $400m Aust budget is a “Reckless Experiment in Early Intervention.”

 If Australian guru of psychiatry Patrick McGorry thought the Scientologists were a “major threat to the credibility of mental health interventions,” as controversial Freedom of Information documents reveal, he’d be better to look to a prominent colleague in the US who said the Australian psychiatrist’s early intervention program is an “untried public health experiment that will almost surely cause more harm to [Australian] children than it prevents.”

Writing in Psychiatric Times and Psychology Today, Dr. Allen Frances, chair of the task force that put together psychiatry’s lucrative diagnostic manual (fourth edition) and current professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University, called McGorry the “pied piper of preventive psychiatry” and a “false prophet.” 

Frances says Australia has been “led astray” by McGorry’s “impractical hopes” and the $400 million the federal government just allocated to his nationwide system of “Early Psychosis and Intervention Centres” (EPPIC) will likely result in “a failure.” 

90% Failure Rate in Diagnosing Kids

McGorry’s theory is that you can predict if a teen is likely to become psychotic and intervene early—sometimes with the use of antipsychotics—to prevent it. Frances says there’s no accurate test to do this and the false positive rate in selecting prepsychosis may be as high as 90% “That’s right, folks, nine misidentified non patients for one accurately identified truly prepsychotic patient. Those are totally unacceptable odds,” Frances said.

 $10m Spent on Teen Experiment

FOI documents that Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) obtained from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) reveal that McGorry and Prof. Ian Hickie from the NSW Brain and Mind Research Institute have been awarded $10 million to study “Emerging Mental Disorders in Young People: Using Clinical Staging for Prediction, Prevention and Early Intervention.”  They are using headspace: youth mental health centres, EPPIC centres and high schools to recruit subjects for the various studies that the $10 million covers.

Melbourne and Sydney Universities are administering the grant and have argued over what study documents should be given CCHR, a mental health advocacy group started by the Church of Scientology in 1969.  The FOI documents show the researchers consider headspace as “clinical laboratories” for applied research.   CCHR believes taxpayers are unwittingly funding “early intervention research” that could expose teens to antipsychotics—drugs Frances says have “no proven efficacy,” but “definite dangerous complications.”

Deadly Side Effects Put Teen Guinea Pigs at Risk

One of the NHMRC funded studies on early psychosis involves the antipsychotic risperidone (also known as Risperdal), a drug linked to causing Type-2 diabetes, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.  It can also cause a fatal toxic condition called Neurolepetic Malignant Syndrome, while a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in February said the drugs could cause brain shrinkage. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration reports 15 deaths under the age of 19 associated with antipsychotics, and 31 deaths for all ages for Risperidone.

Are Youths Being “Bribed” with $190 Incentive?

The NHMRC studies involve more than 3,400 young people aged 12-25 in Melbourne and Sydney. In one study of 120 youths using placebo and risperidone (antipsychotic) to treat first episode psychosis, the “Participation and Consent Forms” only inform them of the drug’s side-effects “insomnia, agitation, anxiety and headaches” and tell them their doctor will describe other possible side-effects. As an “incentive,” subjects are paid $50 for the first and second assessment and $30 for each of the third, fourth and fifth assessments—up to $190 per person.

Conflicts of Interest with Big Pharma

This month, risperidone’s manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals was court ordered in the U.S. to pay US$327 million in fines after making misleading claims about the drug and underplaying its risks. McGorry lists Janssen in his financial disclosures for medical journals.  A 2010 study of low-dose risperidone in first episode psychosis published in Schizophrenia Research and Treatment, McGorry and others acknowledge Janssen for “assistance and financial support,” while claiming the company had no direct input into the study design.  McGorry has a long association with Janssen, pioneering some of his earliest studies of “early psychosis” with unrestricted grants from the company.

Ms Wilkins said there needs to be a full investigation into headspace being used for the NHMRC study and whether Janssen or any other pharmaceutical company could benefit from these studies or studies that plan to determine subjective “markers” or signs for pre-psychosis, pre-depression and pre-bipolar.  She said that FOI docs that show an email from “Pat” McGorry to others in March 2010 showed he considers our questioning the merits of his intervention programs as a “major threat.”  “The real threat, as confirmed by Prof. Allen Frances, is that children are being used for an “untried public health experiment” and their lives could be at risk.

To read Allen Frances’s article click here:


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