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April 03, 2004

USDA Lies - Prions Found Everywhere In Infected Animals

Colin Lowry, cell biologist and Associate Editor of 21st Century Science & Technology magazine, was interviewed on Feb. 12 on the danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE, or mad cow disease - and the little-known science of prions.

The following are selected excerpts from that interview.


The USDA is also misleading the public on where the prion pathogen, or BSE, is found in cattle. The press reports, and statements by Ann Veneman and others from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are either the result of complete stupidity, or lying. BSE is not found only in the brain and spinal cord. In an animal that actually is symptomatic or infected, it will be in all nervous tissue, in the lymph nodes, in the blood, small amounts in the muscle, in the spleen, in the gut - just about everywhere. So, to think that you're protecting yourself by not eating brain and spinal cord, or somehow not recycling those parts into other animal feed, is just ridiculous - and potentially a lie, because they should know better.


...if the prion is bound to a surface, such as steel, or any other metal, there is an extremely low threshold required to infect another animal... [T]he prion protein is absolutely resistant, when it is bound to a steel surface... [such as] slaughterhouse equipment, surgical instruments, wire, whatever is metal. The prion... is absolutely resistant to treatment by chemicals, proteases, heat... [and even] irradiation.


[BSE transmission through blood transfusion] is the real fear in Britain... France is also worried about the same thing. They've seen a few of the variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease cases themselves, so the blood transfusion question is definitely very important to them. And it will be here in [the US], since we have absolutely none of the safeguards that they have....

...if we start seeing variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob in the United States, we have no way to backtrack it. We have no way to test it. We can't say the blood supply is safe at all.


We do not have a rapid [BSE] test, which the Europeans have. I mean, we have it, but the USDA just doesn't use it. So, it might be eight or ten days after a cow is slaughtered, and the meat from it is already packed up and sent to seven states, that you would then - if you found infected cattle - have to recall it, which is obviously very difficult... Then you would have to decontaminate the slaughterhouse, and no one is even talking about that from the USDA."


Here in the United States, we also have to deal with prions in other animals besides cattle. We have mule deer, in the Western U.S., and we also have white-tail deer, which have become infected with the prion originally from the mule deer... The question is, how did this happen? The researchers that look at this have some ideas. These deer in the West do live in the same habitat. They eat a lot of the same things. There could be feces contamination; there could be urine. Nobody has a definitive answer.


There are also a lot of questions about how scrapie spreads in sheep, that are not fully known. We know it will spread obviously from mother sheep, through the milk, to its offspring... In an animal that is symptomatic, or even just pre-symptomatic, the lymph nodes, and therefore the lymph system, and the tonsils, are loaded with an extremely high level of prions. So, it is potentially possible, that if they are eating from the same sources - and the salivary glands are loaded with prions - that they may be able to somehow spread the disease through their own salivation, onto the food the other sheep eat. We don't know.


The problem with the prion diseases is that, because there is so much unknown, and because there are so many different disciplines involved, even within biology, there really isn't enough collaboration.

To deal with it at the cell level, you need experts from immunology... you need to know veterinary experts, pathologists, neurologists... And at the protein level, you need biophysicists, and molecular biologists. And there's not one of those scientific disciplines that can answer the question of how we can actually handle or control prions. All of them will have to work together...

[Scientists who deal with prions] are not going to speak out, especially with the political repercussions in science... Anne Veneman has fired more than one person in the last two years.


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OUTRAGE - Pre-Schoolers Lead Growth Of Antidepressant Use

ST. LOUIS (Business Wire) -- The use of paroxetine and other antidepressant medications continues to grow by about 10% annually among children and adolescents, according to a study published in the April issue of Psychiatric Services. The study profiles trends of prescription antidepressant use in children and adolescents using prescription claim information from a random, nationwide sample.

The study by Express Scripts examined antidepressant use among approximately two million commercially-insured, pediatric beneficiaries 18 years and younger from 1998 to 2002. The fastest growing segment of users were found to be preschoolers aged 0-5 years, with use among girls doubling and use among boys growing by 64%. For the entire sample, antidepressant use increased from 1.6% in 1998 to 2.4% in 2002, a 49% increase. Over the course of the study, the growth in use was greater among girls (68%) than boys (34%) and, for each gender respectively, growth was higher among younger boys and older girls.

"A number of factors acting together or independently may have led to escalated use of antidepressants among children and adolescents," said Tom Delate, Ph.D., Director of Research at Express Scripts. "These factors include increasing rates of depression in successive age groups, a growing awareness of and screening for depression by pediatricians and assumptions that the effectiveness experienced by adults using antidepressant medications will translate to children and adolescents."

Throughout the five-year period of the study, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's) were the most commonly dispensed antidepressants, while tetracyclics were the least. SSRI's include paroxetine (also known as Paxil(R)), Prozac(R) and Zoloft(R). Use of paroxetine increased 113% and 91% in females and males, respectively, over the study period. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that paroxetine not be used in children and adolescents because, among youths, its efficacy has not been established for depression and its use is associated with increased risk of suicidal thinking and suicide attempts. Of the SSRIs, only Prozac has been approved by the FDA for treating depression in children and adolescents.

More information about these and other studies are available at http://www.express-scripts.com/other/news_views/outcomes_research.htm. http://www.nj.com/business/ledger/index.ssf?/base/business-0/1080899456221740.xml

NJ Star-Ledger

More kids prescribed drugs for depression Preschool rate rose the most, study says

By Ed Silverman 4-2-4

The rate at which antidepressants were prescribed to children rose about 10 percent annually between 1998 and 2002, with preschoolers accounting for the sharpest increase, according to a new study.

The study, which looked at prescriptions written for some 2 million pediatric patients nationally, found 2.4 percent were prescribed antidepressants in 2002, up from 1.6 percent five years earlier. That amounts to a 49 percent increase in the number of people under 18 prescribed antidepressants, according to the study in Psychiatric Services, a medical journal published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Among children 5 and under, the increase was even higher, with antidepressant use among girls doubling and among boys rising by 64 percent. Overall, the increase was highest among girls: 68 percent, compared to 34 percent among boys.

The growth in prescriptions written for children occurred even though antidepressants -- with the exception of Prozac -- were never approved for anyone younger than 18. Prozac was approved as a treatment for children, but only two years ago -- after the rise in juvenile prescriptions began.

The findings come amid a widening controversy over antidepressants and alleged links to suicidal behavior and thoughts, especially among children. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration asked drug makers to add explicit warnings to their product labeling.

"This adds to the data showing many children are using these drugs," said Tom Delate, research director at Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager that conducted the study. "The safety and efficacy have to be examined more closely. This may add some impetus."

He cited off-label use as the reason more children are prescribed the drugs. Off-label use refers to a common practice among doctors to write prescriptions even though regulators have not approved a medicine for a specific use.

Many doctors and families contend antidepressants have saved lives. This argument is also cited by drug makers, which deny their pills, including Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor, lead to suicide. The manufacturers include Wyeth, GlaxoSmithkline, Eli Lilly and Pfizer.

Last year, though, British authorities warned doctors not to prescribe the drugs, except for Prozac. They pointed to newly disclosed data showing one drug, Glaxo's Paxil, wasn't effective and could increase the risk of suicide.

Last week, two congressional committees launched a probe into the FDA's handling of the controversy. They want to know why the agency didn't take more action, such as urging doctors not to prescribe the pills.

The committee also wants the FDA to explain why one of its own medical reviewers was prevented from presenting data at a February hearing convened to explore safety risks. The hearing garnered national publicity after many parents testified their children committed suicide after taking an antidepressant.

Consumer advocates, meanwhile, are stepping up calls for the companies that make antidepressants to release all unpublished clinical trial data. Drug makers aren't required to disclose this information, which critics say allows negative findings to remain suppressed.

"Frankly, I call this child abuse," said Vera Sharav of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a consumer advocate. "There is no medical justification for putting preschoolers on such drugs. And there's nobody protecting the children. It's just a free-for-all."

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