DEPRESSING ANTIDEPRESSANT NEWS
On February 2 the FDA heard testimony on whether the Prozac class of antidepressants known as SSRIs put under-18s at risk for suicide. As reported here by Richard DeGrandpre (“Trouble in Prozac Nation,” January 5), British regulators have all but banned the pediatric use of these drugs. After our editorial went to press, Britain took a step in the direction advocated by DeGrandpre, beginning a study on whether the same effects occur in adults. The February hearing moves the FDA in the same direction, but not terribly far. The agency has conceded that studies submitted by SSRI-makers do show a risk for suicide in under-18s and admitted that these studies show they do not work. The FDA has, however, put off any further action until a study is completed this summer. Meanwhile, it continues to reject the claim that the same charge of violence applies to adult use–despite a decade of testimony in medical journals and evidence that led at least two courts to accept evidence that SSRI use explains incidents of suicide and murder.
Much as we deplore censorship of advocacy ads on TV, CBS’s decision to take off the air a supposedly informational TV spot sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services promoting the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit is laced with ironies. Executive vice president Martin Franks said CBS had “concerns” that the ad “violated our advocacy policy” and “standards…about accuracy.” Adding to the “concerns” is the fact that the General Accounting Office is investigating the $9.5 million HHS pro-drug law spots at the behest of Democratic lawmakers, who complain they constitute Bush campaign propaganda. And recall CBS’s pulling of a MoveOn.org ad during the Super Bowl because of that “advocacy policy.” MoveOn argued that past government antidrug ads during the game also pushed a political line. Now under FCC fire for the Janet Jackson show, CBS, the network that bumped to its cable channel the Ronald Reagan docudrama, is defying angry GOP leaders in Congress. P.S. In our view, the Medicare drug law is in itself pure campaign propaganda.
NEW YORK BECOMES A FREE CITY
Last year we reported that the New York City Council postponed voting on a resolution denouncing the USA Patriot Act. But in February the council finally passed the resolution, which makes New York City the 256th “civil liberties safe zone.” The zone now boasts a population of 43.5 million nationwide, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has calculated, and includes four of the country’s five most populous cities–New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as the states of Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont.