SFTT News: Week Ending August 12, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Three U.S. Troops Injured in Afghanistan
Three U.S. soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan Monday evening when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives in eastern Nangarhar province. The soldiers suffered minor injuries, NATO’s Resolute Support mission said. They were conducting a force-protection patrol at the time of the incident.  Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, said the suicide bomber struck a military convoy in Surkh Rod district near Jalalabad.  Read more . . .

ISIS Propaganda Photo

ISIS “Collapsing on All Fronts”
The outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria said Wednesday that “the enemy is in retreat on all fronts” as local forces backed by U.S. and coalition airpower press offensives.  “You don’t hear the world ‘stalemate’ anymore” to describe the anti-ISIS campaign, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a briefing from his Baghdad headquarters to the Pentagon. Read more . . .

Pentagon Looks to Israel for New Missile Shield
American defense contractor Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, who worked together developing Israel’s Iron Dome—the highly-acclaimed mobile air defense system that has become critical to Israel’s national security—are now collaborating on an American prototype.  Read more . . .

Second Skin to Protect U.S. Troops from Chemical Weapons?
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is working on using carbon nanotubes to create a barrier that would be impenetrable to chemical and biological agents, but still water-permeable. The result could make suits designed to protect against chemical and biological threats more comfortable—and effective—for long-term wear.  Read more . . .

Turkish Military Officer Seeks Asylum in the U.S.
A Turkish military officer on a U.S.-based assignment for NATO is seeking asylum in the United States after being recalled by the Turkish government in the wake of last month’s failed military coup, U.S. officials told Reuters. The asylum bid is the first known case involving a Turkish military officer in the United States as Turkey purges military ranks after mutinous soldiers commandeered fighter jets, helicopters and tanks in an unsuccessful attempt to oust President Tayyip Erdogan.   Read more . . .

Ending Veteran Homelessness: City Update
Since 2010, when President Barack Obama launched a five-year national campaign to end homelessness among veterans, the number of former servicemembers living on the streets has dropped from over 76,000 to below 50,000. In early January, officials in New Orleans declared that their city was the country’s first to find permanent housing for all of its homeless veterans, who numbered 227 at the start of last year. Here’s a look at efforts in a handful of other U.S. cities, based on figures provided by federal, state and local agencies.  Read more . . .

Women in Combat at Risk for PTSD
Women in the military who experience combat have a much greater risk than those who don’t of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues, a U.S. study suggests. Compared to their peers without any combat exposure, enlisted women who had just one combat experience were over four times more likely to screen positive for PTSD in post-deployment exams, the study found. With three or more combat experiences, the PTSD risk was more than 20 times greater.  Read more . . .

Veterans with PTSD

An All Too Common Story of a Veteran with PTSD
Coming home as a civilian with PTSD was challenging and confusing. I experienced crippling depression, anxiety, night terrors and debilitating flashbacks. I grew increasingly isolated, spending day and night alone in my dark basement, self-medicating and contemplating suicide. At my lowest point, I was taking 32 medications — including a dozen narcotics — and drinking three six-packs a night to fall asleep. I had no external wounds, but inside, I felt broken.  Read more . . .

 

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.

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Department of Veterans Affairs: Flawed Models Yield Flawed Results

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Like many, I am both encouraged and a little frightened at the pace of genetic research. It is one thing to map the human genome, but it is quite another to begin “editing” genes or genetic material to promote healthier patient outcomes.

Mind you, I am in favor of reversing or eliminating alzheimer’s, MS, cancer, diabetes and many other terrible diseases, but pushing the boundaries of scientific experimentation often produces unexpected and potentially catastrophic outcomes.
DNA Research

The Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) insists on recommending therapy for treating PTSD and TBI based on “rigorous science,” according to Ms. Schnurr who heads the VA’s National Center for PTSD.

At first glance, Ms Schnurr’s position seems most sensible, but what if the scientific model is flawed?

I recently came across this powerful six-minute Ted Talk on genome sequencing. While Keolu Fox is eloquently arguing for more diversity in genetic research, he is indirectly suggesting that research based on skewed samples may not always produce the same results across all genetic and ethnic types.

I am always wary of people who argue from the basis of scientific knowledge as flawed models can often yield flawed results.

The overwhelming evidence suggests that the VA doesn’t have a clue when it comes to treating PTSD and TBI. So why does the VA leadership continue to insist on scientific certainty? We owe our brave men and women so much more.

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Throwing Snowballs at the Department of Veteran Affairs

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Many years ago I was reading a biographic sketch of the late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau.   According to the biography, teenager Trudeau was arrested by the Chinese police for throwing snowballs at a statue of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square.

Chairman Mao

He was released by Chinese police after explaining that “it was a Canadian tradition to throw snowballs at statues of famous people.”    I have no idea if this story is true, but it would not surprise me as the brilliant and iconoclastic Trudeau had a glib answer for most everything.

As readers of Stand For the Troops (“SFTT”) news are aware, we are not satisfied with how the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) treats Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  As reported last week, Maj. Ben Richards cites numerous internal and external studies demonstrating that VA protocols in treating Veterans with PTSD and TBI have not been effective.

For the well-being of our Veterans and their loved ones, we can only hope that our well-meaning “snowballs” will ultimately have some effect on breaking through the entrenched bureaucracy at the VA.

Sadly, this is unlikely to be the case.  But if hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of concerned Americans were lobbing snowballs at the VA through their elected officials in D.C., “a thousand flowers might bloom.”   I apologize to Chairman Mao for misquoting him.

If you listen to Dr. Xavier Cifu’s moronic defense of the VA’s “evidence-based” PTSD therapy programs to a Congressional committee, you get the sense that his “own personal opinion” is far more important than any scientific evidence.

Needless to say, not everyone within the VA is as oblivious to its shortcomings  as Dr. Cifu.  For instance,  Paula Schnurr, who heads the National Center for PTSD, which is part of the VA, says

. . . she’s “not concerned about veterans seeking alternative strategies in addition to effective strategies,” as long as the alternative doesn’t replace a method with more evidence behind it.

Schnurr says 90 percent of VA centers across the country do offer some sort of alternative treatment for PTSD. And many have been studied through clinical trials — some, like meditation and yoga, with promising results.

Schnurr also points out one approach to trauma, once approached with broad skepticism, is now on the VA’s list of approved treatments. EMDR — devised in the late 1980s — uses bilateral eye movement, looking side to side, during cognitive behavioral therapy. Only after about a dozen clinical studies did Schnurr feel comfortable recommending it.

“I’m convinced the treatment works; I’m not sure why,” she says.

But as long as the treatment is based on rigorous science, she says, that’s evidence enough.

Ah, there are those magical words again:  “rigorous science.”  What do those words actually mean?   Could the “observational model” be flawed?  At least, Ms. Schnurr has an open mind.

Is the Department of Veterans Affairs too Big to Succeed?

As we have seen last week, the VA continues to use flawed procedures to treat PTSD and TBI yet insists that the “treatment is based on rigorous science.”  Gosh, if the VA’s own internal and external audits demonstrate that standard therapies are not effective in helping Veterans with PTSD and TBI to achieve better outcomes, why not explore other alternatives?

Some weeks ago, we analysed the VA under the microscope of Nassim Taleb’s theory of Antifragility.   Even a superficial analysis of the VA suggests that the organization is Fragile and, in my opinion, far too big to succeed in its mission.

Veterans Cartoon by Gary Varval

Cartoonist Gary Varval

As if on queue, the New York Times asks the question:  Did Obama’s Bill Fix Veterans’ Health Care? Still Waiting.

When President Obama signed a sweeping $15 billion bill to end delays at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals two years ago, lawmakers standing with him applauded the legislation as a bold response that would finally break the logjam.

It has not quite worked out that way.

Although veterans say they have seen improvement under the bill, it has often fallen short of expectations. Nowhere is the shortfall more clear than in the wait for appointments: Veterans are waiting longer to see doctors than they were two years ago, and more are languishing with extreme waiting times.

According to the agency’s most recent data, 526,000 veterans are waiting more than a month for care. And about 88,000 of them are waiting more than three months.

What we are seeing, is increasingly discouraging outcomes for Veterans no matter how much money we allocate to “fixing” the problem.  In economics, one simply refers to this as “decreasing marginal returns on investment.”  This is not to say that some Veterans have not benefited with this new taxpayer largesse, but we should have received far better results if the VA were not so big!

So, if you are wondering what to do on this warm summer day, just pick up a few snow balls and gently lob them in the direction of our Congress and Senate in D.C.    Facing up to the realities that the VA is failing our Veterans is at least the first step toward helping these brave warriors reclaim their lives.

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SFTT News: Week Ending Aug 5, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Senator John McCain Denounces Trump  on Comments of Muslim Soldier
Senator John McCain sharply criticized Donald J. Trump’s comments about the family of a fallen Muslim Army captain on Monday, a rebuke that provided an opening for other vulnerable Republican senators to do the same, even though they all stopped short of rescinding their endorsements of him.  “While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” Mr. McCain, a war hero whose service and capture in Vietnam were also once derided by Mr. Trump, said in a remarkable and lengthy written reproach of his party’s presidential nominee.  Read more . . .

Taliban Ambush US and European Tourists in Afghanistan
Taliban militants attacked a group of 12 American and European tourists escorted by an Afghan army convoy in western Herat province Thursday, leaving at least seven people wounded as the insurgents step up nationwide attacks. The tourists — eight British, three Americans and one German national — were ambushed by Taliban gunmen in the restive district of Chesht-e-Sharif, while en route from the neighboring provinces of Bamiyan and Ghor.  Read more . . .

Scout Tank

General Dynamic Scout Tank

U.S. Army Discussing Plans for New Lightweight Tank
The Army plans to hold a so-called industry day on Tuesday at Fort Benning in Georgia to discuss the requirements for such a vehicle, essentially a light tank, in the areas of lethality, mobility, protection, transportability, sustainability, energy and cyber, according to a statement released on Thursday from the service. The MPF program “will be a lightweight combat vehicle that provides the Infantry Brigade Combat Team long range, precision direct fire capability that ensures freedom of movement and action during joint expeditionary maneuver and joint combined arms operations,” according to the statement.  Read more . . .

Zika Virus Canada Info

Thirty-three US Military Members Reportedly Contract Zika
Thirty-three U.S. military members have infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, including a pregnant woman, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.  According to American local reports, these military cases are all outside the continental United States. In addition, six family members of the infected service members also contracted the virus.  Read more . . .

VA Puts Latest Daily Veteran Suicide Rate at 20
On average, 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, a slight decrease from the previous government estimate, but federal health officials are cautious about concluding the suicide problem is getting better.  Rather, they say the Department of Veterans Affairs is relying on a more comprehensive database than ever before, making comparisons to prior studies difficult and possibly offering a truer snapshot than what was captured in the past.  Read more . . .

Increasingly, Veterans Turning to Alternative Treatments for PTSD
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 30 percent of former American service members — from the Vietnam War to Iraq and Afghanistan — have post-traumatic stress disorder.  They don’t all seek treatment. But among those who do, the VA says 20 to 40 percent don’t get better with the standard regimen of therapy, medication or both.  Read more . . .

Marijuana PTSD

PTSD Marijuana Study Now Recruiting Veteran Volunteers
Researchers in Maryland and Arizona are looking for veteran volunteers to smoke up to two joints’ worth of marijuana a day in a new study designed to find out if pot helps relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. “We’re not arguing that cannabis is a cure, but our hypothesis is that it will at least reduce the symptoms,” says physician and study organizer Dr. Sue Sisley. The $2.2 million study, paid for by a grant from the state of Colorado to the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, will be conducted at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Sisley’s Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.  Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.

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The VA Can’t Handle the Truth So Why Not Lie

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In a moving round-table discussion hosted by Stand for the Troops (“SFTT”), Maj. Ben Richards provides a devastating overview of why the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) is failing to provide adequate care to brave Veterans suffering from PTSD. Let Ben explain why in his own words:

Drawing from internal and external VA studies, Maj. Richards exposes the great fraud perpetrated by the VA that claims to be providing adequate treatment to Veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI (“traumatic brain injury”). Clearly, those in VA management are well aware that current treatment protocols to treat PTSD and TBI are seriously flawed.

Why is it necessary, for VA spokespersons like Dr. Xavier Cifu to articulate banal nonsense to Congress that seeks to provide better treatment for our Veterans? More to the point, why don’t those in authority within the VA simply acknowledge that “we don’t have the answers,” rather than persevere supporting treatment therapies that simply don’t work and may, in fact, be harmful?

Everyone realizes that egos and big money are on the line, but shouldn’t the well-being of our men and women in uniform and Veterans come first?

SFTT has long been partnering with several alternative treatment therapies designed to provide Veterans with options. Sadly, most of these protocols are not endorsed or supported by the VA. We long ago concluded that the entrenched bureaucracy within the VA appears to be far more interested in promoting its own path to wellness rather than acknowledge that other alternative therapies may provide benefits.

As Maj. Richards points out, the recommended VA treatment protocols do not work and those in VA’s management know that they are ineffective. Therefore, it seems evident that Congress and others must look beyond the VA to provide Veterans with PTSD therapy alternatives.

There is a growing awareness around the country that the VA is simply out of step with reality and several states are taking matters into their own hands to provide privately funded therapy programs.  In particular, Maj. Richards is able to avail himself of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in his home state of Minnesota.

Also, it was recently reported that a Joint study by Tel Aviv University, IDF, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and National Institutes of Health finds computerized training before deployment could prevent PTSD.

In fact, Dr. Yuval Neria, a Special Advisor to SFTT’s Medical Task Force,  explains that computerized training protocols may help patients cope with PTSD more effectively.

Biased Threat Attention Computerized Training Protocols

Dr. Yuval Neria, Professor of Medical Psychology at the Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, and Director of Trauma and PTSD at the New York State Psychiatric Institute presents his Attention-Bias-Modification Treatment (ABMT) designed to implicitly modify a PTSD patients’ biased threat attention via computerized training protocols.

 

SFTT helped fund these experimental studies by Dr. Yuval Neria.  In the video above, he describes in scientific terms some promising breakthroughs on computerized training protocols to assist both Veterans and civilians cope with PTSD.

While I guess we should take some solace in the fact that Veteran suicides have now fallen on a daily basis from 22 to 20, the fact remains that we have tens of thousands of Veterans who are receiving inadequate treatment.  The suicide of one Veteran is too many, so let’s hope that the Department of Veterans Affairs wakes up to the challenge rather than disparage other treatment alternatives.

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SFTT News: Week ending Jul 29, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

High-Tech “Robo” Technology Raises Eyebrows
Israeli defense company Elbit Systems is turning some heads with its robot warship, the Seagull. The unmanned surface vehicle (USV) operates autonomously and is capable of protecting the maritime environment from underwater threats such as mines or submarines. In a military first, the vessel this week successfully fired a lightweight torpedo via its remote Mission Control System (MCS).  Read more . . .

Unmanned US Military Vehicle

Worldwide Military Expenditure Database at a Glance
The core work of the military expenditure project is to collect, analyse, process and publish data on military expenditure worldwide, and to monitor and analyse trends in military expenditure over time, looking at their economic, political and security drivers and their implications for global peace, security and development.  The military expenditure project is fundamentally data driven. At the heart of the project is SIPRI’s unique, freely available, military expenditure database. The database is updated annually, both with new data for the most recent year and with revisions to past data to take account of new information and ensure consistency over time.  Read more . . .

Next Generation Laser Eyewear Protection
Army land warfare experts are ready to kick off an industry competition to develop a new generation of laser-protecting goggles and other eyewear that safeguards soldiers’ eyes from shrapnel, laser beams, sand and dust, and bright sunlight. Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Natick, Mass., issued a presolicitation Wednesday (W911QY-16-R-0043) for the Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) project. Army officials say they plan to award one or more one-year contracts to develop prototype protective eyewear.  Read more . . .

Five U.S. Military Personnel Injured in Afghanistan
Five U.S. special operations members were wounded while working with Afghan special forces in an operation to clear areas controlled by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday. Army General John Nicholson said two of the injured service members have returned to duty, while three others were evacuated but are “in good spirits” and are expected to make a full recovery, he said.  Read more . . .

special forces

Purge of Turkish Military after Unsuccessful Coup
Now, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wages a widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees, the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited. Nearly half of the top generals and admirals have been jailed or dismissed and thousands of foot soldiers charged. More than 1,500 officers were dishonorably discharged this week in advance of a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ankara on Thursday, where leaders were expected to consider a broader restructuring of the military.  Read more . . .

Memorial to Honor Vets Who Lost to PTSD
A unique memorial is planned to commemorate military veterans who have lost their battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to suicide. The Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall, to be erected in Channahon State Park, outside Chicago, will also serve as a national reminder of all those who suffer the invisible but potentially devastating mental and emotional wounds of war.  Read more . . .

Review of “The Fractured Republic” Helps to Understand VA Scandal
Since the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs first broke in 2014—leading to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki—a public debate has been simmering over what, exactly, should be done to fix the VA. This debate is fundamentally a good thing. In a political system such as ours, debate is crucially important to addressing problems, and few problems are so grave and morally meaningful to a national community as how its veterans are treated. Policy details matter, and most participants in the debate are sincere in their positions and seeking to do right by veterans.   Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.

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Why Veterans with PTSD are Seeking Alternative Therapy

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) is no longer able to provide the care or therapy that Veterans with PTSD demand.  Increasingly, Veterans are seeking alternative therapy outside the VA.

Department of Veterans Affairs

According to New England Public Radio, a large percentage of Veterans seek alternative therapies for PTSD despite explicit warnings by the VA that many of these therapies are “untested.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 30 percent of former service members — from the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan — have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They don’t all seek treatment, but among those who do, the VA says 20 to 40 percent don’t get better with the standard regimen of therapy, medication, or both. Increasingly veterans are seeking out alternative mental health care — and much of it untested.

Implicitly, the VA is telling Veterans that seek alternative therapies to treat PTSD that they they do so at their own risk.  

In fact, the VA is arguing that treatments not endorsed by the VA are probably a hoax.    This is the same FEAR SYNDROME used by the Roman Catholic Church during the Medieval ages to maintain discipline among parishioners.

As I have suggested earlier, the VA is broken and its $180 billion annual budget is clearly not addressing the needs of its constituents.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. If prescribed VA therapies were effective, why would Veterans need to seek alternative forms of treatment?
  2. If prescribed VA therapies are “tested,” why don’t these therapies seem to be effective?
  3. Is treating the symptoms of PTSD (for instance, pain and depression) with “tested” prescription drugs the same as treating the core problem?

Sadly, the VA has become more of a gate-keeper of self-serving in-house solutions than a caregiver to the many brave men and women who have served our country so valiantly.

Spokespersons for the VA like Dr. Xavier Cifu ridicule other forms of therapy while vigorously defending their own “tested” but seriously flawed version of the truth.

As an outside observer, one can only shake one’s head when therapies such as Hyperbaric Oxygen and acupuncture are summarily dismissed by the VA despite decades of use in many parts of the world, including our own.

I guess those in Congress will argue that the VA is simply too big to fail.   Nevertheless, the VA fails many of its constituents on a daily basis.   For instance, Brandon Ketchum, a former Marine and Army National Guardsman who served 3 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, committed suicide recently after he was turned away by the VA in Iowa City.

How much longer do we need to see promised reforms within the VA?   Sadly, many Veterans are expressing their despair by turning away from “tested” VA prescriptions to embrace other forms of therapy.  Their message seems loud and clear to anyone listening.

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Congress Passes Drug Abuse Bill

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With broad bipartisan support, the Senate passed a compromise legislative bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.

While this comes as relief to many, one must simply scratch their head and wonder why it has taken so long to curb prescription drug abuse.  This horrible addiction problem didn’t emerge yesterday.

Could it have anything to do with lobbyists?

Drug Abuse

Not surprisingly, one political party blamed the other for a lack of action on a bill to curb prescription drug abuse:

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Wednesday night that President Obama will sign the bill even though it “falls far short.”

“Every day that Republicans stand in the way of action to fund opioid treatment means more missed opportunities to save lives: 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose,” Earnest said.

The spokesman said Mr. Obama “won’t stop fighting to secure the resources this public health crisis demands. Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs until they provide the funding for treatment that communities need to combat this epidemic.”

Taking money from pharmaceutical lobbyists continues to enjoy wide bipartisan support, so to blame one party or the other for Congressional inaction is simply outrageous hypocrisy.

You need to look no further than the Department of Veteran Affairs, (the “VA”) to see the widespread abuse of using prescription drugs in treating PTSD and other ailments.   Masking pain has been Standard Operation Procedure (“SOP”) at the VA for many years rather than providing curative treatments.

Will more government funding in addition to their $180 billion a year budget help the VA do the right thing?  I think not. 

Veterans have long been aware of the dangerous side-effects of the drugs commonly prescribed by the VA.  One military Drug Abuse specialist informed me that some Veterans would often sell Purdue Pharma’s wildly successful OxyContin on the black market to supplement their income or – in many cases – to simply make ends meet.

Purdue Pharma:  A Description of Hell?

In a recent investigation into Purdue Pharma,  Los Angeles Times authors Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover suggest that the company’s shameless promotion of “OxyContin’s 12 Hour Problem” is little more than a “description of hell.”

After reviewing thousands of confidential internal documents, the LA Times reporters concluded that:

√ Purdue has known about the problem for decades. Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief. Since the drug’s debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.

√ The company has held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue. OxyContin’s  market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration. Without that, it offers little advantage over less expensive painkillers.

√ When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized hundreds of sales reps to “refocus” physicians on 12-hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud. NOW!!” one manager wrote to her staff.

√ Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own. Research shows that the more potent the dose of an opioid such as OxyContin, the greater the possibility of overdose and death.

More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses that public health officials consider dangerously high, according to an analysis of nationwide prescription data conducted for The Times.

Needless to say, a spokesperson for Purdue Pharma vigorously disputes the allegations in the LA Times investigation, but others suggest that  . . .

. . . more Americans die from opioid overdose than from car accidents. And this (sic LA Times) article gives only a partial tally of Purdue Pharma’s predatory conduct. The drugmaker targeted overly-busy, not very well trained general practitioners in communities which were likely to have high incidence of pain (think communities with a lot of jobs that involved manual labor). In other words, it’s no accident that OxyContin has become a plague in rural America.

Sadly, this bipartisan Congressional bill comes far too late for many Veterans and others who have been deceived by the predatory practices of Big Pharma and their enablers in the FDA and VA.  Is it asking too much for those in a position “to know” the effects of potentially lethal drugs to take action far sooner to protect the safety of our brave warriors and our citizens?

While some Senators are urging an investigation into Purdue Pharma’s predatory practices, it is unlikely that much will come of it.   Big money trumps ethics and common sense.

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SFTT News: Week Ending July 8, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

President Obama Says 8400 Troops to Remain in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama gave up Wednesday on ending the war in Afghanistan during his term in office and said that at least 8.400 U.S. troops will still be on the ground for the next occupant of the White House to command.  With the Taliban resurgent under a new leader, and the Afghan army struggling to make headway, Obama bowed to the recommendations of his generals to shore up the Kabul government with a continuing U.S. and NATO presence along with billions in additional funding.  Read more . . .

President Barack Obama

 Veteran Daily Suicide Rate Now at 20
On average, 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, a slight decrease from the previous government estimate, but federal health officials are cautious about concluding the suicide problem is getting better.  Rather, they say the Department of Veterans Affairs is relying on a more comprehensive database than ever before, making comparisons to prior studies difficult and possibly offering a truer snapshot than what was captured in the past.  Read more . . .

VA Secretary Corrects Statement on VA Wait Times
Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Tuesday took an “opportunity to correct” a comparison he made of the long wait for medical care at his agency’s facilities to lines at Disneyland. “If I was misunderstood, if I said the wrong thing, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to correct it,” he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I’m only focused on one thing, and that’s better caring for veterans. That’s my job, that’s why I’m here.”  Read more . . .

Nato Repercussions from Brexit
The dominant vibe in Warsaw is all about unity. The results are mostly pre-cooked. And there should be few surprises. With little dissent to speak of, in the next couple days NATO is expected to beef up its forces in its vulnerable frontline states in the east; forge closer ties with traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden; and upgrade the importance of cyber defense.  Read more . . .

Anemia Negatively Affects TBI Recovery
Approximately half of patients hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries are anemic, according to recent studies, but anemia’s effects on the recovery of these patients is not clear. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found evidence that anemia can negatively influence the outcomes of patients with traumatic brain injuries.  Read more . . .

Genetic Factors for Treating PTSD?
Individuals with trauma- and stress-related disorders can manifest symptoms of these conditions in a variety of ways. Genetic risk factors for these and other psychiatric disorders have been established but do not explain the diversity of symptoms seen in the clinic — why are some individuals affected more severely than others and why do some respond better than others to the same treatment?

DNA Research

“People often experience stress and anxiety symptoms, yet they don’t usually manifest to the degree that results in a clinical diagnosis,” says Allison T. Knoll, PhD, post-doctoral fellow at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “We felt that if we could understand differences in the severity of symptoms in a typical population, it might provide clues about clinical heterogeneity in patients.”   Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.

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PTSD: More Drugs on the Way?

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In yet another example of how the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) and DoD try to reinvent the wheel in search of a miracle drug to treat PTSD, Fox News reports that “TNX-102 SL, which contains the same chemical property as Flexeril” may soon be used in treating Veterans with PTSD:

An already-approved muscle relaxant may offer relief for U.S. military veterans and first responders suffering from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Phase 2 trials of the drug, TNX-102 SL, which contains the same chemical property as Flexeril, identified a dose and administration method that statistically improved participants’ PTSD symptoms among several mental health indices.

The findings were announced this month at the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology Annual Meeting (ASCP), and could eventually lead doctors to unroll the first PTSD drug in more than a decade, said Dr. Harry Croft, Chief of CNS Studies at Clinical Trials of Texas. Croft, who has also headed the investigation of 60 similar clinical trials over the last 25 years, said current PTSD treatments either don’t address every individual’s range of PTSD symptoms, pose unwanted side effects, or have poor adherence rates. Thus, scientists have continued searching for new PTSD treatments.

According to the article, “no new PTSD drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since Paxil in 2001, and before that, Zoloft in 1999.”

the VA and drugs

While the VA has been dismissive of other proven old-fashioned therapy programs such as Hyperbaric Oxygen (“HBOT”), it appears that the VA has an unlimited research budget for new experimental drugs.  The pharmaceutical companies must be thrilled.

For many, especially Veterans seeking to reclaim their lives, it is difficult to fathom the “logic” of the folks at the VA, but it is hard to argue with a program administrator who places his or her interest ahead of the Veterans they should be serving.  It is difficult – read impossible – to have a discussion with someone who has all the answers.  Particularly so, if they are the wrong answers.

At a time when Congress is trying to determine whether the monolithic VA is the best way to provide help to Veterans,  it would appear that VA bureaucrats will continue to determine what drugs or therapy works best for Veterans.

In effect, Veterans – particularly those suffering from PTSD and/or TBI – will be denied access to alternative therapies in the private sector because the VA gatekeepers “know best.”

How many more Veteran suicides and disrupted lives do we need to say that this may not be the right approach?

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