Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ted Lieu To The Rescue... x 2


A few weeks ago a some people alerted me to an issue they knew I would be concerned about-- a tendency for doctors to over-medicate foster kids with dangerous drugs. I knew exactly what to do. The good thing about having a candidate like state Senator Ted Lieu running for Congress, is that you don't have to make up your mind about him based on campaign promises. He has a long, sterling record of achievement and leadership in the Assembly and the state Senate. And I knew he would care about this isa as much as I do. This is what I sent him as soon as I heard about it and before all the press on the scandal broke this week:
Thousands of foster children in California are being given medications that have not been tested for safety in children, called psychotropic medications. Foster children are given multiple drugs at adult dosages as early on as 6 years old. These medications alter the chemistry in children’s brains and have a laundry list of side-effects that can be irreversible, like developing tics, extreme weight gain leading to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among other serious side effects.

Psychotropic medications are very costly. Taxpayers pay more for psychotropic medication prescriptions for foster children than total expenditures on all other medications combined. Taxpayers are footing the bill-- and so far there is little to no effective regulation in place in our state.
I thought of Ted first and foremost for another reason than just because I know how much he cares about issues affecting children. His response was just what I thought it would be: "The shockingly high incidents of powerful psychotropic drugs being prescribed to foster children shows there is a significant problem. There appears to be a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship in many of these cases. My hope is that regulators such as the California Medical Board can root out the problems and make recommendations to mitigate this issue in the future."

In the state Senate, he's the chairman of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which oversees medical licensing. The next day-- you read that right-- he read the San Jose Mercury expose and immediately sent a letter to David Serrano Sewell, President of the Medical Board of California-- with copies to every member of the Board. He wrote that if the information he was reading is correct "then the doctors who are prescribing these psychotropic medications are likely operating outside the reasonable standard of care." He went on: "I am writing to request the Medical Board of California conduct an investigation into doctors who (1) prescribed psychotropic medications to foster care children even though the medications were not approved for children and/or (2) prescribed psych tropic medications to foster care children without reviewing the children's medical records or drug history. I also request the Board to come up with recommendations to minimize the above two dangerous practices."

The biggest local paper in Lieu's district, Torrance's Daily Breeze covered it yesterday by pointing out Lieu's role:
Lieu’s letter pointed to findings that doctors are prescribing drugs that have not been approved for children and that they are sometimes prescribing without reviewing the children’s medical records or drug history. Lieu called on the medical board to come up with recommendations to minimize those “two dangerous practices.”

“It doesn’t seem that in every one of these cases there was a powerful reason to prescribe unauthorized medication to a child,” Lieu said in an interview, referring to individual cases cited in the newspaper story. “There is a focal point for all of these cases-- there is a doctor, a prescriber who has to issue the prescription-- and it seems there’s a breakdown at that point. And that’s why I want the regulators to look into this situation.”

Lieu said he is concerned there has been a breakdown in the trust of the “doctor-patient relationship” that all patients deserve. “You shouldn’t be prescribing powerful psychiatric medications that are not approved for children,” he said. “I’m not even sure what the reason for that would be to do that.”
This evening the editors of the San Jose Mercury publicly thanked Lieu for his role in a powerful editorial: Sen. Lieu to the rescue of overdrugged foster kids.
Exposing serious societal problems is always better than turning your head. Always. That's why staff writer Karen de Sá has spent nearly a year on research to bring to light the excessive use of powerful psychiatric drugs to control the behavior of California's foster children.

But shining light on a problem doesn't automatically change anything. That takes a public outcry and ideally a champion with the power to bring about change.

So thank you, Sen. Ted Lieu.

The Redondo Beach Democrat heads the committee that oversees the state medical board. At his request, the board is investigating whether some doctors have been "operating outside the reasonable standard of care" in prescribing meds-- not necessarily to treat illnesses, but to change behavior. Many of the kids are younger than 10.

…The medical board has an advantage over the public. It can get information on who's prescribing what. For months, this newspaper tried to pry the information from social services, but the state has resisted. The board can find out which doctors are the primary purveyors of psychotropic drugs, for example, or are prescribing drugs in excessive amounts or inappropriate combinations.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a longtime child advocate, is termed out this year, but he hopes this matter will be part of the budget debate in the spring. We hope his successor as Senate leader, Kevin De Leon, will agree, and that other lawmakers step up; Santa Clara County Sen. Jim Beall, for example, has been a champion for foster children. It will take courage to vote to invest in foster kids, the most vulnerable and voiceless of Californians, when politically powerful interests want the money for other purposes.

The public is reacting to de Sá's stories. Professionals in the field tell us we are only scratching the surface. We won't stop. But we can't change things without people in power making a stand.

So-- at the risk of repeating ourselves-- thanks, Ted Lieu, for being the first.
Blue America has endorsed Ted Lieu as the replacement for Henry Waxman-- and so has Henry Waxman. His opponent, Elan Carr, appears to be the #1 priority for Vegas mobster Sheldon Adelson who is funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Lieu is in a good position to win, but he can use some help-- and you can help him here. Not convinced? Today his bill to keep California from cooperating with unconstitutional NSA domestic spying passed the state Senate and went to the Governor's office for Jerry Brown's signature. Ted has been first in California on all the cutting edge progressive legislation that needs to be dealt with-- from holding mortgage banksters accountable to protecting LGBT youth from torture disguised as therapy. These things are not the kind of work Ted Lieu promises… it's the kind of work Ted Lieu does!

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At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish he was my Rep candidate. He'd definitely get my vote also.



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