Medication kickback

Sabin Lakoski, Op/Ed Columnist

The awareness of self-harm and suicide has become increasingly heightened in the past decades, but with each billboard that you see along the road, another person drives past without a single thought about the people affected by mental illness. And the unpopular discussions of the reliance on side-effect-ridden medications still remained uncharted.

When I was a freshman, there were several articles floating around the world of media, circulating and raising much-needed awareness about mental health and truly how important of an issue it is.

That was almost 3 years ago, and while the discussion of mental illness has maintained its prominence in our society, it is still not discussed nearly enough for there to be a massive difference made for those struggling with certain mental disorders.

With how much modern medicine has been adapting to and increasing in efficiency, it is still astounding to me that steps to move further from synthetic medications and onto natural remedies have not been taken further.

Psychiatrists, physicians, and psychologists still recommend the usage of medication as often times the “best” way to counteract the terrifying effects of mental illness. But what is the trade-off for not waking up panicking, or going through life feeling constant, immeasurable guilt?

The side effects of these medications can become so severe that individuals who are on medications such as the most common antidepressant, Zoloft, feel like they are experiencing life outside of their own bodies.

I was on Zoloft after dealing with OCD and depression for most of my childhood and early teenage life, so when I sought medical help medication was the “cure all.” Little did I know of the zombie-like nature that these medications can put you through.

I was no longer waking up anxious, but my stomach constantly hurt; I had no appetite. I felt as though life was moving slowly without me, and I was irritable to the point that it was almost unrecognizable of my own character.

NPR published an article that delved into the uncharted area of the accusations of doctors receiving kickback profits from prescribing certain name-brand medications, despite knowledge of the harmful side effects of certain medications.

According to the article, ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalistic company, matched “payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers in 2014 with corresponding data on doctors’ medication choices in Medicare’s prescription drug program.”

It is worth noting that these medications are not solely medications for mental illness, but the subsection of the data that pertains to psychiatric illnesses is quite alarming. The data shows that for every $5,000 made in kickbacks from prescribing certain name-brand medications for mental illness, psychiatrists were 18.9% more likely to prescribe those name-brand medications in their practice.

The article published by NPR also highlighted a Brooklyn-based psychiatrist, Alexander Pinkusovich, had notably received $53,400 from name-brand drug companies in 2014, and had threatened legal action against reporters who were investigating his practice.

What Pinkusovich was doing is in no way illegal, but it is extremely alarming that it seems to be profit-margin which drive many of his prescriptions.

Medical marijuana has become widely available in several states for use of those suffering from mental issues, but the process to receive a medical marijuana card is both time consuming and expensive. But the act of receiving a medication that has poisonous side effects is covered completely by almost every kind of medical insurance out there.

Instead of giving natural remedies that consist of little harmful side-effects, medical providers have been known to constantly push medication down the throats of their patients, receiving monetary rewards for ignoring the safer ways of dealing with mental illness. 

Sabin is a junior Mass Communications major and is an Op/Ed Columnist at The Voice.