December 22, 2009

from CCHRINT Website






Creating The Perfect Marketing/Lobbying Machine

Mental Health "Advocacy Groups" Funded by Big Pharma

The majority of the public may or may not be familiar with these so-called mental health advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) or the myriad of bipolar, depression or ADHD “support groups” that are inundating the internet.

But they need to be.

These are groups operating under the guise of advocates for the “mentally ill,” which in reality are heavily funded pharmaceutical front groups - lobbying and working on state and federal laws which effect the entire nation - from our elderly in nursing homes to our military, pregnant women, nursing mothers and school children.


Presenting themselves as patient advocacy groups is highly disingenuous not only to their membership, many of which may have a sincere desire to help a loved one or a family member with mental problems, but to legislators, the press and the American public - for they have consistently lobbied for legislation that benefits the mental health and pharmaceutical industries which fund them, and not patients they claim to represent.

Certainly any organization claiming to be for the rights of patients diagnosed mentally ill would have as their primary goal, full informed consent in the field of mental health - including full and complete disclosure of all drug risks, the right to refuse treatment, the right to know that psychiatric diagnoses are not medical conditions (evident by the fact there is not one confirmatory medical/scientific test).


Above all such groups would provide patients with an abundance of information on non-harmful, non- drug, medical solutions and options considering the dangerous and well documented risks of psychiatric drugs by international drug regulatory agencies.

These groups do not.

A patients rights group for the mentally ill would never endorse something as absurd and obviously dangerous as giving electroshock to pregnant women, nor condone schools being able to require children to take a psychiatric drug as a condition of attending school.


Furthermore, they would never be opposed to the FDA actually doing its job and finally issuing long overdue warnings that antidepressants can cause children to commit suicide, or issue warnings that ADHD drugs have serious and even deadly side effects. Yet these are just some of the actions condoned and promoted by these so-called patients rights groups.

As another example take the federally proposed bill, The Mothers Act.


A previous version of this bill called on using a method of “screening” pregnant women and new mothers called EPDS, a screening method documented to triple the number of women diagnosed with Post partum depression, according to a study published in Obstecrics & Gynecology.


The Scandinavian Journal of Public Health stated that EPDS screening was unethical and should not be used. None of the so called advocacy groups for the mentally ill had any objections to this bill whatsoever, or endorsing such an unethical screening tool.


They supported it. The bill would have passed with no objections from them whatsoever, if not for the dedication of real advocacy groups with no vested interests (ties to Big Pharma) opposing language in this bill that would have led to women being falsely diagnosed and put on dangerous psychiatric drugs to “treat” them, unnecessarily placing new mothers and their infants at great risk.

To put it simply, these groups are not what they appear to be.


Yet their influence over legislation, lobbying, drug regulation (or lack thereof), and public relations campaigns is substantial and effects the entire nation. For they claim to be the voice of the “mentally ill.”


But are they? Or are they the result of a brilliant marketing/lobbying campaign designed to benefit the Psycho/Pharmaceutical industry that funds them.



In the late 1970s and 1980s, prominent American Psychiatric Association (APA) psychiatrists, directors and researchers with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) were in need of more government funding, and devised a plan to create a “growth of consumer and advocacy organizations” with the intention of getting these groups to help lobby Congress for increased funding for psychiatric research.[1]


Several groups emerged first on the scene during that period:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

  • Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)

  • National Depression & Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA, now called Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, DBSA)

  • National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD)

In an incestuous relationship, many of these groups were formed by the directors or researchers from NIMH-the very organization that needed mental health advocacy groups to make demands on Congress for increased funding.


All of them had board or advisory board members with financial ties to Big Pharma and the majority of them were heavily funded by Big Pharma. So this was a brilliant marketing/lobbying strategy - Set up patients rights groups to lobby for the funding needed for psychiatry and big Big Pharma while claiming to be “advocates” for the mentally ill.

Perhaps this explains why these groups which claims to be patients’ “rights” groups would so vehemently oppose such vital mental health reforms as:

  • Black box warnings to highlight how antidepressants can cause suicide in children and young adults.


  • ADHD drug warnings that the psycho-stimulants being given to millions of children should carry warnings that the drugs could cause heart attacks and strokes.

  • A federal law prohibiting school personnel from forcing parents to give their children mind-altering psychiatric drugs as a requirement for their inherent right to education.


  • Better informed consent rights.

Rather, these groups - while raking in millions of Big Pharma dollars each year - frenetically lobby Congress and state governments to channel billions more taxpayers dollars into mental health programs that benefit the industry that funds them - not the patients they claim to represent.


Among the issues these groups have supported include forced drugging of patients, endorsement and promotion of psychiatric drugs documented to be dangerous and lethal, mental health screening of all school children, drugging and electroshock treatment for pregnant women.


And that is just the tip of the iceberg.


These groups have also done all they can to suppress and/or minimize any workable alternative non-drug method (e.g. Soteria House a proven and workable non-drug treatment for those diagnosed “schizophrenic”/psychotic) that threaten their multi-billion dollar psycho-pharmaceutical empire.

It is for this reason, and the disingenuous nature of many of these groups, that we are exposing their conflicts of interests because a patients’ rights group should be dedicated to patients - not the vested interests of the psycho/pharmaceutical industry.


Big Pharma admits it gets more bang for its buck from funding these front groups than it does from spending on direct-to-consumer marketing (DTC).

Josh Weinstein, “a veteran pharma marketer” writing for the trade magazine Pharmaceutical Executive, in an article titled, “Public Relations: Why Advocacy Beats DTC,” said,

“I have witnessed that the most direct and efficient tool for driving long-term support for [drug] brands has been, and continues to be, a well-designed, advocacy-based public education program…” [2]



  • “Unlike DTC, advocacy-based promotion brings with it a cadre of allies… This factor grows in importance as the pharma industry becomes more of a political target,” Weinstein says. In such a situation, advocacy groups “can be counted on to speak out for [the company]” and “the media will view them as more objective sources than industry spokespeople.” [3]


  • The pharmaceutical industry magazine Pharmaceutical Executive published a report by PR expert Teri Cox called “Forging Alliances, Advocacy Partners.”


    According to Cox, partnering with advocacy groups helps drug companies to,

“diffuse industry critics by delivering positive messages about the healthcare contributions of pharma companies to legislators, the media, and other key stakeholders.”

And they help influence the decisions of policy-makers and regulators. [4]

  • Jeffrey Winton, vice-president of global public relations for Pharmacia is even clearer about the role of these groups.

“Gone are the days when companies just handed out big checks to groups with no discussion afterward,” says Winton. “Now, we seek opportunities with groups that not only help them achieve their goals and objectives, but also help us move our business along.” [5]

  • According to Dr. Peter Breggin, psychiatrist and founder of The International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP),

"the psychiatric-pharmaceutical company 'advocacy' groups hold national meetings that bring together drug advocates to talk directly to consumers. They also put out newsletters and other information that praise medications. Sometimes they actively suppress viewpoints that are critical of drugs - for example, by discouraging the media from airing opposing viewpoints.” [6]

The Psychiatric-Pharma Cartel is able to conceal its covert advertising and uses these groups to bolster its poor reputation.

  • Sharon Batt of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, studied the behavior and funding of advocacy groups after years working herself in advocacy, where she noticed a general pattern.


    Organizations that accept pharmaceutical funding, she says,

“tend to advocate for faster review and availability of drugs, greater insurance coverage, and they tend to see ‘direct-to-consumer’ advertising as a benefit to patients.”

On the other hand, groups that maintain financial independence, she says,

“emphasize safety over speed and are critical of direct-to-consumer advertising.” [7]

  • Weinstein adds:

“working with advocacy groups is one of the most accomplished means of raising disease awareness and enhancing the industry’s image as deliverer of new and tangible value to patients.” [8]

Government agencies such as,

...should not have its officers or employee researchers sitting on the Boards or as advisers to any of these groups.


All of these groups can and must disclose their pharmaceutical funding (of their own accord, not due to the fact that they are under Senate investigation as many of them currently are) they should also require complete disclosure of any vested interests of their board members and advisory committees.


When you read each of their histories as we have provided, you will understand why.

And while several of these groups are now under Senate investigation for huge amounts of their previously undisclosed pharmaceutical funding, we want to provide the general public with more information about these psycho/pharma front groups, including some of the key players are who formed them, advise them or sit on their boards, and then links to each group listed at the top of this page and on the side bar.


Note that this is only a partial list and it will be updated with many similar Big Pharma funded groups shortly.

We would also like to point out that there are groups that are not funded by pharmaceutical companies, that truly do have the best interests of the consumer/patient and parent as their goal.


You can find links to these groups and organizations on our Alternatives page.




[1] “NIMH celebrates Half-Century of Progress,” Psychiatric Times, Vol. XXXIII, No. 13, 4 July 1997, p. 31.
[2] Josh Weinstein, “Public Relations: Why Advocacy Beats DTC,” Pharmaceutical Executive, 1 Oct. 2009.
[3] Josh Weinstein, “Public Relations: Why Advocacy Beats DTC,” Pharmaceutical Executive, 1 Oct. 2009.
[4] Teri Cox, “Forging Alliances Advocacy Partners,” Pharmaceutical Executive, 1 Sept. 2002.
[5] Melody Petersen, Our Daily Meds (Sarah Crichton Books, New York, 2008), p. 57.
[6] “Evelyn J. Pringle, Portrait of Laurie Flynn, TeenScreen’s Top Pill Pusher,”, 7 June 2005.
[8] Josh Weinstein, “Public Relations: Why Advocacy Beats DTC,” Pharmaceutical Executive, 1 Oct. 2009,