Why We Insist on Documenting Medication Claims and Opinions

The one thing we know for sure about psych meds is that nobody knows anything for sure about psych meds.  Everyone reacts differently to every difference drug, and most of what people say is based on their own experience, good or bad, or their personal ideology.  Scientific experts and studies disagree as much as advocates and lay people do.  That’s why this website requires documenting medication claims and opinions.

Citing authority won’t resolve any conflicts, but documenting medication claims will at least show that the blogger did some research, bases his opinion on something, is not shooting from the hip or off the top of his head, and at least one competent researcher has studied the issue and reached a conclusion.

Since this is an electronic website, not print, we can embed practically all our documentation and references in the text of the blog itself, not in a list at the end, or footnotes at the bottom of the page.  A reader can click on the link, and go directly to the web page that documents the blog, then go back to the original page.  It’s much more convenient for the reader than hunting down articles in books or print journals. That’s why we do it whenever we possibly can.

When Experts Disagree While Documenting Medication Claims

Experts always disagree.  Citing scientific studies is like quoting Scripture.  You can always find a quote or study that supports your conclusion.

Most people don’t have the scientific background to compare and evaluate the quality of scientific studies, or their methodology.   I sure don’t.  I seek guidance from a qualified expert who shares my values.

My friend Corinna West has an advanced degree in pharmaceutical chemistry, and can compare the quality and methods of different studies.  Like me, she is not against medication, but is FOR full disclosure, truly informed patient consent, and trying alternatives to medication first, not last, as a central part of the treatment, not afterthought.

Consider for example these raw data from FDA clinical trials on Paxil use in teen-agers. For me, it might as well be written in Chinese, especially the graphs, which look the scribblings by a 2-year-old .

Here is one of the charts Corinna says are the most interesting parts of the study.  I can’t make sense of it without help from an expert.  Experts who can understand it still disagree on how to interpret it, and what to do about the findings.

The "most interesting" part of an FDA clinical trial of Paxil in teens

The “most interesting” part of an FDA clinical trial of Paxil in teens

 

“You’ll see on the raw data that some people really do much better on Paxil. And some people really do much worse, same as on placebo. So of course it’s a miracle cure for some people. This is the same exact story that all med users who love their meds say. There’s whole blogs on why personal testimonies don’t make good drug approval decisions. – like that drug for breast cancer, Avastin, whose approval just got yanked,” Corinna tells me.

“People need to know they’re up for a lottery with odds less than placebo,” she goes on. “People just need to know the truth, both sides of the story, so that people who aren’t helped by the meds can use other options.”

That’s in English; I understand it.  And because I know her values and trust her training, I’m inclined to believe her interpretation, and would ;probably base my personal opinion and behavior on it.  But if I were doing a piece of journalism, trying to give a full range of interpretations, I’d look for different interpretations of the same data and cite them as well.  I might try Googling the title of the study and seeing if anything has been written about it, or just Google “Paxil, FDA trials.”

 

FDA charts dociumenting medication claims.  Can you see what they mean without expert help?

FDA charts dociumenting medication claims. Can you tell what they mean without expert help?

What we dislike at wellnesswordworks.com are blogs advocating or dumping on psychiatric drugs based only on the writer’s personal experience or ideology.  We try to keep those off the site.  .  On many of the subjects we cover here, “In My Experience” is all the documentation a writer needs – but we need more about science or medication.

Documenting Medication Claims is Our Editorial Policy

You can call that our editorial policy.  Another editorial policy we have is avoiding content that merely dumps on meds and the System without mentioning alternatives.  We feel there’s already too much of that on other websites and Facebook pages.  Readers don’t need more of it here.  Wellness Wordworks and its website are about exploring alternatives, not simply dumping on what’s there.

If you want to write, but aren’t sure how to document medication claims, submit your piece and ask me, as editor, to help you.  Include the names of any experts you know who have written or done public presentations on the topic.  Or just Google those names yourself and see what comes up.

We’re writing about this now because, in August, we screwed up and posted a blog about medication with no documentation.  As editor, the slip-up was my responsibility.  I had the documentation but did not include it.  A reader said the undocumented blog was threatening and invalidating.  He asked – correctly – what the opinion was based on?  We figure if one person told us that, there might me more readers who felt the same but didn’t tell us.

So we re-posted the blog, with documentation this time, and posted this separate blog clarifying our website’s policy about documenting science and medication claims.  For a final word on the subject, we offer this 60-second video by Corinna West, Wellness Wordworks founder and creative director:

 

 

What is your biggest concern with documenting medication claims

 

 

Wordworks Blog Author: Ken Braiterman

Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair, has been an activist, news reporter, opinion writer, and columnist since 1968. From 1997 to 2009, he was New Hampshire's leading advocate for recovery-based mental health services. He is an advanced Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

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