Gary Tetz

I know being cynical is bad for me. I’m sure it’s even worse for my health than all the arsenic in my rice. It’s probably killing me slowly and softly, as its tentacles snake into my ever-darkening soul. But these days, contamination seems unavoidable, like I’m living near a leaky nuclear reactor. Which it turns out I actually am.

So I struggle mightily, even valiantly, against it. People who know me would probably scoff at that statement since I’m not considered a fountain of optimism and cheer, and show no evidence of an attempt to change. But in my heart, which unfortunately is located too far from my mouth for its plaintive cries to be heard, I want desperately to not be a cynic.

My recovery efforts, however, took another of many direct hits when I read in the Washington Post that in a recent vote, the American Psychiatric Association has removed its warning against diagnosing depression in the bereaved. And that this alteration in its official handbook of psychiatry could bring a windfall for the drug companies as more antidepressants are prescribed. And that the change was spearheaded by — wait for it — people with significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Maybe the most disturbing thing is that I’m not the least bit surprised. Nor by the Post review of 73 articles on original studies of drugs published by the New England Journal of Medicine over a yearlong period ending in August 2012. Of those, the newspaper reports, “60 were funded by a pharmaceutical company, 50 were co-written by drug company employees and 37 had a lead author, typically an academic, who had previously accepted outside compensation from the sponsoring drug company in the form of consultant pay, grants or speaker fees.”

So there you have it. It would seem that long-term care professionals have enough to think about without questioning the motives of every new recommendation or guideline that comes under the pretext of the latest research. But as government funding dries up through budget cutting, and corporate-sponsored studies become the norm, it’s hard to believe that anything that offers such a fertile garden for greed will be left truly untainted.

I know this is the point where I should propose some sort of positive and practical response. Strongly worded emails! Signs on sticks! A bus tour! But all I can see is your med cart and wonder what sequence of seamy events and blatant profiteering got those particular pills into their little paper cups. I’m guessing the safety and health of your residents may not have been the primary concern.

There I go, being cynical again. Is there anything on your med cart for that?

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, who cobbles these pieces together from his secret lair somewhere near the scenic, wine-soaked hamlet of Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.