Drugs and County Mental Health Programs

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On Medication and Pharmaceutical Direction

[By Carol S. Miller BSN, MBA, PMP]

Two issues related to medication have an impact on county mental health programs. The first is the new emphasis on drug therapy and the second is targeted marketing by pharmaceutical companies of newer, more costly drugs.


In the past, psychiatrists focused on identifying the “cause of the problem” and developing associated treatment plans to treat the cause. With the increasing number of mental health patients, especially those with chronic mental illness conditions, psychiatrists do not have the time to focus solely on the treatment plan and the underlying cause of the mental illness. Instead, their focus has had to become intake evaluations, case coordination, and medication checks. Use of medication has replaced the treatment plan, and continues to play a much larger and more primary role in the treatment of most, if not all, patients.


The second major issue is advertising. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted restrictions against direct pharmaceutical advertising several years ago, enabling the representatives of these firms to market and advertise their drugs. Advertisers target both medical and mental-related problems, including everything from depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, acid reflux disease, high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, allergies, over-active bladder, to asthma. With the advent of marketing, many drugs are now being over-prescribed and are becoming a component of spiraling healthcare costs.


In summary, both of these pharmaceutical issues are having an impact on county mental health centers — first, as a cost issue, second because of the change-in-direction treatment modality, and third from the perspective of potential ethical issues involved in provider/pharmaceutical company ties and relationships.


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