For anyone who hasn’t heard of Jake McGill Lynch, age 14, who died following a prescription for Fluoxetine (Prozac), here’s his mom Stephanie being interviewed on RTE Radio. The journalist, Della Kiroy, also interviewed David Healy who… More
So, myself and my friend Stephanie were in Chicago this week. We had traveled across the Atlantic to hear the opening arguments of Dolin v. Smithkline Beecham Corp (now GlaxoSmithKline – GSK). For more background to this case, see here.
We arrived straight into an unprecedented weather event, Storm Stella – described in the media as a weather bomb, having undergone bombogenesis (haven’t a clue either). Thus, while we were a little worried that the trial might be postponed, we were more concerned with the liklihood of two Irish females freezing to death. However, despite hitting a cool minus-8, with some pretty bizarre white-out conditions, we survived and the trial went ahead as planned (with the Hon. William T. Hart presiding).
This case centers on Wendy Dolin, the plaintiff, alleging that her husband’s death in 2010 was drug-induced and that GSK failed to warn of the increased risk of suicide in older adults taking the antidepressant Paroxetine. Her lawyers, Baum Hedlund, contend that GSK hid a ‘dirty little secret’ – that the drug can cause akathisia, often coded under the innocuously-sounding ‘inner turmoil’. However, this drug-induced condition is far from harmless and injury to oneself and/or others, can quickly follow. Furthermore, as alleged in this case, it can often prove fatal; see here.
At the time of his death, Stewart Dolin was 57 and was a corporate lawyer with ReidSmith. While suffering from work-related stress, he was prescribed Paroxetine by his physician, Dr. Martin Sachman – a family friend. Paroxetine is perhaps more widely recognised by its trade name Paxil, or Seroxat in Europe. Six days after being prescribed a generic form of the drug, Stewart died by jumping in front of a Chicago train. He was affluent, well-liked by colleagues and well-loved by his family. Per one of his colleagues “Stu Dolin was a close personal friend, valued colleague and a great leader in our firm. His energy and spirit benefited everyone around him. The lawsuit claims that GSK failed to adequately warn doctors (including Dr. Sachman) of the increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults. Indeed, GSK’s opening argument proclaimed that ‘Paxil does not cause suicide’. That was then contradicted by GSK’s very own literature, where a 2006 analysis showed a 6.7 times greater risk of suicidal behaviour in adults (of all ages) taking Paxil, over placebo.
Doctor David Healy was on the stand for 2 full-days, as an expert witness for the plaintiff. His testimony included an account of how GSK had hidden suicide events from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thus manipulating the suicide-ratio and effectively hiding the bodies. Explaining drug-induced suicides to the jury, his world-leading expert status in psychopharmacology was unquestionable. No doubt, GSK ‘s legal team will attempt to annihilate that particular status before he exposes any more ‘dirty little secrets’. Like how 100% of Paxil consumers will experience sexual dysfunction – another life changing adverse-effect he mentioned in court, and another one not precisely admitted to by the manufacturers.
Not surprisingly, GSK’s lawyers (King and Spalding), became increasingly apoplectic, interjecting every few minutes with their objections, which proved fascinating in itself. The last hour before the court adjourned for the week-end proved to be very enlightening indeed, with their team looking increasingly agitated. Doctor Healy was then asked some questions by the plaintiff’s legal team:
(1) Do you have any doubt that Paxil can cause suicide? He answered ‘No’.
(2) In your opinion, did GSK warn doctors of the increased risk of suicide in adults? Again he answered ‘No’.
There seemed little doubt to anyone listening that Paxil could cause Akathisia and/or a drug-induced suicide. However, no doubt GSK will have many experts to refute that, whatever the evidence has shown. Having listened to this week’s testimonies, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Steward Dolin’s death was induced by the Paxil he was taking in the final 6 days of his life. However, the trial will most-likely go on for another few weeks when the jury will ultimately decide. Sadly, as is normal in these legal cases, every aspect of Wendy and Stewart’s private life will be publicly torn to shreds, with their every move dissected to try and put doubt into the jury’s mind. Whatever the outcome, Stewart’s wife Wendy, is one very, very brave lady.
Clearly, GSK’s lawyers are particularly polished and well used to court proceedings. That said, following the jurys’ retirement for the weekend, there was a last minute crucial objection from their legal team. One of their lawyers raised a final grievance – that a lawyer for the plaintiff’s side had the cheek to say ‘have a good weekend’ to the jury. Seriously? Drug induced suicide was the issue here and this farewell gesture caused offence to GSK’s legal team?
Anyway, if you would like to see the three video depositions that were shown to the court; they were uploaded yesterday. You really don’t need to be a body language expert to determine how truthful these GSK experts are being – or not.
Robert Whitaker, medical & science journalist and author – yep, ‘total nonsense’. He referred to a much-cited article by well-known U.S. psychiatrist, Ronald Pies (former editor of The Psychiatric Times), who opined “In the past 30 years, I don’t believe I have ever heard a knowledgeable, well-trained psychiatrist make such a preposterous claim, except perhaps to mock it”.
So there you have it; not since the days of shoulder-pads and leg-warmers has Professor Pies heard such preposterous claims, yet in 2016 the RCSI Dept of Psychiatry are still sticking to the low-serotonin mantra.
I should point out, that as a mature student, studying in the RCSI is an amazing experience. I love the camaraderie there, and the integrity of the lecturers (and students) is unquestionable. There are even a couple of perfectly nice psychiatrists. However, there is no excuse for ‘educating’ people in a ‘chemical-imbalance’ basis of depression – despite vast research, it remains unproven. Furthermore, it gives vulnerable people the impression that they have an inherent deficiency, one that only drugs can fix. This dangerous propaganda is a theory invented by industry, a very lucrative one and one that has no scientific basis whatsoever.
Recently the RCSI was given the task of defining ‘Medical Professionalism’ in order to achieve excellence in education. Entrusted into the hands of RCSI psychiatrist, Prof Kieran Murphy – a very fine document emerged. One criterion, is that medics exercise ‘evidence-based-practice’. So, with the repeated spouting of chemical imbalances and low serotonin, could it be that there is a different set of rules for the RCSI’s Dept of Psychiatry? Perhaps evidence-based-practice does not apply to this particular medical field.
Yesterday Ireland was shocked by yet another family tragedy, this time in County Cavan. It is believed that Alan Hawe killed his wife and three young children before killing himself. The picture above shows Mr Hawe with his three sons Ryan (6), Liam (13) and Niall (11).
Mr Hawe and his wife Clodagh were both teachers. In the preceding days before this incident, there was nothing to suggest that anything was awry. Witnesses said that Mr Hawe was a great dad who gave his life to bettering the lives of young people and was idolised by his pupils. The day before he killed his entire family, Mr Hawe and his sons were seen at a football match at their local GAA club. Witnesses said the family looked happy and relaxed, with no indication of anything unusual. The evening before their young bodies were discovered, the boys were seen happily playing outside their home.
There will be many reasons given and many discussions of the whys and wherefores. The usual celebrity psychiatrists will come out to publicly defend people suffering from ‘mental illness’ – while actually aggravating the stigma surrounding vulnerable people in distress. However, little will be said about what drugs Mr Hawe was on (if any), whether prescribed for any ‘mental health issues’ or indeed any other ailment – even less will be discussed about the possible adverse effects of psychotropic drugs. Adverse effects which include depersonalization, akathisia (a known precursor to suicide/homicide) and worsening depression.
I’ve written about these incidents many times, see here. I’ve been to Leinster House with the long-suffering husband and experts who told the Minister for Health, Kathleen Lynch, that these drugs are causing these terrible incidents – yet, here we are again. I won’t bore you with the details but I’ll leave you with a quote from Dr David Healy, scientist and psychopharmacologist. When asked about this recent Irish tragedy in Ballyjamesduff, he said –
“The clinical trial data suggest It’s a thousand times more likely that this has been triggered by pills than by any underlying mental illness”.
Michael (Mike) Geldard was 66 and struggling with a knee injury, for which he was prescribed various pain medications, including Codeine, a highly addictive drug. His attempts to withdraw from Codeine left him frustrated and anxious – for this he prescribed the antidepressant Citalopram (along with a benzodiazepine). The day after Mike was prescribed Citalopram, he told his doctor that he was having suicidal thoughts and asked if he could stop taking the drug. Just like my son Shane, he was most-likely told that these feelings will subside after a few days and to keep taking the drug. Nevertheless, 11 days after being prescribed Citalopram, just like Shane, Mike was dead (he had hanged himself in his garage). At his inquest last week, the coroner, Tony Williams, recorded a narrative verdict saying that Mr Geldard had intentionally taken his own life, but reported his death while on Citalopram to the appropriate regulatory boards.
Mike’s former wife (Helena) expressed concerns about the effect that Citalopram had on him and asked the coroner whether it was possible he had taken his life while in a drug-induced psychotic state. No answers were forthcoming. Once again, it raises the question – how many families have to raise the issue of Citalopram and other SSRIs before we wake up to the vast numbers of deaths these drugs are causing? Did Mike give his ‘informed consent’ following a thorough discussion of the increased risk of suicide when starting this drug? I doubt it.
Mike, like Shane, probably trusted that the doctor knew best and that Citalopram would help. However, experts state that the first few weeks are an incredibly dangerous time – Shane was on Citalopram for 17 days, mike lasted 11. This family of drug, SSRIs, the ‘newer’ antidepressants, were sold to recent generations as being safer than the older tricyclic antidepressants, particularly in overdose. Designed to specifically target the brain, SSRIs have proved to be psychiatry’s worst folly, causing thousands of deaths worldwide. Age, whatever the drug industry says, is irrelevant when mind-altering SSRIs are attacking our brains and turning decent autonomous beings into people capable of killing themselves (and others).
While the drug industry and some psychiatrists will acknowledge that SSRIs increase the risk of suicide and violence, the regulatory warnings are for under 25s – no older. Tell that to Mike’s children and granddaughters and all the other retirees who have died from an SSRI-induced death. Sadly for Mike, little has changed since a coroner ruled in 2008, that another recent retiree Ian Fox, 65, died while the balance of his mind was disturbed while suffering the adverse effects of Citalopram.
It seems that being over the age of 25 does not protect against the adverse effects of an SSRI’s mind-altering qualities. Many other people of a similar age to Mike, have died as a result of a recent prescription of Citalopram. Here is a few examples-
Julie McGregor, 73, drowned herself 2 weeks after being prescribed Citalopram.
John Rudd, 62, walked in front of a train 3 days after being prescribed Citalopram. The coroner said he had dealt with at least 6 fatalities (in the previous 4 months) where the person had recently started taking Citalopram.
Bridget Raby, 75, used a knife to kill herself a month after being prescribed Citalopram.
Gordon Briggs, 58, hanged himself 3 weeks after being prescribed Citalopram. Family raised concerns over his deterioration on Citalopram.
Sylvia (Margaret) Tisdale, 64, jumped from her bedroom window following a recent prescription for Citalopram. Her friend raised concerns over side-effects of the drug.
Nigel (Bernard) Woodburn, 68, drove into a tree 4 days after being prescribed Citalopram. The coroner said “this is probably the fifth, if not sixth inquest I’ve heard within a period of three years when somebody either just going on to Citalopram or Seroxat, or coming off it, have killed themselves one way or another, totally out of the blue, totally without expectation, without a history of suicidal thoughts in the past.”
Raymond Hague, 73, hanged himself a few weeks after being prescribed Citalopram.
Stephen Leggett, 53, set himself on fire 5 days after Citalopram. Coroner ordered a Government Inquiry into the drug.
Reports courtesy of Database kept by AntiDepAware.
This week myself and Tony abandoned the minors, left them in the care of the (sergeant) majors and took ourselves off to London. With promises of presents and various forms of bribery, they waved us off without a second glance – the deals were struck. With one condition – as long as we were back for Henny-Benny’s 12th birthday on Wednesday, we could do whatever else we liked. The purpose of our trip overseas was to attend a book launch in Waterstones of Kensington – Katinka Blackford Newman’s ‘The Pill That Steals Lives’. Having read excerpts in the Mail and spoken to Katinka over the last year, I was really looking forward to it.
Katinka is a film producer, director and author – she’s also attractive, clever and extremely funny (as are her 2 amazing children). Her book depicts a particularly harrowing year in her life, a year that started with a marriage break-up and a prescription for Escitalopram (Lexapro/Cipralex). She describes, in painful detail, her subsequent spiral into an emotionally-blunted, chronically-fatigued, medicated shell of her former self. Weirdly, as a result of running out of health insurance, she survived to tell this tale. Her autobiographical account of that year is told in a sometimes tragic, yet often humorous way – this book is a stunner. Considering the enormous increases in antidepressant prescribing, for every conceivable ailment (from exam woes to shyness), I hope it is read far and wide.
We had arranged to meet up with our friends before the book launch (Brian, his better half and Bobby Fiddaman). Brian and the Mrs were staying in a very posh hotel, where the concierges wore top hats and tails – we weren’t. A previous fiasco in Denmark led them to choose their own hotel this time – but that’s another story. Nevertheless, the concierge was very friendly and courteous and after equally posh aperitifs, we all travelled together to Waterstones bookshop on Kensington’s High Street.
It was fabulous. We met other Irish friends there too – Stephanie and John Lynch, whose son Jake tragically died from an antidepressant-induced death at age 14. There were people from all corners of the globe, all with similar stories to tell. I was delighted to finally meet David Carmichael, who had travelled from Canada to be there. David strangled his 11-year-old son while in a Seroxat induced psychosis – he’s a very nice man and I would trust him with my life.
Kirk Brandon, a singer and friend of Bobby’s was there too. While having Lunch the following day, Kirk told an equally harrowing story of his time on Seroxat. There are so many stories, from survivors (the lucky ones) but equally from those who didn’t survive, like Shane, Kevin, Jake, Ian, et cetera. The list goes on and on – read the book.
As is the norm for us in London, we had a few hiccups along the way. Thankfully, there was no flashing of ageing bodily parts this time around, certainly not mine anyway (I can’t speak for the others). Although, getting peed on, first by torrential rain and then by Ryanair, wandering aimlessly around London in the middle of the night (due to a raging fire near Clapham Junction) was all par for the course.
Even an impromptu overnight stay in London City Airport, coupled with additional flights costing a further 600 euro, could not dampen our spirits. It was worth every penny, although we did put ourselves in jeopardy of additional bribery – we missed Henny-Benny’s birthday. All is not lost though – he’s busy concocting up a repayment scheme for the trauma of this particularly bad parenting.
For decades, declarations by perturbed relatives that a loved-one’s death was iatrogenic (induced by medical treatment), were often dismissed as anecdotal. Accounts imparted by concerned loved-ones were likely to be rejected, albeit often kindly – yet thrust aside as the demented rantings of a grieving loved-one. Placated with persuasive words, relatives often slink away, suitably chastised by the medic’s evidential superior knowledge. The rantings of the grieving widow or mother will be controlled and placated, with the vociferator patronized and often pitied as misinformed dissidents. Thus, relegated to the anecdotal tray, rather than adverse-reaction tray, the iatrogenesis will likely continue, surfacing some time later to harm another. Many feel this practice is particularly pervasive within psychiatry, where protecting the medical model seems paramount over the safeguarding of patients.
The perception of the American ‘shrink’ listening attentively, while the horizontal patient spills his innermost torment, is one that persists today. In reality, this is far from the norm, with the prescribing of psychiatric drugs taking precedence over the tedium of treating a traumatised patient. Drugs that often mask the problem with disinhibition and emotional blunting are seemingly prescribed with wild abandon, yet only the families affected can see the harms done – while medics seem oblivious. When Cochrane Scientists and expert psycho-pharmacologists, are publicly stating that antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs are causing ‘more harm than good’ and many deaths, dismissive medics who continue to recklessly prescribe are walking a fine line between acting irresponsibly and negligently. However, a vast disparity still exists between scientific findings that psychiatric drugs are the third leading cause of death in Europe (and the U.S) and psychiatry’s Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) declaring these drugs are safe – even declaring that ‘the public should have no concerns about these drugs’.
When publicly challenged, KOLs usually retaliate with the mantra ‘correlation does not imply causation’. Pushed a bit further, their hackles will rise and they’ll state ‘these people are causing harm, by stopping people from taking life-saving medication’. Yet, even a utilitarian argument that these drugs provide ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ has been debunked by Peter Gøtzsche (scientist and co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration). He stated recently, to no small uproar, that these drugs are ‘doing more harm than good’ and that almost all psychotropic drug use could be stopped without deleterious effect (due to withdrawal, discontinuing is not advisable without medical supervision).
However, the problems run deeper than the KOLs defence of psychiatric drugs. An interesting article on MIA (Mad in America) tells the sorry tale of a dad who recently discovered that the American drug regulator (FDA) is ‘hiding reports linking psychiatric drugs to homicides’. It will be interesting to see what happens next within the FDA.
Furthermore, the statement that ‘the public should have no concerns about these drugs’ was made following an inquest in Ireland, where concerns were raised by the deceased’s family about a recent prescription of Sertraline (Zoloft/Lustral). However, as is common practice, the family’s concerns were dismissed. They had no way of knowing that in 1998, the Irish Drug Regulator (HPRA), following reports of Sertraline-induced suicide, had requested that the drug company in question (Pfizer) search its database for similar cases. There were 594 ‘suicide events’ reported from non-clinical sources, of which causality was not investigated. Of the 252 from clinical trial cases, Pfizer’s internal report concluded that 54 were directly related to Sertraline treatment. Interestingly, 11 of the ‘suicide events’ reported (from both sources) came from Ireland, with 2 found causally related to Sertraline. The latter were from ‘confidential’ documents released through court proceedings and provided by Kim Witczak who lost her husband Woody to Sertraline.
Nevertheless, it seems that science may be catching up with the anecdotal evidence, with some interesting studies published recently. Following the Study 329 debacle (as yet unretracted), the latest study by Jureidini et al ‘The citalopram CIT-MD-18 pediatric depression trial: Deconstruction of medical ghostwriting, data mischaracterisation and academic malfeasance’ shows how Forest Labs, through greed and fraudulent practices, actively ignored the prospective likely harms to children. The study concluded:
Deconstruction of court documents revealed that protocol-specified outcome measures showed no statistically significant difference between citalopram and placebo. However, the published article concluded that citalopram was safe and significantly more efficacious than placebo for children and adolescents, with possible adverse effects on patient safety.
Another study by Selma et al ‘The relevance of cytochrome P450 polymorphism in forensic medicine and akathisia-related violence and suicide’ expressed that a genetic predisposition to iatrogenesis can be traced back to pharmacogenetic interactions, namely the inability of some to metabolize prescribed drugs, making ordinarily ‘safe’ drugs, lethal for some. The study concluded:
“CYP450 status is an important factor that differentiates those who can tolerate a drug or combination of drugs from those who might not. Testing for cytochrome P450 identifies those at risk for such adverse drug reactions. As forensic medical and toxicology professionals become aware of the biological causes of these catastrophic side effects, they may bring justice to both perpetrators and to victims of akathisia-related violence. The medicalization of common human distress has resulted in a very large population getting medication that may do more harm than good by causing suicides, homicides and the mental states that lead up to them”.
Perhaps we will just have to wait for the hapless KOL to catch up, not only with the scientific evidence but with collective anecdotal evidence from families. It would seem that underestimating anecdotal evidence is unwise – not least as science often evolves from this very valuable source.
An article in Sunday’s Telegraph ‘could antidepressants be ruining your sex life?’ concerned the use of widely-prescribed SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and the associated loss of libido. The article rightly refers to statistics that estimate between 30-70 per cent of SSRI consumers will be affected with some form of sexual dysfunction – despite their much-argued efficacy. According to Peter Gøtzsche, Cochrane scientist, “There isn’t much happiness in the pills. Their most pronounced effect is to cause sexual disturbances…The drugs should therefore have been marketed as a formidable disrupter of your sex life, but that wouldn’t have sold many pills.”
However, the Telegraph article also conveyed common misconceptions into the psychopharmacological workings of antidepressants. In a nutshell – by increasing the levels of happy neurotransmitter serotonin, this effectively lifts overall mood but as a result of this increased serotonin level, your libido will decrease along with the ability to orgasm. It seems, despite there being no way of quantifying serotonin (at least not when alive), belief in ‘the chemical imbalance myth’ still prevails.
Nevertheless, leaving aside the legend of the chemical imbalance, the article also discusses another ‘libido-friendly’ alternative to SSRIs, GlaxoSmithKline’s Bupropion/Wellbrutin. The author seemingly expounds the virtues of this drug, marketed in the U.S. as Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) and Zyban (an anti-smoking drug) in the U.S. and Europe. Excerpt:
“It seems that instead of dampening desire, Wellbutrin can increase libido and suppress appetite, earning it the nickname of the ‘happy, sexy, skinny pill’.
Sounds like the perfect pill, if it actually worked. In case anyone was contemplating doing a bit of self-diagnosing and self-medicating via the internet (as the article reports many U.K. women are doing), there are other factors that just might put you off. In fact, some crucial Wellbutrin-related adverse effects were omitted from the article, f0r example, some very serious psychological effects: unusual thoughts and behaviors, increased risk of suicidal behaviour, aggression, delusions, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, confusion and manic episodes.
In reality, this so-called ‘happy, sexy, skinny pill’ has been plagued with problems. Following significant incidences of seizures, Wellbutrin was taken off the market shortly after its initial approval – but re-introduced a few years later at a lower dose. In 2009, following numerous suicides, the FDA (US Medicine’s Regulator) was so concerned about the psychological effects of Wellbrutin/Zyban in smokers, that they ordered a further black-box warning to be attached. The following year (2010), a study by Moore et al ‘Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others’ found Wellbutrin to be one of the 31 drugs disproportunately associated with violence.
Furthermore, as for being nickednamed the ‘happy, sexy, skinny pill’ there is one main reason for this – money. In fact, GSK actively promoted Wellbutrin as ‘the happy, horny, skinny pill’ and paid handsomely for promoting the drug for unapproved uses. In an action taken by the U.S. justice department, allegations included a myriad of wrongdoings, including that GSK hired PR firms to promote off-label use, paid doctors, organised sham advisory boards, sham ‘independent’ medical education events and provided samples to pediatric psychiatrists for unapproved use in children (despite knowing it increased the risk of suicide in this age group).
On one particular radio show, well-known tv-doc, Drew Pinsky, said it was possible that Wellbrutin could have caused a female caller’s ’60 orgasms a night’ (Sure, you’d be worn out – and I’m not entirely sure why this wouldn’t be conceived as a downright affliction). Anyway, dear Dr Drew never clarified this or mentioned that he was paid, very, very handsomely, for his services to GSK. In the months before the radio show, GSK indirectly paid him $275,000 – a fact not disclosed to the listeners. Thus, an internal GSK report determined that the media campaigns pushing Welbutrin’s ‘happy, horny, skinny’ effects, reached a total audience of 387 million. It would be surprising if anyone hasn’t heard of it, even on ths side of the Atlantic.
In case you need further convincing, in 2012, GSK was fined 3 billion dollars for these illegal and dubious practices, including for the off-label and harmful promotion of Wellbutrin in children and adults. Nevertheless, as the sales for Wellbutrin during that same period, were reportedly $5.9 billion, GSK made a tidy profit. The collateral damage of harmed kids and unsuspecting consumers went seemingly unnoticed.
So, I would be very careful of that so-called miracle cure – you just might get more than you bargained for. ‘Sickness’ is a very lucrative business and all pharmaceuticals companies are corporate entities, ones that are totally reliant on sickness, not health. GSK just so happens to be bigger than most and one that has shown itself time and again to use greater bullying tactics.
Telegraph Article – Could Antidepressants be Killing your Sex Life?
New York Times – Suicide Warnings for 2 Anti-Smoking Drugs.
Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others, Study.
Justice Department Complaint, courtesy of KHN, here.
New York Times – Glaxo Agrees to pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement.