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Peter Needham (another victim) and yet another Coroner’s warning.

In March of last year, an Inquest was held into the death of  Peter Needham, 40 (a former British Aerospace inspector). Mr Needham was described as a normal, happy, sociable, lovely guy. His dad described him as ‘a beautiful son’. How did Peter (a sociable and popular man) get to the Inquest stage at 40? Very easily!

(1) 40-year-old Peter had been diagnosed with diabetes last March and prescribed a drug to deal with a tingling sensation in his foot. The medication he was prescribed is also used as an antidepressant. Duloxetine (aka Cymbalta) comes with warnings of suicidality, agression and depression. The sad fact is that at least 5 people killed themselves while trialing this drug in clinical trials for Eli-Lilly. This should have raised a red flag but no! The drug went on to be licenced and Eli-Lilly made billions. What’s a few bodies between drug companies?

(2) After voicing concerns about feeling down, Peter was prescribed a different anti-depressant, Sertraline, five days before his death. Sertraline (aka Zoloft) also comes with warnings of suicidality, aggression and depression. Pfizer discovered in their clinical trials that this drug also increased suicidal behavior and fared negatively in treating depression. Despite the negative results of these trials, Zoloft went on to be licensed and Pfizer made billions. What’s a few bodies between drug companies? Just ask Woody.

(3) Two days after taking Sertraline/Zoloft, Peter started to visit websites on how to take his own life.

(4) Five days after taking Sertraline/Zoloft, Peter hanged himself at his home in Springhead.

The Coroner (Simon Nelson) said it was “difficult to ignore” the link between Peter taking the medication and his death. He said that he would write to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and British Medical Association to raise his concerns about prescription-medicine labelling.

Holding up a page filled with small-print instructions, he said: “To the untrained eye and in particular the first-time user this would be completely off-putting. To discover those warnings half way down the small print is wholly inappropriate.”

Six weeks later another Inquest was held, this time in Ireland, which involved the same drug, only this time it was Nicolas Maguire, 52, from County Cork.

So another Coroner’s warning and the governments are still doing nothing? How many people have died today because these useless, spineless, pen-pushers are not doing their job? That includes our own Kathleen Lynch and James Reilly!

1 thought on “Peter Needham (another victim) and yet another Coroner’s warning.”

  1. Thank you Leonie for another excellent blog.

    Thank Heavens there are some coroners with the clarity and backbone to speak out about the link they can see between these pernicious drugs and suicide, along with blatant failure to warn. Coroners are seeking the truth behind these terrible tragedies and their very justified comments are not being attended to. Why does this continue to be the case?

    This nightmare continues to unfold because so many who should speak out keep silent. Those in a position to effect change remain complacent with the current tragic mess and avert eyes and ears. After all, it hasn’t happened to someone beloved by them, and they would appear to have much to gain by maintaining the status quo.

    When you look to those who share responsibility for this mess; medics, drug companies, and health authorities, they are preoccupied with denial and avoidance. If there is a fatal outcome, it has to be down to the patient and not the drug.

    So it is that medics get their failure to warn covered. They are reluctant to submit Yellow Cards and even more reluctant, it seems, to learn more about the composition and side effects of these drugs that they prescribe so liberally. They would rather not look at the link between the drug they prescribed and a patient’s subsequent death. To them, the PILs provide a safety net so that they can claim the patient should have informed themselves with the help of these splendid leaflets. Ducking and diving at its best.

    Drug companies insist that the Patient Information Leaflets, about which this coroner has such misgivings, are excellent and do a grand job. This is true only if you are looking at them from the stance of a drug company wishing to avoid litigation and have their backs covered. Yes, risks are mentioned. They are, however, not adequately highlighted or clarified. As this coroner so explicitly stated, PILs are muddled and obscure. The most significant warning of all, the risk of suicidal or aggressive thoughts, remains buried in the barely visible text. PILs provide the illusion of a level of care that does not in reality exist. More ducking and diving.

    After news emerged of the GSK case, I wrote yet again to Lundbeck, and explained that all drug companies must be tarred with the same brush. They now share a duty to look to putting patient safety before profit and to be seen to be doing so. Providing informed choice has to be at the top of the list of duty owed to the patients they push these drugs on to, and make such obscene profits out of.

    Here in their one-sentence reply, they restate “our opinion that our product information for healthcare professionals and patients provides comprehensive and valid information in a responsible manner”. This is indeed a company that excels in denial and avoidance and throws its responsibilities to the wind – but not its profits. Profits are carefully nurtured and tended to in a way that patients are not. No lessons are being learned, and their PILs will continue to fail to warn.

    As for the health authorities, you can approach them until you are blue in the face. Inevitably you are bounced out with a dismissive letter telling you that they are happy with systems in place and there is no more to said – by them at any rate! They let us all down big time and insist that PILs are just fine and dandy. Even though people are dying through lack of warning. Yet more ducking and diving from those charged with the very duty of overseeing the safeguarding of patients.

    Here we have it in a nutshell. Big Pharma has big boots and so many are afraid or unwilling to take them on, chiefly because of their huge financial clout. These are bullies shielding themselves from the truth behind their stashes of cash. If ducking and diving became an Olympic sport, Big Pharma would as ever end up taking gold.

    Too many of us are paying the price for these profits. Too many have been left with broken families and broken lives.

    Failing support from the very directions it should be coming from, so many of those left behind have to fight the battle to increase awareness. Here’s hoping the day will come when Big Pharma will have to duck for cover.

    Inevitably the truth does come out, however long it takes.

    Thank you for being such a feisty warrior for truth


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