David Healy v Veronica O’ Keane

Prof Healy

Last week Professor Healy spoke on RTE radio with Professor Veronica O’ Keane, consultant psychiatrist in Trinity College. The debate (podcast) centered on the ‘increased use of sedatives and antidepressants‘.

Professor O’ Keane stated that antidepressants are not addictive drugs, where-as Professor Healy said that they are indeed highly addictive and that it’s easier to come off benzodiazepines than antidepressants. Professor O’ Keane was ‘astonished’ at this ‘claim’ and gave a little snigger to show how absurd she thought this claim was.

Speaking on the long term use of antidepressants she said “Depression is not a condition that goes away; it’s a recurring condition and if people stop taking their antidepressants with this recurring condition, their chances of killing themselves are increased by two.” Professor Healy stated that it’s actually the drugs which increase the risk of suicide and violence and that “antidepressants come with ‘black box’ warnings in the US saying that they cause suicide.”

Professor O’ Keane then went on to say that “the black box warning that David is referring to is for under 24; there is no such warning for individuals over the age of 24 and in fact it reduces suicidal ideation in those over 65”. No mention of the black-box warning in this article where she states “Anti-depressants work in young people, in terms of alleviating suicidal ideation secondary to depression.” In the radio interview, she further went on to say “It’s very important that the public are aware, that the problem here is not antidepressants, the problem here is depression. Depression is the real killer.” Ah yes, it’s the person and not the drug.

Prof O’ Keane

Professor O’ Keane has been described as an ‘expert on mental health during pregnancy’. She stated here that “There is an idea that depressed women should struggle through pregnancy without help, and stay ‘pure… But depression is a physical disorder and should be treated.” In a paper published in the British Medical Journal by O’ Keane et al, here, the study concluded that Untreated depression in pregnancy is associated with poorer maternal health practices and less favourable obstetric outcomes. 

A letter regarding this paper was later published by the British Medical Journal, written by Adam C Urato, an attending Physician (Maternal-Fetal Medicine) at Tufts University, Boston. Dr Urato made some interesting points:

(1) I have several concerns regarding the recent “Pregnancy Plus” article entitled “Depression during pregnancy” by Veronica O’Keane and Michael Marsh. I am concerned with the content of the piece as well as the lack of transparency regarding the financial associations of Dr. O’Keane.

Dr Urato

(2) In the introduction to the piece, the authors comment: “The case presented here highlights many of the key issues involved in the management of pregnant woman with depression, particularly the importance of active treatment.” Depression during pregnancy is a difficult issue and one that I deal with on a regular basis as a practicing perinatologist. Depression during pregnancy is very concerning, as is the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. Active treatment is usually with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and there is much to be worried about with maternal and fetal exposure to these drugs. Antidepressants have not been shown to improve maternal or child health outcomes during pregnancy. And in various studies antidepressant use in pregnancy has been associated with increased rates of spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations, preterm birth, low birthweight, fetal death, seizures, neonatal withdrawal syndrome, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn and a possible predisposition to psychopathology.

(3) The question many readers might have after reading a piece that emphasizes the importance of antidepressant medication use in pregnancy is whether Dr. O’Keane is being paid by the antidepressant makers.

Professor O’ Keane has in fact listed her ‘Conflict of Interest’ as being with Eli-Lilly, creators of Prozac and Duloxetine (Cymbalta); Here. In another Article here, she said Prozac belonged to a family of compounds which represents ” one of the few major breakthroughs in the treatment of psychiatric illness in the past 40 years.”

Interestingly, numerous articles have been published this week regarding the dangers of antidepressants in pregnancy, including this one in the Irish Independent. This article quotes the same Dr Adam Urato: “Doctors are putting thousands of pregnant women and their unborn children at serious risk of harm by prescribing them anti-depressants, senior doctors are warning. Senior doctors say that ‘study after study’ shows the most widely used class of anti-depressant, called selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, cause pregnancy complications including premature birth and pre-eclampsia, which can both be fatal. Emerging research also suggests SSRIs can double the rate of autism in children, and increase the risk of lung and bowel diseases. The situation amounts to ‘a large scale human experiment’, according to Dr Adam Urato, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts University, School of Medicine, Boston.”

So, who’s right and who’s wrong? I know who I’d believe. Professor Healy has coincidentally been saying for years that antidepressants can cause terrible birth defects in children “…even as the evidence accumulates that these drugs cause birth defects, double the rate of miscarriages, and cause mental handicap in children born to mothers who have been taking them.”

Considering Professor O’ Keane works in Trinity, the same College that Shane attended, it wouldn’t take much out of her day to speak to Shane’s lecturers. It would be interesting to hear her views on my son, who was loved and respected by his lecturers and who was known by them as ‘An Chroí mór’ (the big heart). Yet after 17 days on Cipramil, he killed himself and another. Maybe she’s so sure of her own opinion, that she doesn’t need to listen to us mere parents!


12 thoughts on “David Healy v Veronica O’ Keane

  1. Cracking post. Nice new look to blog too.

    A lot of the pro-antidepressant brigade, such as O’ Keane and Casey, will always refute the claims of people that oppose their beliefs. It’s got to the stage where their beliefs are being shattered and they are merely holding on to dying embers in what was once a fierce fire burning.

    If you or I… or anyone for that matter, showed these traits we’d be labelled as having some sort of delusional disorder. When psychiatrists believe in something that goes against what the masses do, they tend to dig their heels in – it’s a blind faith akin to a modern day devout Christian building an Ark because he had a message from God.

    O’Keane is going against Science but siding with myth.

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    1. Thanks Bobby,

      It certainly seems that the evidence is stacking up, that the risks of taking these drugs far outweigh any benefits. You and I of course have had first hand experience and yet we still get professionals advocating for their use. Doesn’t really make sense to me. Surely erring on the side of caution would be a better stance, especially when the risks are known.
      Leonie

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  2. Great post Leonie, and also love the new blog look too! 🙂 ..

    I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, but I am looking forward to doing a good critique of O’Keane’s views on SSRI’s and I would be pretty sure that they are probably the usual pharmaceutical-psychiatric mantra’s of dangerous mis-information and delusion..

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  3. Isn’t it amazing how two academics can have completely opposing views?

    Yes.. it is astounding- Professor O Keane is completely indoctrinated- Dr Healy is not. The difference in their language is also very clear. “It’s very important that people remember, that the problem here, is not anti-depressant’s, it’s depression” – “anti-depressants save lives” says O’Keane.

    These are well worn mantras that psychiatry uses consistently in order to propagate mis-information. It seems to me that O’Keane and her ilk are completely adverse to debate and hostile to any criticism of psychiatry and the drugs they prescribe. I am sick to my back teeth of listening to mainstream psychiatrists like this- SSRI’s are hugely dangerous drugs- I was on them! I experienced the horrendous side effects- “Scientific evidence” my bloody ass… Why do these brain-washed academics disregard users experience?- It’s sickening.. ( and the RTE interviewer’s skills in research also leaves a lot to be desired too!)..

    As David Healy says: “Half of the trials remain unpublished – almost all of the published trials are ghost written”…” the kind of information Veronica relies on is written by pharmaceutical companies for her” …

    Interesting how Veronica choose to completely dodge that question with some waffle about black box warnings only applying to under “24 year olds”…

    Well Veronica- I was prescribed Seroxat when I was 21- and the drug company- GSK- failed to tell me on their utterly inadequate PIL of the massive risks with Seroaxt- at the time! …

    Subsequently – it was only after I came off the drug, and under a fire storm of controversy- that GSK were forced to admit that Seroxat had an increase risk of suicide in those under 30!..

    I wonder what Veronica O’Keane thinks of that?…

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  4. Also, I wonder would Veronica O’Keane – and every other SSRI – Problem denier – of her ilk – care to release to the public every “conflict of interest’ payment (funding, sponsorship, honoraria) that they have received from the pharmaceutical industry towards their psychiatric career to date? …

    I, for one, would be very interested in that ‘information’..

    And perhaps in light of that ‘information’- Dr O’Keane’s views would be perceived in quite a different way?..

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    1. http://www.imt.ie/features-opinion/2012/04/joining-the-dots-on-suicide-prevention.html

      Talk about contradictory..

      Veronica O’Keane admits that there is a black box warning of suicide in those under 24 taking SSRI’s in America..
      The black box is there to warn that SSRI’s are dangerous in this age-group because of an increased risk of suicide due to the drugs..

      But she also thinks that anti-depressants “work in young people” ”

      the 16-to-18 years age group was proving problematic: “They are falling between the cracks of child and adult services and the adolescent services in some parts of this field are not adequately developed to cope with this very high-risk group,” she said. “That’s an issue of resources and that is something I intend to talk about at the seminar.”

      On the issue of stigmatisation,

      Prof O’Keane said that many young men who would have no qualms about taking medication for physical illnesses baulk at the idea of doing so for the good of their mental health. “Anti-depressants get a lot of bad press,” she said.

      “That’s a very serious problem for us because when we see people who are depressed, it can be very difficult to persuade people to take anti-depressants because we are fighting against a societal prejudice. That’s something that all the services need to work at… there is very strong evidence that where rates of prescription of anti-depressants have increased, suicide rates have gone down. Anti-depressants work in young people, in terms of alleviating suicidal ideation secondary to depression.

      http://www.imt.ie/features-opinion/2012/04/joining-the-dots-on-suicide-prevention.html

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  5. My daughter was prescribed Cipramil when she was 17 years and 2 weeks old. She took her own life at 20. There was no information for her or me apart from an assurance that the new antidepressants were safe particularly Cipramil. I guess Veronica would agree with that and conclude that it was the disease not the medication.

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      I am so very sorry for you and your daughter. Our children are victims of Lundbeck’s greed and I can tell you there are hundreds, if not thousands of other Lundbeck victims. Multiply these by all the other antidepressant manufacturers like GSK, Pfizer, Eli-Lilly and we are dealing with the mass destruction of unsuspecting (young and old) consumers.These drugs are not approved for teenagers because of the suicide risk, yet doctors seem not to be aware of this. When these esteemed professors advocate for the use of these drugs and deny all knowledge of adverse effects, it’s no surprise that doctors believe them. Did the doctor inform you or ask your opinion when he/she put your ‘minor’ child on this mind altering drug?
      Leonie

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      1. I objected to the medication route but was assured with a smile that this particular drug was very safe unlike the older ones. It was not addictive. If my daughter didn’t have depression then it wouldn’t do anything. I will always remember the look and smile. It suggested to me “I know best.” It was repeated when I was told that it was the depression not the medication that caused my daughter’s suicide.

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  6. I am so sorry. That doctor is a bloody disgrace but he/she is not alone. They all seem incapable of taking off the blinkers. Or maybe they just cannot conceive that they could possibly be at fault! So tragic..maybe you should post him/her off some information before the next patient/victim suffers.
    Leonie

    Like

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