Newspaper and internet articles, psychiatry, Random

Was Anna Byrne another Sertraline (Zoloft) victim?

There is a very public debate raging in Ireland at the moment regarding the tragic death of a young woman who died while suffering a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital. An estimated two thousand people protested outside Leinster House (Irish Parliment) in memory of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicaemia as a consequence of the Irish Government’s reluctance/cowardice to legislate in this area. My heart goes out to her family and indeed to the woman and her child. The country is in uproar and rightly so.

There was another young woman who also died this year (March) but on this occasion there was no public outcry or no protest outside Leinster House (Irish Parliment). Anna Byrne was Carrying twins (almost full term) when she died by jumping off Howth head. Her inquest was held last week and was reported in the Irish independent (among other more sensationalist newspapers). Given the sensitivities surrounding this case and the fact that the family are (and will always be) grieving, I debated long and hard about writing about Anna. I was away with my family in Berlin when this report came out and Anna was never far from my thoughts; she and her two sons deserved more.

The really surprising thing was that the ‘Independent’ reported on the details of this unfortunate woman’s treatment. She was being treated by her doctor and subsequently a psychiatrist. Irish media, in cases where a person has died by suicide (unlike the UK and the US) rarely report on a person’s Inquest due to the fear of ‘copycat suicides’ and ‘social contagion’. There are strict media guidelines with the reporting of these cases; how’s that working in Ireland you might ask? Not too good!

Anna Byrne who was 35 and heavily pregnant with twins, had been on Seroxat for a number of years. This drug was discontinued earlier in her pregnancy. She was then put on Sertraline by her GP who described it as a commonly used antidepressant during pregnancy; seriously? Sertraline aka Lustral (Ireland) and Zoloft (US) commonly prescribed during pregnancy? Did this doctor not know of the birth defects associated with this family of drugs? Was this woman warned that this drug can cause suicide, depression, aggression, manic behaviour and serious birth defects? Adam Urato, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and a co-author of a recent paper on this very issue, said:

“The truth of the matter is that we are currently witnessing a large-scale human experiment. Never before in human history have we chemically altered human foetal development on such a large scale… As I am telling you this right now, there is a doctor somewhere in the world counselling a pregnant woman that if she stays on her antidepressant medication she will help control her mood and that will lead to a better pregnancy result – and there really is not a shred of evidence to support that.”

Was Anna told that these drugs can, at the very least, double the suicide risk? Was she told that the  danger period is upon starting, discontinuing, or changing dosage (up or down)? This woman’s dose was doubled 6 days before her death by psychiatrist John Sheehan. C’mon, join the dots here. Does this woman and her two children not deserve every woman in this country to protest outside government buildings?

I looked up the psychiatrist ‘Dr John Sheehan’ and found him here, speaking at a conference supported by Pfizer (makers of Sertraline/Zoloft), Eli Lilly and Jansen. The speakers also included Timothy Dinan of UCC who last year denied any knowledge that Zoloft can cause suicide following Nicolas Maguire’s inquest in May 2011. Mr Maguire died by suicide shortly after being prescribed Zoloft for anxiety. Similar to most psychiatrists and medical professionals who publicly deny problems with these drugs, Timothy does a lot of work for pharmaceutical companies. This, unlike in the US, is not seen as a serious conflict of interest.

The body entrusted with the expertise in this area ‘The Irish College of Psychiatry’ (who have collectively denied that antidepressants can cause suicide) will defend their ‘medical model/drugs’ till the end, as in the recent debate with Professor Healy and Professor Veronica O’ Keane here. They will spout that the ‘benefits outweigh the risks’ till they actually convince themselves. This is despite the EMA warnings and despite the fact that the drug companies have admitted that the drugs can cause suicide. Notice the difference in Zoloft’s Patient Information Leaflet from Ireland and the US; Criminal.

I would remind medical professions that they are walking on thin ice, as was shown in the the case of Dunne (an inf.) v. National Maternity Hospital [1989] IR 91. Here it was found:

“A medical practitioner who establishes that he followed a practice which was general and approved by his colleagues of similar specialisation and skill is nevertheless negligent if the plaintiff thereupon establishes that such practice has inherent defects which ought to be obvious to any person giving the matter due consideration.”

Given that ex-Seroxat users have declared that the adverse discontuation effects can last for months and sometimes years, the introduction of Sertraline and the subsequent doubling of dosage can all cause a person to act on suicide ideation, it is entirely plausible that the medication caused Anna and her babies’ deaths. Considering Anna is dead, the benefits did not outweigh the risks in this case.

Where is the public outcry for Anna and her babies? The Irish Government have been informed by Professor David Healy that these drugs are causing suicide, that these drugs are the leading cause of death within the mental health field and that the same drugs are causing misciarrages and birth defects. At the same meeting Dr Declan Gilsenan said he had serious concerns that more people are taking their own lives as a direct result of seeking help (and subsequently prescribed mind altering drugs), than those who have not. The Government’s inaction on this issue is a bloody disgrace!


UPDATE REGARDING SEROXAT; Syracuse, N.Y. — Joe Mazella, Basketball coach, died by suicide in Sept 09 while on Seroxat. His widow, Janice Mazella has just won a $1.6 million medical malpractice verdict on Tuesday Nov. 20, 2012 against two psychiatrists who had treated the coach before he committed suicide. Here.

13 thoughts on “Was Anna Byrne another Sertraline (Zoloft) victim?”

  1. This is a great post Leonie, and you raise very important issues. It is simply shocking to me- as an ex-Seroxat user- to read that this poor lady was prescribed Seroxat for 10 years. Seroxat is the most controversial SSRI of the past decade, but all the SSRI’s are equally as dangerous. I was prescribed Seroxat for 3 years- and I do not know how I am still alive after the horrific effects of that drug, I cannot even fathom what it must have felt like after 10 years.

    The long term effects of SSRI drugs have not been examined by the medical profession, in particular- academic and biological psychiatrists are in complete denial about this. It wasn’t too long ago, that David Healy- quite brilliantly stated- that Irish psychiatry have perhaps committed ‘professional suicide’ by repeatedly stating that ‘ant-depressants save lives’. Not only- is David correct in his assertion.

    But also, I it is blatantly obvious that considering this poor woman was prescribed an ant-depressant for 10 years- it clearly did not save her life, and more disturbingly, from what is known about Seroxat, it might well have contributed to her death. My heart goes out to her family and friends. No words can express the depth of the loss they must be feeling.


  2. In complete agreement here with all you have said. This is definitely a tragedy that like many many other similar cases of ssri induced suicides (and other serious adverse reactions),will be swept away. Thank you for raising these questions Leonie. How many have to die while psychiatry keeps turning its nose up at the hardened truth. It’s time to change laws, to insist they take responsibility for complete and total criminal negligence


    1. The rising suicides in Ireland and the Government’s inaction is a disgrace. Prof Healy and Dr Gilsenan informed the Govt in May. Any deaths after May will be the direct responsibility of our Government. How many will die before something is done by the limp-wristed pen pushers we call ministers? Too many!


      1. David Healy’s blog explains excellently why much of academic psychiatry refuses to acknowledge the truth about the damage that long-term psychiatric drug use is doing to people- It’s all about control, but they can’t get away with denial forever.

        There’s simply too much evidence and awareness now- but I would be pretty sure- that they will deny until the bitter end… Like priests in the Catholic church- biological psychiatry is as much about suspension of reason,denial of self, and ‘belief’ in an ideology and dogma as it is about professional vocation or career. That ideology would be deemed , not only redundant, but also harmful, if the truth about psychiatric drug damage was to become an accepted fact- therefore, the only line of defense that the mainstream psychiatric consensus embarks upon- is absolute denial.

        In a perverse way- I can understand why they won’t admit the truth- it doesn’t make it right- it’s deplorable, and unacceptable- but it is understandable. If they were to admit the damage and sometimes- the deaths- their profession would be invalidated, this would apply in particular to the medications that they prescribe and endorse. They defend medications because without medications there is no ‘biological psychiatry’. Medications are the tools of their trade.

        In the meantime- many more cases like this will happen. There is an endless stream of people ready to avail of psychiatric custom. People will always suffer from emotional problems- people will always have crises, it’s part of our human condition. Psychiatrists hold the monopoly on the human condition – in particular- ‘despair’. It’s not that different to the Catholic church denials which took decades to be acknowledged- although we might be at the tipping point now in regards to the SSRI issues. Religion preys upon the lost and the damaged, and our inherent fear of death- it has the monopoly on souls. Psychiatry deals in the commodity of the mind- the lost , the confused and the damaged mind. It trades on fear, neurosis, and emotions. Psychiatry exploits the human condition.

        Telling the public that ‘anti-depressants work’ or ‘anti-depressants save lives’ fails to address exactly how do anti-depressants save lives? And how exactly do anti-depressants work? In my experience anti-depressants cause ’emotional blunting’. Perhaps this is what psychiatry is referring to when they say that anti-depressant’s work? If by being ’emotionally blunted’, ‘numbed’ and ‘cognitively anaesthetised’ is the best treatment that they can offer patients then not only are they deceiving us, they are also failing them.

        Long term psychiatric drug users have a tendency to deteriorate once they have been through the psychiatric system- this does not signify a successful or valid medical science… it’s indicative of something quite the opposite.

        The long-term psychiatric drug users (the SSRI users and A-Typical antipsychotic users) are now reaching chronic levels of damage, and when that can of worms begins to spill… maybe denial just won’t cut it anymore…


  3. Belter of a post Leonie. All the questions you raise could/should have been raised by the Coroner. Alas, many Coroner’s like to not only play but believe they are God and that they, and only they, can decide what evidence is used in their courts. The sooner they change, the better it will be for all concerned.


  4. I was put on lustral for postnatal depression, my dosages constantly titrated up and down, back and forth – but it never sat right with me. I began self-harming on it and had never had such compulsions before. Discussing this issues only led the prescribers to up the dosages or suggest adding another drug. I came off it in September as I realised just how abnormal I had felt since going on it. And while I had some horrible withdrawals, I felt like myself again and the self-harming urges instantly dissipated and I’m proud to say I haven’t self-harmed since (nor did I ever prior to starting lustral for the record).

    Anyway, my concern is – I got pregnant in October and then miscarried last week at almost 12wks – could the lustral and withdrawal effects / side-effects have had a role in my miscarriage? I just know my body was still struggling physically – my bones/joints killing me etc (I read lustral has effects on the adrenal glands and in turn the altered hormone levels affect joints etc). And I know it can take months/years for the body to come back to regular functioning post stopping the drug. I feel so guilty now for naively taking it and agreeing to titrate my doses so much when I knew deep down it was causing me to feel worse.

    Stay away from this drug – breastfeeding, pregnant, SI. Yes I had some SI, but none I wished to act on prior to the lustral. And you know what’s funny – my gp shouted at my partner for suggesting that ssri’s may have been causing me to have markedly increased SI. Funny – my partner knew me best and was right. And from what I read, lustral only increases your likelihood of self-harming/suicide and should be cautioned in those with history or reporting these thoughts/feelings.


  5. Thank-you, :Leonie, for posting this link on madinamerica! Let me relate a true story of my friend, Cheryl Castor. In 1992, she was in the local mental ward, and 9 months pregnant. She was supposedly under the “care” of a psychiatrist, and the local “Community Mental Health Center”., and was on several psychiatric DRUGS. Then, one day, she hung herself from the shower in her room. The staff found her – still barely alive, and she was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit, where a healthy baby boy was born by emergency C-section. Without regaining consciousness, she DIED 2 days later. I miss her. Never met her now-adult son.
    Just one of SEVERAL friends I’ve lost to the LIES of the pseudoscience drugs racket known as psychiatry.
    To get to the cases you’ve written about above – yes, I DO AGREE with you and the other commenters here in that the psych drugs caused the suicides. But, let’s be fair. As best we CAN, under the circumstances. Did she leave a suicide note? Speak to family or friends before killing herself? What ACTUAL EVIDENCE do we have that we MIGHT be able to present to a judge, to show what we all know to be true? Think. Any good Judge will not accept “because we know”, or “because that’s what these drugs do”, as being SUFFICIENT evidence to ascribe the deaths & suicides to the drug. Where is our *evidence*?
    Myself, I was on both Zoloft, and Wellbutrin, for over 1 year, each. I was working with a General Practice (MD)Doctor, and a clinical psychologist, when I was on these drugs. The ONLY thing I can say for sure that they did for me, was make me *think**about* the general topic of suicide more. (NOT that I *wanted**to*, or was actually *”suicidal”*, just that I found the general topic pop up in my thoughts DAILY, until after I went off them.)
    Today, except for those 2 drugs, I’ve been shrink-free, and psych-drugs FREE for over 20 years now. I grow ever more grateful, whole, healthy, and happy, the longer I am off psych drugs, and away from the lies and DRUGS of psychiatry. I welcome any and all replies.
    Thank-you, my friends!
    ~Bill & Bradford, N.H., USA
    (c)2016, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction


  6. Good for you!
    Such a terrible shame about your friend Cheryl and her son. I spoke to a couple of Anna’s relations after she died and it seems she was a lovely, much loved lady. Sadly, no matter how much evidence or expert reports that a person has, to prove iatrogenic harm – in Ireland psychiatry will usually deny that pyschiatric drugs can ever cause harm. The wheels are turning but it seems Ireland is way behind the rest of the world and the courts still put psychiatric ‘experts’ on a pedestal, believing everything they say. It’s not a situation that is sustainable though..


    1. Thank-you, Leonie. I did wonder afterwards, if it was right of me to have used her name. Too late now, anyway, and there was a civil lawsuit, which her surviving family did win. That lawsuit is public record, although not easy to locate. And, sadly, since then, several others I know also died either directly or indirectly from psych drugs. I’ve heard Irish law has a few “unique aspects”. It’s all about the judges, and courts, and doctors, and big business, and drug companies all being on the same side, and never letting the wall down, so to speak. As you know, once a person has gotten themselves “diagnosed & drugged” by the pseudoscience of psychiatry, it is a life sentence, with no hope of early release – only early death. I don’t like to face the harsh reality of supposed “medical” people actually killing folks with toxic drugs, but that’s the reality. Psychiatry has done, and continues to do, far more harm than good. If it was a “talk-therapy only” “profession”, it might not be so bad. But their toxic drugs are too often FATAL. How do we get the courts and politicians to acknowledge that TRUTH?
      20 years ago, when I got away from “psychiatry”, I actually thought that I could be free of it.
      But now, I wonder, do we need an actual “reverse genocide”, to rid the world of the scourge of psychiatric drugs and the pill pushers? Thanks for your reply.


  7. As a side note: Given that many millions worldwide have been given SSRI’s, and other drugs, and that some people really do seem happy with their pills, how do we reconcile that seeming contradiction? Obviously, if everybody had the same, quick, fatal reaction, they’d be off the market. But, if they did nothing positive, they would not be so widely used, would they? There ARE folks who claim SSRI’s have been literal lifesavers for them!…. But, I don’t know that “science” has ever seriously addresses this seeming contradiction. Do you?


  8. Possible causes of mental distress
    Before you take any medication such as SSRI’S for depresion: You have to ask yourself if is not physical psychological or social,What else could be?
    why you behave out of character?is it because you are uneployed, failing an exam,
    or because you drink too much alcohol and your brain biochemical balance have been disturb.

    As long as you are not too embarrased and don’t damage other people or thier property,the loss of control through alcohol is accepted ,even incouraged,by those around you.If something affects your body,brain or mind and results in bizare behaviour that others don’t understand and the cuase of which are not known,then there is less tolerance.For some people, the loss of cotrol is very severe and very distressing,to themeselves and others.

    We use some drugs ,Caffeine ,nicotine ,and alcolhol…is so common in our society that we usually do not even think of them as drugs.Although the use of psychoactive drugs has the long history ,the actual systematic study of the realtionship beteween drugs and psychological process- Psychopharmacology -is quite new.

    The psychatrist do not understnd how medication work
    Diagnosing somebody as suffering from specific mental health problem can therefor have a variety of intended and some not:
    it ensures that they will get care;it can provide a legitimate reason why someone may be unable to cope;it can make them seem different to other;it can stigmatize and socially disadvantage them.

    Some people learn to live with their symptoms and with support and medication are able to live their lives as they wish.For many the onset of repetition of their symptoms means that they ate less able to cope with many demands of everyday life,and the fear and prejudice that surrounds their disorder means that they lose out support.

    Those who are excellent do not encourage you to take medication for a long time.Is up to you to take responsibility ask questions psychoanalyse you… what childhood have you had?Have you ever ask your parents what childhood they had ?You should understand we are all victims of victims.If you did not receive sufficient interaction and stimulus during the crucial period as a child …In short love communication and security seem to provide the foundation of children personality.The thrue self-needs a good enough enviroment (Winnicott 1947).
    Educate yourself
    Erick Erikson proposes eight stage beginning in infancy and ending with old age find out for yourself.
    Most of us can find something to blame our parents for. We are all individual.
    I am suggesting to any person to change their invorement and their habits by nurture themselves take care of their emotional health.Have something to live for.
    For far too long it has been assumed that the brain declines with age,reaching a peak between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four and deteriorating steadily from then on.This decline was held to include mental abilities -among them all,retention,numerrical ability creativity,alertness,vocabulary .These beliefs were supported by common saying such as you can teach an old dog new tricks.
    All of these beliefs can now be comfortably laid to rest.According to Professor, Rosenzweig has shown that if the brain is stimulated,no matter at what age,it will physically grow more protuberances on each brain cell’s tentacles and that these protuberances will increase the total number of connections within the human brain.Love yourself do not settle for medication.
    Would you like to understand yourself better?Is up to you not the medication.Best wishes
    N Kelly


  9. i THINK ANTIDEPRESSANTS CAN BE A GREAT RELIEF FOR SOME PEOPLE WHILE ALSO DANGEROUS FOR OTHERs – BUT IT WOULD BE WRONG TO DAMN THEM ALTOGETHER. There have to be safety measures: These meds should be prescribed by specialists not general physicians (these should meet regularly with a patient to reevaluate the effect), Only prescribe them if psychotherapy alone isN’T enough, make sure people are closely monitored in the beginning by doctors, therapists and family members.

    mY PSYCHIATRISTS MET ME WEEKLY AFTER PRESCRIPING AN ssri UNTIL i FELT BETTER (AND EVEN THEN AT LEAST MONTHLY) and insisted on psychotherapy (otherwise she would not prescribe meds). Fluoxetin pulled me out of a severe depression and helped me to make progress much faster in psychotherapy. The first month was terrible and I had many side effects including weird thoughts, but I was closely monitored by my husband, my dr and my therapists and after three weeks suddenly the possitive effect came and it gave me my life back. So for me, an SSRI was a life saver. I switched to sertraline which works even better. Apart from weight gain Iam fine. Unfortunately, I felt terrible when I stopped Prozac. According to my doctor, I am probably someone who due to my genetics metabolizes serotonine really bad and I might need something forever. However, alternatives like 5-HTP, sport, lighttherapy have a possitive effect on me, so I try now again to taper with supplements, therapy and sport – we will see.


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