“I grew up in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, a period when Catholic censorship meant that work by Joyce, Beckett, Kiely, Broderick, McGahern, O’Brien, Dunne, Moore and many others were banned in Ireland because they tackled sexual issues. But it is a moot point as to whether that censorship was any more draconian than the current censorship. Having prided ourselves on finally overcoming Catholic, Nazi, McCarthyite or Soviet censorship, we perhaps think this could never happen again. We fail to see what is happening and to call it what it is.”
The above paragraph comes from a book called ‘Universities at Risk: How Politics, Special Interests and Corporatization Threaten Academic Integrity’. This particular section was written by Prof David Healy.
Does anyone believe that anything has changed in Ireland since Prof Healy grew up in the 50s and 60s? I believe it’s actually a lot worse; as back then it was blatant, unapologetic censorship. Now it’s not as obvious but infinitely more corrupt. The question is not which academics are paid by ‘industry’ but ‘which academics are not?’ Conflicts of interests are intrinsic within Ireland and the Uk’s medical field: from the initial training that medics receive which are sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, all the way to the Irish Medicine’s Board being almost fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Then there is depression websites which partner themselves with pharma companies, for example: Aware and Lundbeck. Okay, so a mental health ‘charity’ allows itself to partner a drug company which make drugs which can cause suicide? A person feeling suicidal then looks for help from a group which partner the drug company which make the drug which caused the suicide ideation in the first place. Bizarre is one word I would use. What about Brainwave (the Irish Epilepsy association) accepting funding from UCB (a drug company which make anti-seizure drugs)? A person only has to listen to the late John McCarty to know how wrong this actually is; “She was four and bold.” What about the recent lobbying of Enda Kenny and the Irish Government by industry? Just how cosy is this relationship? The Irish Times reported on the Government’s (now retracted) decision not to approved payment for new drugs: “new documents released by the Government show that Mr Kenny received strong representations on the cuts by leading pharmaceutical companies.” The tail wagging the dog, I wonder?
An article last Sunday in the UK Independent is another fine example of a serious ‘conflict of interest’. The article ‘Hooked on happy pills’? How the media demonises mental health medication’ attempts to convince the reader that antidepressants are quite often negatively portrayed in the media. Even the title wrongly and flippantly refers to these drugs as ‘happy pills’. The author Rachel Whitehead speaks of her experience as an employee of Rethink, a mental health charity. She says “Rethink Mental Illness, is neither ‘for’ or ‘against’ medication, what we’re interested in is people having a choice over their own treatment and finding what works for them.” Well that sounds promising, doesn’t it? What the author doesn’t say is that Rethink has accepted funding from drug companies including Roche and Lundbeck. Roche, you may recall is the manufacturer of Roaccutane, an acne drug, which was estimated to have caused between 300-3000 deaths by suicide or homicide. ‘The goose that laid the Golden Egg’ by Doug Bremner, details Roche’s corruption and intimidation tactics when an Irishman tries to get to the bottom of the role Accutane played in his son’s self-inflicted death. Although Roche withdrew this drug in the US in 2009, it is still available in Ireland. Rethink may want to rethink where it gets its funding, as Lundbeck’s lexapro and Cipramil have also caused numerous deaths by suicide and/or homicide. Then there is the mental health charity ‘Sane’, who also accept Lundbeck’s drug money. Remember Lord Milo, who died by suicide a week after being prescribed Lundbeck’s Cipramil? Marjorie Wallace of Sane even made a statement after Lord Milo’s death, stating “the evidence that emerged in Lord Milo’s inquest raises disturbing questions.” You bet it does Marjorie! Did Cipramil cause Lord Milo’s suicide?
So why does this bother me today? I’ll tell you why. Today it snowed, beautiful, white, fluffy snow. I’m not really one to feel sorry for myself, waste of time and energy, but today I felt sorry for Shane and his siblings, for how much they were all missing out on. Normally he’d be the first one to make a snowman, delighting in making snow angels and there would be crying and laughter in equal measures after the snowball fights. So something is missing today; Shane.
I could never put into words just how badly I feel he was let down by the different bodies in Ireland. Firstly there are the academic ‘experts’ who argued the case for SSRIs and who, it then transpired, were paid by the same manufacturers. Then there is the Irish Medicine’s Board who said there is sufficient warning on the package inserts here. So the experts deny that SSRIs can cause suicide and violence, yet the IMB say the warnings of suicide and violence are sufficient? Figure that one out! Then there was the expert engaged by the Irish medical council, Prof CJ Cowen, of Oxford University. Prof Cowan, who is also associated with Lundbeck, actually told me that he believes that ‘in some circumstances SSRIs can lead to people behaving violently to themselves and others’. He acknowledged that he didn’t have enough facts in Shane’s case but deferred to Prof Healy’s expertise in ‘these kinds of assessments’. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the Medical Council never thought to ask him either questions. In Shane’s case there were a number of Professors who involved themselves in the media defense of the drug, namely: Prof Patricia Casey, Prof Timothy Dinan, Prof Michael Gill, Prof Brian Lawlor, Prof James V Lucey, Prof Kevin Malone, Prof David Meagher and Prof Colm McDonald. Then there was the more formal statement from former president of the Irish College of Psychiatry, Justin Brophy, ‘CLARIFICATION ON ANTIDEPRESSANT MEDICATION’. Justin, who works in Newcastle Hospital, a hospital in Wicklow for people suffering from ‘mental health’ issues, does not believe what the IMB says is sufficient warning on the Package insert. Now that is my point!
Yep, good old Politics, Special Interests and Corporatization are still threatening Academic Integrity. Academic censorship is still very much alive and kicking in Ireland. It seems there is little difference in the way Irish and Uk ‘mental health’ charities and academics protect the pharmaceutical industry. As John McCarty said, how do these people sleep at night?