Academic Integrity in Ireland and the UK; Is there any such thing?

Shane and the lads.“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 thePower, Politics and pharmaceuticals. 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?

9 thoughts on “Academic Integrity in Ireland and the UK; Is there any such thing?

  1. Quality post Leonie. There’s heaps of front groups out there – they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Rethink are one of many – it’s all part of the master plan, designed to get as many people as possible on drugs. It’s money in the bank and just a clever way around the advertising rules and regulations we have in Europe.

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  2. One notable mark of the regimes you mention in your opening is that they all had fantastic academia, which were all ‘world-renowned’ ….. at home in their own domestic media & society-politiek.

    another point I wanted to comment on is the term “happy-pill” & its origins.
    There is a corporation mentioned in this article: Lundbeck? That corporation is based in Denmark: land of the ‘Whipped-Cream Frontier’. In Danish language, a term exists in today’s diction that distinguishes the modern-day, hi-tech, ‘top-end’, super-science pills from the ‘old type’ of am… depressing situations of psychiatrists administering tablets to their patients to ‘help them’ feel better about themselves. Sometimes by force? Y’know, in the 60s and 70s & 80s…? The kind of old-style tablets given to those members of society who were usually kept confined in some place or another for their own good. This new term and phrase is: lykkepiller™ : literally translated to English, happypills™. Maybe new to English, but very established in Lutheran Denmark… where matters ‘of the mind’ are no less a walking taboo than they are over there on your western, English-speaking Isles.

    The Danish wikipedia entry explains this scientific innovation in detail, on the page that refers to the high-end super-new modern-day amazing-science of “Selektive serotoningenoptagshæmmere”. It informs its fortunate, lucky-readers that psychiatry tablets were .. y’know… stigma and… after all, they were prescribed by psychiatrists.
    Whereas “lykkepiller”, thanks to the amazing-science® part, are something totally different. 🙂 The Danish-wiki page actually reads…: “it is virtually impossible to take a fatal overdose of SSRIs. For that reason, general practitioners are therefore far more willing to prescribe these drugs than was the case previously. It is now quite normal for general practitioners print prescriptions for these new drugs, whereas the previous antidepressants were prescribed by ‘psychiatrists’. Now, these new drugs have therefore been a much less clinical and more “everyday touch” to life; and have even become something of a trendy fad. This is probably the reason why terms such as ‘happypills’ have been used as such by the media and by ordinary lay people.”

    For words, it’s not too difficult to enter into a socio-cultural discourse nowadays… after all, this is the modern digital age and look how many new terms and expressions we use now that weren’t heard of ten years ago? (e.g. Twitter me?).
    Leonie, you often ask here on your blog: what’s ‘in’ a word? I guess the answer to that is in the words one chooses to use? Etymologically, the Danish term #lykkepiller represents an attempt in linguistics to make a ‘break’ with the old ‘depression’-related stigma associated to psychiatry as it was in the latter part of the last century and how society viewed the whole issue of ‘depression’, sadness &c. For instance, anyone accepting an antidepressant into their bodies is accepting the sales premise that they have a condition termed ‘depression’, and that which they put into their bodies will reverse this situation in a wonderful way, chemically & hey-presto. But, the down side is that this term does mention the d-word, and … therein lies the whole stigma.

    With the (emerging?) English-term ‘happypill’, I suppose the trick for marketeers is to get thé entire casual, ‘everyday-‘ understanding associated with that term in the Danish culture & understanding, to hop-scotch itself (and carry its implied meaning) into the English language & culture. And all that’s needed for their success, as the Danish wikipedia article clearly states, is for (lay-) people to keep circulating the new term and eventually become familiar with it’s casual, everyday nature.
    Real success stories for chemicals marketeers (besides enjoying free marketing on wikipedia) are the fortunate occasions that can take place in google translate. For instance, if one attempts to see the corresponding English word for the Danish word “lykkepiller” in google translate, then you’re in for a réal $urprise.

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      1. Yes, it probably would be some add-words-technician’s monthly wage packet and more, if one were able to put marketing strategies like this one into brown paper bags, or envelopes for that matter?

        Thankfully with Google translate, there is also other languages, and even the same language in other countries listed.

        Take Norwegian for instance. Once part of the Kalmar union (under Denmark), and four centuries after that as kingdom under Denmark ‘in Union’ : it shares the same language as Denmark.
        It’s like Britain and Ireland are nowadays, the western, coastal-Irish language representing (over there) something akin to the Sami minority peoples of Norway.
        Two counties, one language: alike certainly in terms of modern-phraseology, y’know, from the recent century: radio, television, cornflakes, camera, drive &c. Just as in Liverpool and Dublin the words are identical. Maybe in Norge there’s an extra ‘j’ here & there, but that’s really it, besides the accent.
        So, like with Ireland &c., Norway politicians on Danish TV are often given under-titling so that viewers can understand them. For the rest the two languages both shape up alike to one another.

        But Norway: it aint in the EU, and it doesn’t have an economy reliant on farma corporations based within its borders, i.e. one that is called ‘Lundbeck’ for example & the creamy country it’s based.
        http://translate.google.com/#no/en/lykkepiller

        Strange isn’t it…? That Google-Dublin can offer the language-learner a translation … that is, in fact, a corporate retail-product brand name?
        Now THAT’S executive marketeering.

        Even in Danish, when one places a full stop in between the two conjugated terms… immediately the online marketing ceases and the translations of those words appear as they ought to do.
        http://translate.google.com/#da/en/lykke.%20piller.

        But, eerily enough, when one does that, google-dublin then prompts the learner back to Prosack … by suggesting the two words be conjugated into one in the blue highlighted prompt.

        Imagine foreign, emerging-economy academics outside of Europe using Dublin translate (for own reading ease) when reading online PDFs of reports etc. in the English language, yet translated into their home language? Each time a brand-name appears, it would be instantaneously made into something happiness oriented. Perhaps even brand names could be…. ‘prompted’ to those who … don’t know any better? Or worse, to young people learning pedagogically? It’s an entirely different thought process to ours.

        PS: the independent article you linked in your post about the recent home-shooter family/suicide … the article in the ‘independent’ [?] that you linked; it is no longer online?

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  3. Brilliant post again Leonie. No the package inserts are not sufficient to warn patients and their families of the possible side effects. In my daughter’s case the package insert was revised sometime around May 2007 but having already been on Cipramil for 3 years this was not brought to her attention. After her death by suicide a family member said to the doctor “It was the antidepressant”. The reply was no, it was the depression,

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      Your daughter was badly let down by the same system Sarah. Yet the IMB will say that your daughter, Shane, and all the other SSRI victims got sufficient warning. That is certainly arguable.
      Leonie

      This is one of the IMB’s correspondances to me: “The IMB actively encourages patients and care-givers to read the information in the Package
      Leaflet and consult their doctor in relation to any concerns. Black box warnings are not used as a communication tool in the European Union and there are conflicting views about their value, with some concerns that only the boxed test is read and not the full information. The intention of the Package Leaflet, which is provided with all medicines in Europe, is to provide comprehensive information on the side-effects of a medicine, in the context of recommendations for its safe and effective use. The aim of this approach is not only to ensure that potential risks are highlighted, but equally to support minimisation of risk through promoting compliance with the recommendations for use and monitoring requirements.”

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  4. Shane most definitely was let down; by a failing, dishonest system and a series of blunders and cover ups. He was let down by people who did not possess a shred of the decency and sense of justice that was so much of his own essence. People who remain driven by their own financial stake in keeping the status quo.

    There are so many people only too well aware of the appalling risk of prescribing these dubious drugs without sufficient warning of risk or proper supervision. In the face of the human suffering they have allowed to happen through their shared failure and neglect, they turn to pointing the finger elsewhere.

    So they blame the person who was trying so hard to regain their wellbeing and went to the doctor, unaware that they were not in safe hands. This is cynical and horrific abuse of power and dereliction of duty. All the people you name here, and those lurking in the shadows behind them, should indeed hang their heads in shame. And be brought to account.

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    1. Margaret,
      Yours words are so true, this sentence in particular… “So they blame the person who was trying so hard to regain their wellbeing and went to the doctor, unaware that they were not in safe hands.” How unbelievably sad. Your words could be a wake up call for so many, before tragically, they end up like us. It seems every shred of decency flies out the window when pharma cash is waved before expert’s eyes, academic or otherwise. Sad.
      Leonie

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