The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Influence in Irish Politics and Medicine.

Enda and James

The pharmaceutical industry has a long and tangled involvement within Irish politics. Besides politics, our medical ‘experts’ have built up their training and expertise while simultaneously having a fundamental collegial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma politics may not be news to Americans, Latvians or our British neighbours – but as Ireland is my Country of birth, I claim poetic licence in focusing on my specific geographical area. Corruption within this industry has been widely publicised elsewhere but there seems to be a reticence within the Irish media to report on pharma wrongdoing or the objectivity of the psychiatric expert. My son, a young Irishman, died under the influence of 17 days of Citalopram (an SSRI antidepressant) – manufactured by Lundbeck, prescribed by a doctor, licensed by the Irish Medicine’s Board (henceforth IMB) and protected by the Irish College of Psychiatry (henceforth the College).

Despite much evidence to the contrary, our health Minister James Reilly has been quoted in the media as saying that “SSRIs aren’t addictive and treat depression effectively”. He also denied that GPs are systematically over-prescribing SSRIs.[1] He subsequently managed to ignore two medical experts (David Healy and Declan Gilsenan) who gave testimony in Leinster House that antidepressants were the leading cause of death within the mental health field and were in fact causing hundreds of Irish deaths each year. According to the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association there are approximately 120 pharmaceutical companies that have plants in Ireland – including 9 of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.[2]

Last year the Irish Times reported that the Irish Government ‘came under pressure’ from the larger pharmaceutical firms over the Health Service Executives’ (HSE) decision not to approve new drugs for payment. There was an implied threat that this could ‘have implications for 25,000 jobs and future investment’ – so not surprisingly Enda Kenny and James Reilly backed down. The Times further reported that both had meetings with Abbott Laboratories and Eli Lilly, and further that Enda Kenny attended Eli Lilly’s board dinner at the Old Kinsale golf club in 2011. It is submitted that this relationship is much too close for comfort and therefore not conducive to having the Nation’s best interests at heart. Backing down under pressure from a bullying industry is never a good move, particularly when as a Nation we naturally assume that our Government is in control.

According to Dr David Healy who is regarded as the world leading expert on prescription drugs, antidepressants double the risk of suicide and violence, particularly upon starting, discontinuing and dosage change (up or down). He further stated that “antidepressants now come with black box warnings of suicide and in some jurisdictions such as Canada they come with warnings of violence also. Exactly the same mechanisms that lead to suicides lead to violence. In one case you have violence directed inward and in the other directed outwards. These mechanisms are akathisia, emotional blunting and psychosis.”[3]

The name ‘antidepressant’ itself is pure marketing genius by the pharmaceutical industry. Who would believe that these so-called magic pills can cause death, sometimes self-inflicted and extremely violent? In protecting the medical model, referring to antidepressant-induced suicide, the College stated “Anecdotal cases of suicide sometimes mistakenly attribute these tragic events to the treatment rather than the illness itself”.[4] This is a vastly differing stance compared to the IMB, the European Medicine’s Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The American regulator FDA slapped a black-box warning on all antidepressants, informing consumers of the increased risk of suicide.[5] The EMA followed suit requiring labelling changes to all antidepressants, again informing consumers of the increased risk of drug-induced suicidality.[6] The IMB is pretty limited in its capacity of protector of Irish citizens, deferring largely to the EMA. Interestingly, the IMB is almost fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry, so the public protector is funded by the very industry that it is supposed to be protecting the Irish people from. It should be noted that peter gøtzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen recently stated that the IMB banned GlaxoSmithKline from claiming that Paroxetine (Seroxat/Paxil) corrects a chemical imbalance.[7] That depression is caused by a ‘chemical imbalance’ is a pharma invention used as a tool to sell antidepressant drugs. That the IMB made an executive decision and actually suppressed GSK or any other pharmaceutical company is the exception rather than the rule.

We don’t have to look too far to see Governmental and pharma influence within the medical industry. The ‘Sherif Sultan Saga’ is a prime example of the bullying and intimidation of a medical professional. Mr Sultan is a consultant in Galway who received an official warning and a gag order from the HSE for speaking out on the dangers of taking statin drugs.[8] This followed the publication of his paper ‘The ugly side of Statins’.[9] Mr Sultan said what David Healy has been saying for a long time, that he and his colleagues “are fed up with trial of organizations to cover up truth about the ugly side of statin because of invested interest and commercial sponsorship.” He also stated that “We are observing the revealing of the ‘utmost medical tragedy’ of all times. It is extraordinary that the healthcare industry has inadvertently induced life-threatening nutrient deficiency in millions of otherwise healthy people.”

Similar to the attempt at suppressing Sherif Sultan, the psychiatric Professors Patricia Casey, University College Dublin, and Ted Dinan, University College Cork, involved themselves not only in my son’s inquest but also with others where antidepressants were implicated. Both had long links to the same pharmaceutical companies who manufactured the implicated drug and both without exception defended the drugs, instead blaming the supposed underlying ‘illnesses’.[10] Both these professors are supposed experts in the psychiatric field and both fiercely defend antidepressants.[11] It is submitted that the objectivity of the expert opinion is paramount, particularly where the law is concerned. As the coronial system is the only Court of law where a deceased’s family can get answers, in cases of drug-induced death, bias or even a perception of bias should automatically render these ‘experts’ excluded from the legal process.

The health of the Irish nation will never be of utmost importance while our medical professionals, the IMB and the Irish Government have a vested interest in upholding the existing ‘pharma funded’ regime. While it seems my son was just a number in the collateral damage of the latter – I urge you to protect your family, start asking questions and stop trusting these dubious so-called professionals.


[7] Peter Gøtzsche ‘Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime’ P. 199


2 thoughts on “The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Influence in Irish Politics and Medicine.

  1. “As the coronial system is the only Court of law where a deceased’s family can get answers, in cases of drug-induced death, bias or even a perception of bias should automatically render these ‘experts’ excluded from the legal process.”

    I employed a solicitor to attend my daughter’s inquest with me. This was to make sure that I wasn’t being flummoxed by legal jargon and I wanted to bring up the uncertainty that I had in 2008 about death being “the result of the illness rather than the antidepressant” ( I have since learned that my daughter’s suicide was most likely caused by withdrawal and restarting Cipramil). My solicitor advised me that the purpose of the inquest was only to determine date, place and cause of death. She did not bring up my concerns.

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      An inquest is an inquisitorial process, a fact finding exercise which is non-adversarial and therefore cannot find fault. The legislation in Ireland is provided under The Coroner’s Act 1962 – http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1962/en/act/pub/0009/index.html

      Its purpose is to find out who, when, where and how a person died. If a family want a medical expert to attend, permission has to sought from the Coroner and he/she will decide whether to allow it or not. It sounds like your solicitor could have done more in your daughter’s case. Considering that bereaved parents and families are usually still in shock when the inquest comes about – it’s a shame that there is nowhere to get good independent advice about what can and cannot be done at an inquest. Speaking to a family who has been through it already could be a great help, or maybe an garda siochana could have a special advisor?

      Leonie

      Like

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