This week the BBC aired a Panorama documentary titled ‘A Prescription for Murder’ which has stirred some much-needed debate on the mind-altering effects of SSRIs. The very-astute presenter Shelley Jofre is known for tackling ground-breaking medical-related issues, including ‘Who’s Paying Your Doctor‘ and ‘The Secrets of Seroxat‘. (Due to the circumstances surrounding my son Shane’s death, I make a brief appearance in this documentary. )
As expected, the documentary caused a huge furore, with many defending the antidepressants drugs they take ‘that don’t cause them to become murderers’, accusing Panorama of being irresponsible and increasing the stigma of mental illness. Indeed, psychiatrists came out in their droves with their usual defense of psychotropic drugs, with seemingly no concerns whatsoever of adverse effects – or of their profession’s incestuous relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. The possible stigmatization of the people who suffer from serious and well-documented adverse effects of these prescribed drugs never entered the debate.
Anyway, watch the documentary and see what you think. I will say what I have always said – My lovely son would still be alive if he hadn’t gone to the doctor, whose fateful decision to prescribe citalopram for heartache proved fatal. 17 days after being prescribed the drug, following a series of red-flags that the drug was causing havoc, Shane was dead.
Citalopram is an SSRI antidepressant, sold under the brand names of Cipramil in Europe and Celexa in the U.S.
Sertraline, the SSRI that James Holmes was prescribed, is sold under the brand names of Lustral in Europe and Zoloft in the U.S. It was interesting to hear Delnora Duprey speaking on the programme; In 2001, three weeks after he was prescribed sertraline, Delnora’s grandson Christopher Pittman shot and killed both of his paternal grandparents. Then there was David Carmichael, whose account of his time on Paroxetine (Seroxat/Paxil), leading to the death of his young son, is equally harrowing.
Since their inception and without exception, all the SSRI drugs have been implicated in suicides and extreme violence, including homicide. With drug-company reports of ‘self-harm and harm to others’ and regulatory warnings of suicidality, violence, mania, akathisia, worsening depression, severe withdrawal, long-term sexual dysfunction, birth defects, depersonalization, etc., the stance that these drugs are safe for all is no longer tenable.
So, myself and my friend Stephanie were in Chicago this week. We had traveled across the Atlantic to hear the opening arguments of Dolin v. Smithkline Beecham Corp (now GlaxoSmithKline – GSK). For more background to this case, see here.
We arrived straight into an unprecedented weather event, Storm Stella – described in the media as a weather bomb, having undergone bombogenesis (haven’t a clue either). Thus, while we were a little worried that the trial might be postponed, we were more concerned with the liklihood of two Irish females freezing to death. However, despite hitting a cool minus-8, with some pretty bizarre white-out conditions, we survived and the trial went ahead as planned (with the Hon. William T. Hart presiding).
This case centers on Wendy Dolin, the plaintiff, alleging that her husband’s death in 2010 was drug-induced and that GSK failed to warn of the increased risk of suicide in older adults taking the antidepressant Paroxetine. Her lawyers, Baum Hedlund, contend that GSK hid a ‘dirty little secret’ – that the drug can cause akathisia, often coded under the innocuously-sounding ‘inner turmoil’. However, this drug-induced condition is far from harmless and injury to oneself and/or others, can quickly follow. Furthermore, as alleged in this case, it can often prove fatal; see here.
At the time of his death, Stewart Dolin was 57 and was a corporate lawyer with ReidSmith. While suffering from work-related stress, he was prescribed Paroxetine by his physician, Dr. Martin Sachman – a family friend. Paroxetine is perhaps more widely recognised by its trade name Paxil, or Seroxat in Europe. Six days after being prescribed a generic form of the drug, Stewart died by jumping in front of a Chicago train. He was affluent, well-liked by colleagues and well-loved by his family. Per one of his colleagues “Stu Dolin was a close personal friend, valued colleague and a great leader in our firm. His energy and spirit benefited everyone around him. The lawsuit claims that GSK failed to adequately warn doctors (including Dr. Sachman) of the increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults. Indeed, GSK’s opening argument proclaimed that ‘Paxil does not cause suicide’. That was then contradicted by GSK’s very own literature, where a 2006 analysis showed a 6.7 times greater risk of suicidal behaviour in adults (of all ages) taking Paxil, over placebo.
Doctor David Healy was on the stand for 2 full-days, as an expert witness for the plaintiff. His testimony included an account of how GSK had hidden suicide events from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thus manipulating the suicide-ratio and effectively hiding the bodies. Explaining drug-induced suicides to the jury, his world-leading expert status in psychopharmacology was unquestionable. No doubt, GSK ‘s legal team will attempt to annihilate that particular status before he exposes any more ‘dirty little secrets’. Like how 100% of Paxil consumers will experience sexual dysfunction – another life changing adverse-effect he mentioned in court, and another one not precisely admitted to by the manufacturers.
Not surprisingly, GSK’s lawyers (King and Spalding), became increasingly apoplectic, interjecting every few minutes with their objections, which proved fascinating in itself. The last hour before the court adjourned for the week-end proved to be very enlightening indeed, with their team looking increasingly agitated. Doctor Healy was then asked some questions by the plaintiff’s legal team:
(1) Do you have any doubt that Paxil can cause suicide? He answered ‘No’.
(2) In your opinion, did GSK warn doctors of the increased risk of suicide in adults? Again he answered ‘No’.
There seemed little doubt to anyone listening that Paxil could cause Akathisia and/or a drug-induced suicide. However, no doubt GSK will have many experts to refute that, whatever the evidence has shown. Having listened to this week’s testimonies, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Steward Dolin’s death was induced by the Paxil he was taking in the final 6 days of his life. However, the trial will most-likely go on for another few weeks when the jury will ultimately decide. Sadly, as is normal in these legal cases, every aspect of Wendy and Stewart’s private life will be publicly torn to shreds, with their every move dissected to try and put doubt into the jury’s mind. Whatever the outcome, Stewart’s wife Wendy, is one very, very brave lady.
Clearly, GSK’s lawyers are particularly polished and well used to court proceedings. That said, following the jurys’ retirement for the weekend, there was a last minute crucial objection from their legal team. One of their lawyers raised a final grievance – that a lawyer for the plaintiff’s side had the cheek to say ‘have a good weekend’ to the jury. Seriously? Drug induced suicide was the issue here and this farewell gesture caused offence to GSK’s legal team?
Anyway, if you would like to see the three video depositions that were shown to the court; they were uploaded yesterday. You really don’t need to be a body language expert to determine how truthful these GSK experts are being – or not.
This week myself and Tony abandoned the minors, left them in the care of the (sergeant) majors and took ourselves off to London. With promises of presents and various forms of bribery, they waved us off without a second glance – the deals were struck. With one condition – as long as we were back for Henny-Benny’s 12th birthday on Wednesday, we could do whatever else we liked. The purpose of our trip overseas was to attend a book launch in Waterstones of Kensington – Katinka Blackford Newman’s ‘The Pill That Steals Lives’. Having read excerpts in the Mail and spoken to Katinka over the last year, I was really looking forward to it.
Katinka is a film producer, director and author – she’s also attractive, clever and extremely funny (as are her 2 amazing children). Her book depicts a particularly harrowing year in her life, a year that started with a marriage break-up and a prescription for Escitalopram (Lexapro/Cipralex). She describes, in painful detail, her subsequent spiral into an emotionally-blunted, chronically-fatigued, medicated shell of her former self. Weirdly, as a result of running out of health insurance, she survived to tell this tale. Her autobiographical account of that year is told in a sometimes tragic, yet often humorous way – this book is a stunner. Considering the enormous increases in antidepressant prescribing, for every conceivable ailment (from exam woes to shyness), I hope it is read far and wide.
We had arranged to meet up with our friends before the book launch (Brian, his better half and Bobby Fiddaman). Brian and the Mrs were staying in a very posh hotel, where the concierges wore top hats and tails – we weren’t. A previous fiasco in Denmark led them to choose their own hotel this time – but that’s another story. Nevertheless, the concierge was very friendly and courteous and after equally posh aperitifs, we all travelled together to Waterstones bookshop on Kensington’s High Street.
It was fabulous. We met other Irish friends there too – Stephanie and John Lynch, whose son Jake tragically died from an antidepressant-induced death at age 14. There were people from all corners of the globe, all with similar stories to tell. I was delighted to finally meet David Carmichael, who had travelled from Canada to be there. David strangled his 11-year-old son while in a Seroxat induced psychosis – he’s a very nice man and I would trust him with my life.
Kirk Brandon, a singer and friend of Bobby’s was there too. While having Lunch the following day, Kirk told an equally harrowing story of his time on Seroxat. There are so many stories, from survivors (the lucky ones) but equally from those who didn’t survive, like Shane, Kevin, Jake, Ian, et cetera. The list goes on and on – read the book.
As is the norm for us in London, we had a few hiccups along the way. Thankfully, there was no flashing of ageing bodily parts this time around, certainly not mine anyway (I can’t speak for the others). Although, getting peed on, first by torrential rain and then by Ryanair, wandering aimlessly around London in the middle of the night (due to a raging fire near Clapham Junction) was all par for the course.
Even an impromptu overnight stay in London City Airport, coupled with additional flights costing a further 600 euro, could not dampen our spirits. It was worth every penny, although we did put ourselves in jeopardy of additional bribery – we missed Henny-Benny’s birthday. All is not lost though – he’s busy concocting up a repayment scheme for the trauma of this particularly bad parenting.
Copenhagen, 16th Sept, 2015 – ‘Psychiatric drugs do more harm than good’. Peter Gøtzsche is the director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, Copenhagen and co-founder of the Cochrane collaboration. Peter’s new book Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial contains our personal stories of the harm done by psychiatric drugs. See our conference speeches below:
Myself, Stephanie, Kim, Mathy and Wendy spoke at Peter Gotzsche’s Copenhagen Conference ‘psychiatric drugs do more harm than good’ (see the last post for details). I’m very proud to call these women my friends. This video shows Stephanie’s talk followed by mine. I’ll put the others up as we get them. Please be informed of the possible dangers of these drugs. For Jake, Shane and all the many SSRI victims..
Imagine your 14 year old child being prescribed fluoxetine (Prozac), not for any ‘mental illness’ but to ‘help with his exams’. Then imagine going to the local pharmacy and handing in that same prescription in exchange for a bottle of innocuous-looking liquid and being sent on your merry way to administer this ‘elixir’ to your young son, who by-the-way trusts you with all his heart. Imagine him looking you in the eye each night while you ensure that he’s taking his prescribed medication. Imagine the inexplicable scenario that neither the prescriber nor the pharmacist told you that this drug could actually cause suicide, particularly in children.
Imagine then a few weeks later, the horror of trying to remember that same trusting face after your 14 year-old child has fatally shot himself. That is most likely what Stephanie McGill Lynch does every night. I can just imagine her horror upon learning that the Irish Government already knew that these drugs were causing numerous deaths but chose to do nothing. It occurs to me that the Irish Government might just as well have shot and killed Jake, yet we are all passively allowing this to continue. Why, in an era awash in human rights activism, is nobody chaining themselves to the gates of our Government buildings for Jake, an innocent 14 year old child? Why are grieving parents left to fight a seemingly impenetrable system for justice? As one bereaved mother said recently “Why should it be down to the bereaved and harmed to battle for greater awareness of the dubious nature of ‘antidepressants’? These are random chemicals which can never merit the term ‘medicine’ until the day dawns when they are accompanied by effective information and support.” Why indeed.
Today Jake’s parents are attending Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) where Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD will propose an amendment to the Coroner’s Act 1961. The amendment, while not apportioning blame or fault, will permit a coroner to record an Iatrogenic death. Iatrogenesis is death caused by medical treatment and comes from the historical Greek word meaning ‘brought forth by the healer'(WIKI).
If this amendment is passed, Ireland may finally redeem itself a little. It may even prove to be a world-leader, creating precedent in paving the way for victims of medical treatment, thereby allowing other countries to follow suit. As adverse drug events are now the fourth leading cause of death in hospitals and the leading cause of death within the ‘mental health’ field, this amendment could be a huge step in paving the way for a re-think in prescribing practices.
A big thank-you to Jake’s parents and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn for pushing this hugely important amendment. Thinking of Jake today and his very sad, yet very brave parents, who are taking this one giant step on the road to justice. Newspaper Article on Jake’s Amendment below..
Today is the 1st of June 2015. Despite the huge strides that Ireland has recently taken, most notably in marriage equality, it seems, at least in medicine, we may have officially reverted to the dark ages. Despite wonderful world-renowned experts like David Healy and Peter Gotzsche making huge strides in making medicines safer for us all, three articles today in the Irish Independent shows just how far behind Ireland trails in pharmacovigilance.
Professor Patricia Casey, University College Dublin (UCD) – Among the usual defence of the drugs, drugs, and more drugs, she states “Is non-treatment adherence and ultimately suicide an unintended consequence of the (black box) warning? This question cries out for an answer as life itself is at stake.” Eh, this study that Professor Casey refers to was done in Ireland – Ireland doesn’t have a black boxed warning Patricia!
Brendan Kelly, also of UCD, decides to ignore the FDA, EU and HPRA warnings altogether. He states “Public debate about anti-depressants tends to be polarised to a point that is deeply unhelpful, especially for people with depression. The truth is that anti-depressants are not the magic bullets that some people hoped. But neither are they the evil little pills they are sometimes portrayed as”. Have you actually read the (drug company) leaflets Professor Kelly or did this come directly from a conversation you had with your colleague Casey?
Dr Suzanna O’Sullivan, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, this time from University College London, takes the proverbial biscuit. She says that “people shouldn’t pay too much attention to side-effects leaflets or they are likely to start experiencing the conditions psychosomatically” and further “Don’t read the side-effects labels on medication too closely… All these symptoms come from something already existing in your mind and your imagination”.
The dark ages –
Yep, never mind that the victims and their families are saying otherwise, take that pharmaceutical drug company pill or the sky will fall in (and the experts may be out of a job). Interesting that all 3 articles came out today in the Irish Independent. I might be a little optimistic here but maybe we, the victims and their families, are getting somewhere – the feathers of academia seem unduly ruffled today.
These articles come shortly after Professor David Healy’s ‘Medico-Legal society’ lecture at Dublin’s ‘Kildare St and University Club’, which myself and the bold husband had the pleasure of attending. The lecture concerned the dangers of taking prescription drugs, particularly antidepressants, and the legal implications of same. Following his talk, it seemed that many academics within the medical and legal profession are well aware of the dangers, despite what these articles and so-called ‘experts’ in the Irish Independent are saying today. ‘Independent’ being the definition of irony here.
Incidentally, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) Code, which includes pharmaceutical payments to doctors, will come into effect shortly. Transparency issues are about to get much more interesting.
As I was writing this another study was published, a Finnish-Swedish study that analyzed the link between psychotropic drugs and homicide risk. The study here found “that the use of certain drugs that affect the central nervous system are associated with an increased risk of committing a homicide. The greatest risk was associated with the use of painkillers and tranquillizing benzodiazepines, while anti-depressants were linked only to a slightly elevated risk.” Yep, harmless, whatever you do, don’t read the leaflet!!
Professor Casey’s article appears in the Indo today ‘Mind and meaning: Antidepressants work‘. As usual, most likely for fear of legal repercussions by Prof Casey, the Indo never allow opposing arguments. My comment didn’t stay up for long and despite my best efforts at truth, I guess my constitutional right to freedom of expression doesn’t override the Irish media’s fear of another legal action by Casey. Comment below..