Copenhagen: Psychiatric Drugs do more Harm Than Good

Copenhagen here we come..

So myself and the poor unfortunate husband took ourselves off to Copenhagen for a Conference ‘Psychiatric drugs do more harm than good‘. Peter Gøtzsche (physician, medical researcher, and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Centre), was bullied into had invited us to speak, along with our fellow Irish friends Stephanie and John, and three American ladies that I had long admired.

I had said, through ‘hell or high water’, nothing was going to stop me from going. Are you listening GOD – I had meant it as a joke, not literally! Firstly a traffic jam on the N11 meant we had to take a de-tour through the Wicklow countryside, causing a slightly frazzled and frantic dash for Dublin airport. Arriving safely (and in a timely fashion) in Copenhagen, we met with our gorgeous UK friends, Mr and Mrs AntiDepAware and we all boarded the train to Nørreport.  After a few minutes of lively chatter, the train decided to give up the ghost and came to a standstill – leaving us packed like frying sardines into a fastly deteriorating atmosphere and a very steamy (and very sealed) capsule. After about 30 minutes, when the condensation began running down the windows and the frazzled commuters were looking increasingly manic, in what seemed to be an unprecedented move, the doors were opened and we were allowed to walk (underground) to the next station. Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Daylight’ was coming to mind, but I thought i’d better keep that particular thought to myself. The Danes are lovely though and once the doors opened, the relief was palpable. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, I took my phone out and a pretty Dane asked was it okay if she photo-bombed me. I was told later that this train event was highly unusual and even made the TV News – typical that we just happened to be on it at the same time.

norreport underground from copenhagen airport
Underground, off the train bound for Norreport, copenhagen

We then arrived at our ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotel, whereupon my fellow Irish friend Stephanie proceeded to throw a strop and refused point-blank to step one further step into this ‘quaint’ establishment. Having got her money back, she exited stage-left (with her poor hubby in tow) to more salubrious surroundings, leaving us, her poor Irish and UK friends, to our less posh surroundings and to share a bathroom with everyone else on the same floor. Our UK friends, with that very British Stoicism, seemed happy enough to make the best of it – not like our fair-weather Irish friends. The weather then decided to ‘chuck it down’ – with deafening thunder and lightning for added effect.

We went for dinner that evening with Robert Whitaker (American journalist and author), Peter Gøtzsche (pronounced Gurchur) and our fellow speakers: kim witczak, Wendy Dolin and Mathy Dowling. We also got to meet the lovely Denis (Danilo’s dad) and an equally lovely medical student (name pronounced Annis). Wow, what amazing people. It’s an evening I will never forget, being in the same room as people that I had long admired through webpages and videos. Each time I spoke, Peter Gøtzsche would look at me with a quizzical expression (as if I was speaking Swahili) and kindly said that I could say what I liked at the conference, as nobody would understand a word I said anyway (he’s bloody hilarious!).

kim witczak and Peter C. Gotzsche
kim witczak and Peter C. Gotzsche

The conference was on in the beautiful Bethesda building which was a few doors down from our hotel, so what our hotel lacked in classiness, it made up with location (despite everything, I’m still a glass half-full sorta gal). Robert Whitaker was fabulous, very down to earth and could understand me perfectly, which was an added bonus. Peter Breggin spoke from his home in New York through Skype, which despite the usual initial hiccups with sound, went surprisingly well. We met some amazing and fabulous people, and each of us spoke of our husbands and children, killed by a drug they should never have been prescribed. Stephanie did an amazing job for Jake, as did Kim for Woody, Mathy for Candice and Wendy for Stewart – I know Shane would have been very proud too. Our stories can be read in Peter’s new book Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial.

Copenhagen Night
Copenhagen Night

So there you have it, a fabulous and very informative day was had by all. After another lovely night spent with the ladies and Mr and Mrs Antidepaware, we headed (exhausted but happy) for bed. The following morning, after a mad dash to cram in the ‘Little Mermaid’ and a meeting with Peter G and the others in his Cochrane office, we then left for home, happy and content after this lovely, lovely experience.

The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid
Cochrane Canteen
Two lovely ladies: Wendy and Stephanie
Two lovely ladies: Wendy and Stephanie

Thank you so much Peter C. Gøtzsche, Bob Whitaker, kim witczak, Wendy Dolin, Mathy Dowling, Stephanie and John, the Antidepawares, the lovely Denis and my better worse-half Tony.

The presentations should be on You-tube soon for anyone who wishes to view the day – I’ll update accordingly. Last word to Peter G (and C.S. Lewis)..


cipramil (celexa) stories,, Newspaper and internet articles, Our story., psychiatry, Shanes story.

My ‘Mad in America’ article…

Mad in AmericaToday my article was published on Robert Whitaker’s ‘Mad in America’ website, here.

This follows the publication of my November article in the Irish Independent, here. I really appreciate the publication of my work/views, particularly as it might just warn somebody, or give an insight into the corrupt pharmaceutical industry. The most telling sentence in the Independent article is the last one “The Irish Medicines Board declined to comment.” It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. The body entrusted with the safety of Irish medicine couldn’t or wouldn’t clarify the situation?

I have previously quoted John Le Carré; speaking of his fictional writings of the pharma industry, he said “…But I can tell you this. As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realise that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard.” From my experiences since Shane died in 2009, I think even John Le Carré may have underestimated the extent of the corruption within the pharmaceutical industry, which tapers all the way down to your friendly, or not so friendly, GP.

The pharma corruption is then firmly established by psychiatry’s active and frantic denials of any problems with the pills they prescribe. Even our KOPs (Key Opinion Leader’s) in Irish psychiatry will attend inquests in order to argue that the victims death was due to his/her own fault and not the fault of the drug itself. They will trample over the dead bodies and grieving relatives in order that the defense of the drug be heard.

In case I sound like a ‘conspiracy theorist’ here, let me clarify that one. I believe that antidepressants (SSRIs in particular) cause suicide and cause homicide, among other terrible reactions. I believe that that is what happened in the case of Shane, my son. I firmly believe that psychiatry worldwide know full well that these drugs are very dangerous, but are protecting their own monetary interests. People say that these drugs save lives, and maybe that is the case, BUT, that has nothing to do with the fact that they can also kill. My son never offered to be a number in the carcrash of collateral damage left behind.

So, that’s why I appreciate the publication of my work.  If you are reading this, maybe you will be pre-warned of the possible dangers, when you or a loved-one are prescribed these drugs.


cipramil (celexa) stories,, lundbeck, Newspaper and internet articles, psychiatry

STAR*D raises its ugly head again.

STAR*D raises its ugly head again.

I have briefly mentioned the latest LawSuit involving allegations of kickbacks and bribes committed by Forest Labs. For people who are not familiar with the pharmaceutical industry, let me explain, Forest are Lundbeck’s partner in crime, who market Citalopram and Escitalopram to the American public.

Forest have the dubious reputation of peddling their medication (off-label) to children. They previously paid 313 million to settle criminal and civil complaints for illegally promoted Citalopram/Celexa/Cipramil for use in children. This was despite a very clear black box warning that this drug could induce sucidality in young people (Under 25’s) and that the same drug was not licenced for under 18’s for that reason. NY Times.

The latest whistleblower suit unsealed in Maryland federal court last month, claim that Forest paid kickbacks and bribes to the main author of the STAR*D drug study, Dr. A. John Rush. The suit alleges that Dr Rush of the University of Texas was paid these bribes so that he would rig the STAR*D study in favor of the company’s drug Celexa. The STAR*D study (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) was conducted over 6 years, was funded by NIMH and cost $35 million; that’s not including Forest’s bribary stash account.

Robert Whitaker, whose book “Anatomy of an Epidemic” won an award for best investigative journalism book of 2010, has been campaigning for a full Investigation into the STAR*D scandal. Here.

STAR*D: What Have We Learned? In 2007 the American Journal of Psychiatry published a paper by Dr Rush entitled “STAR*D: What Have We Learned?” Link. In the last paragraph he says “Finally, on a personal note, large efforts like STAR*D are the ultimate exercise in “delayed gratification.” I bet it was.


His declared conflicts of interest:

Dr. Rush has served as an advisor, consultant, or speaker for or received research support from Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, Inc.; Best Practice Project Management, Inc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Cyberonics, Inc.; Eli Lilly & Company; Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Gerson Lehman Group; GlaxoSmithKline; Healthcare Technology Systems, Inc.; Jazz Pharmaceuticals; Merck & Co., Inc.; the National Institute of Mental Health; Neuronetics; Ono Pharmaceutical; Organon USA Inc.; Personality Disorder Research Corp.; Pfizer Inc.; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Stanley Medical Research Institute; the Urban Institute; and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Inc. He has equity holdings in Pfizer Inc and receives royalty/patent income from Guilford Publications and Healthcare Technology Systems, Inc. Dr. Freedman reviewed this editorial and found no evidence of influence from these relationships. (Really Dr Freedman?)

STAR*D: What Have We Learned? Well I for one have learned that Celexa can cause extremely violent deaths. I have learned that Forest labs and Lundbeck are aware that their drugs can cause suicide and homicide. I have also learned that kickbacks and bribes are an integral part of their operation. Fancy doing a paper on that Dr. Rush?



Random, Shanes story.

Shane’s Posthumous Degree from Trinity.

Last week TCD (Trinity College Dublin) awarded Shane a posthumous Degree.

It was a strange place to be when Shane wasn’t there to pick it up for himself and I must say I wasn’t really too pushed about going, but I can say I was glad I did as it turned out to be a lovely day and the staff of Trinity could not have been nicer or more welcoming. There is something about the College itself that seems to welcome all it’s visitors.

 Graduation day was something Shane and his friends talked and joked about a lot; who would get their degree first, who would fall over first, ect. It was really important to them all and to Shane, and I know he would have been extremely proud of himself.

I would just like to say a big thank you to Dr Claire Laudet for looking after us for the day, making it a million times easier for us than it would have been. The applause that Shane received as we picked up his award was truly humbling.

Also a big thank you to all of Shane’s tutors from the Irish department and the Theology department who met with us afterwards and talked about the Shane they knew and loved. It must be strange to reconcile the Shane that they knew with the events of August 2009.

Thanks also to Tara and the gorgeous Aoibh who would have been there anyway with Shane, along with the rest of the crew.

Rory, you’re brilliant and always a pleasure. Eimear Beemer, what can I say? Thanks.

I know lots of Shane’s friends who would have loved to be there and I’m sorry that I couldn’t have invited you all but we took up way too much space as it was!

The last time I was in Trinity was to hear medical author and journalist Robert Whitaker speak in the Edmund Burke Theatre about how ssri drugs are causing a worldwide epidemic of mental illness. It was also a perfect venue for his lecture as Edmund Burke is most noted for this quote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. That certainly cannot be said of Robert Whitaker. Before the (Packed to capacity) lecture started, as I was a tad early, I approached him, explained who I was and asked him if I could publicly ask him the SSRI suicide/homicide question (I already knew the answer). He laughed and said I would probably get him into trouble but said yes, ask anyway!

During the question and answer session I asked him about SSRI’s causing suicide and homicide; he replied that it is a well known and proven fact that these drugs can cause both and went on to cite examples and cases where the causal effect was proven.


Newspaper and internet articles, psychiatry

A cure worse than the illness?

Robert Whitaker is the same journalist who wrote about Psychiatric drugs associated with violence last month (jan 2011).He is doing two lectures in Dublin this week and next.

This should be an interesting one!

Time to shake up psychiatry in Ireland..

The Irish Times – Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Could psychiatric drugs be fuelling an epidemic of mental illness? Robert Whitaker, the award-winning author of a new book on the subject, raises disturbing questions for psychiatry. CARL O’BRIEN reports

WHEN ROBERT Whitaker, an award-winning medical reporter, came upon a study by the World Health Organisation on outcomes for patients with schizophrenia a few years ago, he was puzzled.

It said the best outcomes were for people from some of the poorest countries in the world – India, Colombia, Nigeria – rather than the richest countries. It didn’t make sense. How could the outcomes be so poor for well-off nations with access to specialist drugs?

“I was startled to find that just a small percentage of patients in those poor countries were on medication for their condition,” says Whitaker.

“At the same time, I discovered that the number of disabled mentally ill in the US had tripled over the past 20 years.”

It prompted a flurry of queries, but they all boiled down to a single, central question: why has the number of people plagued with mental illness problems been skyrocketing at a time when we have access to medicine that is supposed to be more effective than ever before?

The result of Whitaker’s investigation is Anatomy of an Epidemic, the first major book to investigate the long-term outcomes of patients treated with psychiatric drugs. Through thorough research and personal testimonies, he draws a chilling overall conclusion: that the drugs we so widely use may be doing more harm than good.

The book, published last year, is causing a stir in the US and prompting fiery responses from some members of the psychiatric profession. But it is also causing significant numbers of professionals to rethink their approach to prescribing drugs.

“It’s been a slowly, gathering impact. In the US, this is a very sensitive subject and immediately brings up all sorts of tensions,” he says.

Ironically, for an issue which is fast becoming a burning question in psychiatry, the question of how effective psychiatric drugs are over the longer term isn’t a new one.

Whitaker points to a paper by Jonathan Cole – regarded as the father of American psycho-pharmacology – in the 1970s entitled Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease? This indicated that anti-psychotic medication wasn’t the magic bullet that many hoped it was.

Cole reviewed all of the long-term effects the drugs could cause and observed that studies had shown that at least 50 per cent of all schizophrenia patients could fare well without the medication.

“Every schizophrenic outpatient maintained on anti-psychotic medication should have the benefit of an adequate trial without drugs,” Cole wrote at the time.

Whitaker maintains that psychiatry, in effect, shut off further public discussion of this sort. In the 1970s, he says, psychiatry was fighting for survival. The two main classes of drugs – anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines such as Valium – were increasingly regarded as harmful and sales declined.

At the same time, there was a dramatic increase in the number of counsellors and psychologists offering talk therapy and other non-drug based approaches.

“Psychiatry saw itself in competition for patients with these other therapists, and in the late 1970s, the field realised that its advantage in the marketplace was its prescribing powers . . . it consciously sought to tell a public story that would support the use of its medications, and embraced the ‘medical model’ of psychiatric disorders.”

But many studies show that psychiatric drugs – such as anti-depressants – are highly effective. There are tens of thousands of people who will attest to benefits of these drugs. Many say they simply couldn’t survive without them.

Whitaker counters he is not advocating the total avoidance of drugs. The short-term effects of many drugs are clearly beneficial. But, he says, when you look at the long-term impact of them, the literature consistently shows incredibly poor outcomes, with many becoming chronically ill as a result.

Most of these studies, he says, have received little or no coverage or have been “spun” to veil the real findings. It’s not in the interests of psychiatry or the pharmaceutical industry to highlight them.

He says the literature shows that many people can recover without recourse to drugs. As a result, more caution is needed and drugs should be administered more sparingly.

“You have to raise the question of what happens to medicated patients in the long term, compared with what happened in previous times,” he says.

There are obvious lines of attack against Whitaker’s findings: one is that the rise in the number of disabled mentally ill people is not due to medication, but may be due to other factors such as better diagnosis.

Whitaker says: “I agree that the correlation between the two – increased use of psychiatric medications and increased disability numbers – does not mean that the increased use of psychotropics caused the rise. But I never claimed that it did. As I say in the opening chapter of the book, the disability numbers simply raise a question.”

He agrees that the broadening of diagnostic categories has led to an ever-greater number of adults and children under the “psychiatric tent”. But, he maintains, if psychiatric medications were effective long-term treatments which helped people function well, then that increase in diagnosis and treatment shouldn’t lead to a rise in disability. “If you have drugs that exacerbate the long-term course of an ‘illness’ or can transform a milder illness into a more serious one, then the more that illness is diagnosed and treated, the greater the toll that illness will take on society.”

What makes Whitaker’s findings so powerful are that he did not come to this area with the baggage of an anti-drugs zealot or as part of an anti-psychiatry crusade. The opposite was the case.

As a reporter, he remembers investigating a trial involving the withdrawal of drugs from psychiatric patients – in which researchers carefully tallied the number of patients who became sick again and had to be re-hospitalised – and considering the practice to be outrageous and unethical.

“I began this long intellectual journey as a believer in the conventional wisdom,” he says. “I believed psychiatric researchers were discovering the biological causes of mental illnesses and that this knowledge led to the development of a new generation of drugs that helped ‘balance’ brain chemistry.”

There is a way forward, according to Whitaker, and it lies in parts of the world which have the best outcomes.

Western Lapland in Finland has adopted a form of care for its psychotic patients that has produced astonishingly good long-term outcomes, he says.

In follow-up checks after both two and five years, 80 per cent of first- episode psychotic patients in the region were either employed or back at school. Yet only about one-third of the patients were ever exposed to anti-psychotic medication, and only 20 per cent end up taking the drugs on a continual basis.

The questions for psychiatry, then, are urgent. Is our medical model of care really working? Does it help people struggling with psychiatric illness to get well and stay well? Is there a reason to believe the medicating of children will help them grow into healthier adults? As for now, we have lots of questions, but precious few definitive answers.

Robert Whitaker is due to speak at the Edmund Burke Theatre, Arts Building, TCD at 2pm on Saturday and also at the D4 Ballsbridge Inn, Dublin, on March 2nd at 7.30pm (see seminars.ie). He is also due to speak in Athlone and Cork.