Thank God for the BBC! Their reporting has produced enough public pressure to
result in hearings which have lead to action being taking against the SSRI
"This followed a BBC Panorama programme last autumn that highlighted claims
that the drug [Paxil] has pushed some people into suicide and caused others
withdrawal problems, provoking the biggest response in the programme's history
with 67,000 calls and 1,400 e-mails".
"But the ban announced this week by the MHRA on prescribing Seroxat to
under-18-year-olds is the first official acknowledgement that the SSRIs do increase
suicidal thoughts and impulses, at least in the young.
"The outcome of the inquiry could be of momentous significance. Like many
new drugs, the SSRIs are following a familiar trajectory: soaring popularity on
launch as they are hailed as a wonder drug, followed by the emergence of
doubts about safety leading to plummeting prescribing."
But obviously this reporter remains totally unaware of the serious problems
associated with the mechanism of the SSRIs. When you understand the problems
behind the SSRI hypothesis it becomes clear that these are among the most deadly
drugs the world has ever seen and should NEVER be reserved for anyone for any
reason. They are in the same class as LSD and PCP.
As I have continued to state for a decade and a half now what is low in
depression, anxiety, etc., is low serotonin metabolism, not low serotonin. There is
a very big difference in the two! The SSRIs impair serotonin metabolism even
further leading to the deadly results we have witnessed with these drugs -
results that according to research we will witness for years to come as we work
to wean patients off these extremely addictive drugs and assess the extent of
Research over the past 60 years has been clear that impairing serotonin
metabolism leads to: psychosis or schizophrenia, mood disorders, organic brain
disease, mental retardation, autism, impulsive murder and suicide, Alzheimer's,
depression, anxiety, violence, arson, substance abuse, insomnia, violent
nightmares, impulsive behavior with no concern for punishment, reckless driving,
exhibitionism, hostility, argumentative behavior, etc.
We have a high rate of use of these drugs. Clearly lowering the metabolism of
serotonin in such a large number of people can produce very serious,
widespread and long term problems for all of society. I have spent 14 long years
attempting to wake up the world to the potential deadly impact of the use of these
drugs, hopefully this is the beginning of the end.
Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition For Drug Awareness
author of Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?
Our Serotonin Nightmare (800-280-0730)
WHAT PRICE HAPPINESS?
In the early 1990s a range of wonder pills seemed to offer a cure for
depression with no side effects. Now the drugs are in danger of being banned. What
went wrong? Jeremy Laurance reports
12 June 2003
Happiness. It is what everybody wants and nobody knows quite how to get. Some
people are born three drinks ahead of everybody else. Others - the sad, the
grumpy and the withdrawn - have a low enjoyment of life. Then along comes a
little white, torpedo-shaped pill that promises to even out nature's imbalance
and inject a little "joy juice" into those whom happiness had passed by.
It may seem astonishing in the light of safety concerns today, but the
arrival more than a decade ago of the antidepressants Prozac, Seroxat and their
relatives inspired the hope that unhappiness could be banished. The drugs belonged
to a new class of antidepressants that were claimed to be better and have
with fewer side effects than any that had gone before. They held out the promise
of an end to mental suffering.
Such is the burden of misery in the western world that the SSRIs (Selective
Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) have become among the mightiest selling drugs
of all time. Of the 22 million prescriptions written for antidepressants in the
UK last year, most were for SSRIs. Prozac, the best known brand, made by Eli
Lilly, was the world's fastest selling drug until it was outstripped by
Viagra. Seroxat [Paxil], made by GlaxoSmithKline, now outsells Prozac in the UK and
is estimated to have been taken by 17 million people around the world since it
was first licensed in 1990.
However, the warning this week by the Department of Health that Seroxat
should not be prescribed to under-18-year-olds because it can provoke suicidal
thoughts and impulses could be the first seismic signal of a major earthquake.
The warning comes from the expert panel appointed last month by the Medicines
and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to review the safety of
Seroxat. This followed a BBC Panorama programme last autumn that highlighted
claims that the drug has pushed some people into suicide and caused others
withdrawal problems, provoking the biggest response in the programme's history with
67,000 calls and 1,400 e-mails.
The expert panel has met twice and is due to meet three to four more times
before producing a report that is to be published later this year. If it finds
that Seroxat causes similar problems in adults to those already identified in
young people, as thousands of users have claimed, it will lead to a serious
reappraisal of the use of Seroxat and the other SSRIs. After more than a decade
in which it seemed as if medicine might vanquish misery, it is the drug
companies who are feeling miserable.
Wind back a decade to Wenatchee, a small American town in Washington State,
once known only for its apples. In the mid-1990s it acquired a new, more
dubious claim to fame: as the Prozac capital of the world.
Peter Kramer had already published Listening to Prozac, in which he described
the drug as a "mood brightener" that could lift the episodically down moods
of those who are not clinically depressed without causing euphoria or the side
effects associated with energy boosting drugs such as amphetamines. It was Dr
Kramer who asked why a person born with too little "joy juice", but who falls
short of being clinically depressed, should not be given more.
James Goodwin was one of those who was persuaded by Dr Kramer. A psychologist
in Wenatchee, he claimed to have prescribed Prozac, or a close equivalent, to
every one of his 700 patients. He argued that everyone is depressed - they
just didn't realise it until they took the drug. He became known as the Pied
Piper of Prozac.
Even then, in 1994, Dr Goodwin was opposed by a group of patients called the
Prozac Survivors Support Group, who claimed the drug could cause personality
changes and violent behaviour.
He was also taken to task by a psychiatrist, Peter Breggin, who argued
against the widescale prescribing of antidepressants on moral grounds. He was
against treating all kinds of misery and wanted suffering reinstated as an
acceptable and necessary fact of life. While this represented the extreme end of the
debate about the uses to which the new antidepressants might be put, it
illustrated an important point about the SSRIs. They were regarded as so clean, safe
and effective that non-medical reasons had to be found for not using them.
In 1992 the Royal College of Psychiatrists to launch its Defeat Depression
campaign. Here was a new type of antidepressant that did not leave you with a
leathery tongue, a sluggish gut and cotton wool between your ears.
Depression causes enormous suffering and takes the lives of over 4,000 people
a year, many of them young, by suicide. Prozac and its relatives looked like
the answer that psychiatrists and their patients had dreamed of.
This is the serious part of the Prozac story and the reason why these SSRIs
are important additions to the pharmaceutical armamentarium. Depression is a
serious illness. It is not the same as ordinary sadness. Divorce, redundancy,
bereavement all cause sadness, but it is when the sadness cannot be shaken off
that it acquires the label of depression (though it can also occur without any
Depression drains the pleasure, as well as the point, from life. People in
its grip lose the sense of their own value, and then of the value of anything.
They fear being taken for malingerers and feel to blame for their condition.
The shame adds to the depression.
Fear of the stigma of mental illness and professional reluctance to
investigate emotional problems conspire to keep the suffering hidden. The Royal College
of Psychiatrists argued that much of the suffering was unnecessary because
with the advent of the SSRIs effective, and acceptable, treatment was now
The SSRIs are not mere lifestyle drugs. They are life-savers. But that is not
the way they have been portrayed. As prescribing of Prozac and its relatives
rose, so did headlines mocking this "pill popping nation".
One of our most serious social ills is our unreasonable fear of psychoactive
drugs. Most people have no difficulty with the insulin given to diabetics to
control their glucose level, but suggest a pill to boost serotonin levels and
they react as if confronted by a drug pusher.
The common view is that people should be able to cope without such chemical
aids. Put another way, they should pull their socks up. That is to ignore the
mind-numbing paralysis caused by depression. Yet it is true that the
exaggerated hopes for the SSRIs made them easier for doctors to hand out. For a busy GP
confronted with the sixth depressed patient of the morning, the promise of a
safe, effective drug made it simple to reach for the prescription pad.
Many doctors claim that while genuine depression still goes untreated because
of the stigma, there are many other patients who are not clinically depressed
who are being inappropriately treated with the drugs. In any treatment,
doctors have to assess the balance of risk and benefit - the more serious the
illness, the greater the risk that can be tolerated. As the threshold for treatment
has lowered, so the importance of the risks of the SSRIs has increased.
Last autumn, Colin Whitfield, a retired headmaster aged 56, locked himself in
his garden shed in Wales and cut both his wrists while his daughter was
asleep in the house. He left no note and in the days before had given no sign that
he meant to take his life. He had recently been prescribed Seroxat.
His wife, Kathryn, told Brecon coroner's court that the act was so out of
character he could not have been in his right mind and she had "no doubt that it
was the drug that caused him to do it". The coroner, Geraint Williams, was so
alarmed by the case that he wrote to Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for
Health, asking him to hold an inquiry into Seroxat "and consider whether it
should be withdrawn from sale in the UK".
That inquiry is now under way, following similar reports and other evidence
amassed over more than a decade. The charge is that these SSRIs cause some
patients to become extremely agitated and potentially violent or suicidal when
they first start taking the drugs, while others suffer withdrawal symptoms when
they try to stop them. One self-help organisation, the Seroxat Users Group, has
4,000 members who claim to have direct experience of problems with the drugs
or are relatives of people who have had.
A central problem for the inquiry is disentangling the effects of the drugs
from the effects of the condition they are given to treat. Depression is the
main cause of suicide and the makers of the SSRIs maintain that their drugs have
been unfairly blamed.
But the ban announced this week by the MHRA on prescribing Seroxat to
under-18-year-olds is the first official acknowledgement that the SSRIs do increase
suicidal thoughts and impulses, at least in the young. The biology of
adolescents is said to be different from that of adults, but at the press conference
called to announce the ban, Jonathan Chick, a consultant psychiatrist at the
Royal Edinburgh Hospital and a member of the Seroxat inquiry panel, admitted
there could be problems in adults too. It always puzzled him, he said, why suicide
rates in adults taking Seroxat were not lower than among those taking
placebo, when he would have expected them to be lower given the beneficial effect of
the drugs on depression.
The outcome of the inquiry could be of momentous significance. Like many new
drugs, the SSRIs are following a familiar trajectory: soaring popularity on
launch as they are hailed as a wonder drug, followed by the emergence of doubts
about safety leading to plummeting prescribing.
The hope must be that use of the SSRIs will eventually arrive at a plateau
where their risks and limitations are recognised and they are reserved for
serious illness. If Seroxat and its relatives were lost it would be a tragedy. If
they are saved it will be a lesson in the dangers of hype.