The Trial Lawyer Summer 2018 - Page 52

especially from long-term use , have barely been researched or explored and are often dismissed by older patients as mere “ aging .”
The wide use of SSRIs in the U . S . population does not just have health implications — it has political implications , too . By selling “ depression ” and its “ cure ,” Pharma siphons off legitimate , activist anger at a government system that keeps people poor , powerless , locked out of opportunity and saddled with debt . If they are unhappy , they have a personal problem says Pharma , treated with a pill — not a political problem .
Labeling bad and sad moods “ depression ” also transmits an unrealistic idea that people should be “ more than happy ” all the time and if they are not , they are “ mentally ill .” Gone are the days when bad moods were attributed to problems with finance , romance , debt , jobs , housing , careers , family , marriages and health .
Pharma Backlash
In April , the New York Times reported something the drug safety community has warned about for years : antidepressants can be very difficult to quit . In fact , the withdrawal from them — which Pharma calls a “ discontinuation syndrome ” — is similar to that of addictive drugs . Many patients are miffed that they were not warned by their doctors they may be “ parked ” on the drugs indefinitely , said the Times , thanks to side effects of dizziness , nausea , headache and brain zaps which do not go away quickly when they try to stop the drugs . Brian , a 29-yearold Chicagoan I interviewed who did not want his name used , told me he has remained on a SSRI antidepressant for years despite his wish to quit .
“ Every time I try to stop , I get something that feels like an electrical current in my head and I can ’ t do it ,” he says .
The article drew a huge backlash from psychiatrists from Pharma-funded medical schools .
“ By amplifying the social media echo chamber , the article creates the unfortunate impression that most patients are forced to continue antidepressants out of fear of withdrawal rather than out of prevention of recurrence ,” wrote 39 psychiatrists , terming depression “ chronic ” and “ undertreated .”
At least 35 of the letter signers who want to see more , not less SSRIs are affiliated with Columbia University ’ s College of Physicians and Surgeons , which received $ 250 million from former Merck CEO Roy Vagelos and his wife Diana last year . There was a similar Pharma-funded backlash in 2004 when the FDA added a black box warning label to SSRIs that said they are linked to suicide , especially in young people , threatening drug sales .
“ The concerns about antidepressant use in children and adolescents have paradoxically resulted in a reduction in their use , and this has contributed to increased suicide rates ,” said Charles Nemeroff , who happened to have links to Eli Lilly , Pfizer , Wyeth-Ayerst , Pharmacia-Upjohn and five other drug makers .
Black box warnings create a barrier to treatment “ by scaring young people and parents away from care ,” said Mental Health America , reported to have accepted $ 3.8 million from pharmaceutical companies in 2005 the year after the black box warnings .
Doctors promoting SSRIs in medical articles have also been outed as taking money from Pharma . Doctor-authors who had defended the use of antidepressants during pregnancy in a 2006 Journal of the American Medical Association ( JAMA ) article had ties to antidepressant manufacturers . Lee Cohen , lead author of the antidepressants study , declared in a follow-up letter to JAMA that , “ We did not view those associations as relevant to this study ,” and listed 76 other relationships the nine physician authors had with Pharma .
Yes , 76 . Three years later another JAMA author was found to have undisclosed financial links to SSRI makers . Robert Robinson , who wrote about the drug Lexapro , had failed to report lecture fees he received from its manufacturer .
Martin Keller , former professor emeritus of psychiatry at Brown and lead author of a now discredited Paxil study , admitted that GSK had given him tens of thousands of dollars during and after the study .
Environmental Concerns
Finally , with as much as a quarter of the population on SSRIs in some areas , there is an underreported concern about drugs in waterways and even drinking systems . A few years ago , the Southern Daily Echo News reported that fish were under the influence of Prozac and five times more likely to swim toward light than away from it , making them also more susceptible to predators .
Shrimp are also believed to be at risk .
“ Crustaceans are crucial to the food chain and if shrimps ’ natural behaviour is being changed because of antidepressant levels in the sea this could seriously upset the natural balance of the ecosystem ,” says Dr . Alex Ford , from the University of Portsmouth ’ s Institute of Marine Sciences .
Could those of us who do not want to take psychiatric drugs be unwittingly receiving SSRIs anyway , perhaps in drinking water ?
“ There ’ s no doubt about it , pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds , in the small concentrations that they ’ re at , could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms ,” said Mary Buzby , director of environmental technology for Merck .
Clearly , Pharma ’ s SSRI marketing spree which has millions of people on SSRIs for decades does not just threaten patients .
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