June 30 2016
Last Friday, 42-year-old Christy Sheats (left) shot dead her two daughters at the family home in Fulshear, Texas. When police officers arrived, Christy refused to put down her gun and was shot dead by an officer.
Christy and her husband Jason Sheats had recently reunited after being separated, and the shooting took place on Jason’s birthday. 17-year-old Madison died at the scene, while her elder sister Taylor (22) died later in hospital. Jason was uninjured.
Christy was a business manager at a laser tattoo removal clinic. After the incident, one of the neighbours said: “‘The mother was nice. You wouldn’t expect if they told you this is what was going to happen. They never showed any kind of thing that was wrong with them whatsoever.”
He continued: “Mr. Sheats stated Christy knew how much he loved Taylor (far right) and Madison (near right) and how much they loved him. Mr. Sheats will have to live the rest of his life with this horrible memory…She accomplished what she set out to do, which was to make him suffer.”
Sheriff Nehls said that Jason (left) had told police that his wife of more than 20 years was suffering from depression. Christy had begun a “downward spiral” after the 2012 death of her beloved grandfather, from whom she received the gun. Her mother died two months later, worsening her condition. She was taking numerous prescription medications and seeing a therapist, and had been admitted to a private mental health facility three times in recent years.
In another report, one of Taylor’s friends said that Taylor “was very on edge about her mom having a gun with a mental illness,” and that Christy was in the process of switching medications.
June 17 2016
Sixth-form student Joseph Barber (17) was noted for his outstanding talent as a designer and computer programmer. In February, he died when he was hit by a train just after midnight near Hinton Admiral in the New Forest.
At his inquest this week, Joseph’s mother said that his girlfriend wanted to take a break from their relationship because she thought Joe’s cannabis use was becoming a problem.
The court also heard from psychiatrist Dr Adrian Marsden, who said that Joseph was depressed and had suicidal thoughts. His statement that Joseph was “receiving psychiatric treatment” can, in all probability, be taken to mean that he had been prescribed antidepressants.
Coroner Simon Burge (left) recorded a conclusion of death by suicide, adding: “Despite what Joe may have thought, the world is not a better place without him. I can think of no-one who is personally responsible for Joe’s death. This was his decision and his alone.”
Perhaps the coroner, a lawyer specialising in divorces, is unaware of akathisia, a condition that often precedes a drug-induced, self-inflicted death such as Joseph’s, and which removes completely the ability to make any sort of decision.
June 13 2016
Last week, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) published their investigation into children’s rights in the UK. The Guardian reported on it, under the headline “Poorer children disproportionately affected by austerity measures”.
Sections 59-62 of the report dealt with mental health. Here, the committee voiced their concerns over the treatment of ADHD:
They reported that ”The actual number of children that are given methylphenidate or other psychotropic drugs is not available”, and that: “There is reportedly a significant increase in the prescription of psycho-stimulants and psychotropic drugs to children with behavioural problems, including for children under 6 years of age, despite growing evidence of the harmful effects of these drugs.”
One of their recommendations was to: “Ensure that prescription of drugs is used as a measure of last resort and only after an individualized assessment of the best interests of that child, and that children and their parents are properly informed about the possible side effects of this medical treatment and about non-medical alternatives.”
It is clear that drugs like Ritalin are being vastly over-prescribed in the UK as a means of behaviour modification. Not only are they ineffective, but they have been shown to lead to conditions like bipolar disorder via what Robert Whitaker (left) called “The ADHD to Bipolar Pathway”.
June 11 2016
An inquest earlier this week heard that Shanice had been diagnosed with post-natal depression after the birth of her first child in 2010.
Her mother Sharon said: “She sought help and took medication which didn’t seem to have any effect. She would stay in and her moods would go through peaks and troughs. It went on for four years but we didn’t feel she was getting the help she needed.”
In the weeks leading up to her death, Sharon said that Shanice’s mood deteriorated further, and that she knew something was wrong with her daughter when the family dog of 13 years died and she didn’t react. “Shanice loved animals and, normally, she would be in pieces, but she didn’t react at all. All she wanted to do was sleep in a dark room with no TV or radio on.”
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner John Gittins (left) highlighted a lack of communication and co-ordination between agencies and said: “I am not fully persuaded that everything that can be done has been done.”
June 8 2016
The twins had been to a party, but Heather returned home early. At the party, Heather told her friend Shannon that she had wanted to die but that she was glad that she pulled herself out of it.
The twins’ mother Paula told yesterday’s inquest in Manchester that, a few months previously, Heather became anxious. She stopped going to college and spent a lot of time at home. She was prescribed antidepressants.
Her mood then seemed to improve a bit, she appeared to have a bit more energy, and she went out with Shannon and Heidi a few times.
Paula told the inquest: “Around four weeks before she died, she began taking antidepressants again because she started to feel low again.”
Concluding the inquest with a verdict of suicide, coroner Fiona Borrill said: “I know when the deceased has taken their own life it’s very hard for the family members and friends. You will constantly be saying ‘what if, what if’, but please don’t blame yourselves in any way whatsoever.”
June 3 2016
26-year-old law student Carl Langdell (left) first had contact with Katie Locke via a dating site last December. Two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Carl strangled Katie in a Hertfordshire hotel room. He then took photographs of her, wrapped her in bedding, and dumped her in undergrowth next to a skip.
Carl had told Katie that he owned his own law firm, whereas he had been in psychiatric hospitals for the past two years.
Katie (right), a 23-year-old teacher, had told friends of her plans and, when she was not responding to phone calls, a friend messaged Carl on Facebook. Carl’s address was given to Katie’s father, who drove round to his house. Carl’s mother came out of the house and said she had just spoken to her son who told her he had killed a girl. Mr Locke immediately called the police.
Before the police arrived, Carl said to his mother: “I am a monster. I put her in the ground, I wrapped her up in a quilt. I put her in a trolley.”
After Carl was arrested, he let officers know where Katie’s body was. He told them: “She didn’t even fight. I expected her to hit out or something.”
At yesterday’s trial, it was reported that toxicology results revealed that Carl had antidepressants in his system.
June 2 2016
Katinka’s website to accompany her book (below), also entitled The Pill That Steals Lives, is now online. Katinka states that the site is “dedicated to help people publicise their stories to promote public awareness of the deadly side effects of antidepressants and antipsychotics.”
May 14 2016
On Wednesday, I met my friend Katinka (left) at a conference in Parliament. She told me that her autobiographical book, The Pill That Steals Lives, will be published on July 7th. Here is the “blurb”, as printed on the back cover of the book:
While going through a divorce, documentary filmmaker Katinka Blackford Newman took an antidepressant. Not unusual – except that things didn’t turn out quite as she expected. She went into a four-day toxic psychosis with violent hallucinations, imagining she had killed her children, and in fact attacking herself with a knife.
Caught up in a real-life nightmare when doctors didn’t realise she was suffering side effects of more pills, she went into a year-long decline. Soon she was wandering around in an old dressing gown, unable to care for herself, and dribbling. She nearly lost everything, but luck stepped in; treated at another hospital, she was taken off all the medication and made a miraculous recovery within weeks.
By publicising her story, Katinka went on to make some startling discoveries. Could there really be thousands around the world who kill themselves and others from these drugs? What of the billions of dollars in settlements paid out by drug companies? Could they really be the cause of world mass killings, such as the Germanwings pilot who took an airliner down, killing 150, while on exactly the same medication as the author when she became psychotic? And how come so many people are taking these drugs when experts say they are no more effective than a sugar-coated pill for people like her, who are distressed rather than depressed?
Moving, frightening and at times funny, this is the story of how a single mum in Harlesden, North-West London, juggles life and her quest for love in order to investigate Big Pharma.
For more information visit www.thepillthatsteals.com
May 7 2016
Today’s Daily Mail reported that, shortly after midnight on April 8th, 19-year-old McCann Utu Jr called 911 from his home in Plano, Texas, to report that he had committed a murder. When officers attended the scene, they found the bodies of McCann’s mother Stacy Fawcett (left) and his brother Josiah (17). Both had been stabbed several times. McCann died later in hospital from self-inflicted knife wounds.
A toxicology report found that he had not consumed any illicit drugs, although prescribed antidepressants were found in his blood.
A family member said that McCann (right) underwent a change in personality after he suffered two concussions. The first incident happened in autumn 2013 in a basketball match, while the second, more damaging injury, occurred a few months later during an altercation with another student. Following the second incident, McCann missed out on school and went to the doctor regularly. A friend added that McCann began to isolate himself, and that his behaviour changed.
After the post-mortem, McCann’s family released his brain to determine whether he had developed the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which afflicts the brain of people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries, such as athletes who take part in contact sports or members of the armed forces.
April 27 2016
On January 14th of this year, 35-year-old David Edmunds (left) went to a hardware shop in his home town of St Albans, and bought a tow rope and some anti-freeze. He returned home, but left later that evening. David’s family, who were away at the time, became concerned and contacted the police. His details were made known on social media and, over the next few days, volunteers helped police officers to search for him.
Six days after David disappeared, his body was found hanged in nearby woodland.
At this week’s inquest, coroner Graham Danbury read a letter from David’s GP which outlined how he began a course of treatment for depression in 2006. In May 2012 his prescription was changed, with his GP reducing his dosage of antidepressants. When David saw his doctor again on January 11th this year, his dosage was increased.
The coroner concluded that he was satisfied that David deliberately intended that his actions would prove fatal, especially given his background history of depression, and recorded a verdict of suicide.
Apparently, Mr Danbury chose to ignore the significant fact that that David’s antidepressant dosage was increased just three days before the probable day of his self-inflicted death.
April 21 2016
Two disturbing statements concerning the psychiatric treatment of children in the UK were reported in Irish newspapers yesterday.
The first came from the Irish Examiner, reporting on a conference held in Dublin the previous day.
One of the speakers, play therapist and counsellor Gayle Kearney (right), claimed that: “Some pre-school children are being prescribed medication to treat anxiety and stress.”
Gayle told the audience: “There are higher rates of childhood stress now being observed. There seems to be less free playtime — less time for a child to be a child by getting out and de-stress through natural play. We find that children are going into school and finding it difficult to concentrate or co-operate when they are asked to do something.”
Gayle said that children who had lost connection with their emotions needed help to re-establish it and feel good about themselves again.
“In Britain, there are children under one year of age on anti-anxiety medication, and there is a fear that will happen in Ireland as well,” she said, adding that she knew some pre-school children who had been prescribed medication to help them sleep because of stress and anxiety.
Gale is co-founder of Wipe Out Worries, play therapy-based groups for children and young people. “We help children turn their negative thoughts into positive ones but it is all done through games and activities,” she said.
Meanwhile, a report in the Irish Times revealed that a 16-year-old anorexic Irish girl with severe depression is to receive up to 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the UK. The girl has previously been treated for her condition both in Ireland and in the UK.
Judge Peter Kelly (left), president of the High Court of Ireland, ordered the therapy for the girl who, he was told, is a high achiever whose depressive illness has become so severe that she has self-harmed and wants to die.
The judge was satisfied that it was a rare case in which ECT was “not only warranted but demanded” because all other medication, support and psychotherapy have not succeeded in improving her condition.
He was told that its success rates in dealing with severe depression were between 50 and 70 per cent and that side effects appeared to be limited to some memory loss for the patient. The court heard that the risks of an adverse reaction from the girl would be no greater than in most cases.
In granting the orders sought by the HSE, the judge concluded that “the advantages of ECT far outweigh its disadvantages.” He did not appear to consider that, as is the case with so many children, the girl’s condition may well have been exacerbated by the medication has she had been prescribed.
April 11 2016
Nicola released a picture (right) of Olivia in hospital, taken shortly after she took an overdose of medication, her 4th suicide attempt in 7 weeks.
Nicola said: “It’s the most horrendous feeling of panic, anger, worry and concern to know your child has tried to kill themselves. It’s like a pressure cooker waiting for her to do something else, wondering what’s going to happen next. Her doctor told us they should have 25 mental health staff but they have five. It’s appalling.”
Olivia (left) spent six months in an eating disorder clinic after she was diagnosed with anorexia last year. Her mental state has deteriorated, but she gets just an hour a week with a therapist and has been prescribed antidepressants.
She has been admitted repeatedly to A&E for suicidal thoughts, self-harming and overdosing. On her last admission to Leighton Hospital, Crewe, Olivia attempted to take her life after waiting 5 days to be seen by a mental health professional.
March 23 2016
Sky News reported from the USA yesterday that, in Fort Worth, Texas, 31-year-old Sofya Tsygankova (right) has been charged with the murder of her daughters Nika (5) and Michela (1).
The children’s father is the internationally renowned pianist Vadym Kholodenko, originally from Ukraine.
When he went to collect the children from his estranged wife, Vadym found Sofya covered in blood on the floor of the master bedroom, rocking back and forth and making noises. She had wounds to her chest and wrist.
In the house, police discovered an empty bottle of an anti-psychotic drug, Quetiapine, that Sofya had apparently just been prescribed. They also found three prescription bottles of antidepressants and some medication to treat anxiety.
“Did I do anything bad to my kids?” she asked police officers.
Meanwhile, in Manchester this week, musician John Martin (48) was sentenced to life imprisonment after beating and strangling his wife, 38-year-old world-renowned pianist Natalia Strelchenko (right), originally from Russia.
At his trial, John claimed that he had no memory of pushing Natalia, falling down the stairs or of the struggle that followed. He had taken a combination of alcohol and Diazepam, which he said he had mistaken for his antidepressant medication.
When police arrived at their home on August 30th last year, John repeatedly said: “Kill me, kill me please, I have nothing to live for, I do not deserve to live.”
March 22 2016
The majority of the article is devoted to an interview with Stephanie and John (right) from Dublin, parents of 14-year-old Jake McGill Lynch who took his life after being prescribed Fluoxetine for pre-exam anxiety. Jake’s story can also be found elsewhere on this site, along with articles about the extraordinary attempts by the HSE (Irish Health Service) to hijack Jake’s inquest, and the subsequent support for Jake’s family shown by the Irish Parliament.
In his report, Jerome (left) includes contributions from Peter Gøtzsche, Joanna Moncrieff and David Healy, as well as this sentence: “A bereaved father who has searched coroner reports dating back ten years, claims he’s found 3,600 suicides involving antidepressants, 70 of them children. (The father, who wishes to remain anonymous, has posted his findings on the website antidepaware.co.uk).”
After further research, the total has now exceeded 4000 but, even so, is almost certainly well below 20% of the actual number of self-inflicted deaths during this period, by adults and children, that are linked to use of antidepressants.
March 12 2016
25-year-old accountant Duncan Hodgetts (right) from Solihull was a graduate from Durham University who, since 2011, had worked as a tax advisor for Ernst & Young in Birmingham.
On March 29th last year, Duncan flew to New York to begin a prestigious placement at his employers’ Times Square office. A week later, he died when he fell from his 14th floor apartment in the Executive Plaza (left).
At his inquest in Birmingham yesterday, it was revealed that, although Duncan loved foreign travel and going on trips with the firm, he had previously suffered with anxiety and panic attacks. He was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, and had already tried to take his life in August 2013, after which he had counselling.
A colleague who was mentored by Duncan said: “Initially he seemed quite bubbly, quite chatty and funny. But over the next few months there was a change, and by January he was suddenly reserved, quiet and kept himself to himself. In the last day in the office he was teary. He said he felt like this a few years ago and he got over it.”
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Louise Hunt (right) said: “It is an awful tragedy. He had been offered a placement in New York, and he was obviously a very bright man who was succeeding. But he also was the type of man who kept things to himself.”
March 10 2016
After yesterday’s revelation that the WHO is alarmed by the sharp rise in the prescription of antidepressants to children (see below), today’s Daily Mail included an article by Harriet Hernando (left) which featured the stories of three young people who survived the devastating side effects of antidepressants.
The first of these was Danny Bowman (right) from Northumberland, who was prescribed antidepressants while on the waiting list to access therapy through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
He said: “I was given antidepressants when I was 15 as a crutch, while I waited four months to see a psychologist. It was scary being put on tablets for the first time and looking back, I don’t think it was the right thing to do.
“I took them for one year, but I don’t think they helped me at all. In fact they only made me feel more depressed. It would have been better if therapy had been available straight away.”
Danny, now 21, was later diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder. He stopped taking medication and is currently seeing a therapist.
She said: “I wasn’t warned I could experience such intrusive thoughts. Because anti-depressants are classed as the ‘happy pill’ I thought that that was how I would feel all the time. But it couldn’t have been further from the reality. I felt nothing, just numb, neither happy or sad. The worst thing was, I became heavily dependent on them. When it came to withdrawing from them, it was hell. I was experiencing sweats, sickness, and suicidal thoughts.
“I’m not against medication as it can bring normality to some people’s lives, but I don’t think they should be dished out like Smarties. They can have serious consequences – especially on a child’s developing brain. I’m convinced that I now have short term memory loss as a result of those five years I spent on medication.’
Sarah, now 22, was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, accessing appropriate therapy last year.
She said: “They just handed them straight over as if to say, ‘take this and you will be fine.’ I wasn’t given any information on what the side effects would be and, as a child, I just did as I was told; I didn’t question it. I started to have suicidal thoughts – something I’d never experienced before. I didn’t understand why I was feeling that way, or that it could be a side effect of the medication.”
Laura then had to wait six months before she was able to talk to a therapist from CAMHS.
March 9 2016
The BBC reported this morning that The World Health Organization (WHO) was concerned about the 54% rise in the number of children in the UK who were prescribed antidepressants between 2005 and 2012. The WHO study also showed rises in Denmark (60%), Germany (49%), the US (26%) and the Netherlands (17%) during the same period.
Dr Shekhar Saxena (right), director of mental health for the WHO, said the research raises serious questions. He said: “Antidepressant use amongst young people is and has been a matter of concern because of two reasons. One, are more people being prescribed antidepressants without sufficient reason? And second, can antidepressants do any major harm?”
Another concern for the WHO is the prevalence of off-label prescriptions, where children are given drugs which are not licensed for use by under-18s.
Dr Saxena said: “These are medicines which have not been tried amongst young people, have no justification for being used widely in young people. There are legal regulations and professional guidelines and off-label use of drugs many times crosses both of them. That’s something the World Health Organisation is very concerned about.”
“My doctor put me on the antidepressants really after a five-minute consultation,” he explained. “I wasn’t offered counselling or anything like that, it was straight in.”
Five years on, George is still taking antidepressants despite concerns over their impact on him.
“I was terrified; I still am terrified of medication, because of how bad it has made me feel,” he said. “You almost feel forgotten about.”
Dr Rebecca Payne (right), of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), claimed that GPs are now abiding by the NICE guidelines, with antidepressants being prescribed at specialist level. Reading the stories of The Lost Children does not bear this out.
Dr Saxena said that further studies were needed to look at how and when antidepressants are being used with children, and for how long.
“There is no reason for many years of prescriptions being continuously given,” he said. “Adolescents and young people are in the phase of development; they develop out of everything, including their own depression.”
February 12 2016
After Jack had been found hanged in his flat last year, Julie wrote an article for the Sunday Times which was then reviewed by the Guardian. In the article, Julie said that Jack had spent the past 10 years in a “cycle of hope and despair”, having been on and off antidepressants since he was checked into the Priory clinic in London when aged 19.
Julie went on to say that Jack (left) had stopped using antidepressants after reading “holistic hippie rubbish on the internet” about possible side-effects. At the same time, she said, he was “consuming filthy street drugs by the bucketful”.
She wrote: “In my opinion, people with extreme mental health issues should be forcibly injected with the medication which helps them – screw human rights. How grotesque that the state incessantly nannies and lectures and taxes the non-mad over what they ingest, and lets the insane do as they please!”
At today’s inquest, a police officer stated that no illicit drugs were found in Jack’s room.
His GP said that Jack had been to her surgery twice in the weeks before his death. She prescribed medication for him, after he complained that he was stressed and not able to sleep.
A post-mortem and toxicology results found that antidepressants were in Jack’s body when he died.
Coroner Andrew Walker gave a conclusion of suicide by hanging.
February 8 2016
Today’s Worcester News included a report on the inquests of Daniel Fedec and his girlfriend Malgorzata Marczak (right).
The inquest heard how, in October last year, 21-year-old factory worker Daniel battered 29-year-old Malgorzata with a paving stone, then strangled her in their bedroom, before hanging himself in the garage.
A police investigation discovered that at some time before their deaths, Daniel had seen a GP, who prescribed medication for depression.
The couple had been together for about six months, and there were no reports of violence in their relationship, either from witnesses or on the police system. As the couple were both Polish, international checks were also carried out which also showed no history of domestic violence.
On his way home on October 5th, Daniel met a friend who described his behaviour as “unusual and out of character.” The friend said that Daniel did not talk as much as he normally did and stared straight ahead, not making eye contact with him.
A police officer told the inquest: “We have done extensive enquiries and we don’t have a clear motive as to why he might have carried that out.”
A post-mortem on Daniel revealed that there was no evidence of any pre-existing natural disease, and no drugs or alcohol in his system, apart from the antidepressants that he had been prescribed.
Coroner Geraint Williams (right) said: “At some point shortly before October 6th, Miss Marczak was strangled at the home she shared with Mr Fedec and Mr Fedec was hanged in the garage of those premises.” He added: “It appears clear to me that Malgorzata Marczak was killed unlawfully and Mr Fedec took his own life.”
February 8 2016
In 2006, when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy, Chris Hardman came to prominence on the TV programme Rock School. Later that year, under his stage name Lil’ Chris (left), he went on to have a hit single with Checkin’ It Out, from his self-titled album. Two years later, he presented a TV series entitled Everybody Loves Lil’ Chris.
In March last year, at the age of 24, Chris hanged himself at his flat in Suffolk.
On the morning of his death, Chris attempted to contact his GP and mental health workers about concerns with his medication, but the inquest was told that there was no indication that he posed an immediate risk to himself. He was found later that day when his flatmate returned.
February 1 2016
In September of last year, however, Raymond began to have unfounded fears about an investment that he thought may have gone wrong. As a result, he suffered anxiety and, during his downturn, he lost weight, was not sleeping and appeared confused.
At the end of October, Raymond went to see his GP, who prescribed antidepressants.
A week later, Raymond attacked Christine with a knife, cutting her throat. A post-mortem also confirmed a fractured spine and manual strangulation. Raymond then died due to an incision in his neck and stab wounds to his chest.
After the tragedy, a neighbour said: “We all know that the couple were warm, caring and very friendly and were extremely well thought of.”
At last Friday’s inquest, coroner Chris Dorries (left) concluded that Christine was unlawfully killed and Mr Massey took his own life. He said: “There are no nice words I can say in this situation…anxiety overtakes people.”
Mr Dorries therefore attributed the two deaths to anxiety, rather than to an adverse reaction to medication with inextricable links to homicide and suicide, that Raymond should never have been prescribed.
On April 8th 2013, 25-year-old Callum Brown (right) hanged himself in his cell at Highpoint Prison in Suffolk. He was serving a short-term prison sentence for breaching a restraining order. Last week, a jury found that “multiple failures” contributed to the death.
The court heard that Callum “received help with his mental health at the prison” and had been on prescribed antidepressants until his death. He was assessed as “at risk” after a suicide attempt in October. He had further appointments with the mental health team, the final one being on November 22nd, 19 weeks before his death. After that time, Callum made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain an appointment with the mental health team.
On the day of his death, prison officer Paul Honour failed to carry out a 6.45am observation on Callum’s welfare, despite subsequently recording a check on the relevant document. In his evidence, Mr Honour revealed that he himself was receiving treatment for depression at the time which he said contributed to his not doing the check. He said, “I don’t know why I didn’t do the check, because I normally would have,” and told the jury that he no longer worked for the prison service.
The jury found that Callum received no notification of any mental health appointments after his contact with his mental health nurse ceased in November 2012 and that this had contributed to his death. They also found that his antidepressant medication had not been monitored adequately.
January 31 2016
The biggest scandals go on for years because they are so huge that nobody notices them. We stand and watch outrageous things going on, thinking that everything is all right because nobody else is making a fuss… …But, just as banks and investors were willing – if blinkered – accomplices in the mad folly that ripped the West’s economy to bits eight years ago, many doctors and decent men and women are complicit in the Great Happy Pills Delusion.
Doctors can get plenty of rewards from drug companies for promoting their pills. Invitations to conferences at five-star hotels, with diving, golf and fishing laid on are not unknown. Others are paid to write apparently unbiased articles in medical journals praising a company’s drugs.
But even those who don’t accept this are often relieved to have something, anything, to prescribe to the dozens of unhappy patients who seek their help. If they and the patient believe these pills work, then, in a way, they will. So would inert pills made of chalk, as it happens.
And so the patients, too, are recruited into the ‘antidepressants saved me from misery’ campaign. There’ll be some in every street and workplace, given that more than 53 million prescriptions for these drugs are dispensed in the UK to about four million people every year.
The trouble is that rigorous science, in which they are tested against sugar pills, increasingly doubts that they do work. And, worse still, there is worrying evidence that the side effects of some of these drugs may be very serious indeed.
Now, in the respected pages of the British Medical Journal, comes a stinging report, carefully analysing 70 trials of ‘antidepressants’, which found that some common drugs of this kind actually double the risk of suicide and aggressive behaviour in under-18s.
This, by the way, does not mean that adults are unaffected. The drug companies’ research repeatedly under-reported deaths and episodes of self-harm by tested patients.
A drug that does not really work is one thing. A drug whose users harm themselves (or others) is another.
The vast extent of this problem and the huge sums of NHS money spent on it may make media and politicians think it must be all right. But they thought the same about sub-prime mortgages. And it was not all right. Nor is this.
January 28 2016
An article by Sarah Knapton is the lead story on the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph, and bears the headline “Depression drugs make suicide more likely”. The article follows the study called “Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment”, carried out by the Nordic Cochrane Centre and published in yesterday’s British Medical Journal.
After comparing clinical trial information to actual patient reports, the scientists found that pharmaceutical companies had regularly misclassified deaths and suicidal events in people taking antidepressants to “favour their products“. An analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants – involving more than 18,000 people – found that they doubled the risk of suicide and aggressive behaviour in under 18s. Although a similarly stark link was not seen in adults, the authors said that misreporting of trial data could have led to a “serious under-estimation of the harms.”
Professor Peter Gøtzsche (right), the lead author from the Nordic Cochrane Centre said: “Antidepressants don’t work in children, that is pretty clear. In the randomised trials children say that they don’t work for them, but they increase their risk of suicide. What I get out of this colossal under-reporting of suicides is that SSRIs likely increase suicides in all ages. It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”
As a consequence of an exchange of emails between Sarah (left) and myself yesterday afternoon, there are references to AntiDepAware in the online version of her report, which also features an edited version of the article I wrote after the inquest of scientist Margaret Tisdale.
January 23 2016
Subsequently, Jack’s mother Frances McCormack (right), who worked as a school cook, was asked to pay a “bedroom tax”. She was asked to repay some of her housing benefit under rules drawn up by the Government for tenants in council or housing association houses with one or more spare bedrooms.
In August of last year, however, 53-year-old Frances received an eviction notice and, the following day, her body was found in her garden by a friend. Like her son Jack, Frances had hanged herself.
Her inquest this week heard that, ten days before her death, Frances had begun to write a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on the hardship that the “bedroom tax” was causing.
Frances and her ex-husband Jimmy Allen had volunteered to help on Rotherham Council’s suicide prevention team, after a spate of tragic deaths among young people in the town. Jimmy said: “We’d been to council meetings to see if we as parents could help other parents it had happened to. We said if we could save one life a year, even one every ten years, it would be worth it.”
Delivering a narrative verdict, coroner Mark Beresford (right) said: “The method was strikingly similar to that in which Jack ended his life, by which a powerful message could be sent, possibly to the authority dealing with her eviction, providing Ms McCormack with persuasive ammunition. The question of whether she intended to take her own life remains unclear.”
Frances had been prescribed antidepressants for her grief.
January 20 2016
18-year-old Siani-Elland Ruby Benson-Wills (left) was studying art at college. She also helped out at the pub in Barnstaple where her mother Tracie was landlady. In May last year, Siani lost her life when she took an overdose of her mother’s Amitriptyline.
Today’s inquest heard that Tracie took her daughter to their GP in 2010 with some concerns about her self-harming. Siani was referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), where in 2011 she was first prescribed Amitriptyline.
In February 2013, Siani’s Amitriptyline was stopped, and later that month she was admitted to hospital having taken an overdose.
Tracie told the inquest: “When she was 16 and doing A levels she went back to the doctor because the medication was making her tired. He put her on a different antidepressant.” Siani was not, however, taking any prescribed medication at the time of her death.
Delivering a verdict of suicide, coroner Elizabeth Earland (right) said: “This was an impulsive overdose, but nevertheless I am satisfied she took her own life.” It must be presumed that the coroner was also satisfied with the medication regime inflicted upon Siani since the age of 14.
January 6 2016
Yesterday’s Western Daily Press reported on the inquests of 35-year-old Kevin Baker and his estranged wife Tracey (left), aged 41.
On July 4th last year, at their home in Chard, Somerset, Kevin attacked Tracey with a hammer, bludgeoning her to death. He then took his life with a ligature. Their three children were with Tracey’s parents at the time.
The court learned that problems in their marriage began over the previous Christmas period, and in March last year Kevin left home. A few days later, Kevin took an overdose. Coroner Tony Williams said: “Kevin also started to see his GP and was involved with mental health services and prescribed medication. It is clear that the breakdown in the relationship was having an effect upon him.”
Various statements were read, including one from a neighbour of the couple who had been “given the impression that Kevin had started to get better but didn’t want her to be with anyone else.”
The coroner said: “What is clear from the statements is that there were never any signs of violence or aggression between Tracey and Kevin. It was never a concern for either family that Kevin would do any injury to Tracey.” He then recorded conclusions that Kevin had unlawfully killed his wife before taking his own life.
January 6 2016
The report followed the inquest of Tania Hristova, a 50-year-old mother of two children, who died by hanging in November 2014. Tania had registered with her GP in 2001. In January 2005 she was prescribed Mirtazapine for depression. However, her social situation improved, and she stopped taking it the following month.
The coroner regarded as a matter of concern evidence at her inquest which showed that not only had there been a failure to offer Tania counselling or CBT, but there was also a failure to review her adequately. For 5½ years, Tania had obtained her Citalopram via repeat prescriptions and occasional appointments.
The report was sent to Tania’s GP’s surgery, with a copy going to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP.