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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Award Recipient (Twice)
Humanist, humorist

Friday, July 28, 2017

Panorama: Prescription For Stigma?



By Bob Fiddaman & Kristina Gehrki

This week I watched BBC's eagerly anticipated Panorama documentary, "A Prescription For Murder?" I say 'eagerly anticipated' because on the day it was scheduled to air, organizations that routinely run from public dialogue were tweeting away in the wee morning hours. This includes the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) and the Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They took to Twitter long before viewers had an opportunity to view and judge Panorama's programme on its own merits.

MHRA, RCP and other so-called "mental health" organizations, claim the show stigmatized those who use antidepressants. RCP tweets included:
#BBCPanorama claims irresponsible and unfounded. Scaremongering title alone shows real stigma people taking #antidepressants face.
More #antidepressant prescriptions=more people getting help. Not more potential murderers. Don't stigmatize people needing help #BBCPanorama 
Professor Louis Appleby later chirped:
A media throwback: sensationalist, exploitative, not even new, with stigma & risk to patients collateral damage.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08zjyp1 …
The MHRA's limp-wristed, London-based suits tweeted:
SSRIs have been used to effectively treat millions of people worldwide & like all medicines, the safety is continually monitored. (Notice that MHRA did not state "SSRI drugs do not cause an increase in suicide or homicide.")
I immediately tweeted back:
You forgot to add that your CEO is the former World Safety Officer for @GSK
Many other mental health charities and patients tweeted their disapproval. A majority of complainers seemed annoyed by the documentary's title. I pointed out the title had a question mark after it, ergo it was posing a question, not making a statement. But this obvious fact seemed to be lost on those who bombarded Panorama's Twitter page.

Out With the Old, In With the New

For decades, Big Pharma has made wildly inaccurate claims about everything from the chemical imbalance theory to the legitimacy of their own "science." Today the old chemical imbalance campaign seems to be replaced by the new stigma campaign. It is an emotional appeal to try and convince the public that people who speak on behalf of drug safety are shaming those who consume prescription drugs. The reality is that drug safety advocates only want consumers to know the real risks so they can make an informed personal choice.

Drug companies, regulators and "mental health" organizations aggressively brand drug safety advocates as "stigmatizers." They want the word "stigma" to carry similar emotionally-charged perceptions as the word "racism." This diversion is sickly twisted, but a clever communications tactic nonetheless.

The problem is stigma isn't relevant to drug safety discussions. As Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), discusses in the documentary "Letters from GenerationRX," stigma isn't even much of an issue in seeking mental health "treatment." Insel states "The fact is that actually more people are getting more treatment than ever before" and yet the suicide rate "has not come down." The reason, surmises Insel, is "We (the mental health profession) don't know enough."

To see Insel's interview and the tragic SSRI experiences of many families, "Letters from GenerationRX" is available here.

The stigma campaign is designed to create a false public rift to hinder open dialogue about medical freedom of choice and drug safety. Drug companies don't want people to recognize it is a fundamental human right to know the real risks vs. benefits of their product before consumption. Few consumers would consciously choose to forego this right and Pharma, the MHRA, and RCP know it.

Their propaganda is a recipe for disaster. To ignore serious side effects causes thousands of deaths. These organizations create an imaginary enemy and imaginary "war" of sorts. Pit two sides against each other and stir the pot. They then sit back, enjoy the heated conflict, and stealthily pad their pockets.

Brief Summary of "A Prescription For Murder?"

Panorama's hour-long documentary mainly focused on mass murderer James Holmes. It posed the question of whether the SSRI Holmes was prescribed before the Colorado shootings played a role in his actions. The drug Holmes was prescribed in increasing doses is called sertraline, better known by its brand names of Lustral and Zoloft. It is made and marketed by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. As Pfizer's own scientist, Dr. Roger Lane, has confirmed, Zoloft and other SSRIs can cause akathisia. Lane describes akathisia as "subjective distress" and "unbearable discomfort." He states akathisia sufferers "can feel death is a welcome result" to end their symptoms. (Source) - The source is hosted on Woody Matters, a website created by the wife of Woody Witczak, Kim. Woody died a violent death after taking sertraline for a total of 5 weeks with the dosage being doubled shortly before his death.

Panorama's investigative reporter, Shelley Jofre, interviewed many sources to include Holmes' parents, the prosecuting attorney, and several healthcare professionals. The show also briefly featured two other tragedies, that of Shane Clancy, who experienced adverse drug reactions (ADRs) from citalopram (1) and David Carmichael who experienced ADRs from paroxetine.(2)  The programme's aim, as I see it, was to explore whether the connection between SSRIs and violence is legitimate.

The documentary, which hasn't yet aired outside the UK, was a year in the making and appeared well-researched. I won't give away too much program info because many people outside the UK haven't yet seen it. Suffice it to say; it was riveting.

(Note: In 2002 Jofre aired "The Secrets of Seroxat." It focused mainly on SSRI withdrawal problems but also shared the tragedy of 60-year-old Don Schell. After taking just two Seroxat tablets he killed his wife, daughter, and infant granddaughter before killing himself. ) Jurors ruled in favor of the man’s relatives and also ruled that taking Seroxat was the proximate cause of all these deaths.

Real Data Linking SSRIs to Violence

The MHRA is, according to the programme, aware of at least 28 homicides associated with SSRIs. Further, 32 additional reports have been sent to them showing an association between homicidal thinking and the use of SSRIs (Fig 1).


Fig 1

Predictably, the MHRA has never followed up these reports as it is not in their financial interests to do so. Therefore, they can then continue to claim that, "although these drugs have been associated with homicide and homicidal acts, it doesn't mean that the drugs caused the acts." It's akin to an airline ignoring reports of loose rivets and refusing to conduct any investigations in response to the reports received. After the plane crashes and innocent people die, the airline officially declares "We can't be certain loose rivets caused the crash."

This week's Panorama documentary further confirmed for me that those who cavalierly promote and push these drugs at alarming rates, while loudly crying "stigma," are actually trying to stigmatize those who have been harmed by the real effects of these drugs. Further, they don't value all human lives equally: those who suffer fatal side effects seem inconsequential.

A publicly-funded PR campaign doesn't exist for those who have suffered and/or died from these drugs. We don't have well-oiled PR machines to spin false data nor journalists ready to write misleading stories in the mainstream press. We don't take drug money in exchange for dishonest research. When we speak truth to medical power, it is we who are negatively labeled by an uncaring profession and corrupt regulators who have personally profited from drug industry ties.

But there is one thing we do have--something priceless that no marketing budget can buy: our honest and real lived experiences. If you're still uncertain about the adverse drug reactions Zoloft and other SSRIs cause, read the diary entries of a barely nineteen-year old girl who unwittingly documented her adverse drug reactions and psychiatric abuse. Natalie Gehrki, barely 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, was prescribed Zoloft in increasing doses. Her final dose was prescribed over the phone without ever being seen by her doctor. The doctor did not inform Natalie's mom that an increase had been directed and since Natalie already had the Zoloft prescription in hand, she simply took the maximum dose as her trusted doctor instructed.

Like Holmes' doctor, Natalie's doctor failed to recognize signs of SSRI-induced akathisia, and she increased the offending drug (Zoloft). Holmes was prescribed 150 milligrams of Zoloft at the time of his psychotic murders spree; Natalie was prescribed 200 milligrams and violence ensued a few days after consumption. Blood tests later showed Natalie was not an efficient metabolizer of SSRI drugs. Oh, well; perhaps the FDA might look into metabolization issues one day so other children might live?

"Netherworld," Natalie's story produced by Miller, is available for free here.

Further SSRI/Homicide related cases

Investigative reporter, Andrew Thibault, has uncovered much more through a series of Freedom of Information requests from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many of the documents were heavily redacted, but all have one thing in common: All patients carried out an act of homicide whilst under the influence of a SSRI. The documents have been made public, and I wrote a series of blog posts about this back in 2016.

Seroxat/Paxil (paroxetine) - GlaxoSmithKline
Cipramil/Celexa (citalopram) &  Lexapro/Cipralex (escitalopram) - Lundbeck/Forest
Prozac (fluoxetine) - Lilly
Lustral/Zoloft (sertraline) - Pfizer

To view A Prescription For Murder, go to the BBC IPlayer here. (UK ONLY)

Shout out to Katinka Blackford Newman, author of The Pill That Steals Lives, who was the development researcher for this programme.

Bob Fiddaman & Kristina Gehrki


1. When Leonie and Tony Met Lundbeck (citalopram manufacturers)
2. Letters From a Generation RX (Featuring David Carmichael)







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