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Chronicle No. 8

Prozac, suicide and violence

Star anti-depressant, Prozac tripled its sales volume between 1987 and 1996. This poison is now recommended for depressed children. There is something to be worried about.
In 2000, Dr. Carl Elliott, Associate Professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, collaborated in the drafting of a dossier "Prozac and Alienation of the Self", in which he expressed his "concern about the increase in prescriptions for antidepressants, especially in patients who are not really depressed". In the same year, Dr. David Healy of the University of Wales reported that some patients, especially those who were not really depressed, were prone to commit suicide when taking anti-depressants.

In an article titled "Good Science or Good Business?", this researcher asserted that "manufacturers of antidepressants promote depressive illnesses in order to sell their drugs" and added: "Doctors have been accustomed to thinking that anti-depressants take four, five or six weeks to work. But they can create problems in much less time than that."
In response to the publication of Martin Teicher's study and certain press articles which equated Prozac with acts of violence, in September 1991, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) organized a special session with its Psychopharmacological Drugs Advisory Committee.

The specialists of the question asked to limit or even banish the use of this drug, but the representatives of Eli Lilly replied that suicide is one of the risks inherent in depression. They presented studies suggesting that Prozac users are no more at risk than those who swallow placebos. The committee members voted unanimously in favor of Lilly and Prozac remained on the market. No mention of the dangers of violence and the desire for suicide was added to the notice.

The controversy over reports of Prozac-caused suicides posed a problem for the FDA as two new products that belong to the same chemical class as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, hit the market. The medical expert in charge of verifying the safety and effectiveness of Paxil was Martin Brecher, one of the managers of the English pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca. Yet, in a deposition, he confessed that: “Reports of suicides were coming in droves. It was mind-boggling, especially compared to the other annual reports.”

In February 2004, nearly thirteen years after the first Prozac lawsuits were brought, the risk of suicide was raised again in the case of Julie Woodward, who had died at seventeen and was attending group therapy for which she had been asked to take antidepressants. Her parents didn't like the idea, but they were told that Zoloft was "necessary for her recovery and very benign". On the sixth day of treatment, her parents found her body hanging in their garage. His parents testified at the hearing, along with other relatives.
Dr Harold Elliott, a psychiatrist at Wake Forest University, thinks the researchers have good reason to be concerned: "The University of Toronto has seen two other scandals over drug company donations in recent years. When Nancy Olivieri, a researcher at the University of Sick Children's Hospital, studied the possible side effects of Deferiprone, she broke her confidentiality agreement with Apotex and made her work public.Apotex retaliated by threatening her with legal action. to protect its researcher, the Hospital for Sick Children tried to fire her.”
The ink on this article was barely dry when Apotex allocated the University of Toronto $13 million for molecular biology research, then threatened to take that allocation back unless university president Robert Prichard intervened. not with the federal government to facilitate the approval of this drug. The President obeyed and was later forced to issue a public apology when the scandal broke.
The American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs intends to spend $590,000 on educating doctors about the ethical issues that arise when accepting gifts from the pharmaceutical industry.

However, one may remain skeptical when one learns that this initiative will be funded by donations from Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Procter and Gamble, and Wyeth-Ayerst. Definitely, in this environment, we continue to go around in circles and we find these companies on every street corner!


Sylvie SIMON



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