The New York Times recently ran a tragic story on the difficulty millions of people are experiencing when it comes to “withdrawing” from antidepressant drugs.
And no wonder people want to get off these drugs! For one, the latest research consistently shows they’re not much more effective than a placebo.
Secondly, they have been found to cause serious harm…I’m talking heart disease, organ damage, breast cancer, and bleeding in the brain. Not to mention an increased risk of serious mental health conditions like suicidal thoughts, aggression, psychosis, mania, hallucinations, and mass violence.
Plus, many women who took antidepressants while they were pregnant gave birth to children with significant birth defects.
Of course, big pharma made sure to keep evidence of these dangers out of the press. And even out of the medical literature…
Big pharma suppressed evidence of harm
Two years ago, the British Medical Journal published a study on the hidden side effects of antidepressants. Researchers with the Cochrane Center in Copenhagen conducted the study. Of course, I always pay close attention to studies by the Cochrane Center, as they provide real, evidence-based results on the efficacy of prescription drugs and medical treatments, as well as natural approaches and dietary supplements.
In that study, Cochrane researchers looked at 70 clinical drug trials on two classes of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). The trials involved almost 20,000 patients.
These drugs are supposed to work by artificially blocking what your brain would normally do in order to balance out one or two of the dozens of neurochemicals that influence mood.
And the Cochrane analysis found two major problems with these 70 clinical trials…
First, they had grave “concerns about the validity of the data.” And there appeared to be “fraudulent behavior” at four of the trial centers used in the studies.
Second, the full extent of the serious harms caused by these drugs — such as increased suicidal thoughts and aggression — went shockingly under-reported.
In fact, they buried a hefty portion of the harmful effects in the trial “appendices,” which were often “only available upon request by authorities.” And of course, the authorities never requested them.
That means the full extent of harm was never reported in open scientific literature, nor was it included in the clinical study reports sent to the regulatory authorities.
Requests for clinical trial reports denied
Dr. Peter Gøtzsche (about whom I have written before) is a clinical researcher with Cochrane. He attempted to get access to clinical trial reports on these drugs a decade ago.
But the European Medicines Agency (EMA) denied his request.
They claimed the information carried “commercial confidentiality” (which, generally speaking, is any information that contains economic value or could cause economic harm if known). Only after years of petitions did the report see the light of day. And clearly, as the Cochrane report shows, this inappropriate secrecy continues to cost lives.
Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London, states, “It’s deeply unethical when patients volunteer to benefit science and then we let drug companies decide that we cannot get access to the raw data. The testing of drugs should be a public enterprise.”
Moncrieff also questions whether the drugs even work as intended. She said, “We really don’t have good enough evidence that antidepressants are effective, and we have increasing evidence that they can be harmful. So, we need to go into reverse and stop this increasing trend of prescribing.”
I completely agree with Dr. Moncrieff. Especially when it comes to prescribing drugs to teens.
For example, a 2001 drug trial found the commonly prescribed antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine) to be “completely safe.” (Of course, the manufacturer funded that study.) And on that basis, Paxil was marketed as “safe” for teenagers.
But a recent, independent review found that Paxil is not safe for teenagers.
I remember investigating a tragic death in Pennsylvania of a young teenage woman during the summer of 2007 in my forensic medicine consulting practice. As it turned out, she died accidently from taking this dangerous drug. It was not an intentional overdose (or suicide), but an accidental overdose (unintended death). But because the poor patient accidentally did not follow the dose exactly “as prescribed,” there was no liability by the manufacturer.
Fake news about drugs has been promoted for decades
Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, one of the most influential medical journals in the world, says, “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a dark turn towards darkness.”
If you’ve been a long-time reader of my Daily Dispatch, you know that I’ve pointed out these very concerns and various “fake news” studies about drugs over the past few years. (To read up on some of these stories, simply search “prescription drugs” on my website, www.DrMicozzi.com.)
Ironically, mainstream medicine routinely publishes and endorses these flawed drug studies, as long as they support the fashionable (and profitable) mainstream approach. But they immediately discount any well-designed study that shows the benefits of natural treatment.
I remember another editor-in-chief some years ago, stated, “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as editor of the New England of Medicine (NEJM).”
These were the words of Arnold Relman (1923 – 2014). He was my attending physician in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania during the mid-1970s, before he became editor of the NEJM in 1977.
Dr. Relman was also the attending physician when I prepared and delivered my first, all-important, oral clinical case presentation as a second-year medical student. I had been up all the night before admitting patients with the medical resident on duty.
After I finished my presentation, Dr. Relman was very complementary. Then, he paused and said, “but you took too long.”
That presentation — and Dr. Relman’s insightful comment — started me on a long (and sometimes long-winded) writing career. (The editors of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter and Daily Dispatch still contend with my long stories to this day!)
Before he died at age 91, Dr. Relman was also quoted as saying, “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”
Penn, my alma mater, where Dr. Relman was once the Chair of Medicine and my physician attending, had powerfully resisted this trend.
Next week, I’ll tell you more about natural approaches to support your mind and mood without the dangerous and ineffective drugs. You can also refer to the March 2016 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter for my 7-step plan to boost your mood safely and naturally.
(Subscribers can log in with their username and password via the Subscriber Sign-In section on www.DrMicozzi.com for this archived issue. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber — you can get started today by clicking here.)
Finally, the truth about dangerous and useless drugs like these is finally breaking through. I will give an important update on busted blockbuster drugs in my upcoming July Insider’s Cures newsletter.
“Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports,” BMJ 2016;352:i65
“Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit,” The New York Times (www.nytimes.com) 4/7/2018