- Published on Sunday, 08 July 2012 17:38
- Written by Peter Hitchens
A scandal can exist for ages before anyone notices. Here is one such. Ten years from now we will look back in shame and regret at the way the drug companies bamboozled us into swallowing dangerous, useless 'antidepressant' pills.
You'd be far better off taking a brisk walk. The moment of truth must come soon, though most of Britain's complacent, sheep-like media will be among the last to spot it.
I would have thought it was blaring, front-page, top-of- the-bulletin news that GlaxoSmithKline, one of our biggest companies, has just been fined £2 billion (yes, you heard that right, £2 billion) in the US for – among other things – bribing doctors, and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable drugs to children.
Its drug Paxil, sold here as Seroxat, was promoted as suitable for teenagers and children, even though trials had shown it was not.
Doctors were sent on free trips where they were treated to snorkelling, sailing, deep-sea fishing, balloon rides and spa treatments (and cash payments), to persuade them to prescribe these drugs, or to reward them for doing so.
A medically-qualified radio host was allegedly paid more than £150,000 to plug one GSK antidepressant for unapproved uses. GSK paid for articles approving its drugs to appear in reputable medical journals.
It is well known now among doctors that other drug companies have suppressed unwelcome test results on modern antidepressants. These results show they are largely useless for their stated purpose. In many cases they were not significantly more effective than dummy tablets in lifting the moods of patients. Thanks to Freedom of Information investigations, the truth is now out.
Even worse than this is the growing suggestion that, far from making their users happy, these pills can increase suicidal thoughts in their minds, perhaps with tragic results.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency undertook trials which showed that teenagers and children who took Seroxat were significantly more likely to experience such thoughts.
Sara Carlin, an 18-year-old Canadian student with everything to live for, hanged herself in 2007 despite official warnings (and warnings from her mother) that the drug could lead to self-harm.
Quite why it should magically be safe for adults, I am not sure. Nor was the coroner in the 2003 inquest on Colin Whitfield, a retired headmaster, aged 56, who slit his wrists in his garden shed two weeks after starting to take Seroxat. The coroner recorded an open verdict and said the drug should be withdrawn until detailed national studies were made.
Mr Whitfield's widow Kathryn said: 'We have no doubt that it was the drug that caused him to do it.'
I would also remind readers of the recent statement by Dr Declan Gilsenan, Ireland's former Assistant State Pathologist, who says he has seen 'too many suicides' after people had started taking antidepressants and is sure the evidence is 'more than anecdotal'.
The defenders of this nasty, profiteering enterprise – including doctors who ought to know better – will come up with the usual bleat of 'correlation is not causation'.
Just remember that this was the same sly song that Big Tobacco sang, when it first became obvious that cigarettes caused cancer. It is time for a proper investigation, with evidence on oath and the power of subpoena.