News: Rob Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry offers his support for Dr Samei Huda and Dr George Dawson

[please note: I have never met Prof Rob Howard. I hugely admire his work in relation to dementia and timely diagnosis]

This is how my communication with Prof Rob Howard began:

Monday 19th November 2018.
Bridge of Allan.

Dear Professor Howard
I find this public comment by you distressing and dismissive of the potential of learning from experience:

“Almost unbelievable that Joe [Dr Joseph Hayes] and Sameer [Dr Sameer Jauhar] have to make these points (again) and that Davies [Dr James Davies] and Read [Professor John Read] have been so angrily dismissive of their concerns. Never let the facts or methodology get in the way of a good story or ideological position…” [the context for this statement can be read here].

Professor Howard, I nearly died in my withdrawal from my dependence on paroxetine.

Kind wishes

Dr Peter J Gordon
Psychiatrist for Older Adults
GMC number 3468861.
NHS Scotland

19 November 2018

Dear Dr Howard,
You ask for a “balanced discussion”. I agree that this is the right place to start. I would suggest that “almost unbelievable” was not a fair starting point.

The biologist, sociologist, and philosopher Patrick Geddes, was of the view that “there needed to be a synthesis of all new knowledge and such knowledge needed to be based on experience as much as theory.”

I share (in general terms) concern about the quality of “evidence”. But where is the evidence to support long term prescribing of antidepressants? It is an indictment on our profession that antidepressants have been prescribed for 50 years, and apart from the limited Geddes study of almost 15 years ago, we have no EBM to base prescribing of antidepressants for longer than two years. Nearly 1 in 5 Scots are now taking antidepressants, many of whom are taking them indefinitely.

Methodology matters, of course. But a scientifically “balanced discussion” needs to consider, in terms of experience, what constitutes evidence.

I acknowledge, of course, the inherent weakness in offering evidence of experience. However if our profession ever loses sight of this then I would indeed be “upset”.

You did not upset me. I just found your concerns about “ideology” at odds with that which was conveyed in your statement [which I read as partisan].

Kindest wishes
Peter Gordon

Professor Rob Howard to Dr Samei Huda [18 August 2019]: “Keep it up Samei. You are patient, lucid and professional in your tweets. The threats you receive indicate only that these people know they are losing the argument”

Prof Robert Howard [24 August 2019] “I received a couple of unsavoury or nuisance emails after that tweet. Can imagine what Samei has had to put up with and it shouldn’t be rewarded.” 

[Prof Rob Howard was referring to communications from me: this is what I sent to Prof Rob Howard:]

Sunday 18th August 2019.

Dear Professor Howard
I note that you said this today.

“Keep it up Samei. You are patient, lucid and professional in your tweets. The threats you receive indicate only that these people know they are losing the argument”

This is Dr Huda in his own words

Can you explain why you think the pattern in this language is respectful and constructive? Are you of the view that Dr Huda’s words respect College Core Values for psychiatrists?

Can you share what “threats” you refer to?

Please do not share this e-mail with your colleague Sir Simon Wessely.

kind wishes
Dr Peter J. Gordon

From: Peter Gordon
Sent: 18 August 2019

Dear Rob,
Thank you for replying. I recall the content of our correspondence differently and recall being left uneasy by your words and that is why I felt it best to suggest that we do not communicate further. Yes, we can stick to this instruction.

Your comments on Dr Huda and his professionalism are noted and kept. You will understand that I wrote to you today as my understanding of College Core Values is rather different to yours and because I resigned from the College over this issue and the lack of College support for Sunshine legislation. I appreciate that we have different views on this and that is okay – but I do worry about the harm to patients that might be caused by not paying due attention to these issues.

All the very best wishes and thank you for replying.
Aye Peter

Dr Samei Huda [4 November 2018] “Professors who incite bad feelings against people who accurately critique their research should not be in science”

Prof Rob Howard replying to @SameiHuda “They are not actually in Science at all. Sad to see the tactics, so effectively and damagingly deployed by Trump, copied by these people to manipulate and harm vulnerable patient groups.”

Prof Rob Howard [6 February 2019] “When people don’t like the results of clinical trials they are prone to try and find fault with them”. Exactly. I stand with my colleagues who conducted the PACE trial.”

Prof Rob Howard [7 February 2019] “I can only speak to my own experience of the Science Media Centre when they have asked me to comment on dementia science stories. They have relayed my independent view without any interference. My experience is they do a good job getting out quick balanced range of expert views.”

Prof Rob Howard to Dr George Dawson, MD, [16 October 2019] “I have learned a lot from George’s posts and admire his thoughtfulness and modesty. I’d want him as my psychiatrist.”

Professor Rob Howard [2 January 2020]  I welcome critics of antidepressants and Psychiatry using the same standards of argument as Dr George Dawson”. 

Professor Rob Howard [6 January 2020] “I like Dr Gordon and agree with him that we should know how potentially influenced colleagues are by their links with Industry. I don’t doubt his sincerity but, to be honest, I find his occasional featuring of me in his blog a bit unsettling. Perhaps I’m supposed to.”

Footnote: I respect Prof Howard’s views, however much they may unsettle me.

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