A timeline following a letter in the Times

The following episode on PANORAMA aired last night [please click on the image to go to i-player]:

If you would like to complete an ANONYMOUS SURVEY in response to this BBC Panorama documentary please click here.

After watching this Panorama documentary, I thought that an old post was worth sharing again [If you would like to comment please do. If you e-mail me, I can ensure complete anonymity].

On the 25 February 2018 the following letter by Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists [RCPsych] and Professor David Baldwin, Chairman of the RCPsych Psychopharmacology Committee, was published in the Times:

25 February 2018, Professor Wendy Burn and Professor David Baldwin: "We know that in the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within  two weeks of stopping them."

What follows is a timeline of responses made by influential UK doctors:

27 February 2018, Dr Samei Huda: “The rise in the use of antidepressants isn’t because people are struggling to get off but because doctors are following the evidence which shows that antidepressants prevent relapse which is common in depression.

10 March 2018, Professor Louis Appleby: “Antidepressants work.  They are not placebo, they are not addictive. Emphatic from Dr Clare Gerada on BBC Radio 4. Dangerous to suggest otherwise.”

26 April 2018, Professor Clare Gerada: “We are prescribing more antidepressants and I think quite rightly.”

26 April 2018, Professor Clare Gerada: “I can count on one hand the number who have gone on to have long term problems withdrawing from antidepressants or problems coming off antidepressants.”

4 April 2019, Dr Samei Huda: “The increase in prescriptions of antidepressants is due to use in pain, more people seeking treatment and longer duration to prevent relapse.”

The following Position Statement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists was published in May 2019:

Following the publication of this Position Statement, responses continued:

30 May 2019, Professor Allan Young: “So-called withdrawal reactions from antidepressants are usually mild to moderate and respond well to simple management.”

9 January 2020, Dr David Foreman: “If someone needs an antidepressant to remain symptom free then the dependence relates to the disorder, not the drug.”

6 June 2020, Professor Robert Howard:  “Antidepressant withdrawal is rare and not the issue that some are suggesting.”

7 June 2020, Professor Robert Howard: “The experience of many of us – who follow our patients after discontinuation – because we have always been worried about relapse – has been that withdrawal phenomena are not common and generally resolve quickly.”

22 June 2021, Dr Mark Bolstridge: “The vast majority don’t experience withdrawal from antidepressants.”

2 November 2021, Dr Mark Bolstridge: “There isn’t a dependence syndrome associated with SSRI antidepressants.”

Professor Wendy Burn, when President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, confirmed: “That’s how Twitter works, we tweet what we believe in”.

You can learn more about the determined effort, by those in genuine positions of power, to control the narrative by clicking on the image below:

One Reply to “A timeline following a letter in the Times”

  1. “The history of psychiatry is of drugs being put on to the market, being told that they are effective, there’s minimal side effects, and they’re easy to stop, and again and again that it’s turned out that years later that none of those things are true.” Dr Mark Horowitz made this insightful comment towards the close of the recent Panorama programme.

    It’s remarkable to think that in our recent history the experts were making similar claims about the benzodiazepines as they do presently about the SSRI antidepressants. “I have never seen a case of benzodiazepine dependence,” a quote from one of the nine US experts in a “Round Table” convened by the drug company Roche in 1976.

    Dr John Marks, a former Managing Director of Roche UK, thought the risk of dependence with the benzodiazepines was of a much lower magnitude than with the barbiturates.

    “The dependence risk with benzodiazepines is very low and is estimated to be approximately one case per 5 million patient months ‘at risk’ for all recorded cases and probably less than one case per 50 million months in therapeutic use.” (Marks 1978)

    By 1983 Dr Marks had decided the risk was greater than he’d originally thought. In the period 1960 to 1977 300 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines were written. Patients were needlessly harmed because the experts were blind to a crisis that was staring them in the face.

    I’ve taken this information from the pages of “Medicines out of control? Antidepressants and the Conspiracy of Goodwill,” a book written by Charles Medawar and Anita Hardon. Professor David Healy credits Charles Medawar as the discoverer of SSRI dependence and in terms of raising the alarm he was at the forefront in bringing this to the attention of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In 1997 he wrote to the then President, Professor Robert Kendall, about his concerns regarding the Defeat Depression Campaign. This campaign was in part funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

    Another quote from Medawar and Hardon.
    “Drug safety and effectiveness depend, above all, not on molecular performance, but on the behaviour of pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and professional institutions – and the relationships between them and with users. The Pharmas now lead this triumvirate…”

    Herein lies the nub of the problem. Change is driven not by Pharma and certainly not by government agencies and professional institutions like the Royal College of Psychiatrists but by the patients themselves. I would have liked to have seen Panorama tackle the thorny subject of the key opinion leaders, the “‘hired guns’ of the industry” as Richard Smith the former editor of the BMJ refers to them in his blog, “Is the pharmaceutical industry like the mafia?” Perhaps a future Panorama can look at this issue.

    I will exit with a final quote from Medawar and Hardon which comes from the back cover of their book.
    “The evidence from this story points to a much wider problem – sickening human dependence on corporate and professional power.” The many drug wrecks would concur.

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