“Discontinuation syndrome”: sophistry of the drug industry

An Editorial by the Sunday Times Health Editor was headlined “Patients’ charity Pain UK took cash from Big Pharma”. It was based on an investigation into what have been described as:

I was most interested to read about the involvement of Eli Lilly in what the Sunday Times describes as “conjuring up” the term “discontinuation syndrome”.

The term “Discontinuation Syndrome” has been applied by industry to other drugs in addition to opiates.

In 1996, in relation to SSRI antidepressants, the pharmaceutical industry (Eli Lilly) sponsored a “Discontinuation Consensus panel”.  This was a consequence of “adverse events following discontinuation from SSRI antidepressants being reported in the literature with increasing frequency”. Therefore, “a group of experts convened in Phoenix, Arizona, to develop a clear description or definition of the phenomenon”.

Eric M Kaplan, Peter Haddad , Jerrold F Rosenbaum, Michel Lejoyeux, John Zajecka, Alan F Schatzburg, Allan Young

Serotonin re-uptake inhibitor discontinuation syndrome: a hypothetical definition. Discontinuation Consensus panel. Journal Of Clinical Psychiatry [1997;58 Suppl 7:5-10]

The sophistry of the drug industry has succeeded in shaping the prevailing “understanding” of unwanted effects of SSRI antidepressants. In relation to SSRIs the term “Discontinuation syndrome” should be dropped altogether and proper recognition and support given to those who are struggling, sometimes severely, from antidepressant dependence and withdrawal.