In a scathing editorial in this month’s Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Dr. Giovanni Fava takes aim at prominent medical experts who have downplayed the role of financial conflicts of interest (FCOI) in medical research and practice. Fava retraces the development of the problem, the mechanisms of "propaganda" that allow conflicts to flourish, and offers suggestions for reform, including a call to boycott commercialized medical education programs and professional societies.
“A University of Texas Southwestern study will see if giving unborn babies with Down syndrome Prozac in the womb will help improve brain functioning,” according to NBC news. “Mothers pregnant with Down syndrome babies will take Prozac about 18 to 20 weeks into their pregnancy. The child will continue to take Prozac until the age of 2.”
Psychologist and Professor Amber Gum has published the story of her personal journey of rethinking psychotropic medication in a special issue on "The Politics of Mental Health" in The Journal of Medicine and the Person. Influenced by Mad in America and the work of Robert Whitaker, Gum became aware of evidence that “suggests that psychotropic medications are less effective and more harmful than most believe” and now hopes to encourage other mental health professionals and researchers to engage in open-minded, critical self-assessment of standard practices.
Last week, after the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) made a recommendation for increased mental health and depression screening “stories in the New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and Reuters all seemed to accept the premise that a sweeping increase in depression screening is justified,” Alan Cassels points out for the Health News Review. “[M]ost of the coverage was weirdly missing in action on almost everything else that counted in a serious medical screening story: explanations of the potential benefits and harms, the specificity and sensitivity of the tests, the costs of the treatment (and in this case, the myriad of costs of implementing a screening program), and the likelihood that financial conflicts of interest have inevitably tainted the research around screening tools, thus biasing the recommendations that surround them.”
Following a lawsuit brought by Andrew Thibault of Parents Against Pharmaceutical Abuse (PAPA), the FDA has produced adverse event and severe adverse event reports on psychotropic medications. For the first time ever, these reports have been published online. Accessing the site linked below, users can perform global searches for AERS reports by drug name (brand and generic) or case number, review reports by drug class, refine searches within each drug class, and examine individual reports.
When the idea that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might make people feel suicidal first started to be discussed, I admit I was sceptical. It didn’t seem to me the drugs had much effect at all, and I couldn’t understand how a chemical substance could produce a specific thought. Because these effects did not show up in randomised controlled trials, they were dismissed and few efforts were made to study them properly. Then some large meta-analyses started to find an association between the use of modern antidepressants and suicidal thoughts and actions, especially in children.
Pioneering research by mood disorder experts at Newcastle University has questioned the effectiveness of metyrapone, a drug suggested to treat depression. "Our research has shown that in the population of depressed patients studied, metyraphone is inadequate and therefore should not be routinely recommended as an option for treatment resistant depression,” the study author said in a press release.
The largest-ever meta-analysis of antidepressant trials appeared yesterday in the British Medical Journal. Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed 70 trials (involving 18,526 subjects), to find that - counter to the initially-reported findings - antidepressants doubled the risk of suicide and aggression in subjects under 18. This risk had been misrepresented in the original study reports, the authors say, and suggest that the risks to adults may be similarly under-reported.
A study published in this month’s issue of Stroke found that antidepressants may increase the risk of microbleeds in the brain. Both SSRI and SNRI antidepressants can disrupt natural clotting mechanisms and lead to increased adverse bleeding incidents and prolonged bleeding times.
Reuters reports that a new drug for major depression failed to improve symptoms in two late-stage clinical trials sending the manufacture’s stock into a tailspin.
Writing for the Harvard Health Blog, Dr. Nandinia Mani reconsiders the use of antidepressants in teens in light of the reanalysis of Study 329. “Will an antidepressant help your teen feel better, or could it actually worsen his or her depression? To get to the heart of the matter, parents and doctors are worried about suicide.”
According to new research by Joanna Moncrieff and Sebastião Viola, mental health problems have become the leading cause of disability claims in the UK. While the overall number of claims for other conditions has decreased by 35%, claims related to “mental disorders” have increased 103% since 1995.
“A quick look at drugs or drug uses that later turned out to be risky shows a disturbing trail of ‘bought’ science in major medical journals,” Martha Rosenberg writes for AlterNet. “What stands between Big Pharma's desire for blockbuster drug sales and drug safety?”
The warning label for the antidepressant Cymbalta downplayed the risks of withdrawal effects, according to consumer lawsuits being filed in courts across the country. “An estimated 44% to 78% of people who stop taking Cymbalta (also known as duloxetine) will suffer from withdrawal reactions,” yet the warning label “suggests the risk is greater than or equal to 1%.”
There is robust evidence for the long-term effectiveness of psychotherapy, and it also provides good value-for-money, according to a large randomized control trial published open-access this month in The Lancet. The researchers recommend that clinicians refer all patients with treatment-resistant depression to therapy.
Revealing the false information provided about psychiatry should cause any thinking person, patient, thought-leader or politician to wonder: “how many otherwise normal or potentially curable people over the last half century of psych drug propaganda have actually been mis-labeled as mentally ill (and then mis-treated) and sent down the convoluted path of therapeutic misadventures – heading toward oblivion?”
“According to a new study, the consequences of this wage gap extend beyond the checking account: women who earn less than their male peers are at greater risk for anxiety and depression than those who are fairly compensated.”
According to the CDC, January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. New research continues to link various SSRI antidepressants with birth defects and neurological abnormalities in newborns. The latest study to examine this topic, a meta-analysis led by Dr. Anick Bérard, found a 23% increased risk for birth defects, and a 28% increased risk for heart problems, in the infants of women who took the SSRI Paxil (paroxetine) during their first trimester.
“Those who possess the data control the story.” In the wake of the reanalysis of the infamous Study 329, where scientific data claiming the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teens was egregiously manipulated, researchers are pushing for open access to raw data. “The issue here, scientists argue, is that without independent confirmation, it becomes too easy to manipulate data.”
Martha Rosenberg calls the reanalysis of Paxil and Study 329 “a victory for safety activists, medical reporters, the public and freedom of the press.” But, she warns, “many pro-pill doctors continue to fight evidence of Paxil’s suicide risks and similar SSRIs.”
On his website, Dr. Nardo details the hidden risks and bad science behind the growing practice of using atypical antipsychotics to augment antidepressant treatment for severe depression. The story of Atypical Antipsychotic Augmentation of Treatment Resistant Depression is a “prime example” “to illustrate how commercial interests have invaded medical practice.” “Besides the obvious dangers of the Metabolic Syndrome and Tardive Dyskinesia, these drugs don’t really do what they’re advertised to do – make the antidepressants work a lot better.”
“The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of pharmaceutical treatment for low sexual desire in women has launched a heated debate over the dangers and benefits of medicalizing sex,” Maya Dusenbery writes in the Pacific Standard. Is “female Viagra” a feminist victory or a product of clever faux-feminist marketing by Big Pharma?
Listen: NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook discusses the new book “Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, The Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy,” by the psychiatrist Julie Holland.
Children of parents who suffer from depression have a severely heightened risk of mental health problems, but new research points to several factors that seem to strengthen young peoples’ resilience and predict good mental health.
Experiencing emotional pain is a necessary part of life. Emotional pain often contains valuable lessons to help us on our journeys. We need to make sure we are not numbing our hearts to those that are hurting. We need to de-stigmatize the struggles, joys and pains that come with being human. We need to not just mindlessly pursue happiness – though we might think of that as an inalienable right – and avoid pain. We need to do the only thing that brings true joy: embrace all of life and each other, as we experience together all that makes us human.
Copyright © 2016 Mad in America Foundation.