Royal College Of Psychiatrists Challenged Over Potentially Burying Inconvenient Antidepressant Data

Professor John Read and colleagues have today written to the President of the United Kingdom Royal College of Psychiatrists and Chair of the Psychopharmacology Committee following the removal of a Royal College survey on antidepressant withdrawal.

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To: Professor Wendy Burn, President – Royal College of Psychiatrists; Professor David Baldwin, Chair, Psychopharmacology Committee – Royal College of Psychiatrists.

February 28, 2018

Dear Professors Burn and Baldwin

On 24.2.2018 The Times published a letter signed by you, in your capacities as President, and Chair of the Psychopharmacology Committee, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP).  In that letter you made the following claim: ‘We know that in the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment’

We believe that statement is not evidence-based, is incorrect and has misled the public on an important matter of public safety.

Although more research may be needed before any definitive statements on this issue can be made we note that even the RCP’s own survey of over 800 antidepressant users, reported in the RCP document ‘Coming Off Antidepressants’, found that withdrawal symptoms were experienced by the majority (63%) and ‘…. generally lasted for up to 6 weeks’ … and that  ‘A quarter of our group reported anxiety lasting more than 12 weeks’.

We further note, however, that within 48 hours of making your misleading statement in The Times you removed the ‘Coming Off Antidepressants’ document from your RCP website. One interpretation of this action, and the timing thereof, is that you wanted to prevent the public from seeing evidence that contradicts your claim in the Times.

We are considering lodging a formal complaint with the appropriate professional body about your misleading the public on a matter of public safety. We would first, however, like to give you the opportunity to publicly retract, explain and apologise for the statement, in The Times and on the RCP website.  Alternatively please provide us with the research studies on which you based the statement that ‘in the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment’.

We will await your response for one week before deciding whether to lodge the aforementioned complaint.

Please note that, as this is an urgent matter of public safety, we are making the concerns expressed in this letter public. We may also make public your response.

Yours sincerely

Dr John Read
Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of East London

On behalf of:

Dr Steven Coles (Clinical Psychology) Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Dr James Davies (Medical Anthropology) University of Roehampton
Dr Peter Groot (Psychiatry) University of Maastricht
Professor Peter Kinderman (Clinical Psychology) University of Liverpool
Dr Hugh Middleton (Psychiatry) University of Nottingham
Professor Jim van Os (Psychiatry) University of Maastricht
Professor David Pilgrim (Clinical Psychology) University of Southampton
Professor John Read (Clinical Psychology) University of East London
Professor Sami Timimi (Psychiatry) Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

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The above letter can be shared from the website of the Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry.