A couple of years ago, actor Tom Cruise was dismissed as a kook for ranting against antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs. But in light of what we’re now learning about SSRIs, is it possible that we collectively owe Cruise an apology?
First, let me say that I still think Cruise is an odd guy. And I know that his bashing of SSRIs is not rooted in scientific research, but in the strange tenets of Scientology — including an irrational hatred of the field of psychiatry.
Second, I strongly believe that antidepressants can help people. I’ve seen their positive effects on people personally. But I also believe the FDA should take further steps to ensure the safety of these medications, and to curb the greed-fueled marketing of SSRIs by drugmakers.
With those caveats, there’s no question that across a number of fronts, Cruise is receiving a level of vindication regarding SSRIs.
The demolition of the giant “psycho-pharmaceutical complex” appears to be on the horizon … The antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI’s, such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro are at the center of the storm. These drugs have been prescribed to more Americans than any other class of medications over the past two decades. Cymbalta, Effexor and Wellbutrinare often referred to as SSRI’s, but they are slightly different chemically. However, the drugs all carry similar side effects and warnings….
The top sales pitch for SSRI’s has been the “chemical-imbalance-in-the-brain” myth. “There is no evidence whatsoever that depression is caused by a biochemical imbalance,” says Dr. Peter Breggin, one of the world’s leading experts on psychiatric drugs and author of the new book, “Medication Madness.”
People take for granted pronouncements such as, “You have a biochemical imbalance,” and “mental disorders are like diabetes,” he explains in the book. “In reality,” Dr. Breggin writes, “these are not scientific observations – they are promotional slogans, so adamantly repeated in the media … that people assume them to be true … Reluctant patients by the millions are pushed into taking drugs by doctors who tell them with no uncertainty that they need medication.”
While Dr. Breggin’s view is still in the minority, anti-SSRI sentiment is gaining traction — thanks in large part to the questionable actions of drugmakers.
At the moment, all eyes are on Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline due to reports that the company is under investigation by the US Department of Justice, as well as the Senate Finance Committee … The report that led to the investigation … was submitted by Dr Joseph Glenmullen, a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Antidepressant Solution” and Prozac Backlash: Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other Antidepressants with Safe, Effective Alternativesâ€…
The report shows that Glaxo knew in 1989, long before Paxil was FDA approved, that people taking the drug were 8 times more likely to engage in suicidal behavior than people given a placebo, or sugar pill. Now, it stands to reason that even the most depressed person would decline to take Paxil if given these facts. Also, parents certainly would decline if they were told about the risks.
Dr Glenmullen explains that, by submitting what he refers to as “bad” Paxil numbers to the FDA, Glaxo was able to avoid adding a warning about suicide to the label when the drug was approved…
As Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee puts it: “Essentially, it looks like GlaxoSmithKline bamboozled the FDA.” And this may only be the beginning, as Big Pharma’s marketing practices — including paying off academic researchers and physicians — come under closer scrunity.
As the Glaxo scandal unravels, the public will learn that other antidepressant makers such as Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Wyeth and Forest Laboratories are equally guilty … Shrinks on the take are so addicted to industry money that it’s impossible to embarrass them … Overall, estimates indicate that the drug industry spends $19 billion annually on marketing to physicians in the form of gifts, travel, meals and other consulting fees…
The scary part is, even though all this scrutiny may cost Big Pharma by reducing the overprescribing of SSRIs, the families affected by suicides or other SSRI-related tragedies may never get their day in court — if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Wyeth in the Wyeth v. Levine case now before the court.