Chapters 2 and 3 of Let
Them Eat Prozac offer an introduction to the SSRI antidepressants,
to the pharmaceutical companies that made them and to the emergence
of the Prozac and Suicide controversy. These chapters are supplemented
by the minutes of the Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee
meetings that recommended the licensing of Prozac and Zoloft, and
first considered the issue of Prozac and suicide.
Here can be found the
transcripts of the trials and the expert witnesses depositions.
et al v Shea Communications et al.
This was the trial
following the murder spree of Joseph Wesbecker at his place of work
in Louisville, Kentucky, which led to the death of 8 employees at
the Standard Gravure plant there followed by his own suicide. Wesbecker
had been on Prozac. An account of the legal manoeuvrings before,
during and after the trial can be found in Chapter 4 of Let Them
v Eli Lilly and Company
After 10 days on Prozac, William Forsyth stabbed his wife, June,
15 times before impaling himself on a serrated kitchen knife up
on a chair. The remaining Forsyth family took out an action against
Eli Lilly, the makers of Prozac. See Chapters 5 and 7 of Let Them
v SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals
With a prior history of a poor response to an SSRI, Don Schell was
put on Paxil. Forty-eight hours later he put three bullets from
two different guns through his wife, Rita’s, head, as well as through
his daughter, Deborah’s, head and through his granddaughter, Alyssa’s,
head before shooting himself through the head. See Chapter 10 of
Let Them Eat Prozac.
of key exhibits from the Fentress and Forsyth cases as well as other
documents relating to Zoloft and Paxil are available here.
The Editors’ Dilemma
This section looks at
the difficulties of bringing the SSRI issues to light. Raising the
issues with the editors of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the
British Medical Journal and the Lancet has produced an interesting
correspondence. The relevant articles, reviews and correspondence
are posted here. No criticism of Richard Smith or Richard Horton
should be inferred as they are among the ‘good guys’, although clearly
David Nutt sets the standard for all other editors to aspire to.
There is relevant background material in chapter 5 and chapter 8
in Let Them Eat Prozac.
Medicine Control Agency
At the end of 1999, a
three-year correspondence with the regulators in the United Kingdom
and the Department of Health in the United Kingdom on the hazards
of Prozac and other SSRIs began, which led to a meeting in November
There are four strands
to this section, with background in chapter 6 of Let Them Eat Prozac.
Firstly: Ghost writing
of scientific articles has probably always happened to some extent.
In the course of the 1980s with the vast increase in the number
of company sponsored satellite symposia and the emergence of a journal
supplement business, ghost writing almost certainly became commoner.
We give details.
Secondly: A section on
missing data: ‘…..the interest in this paper lies in the set of
missing figures for suicidal acts for Lilly’s antipsychotic Zyprexa
Thirdly: In addition
to the difficulties in raising hazards in either academic forums
or with regulatory authorities there are the problems of pharmaceutical
company actions to close down debate. In April of 2000 a book was
published – Prozac Backlash. Both Newsday New York and the Boston
Globe in Boston received unsolicited reviews of this book from Lilly’s
public relations agencies in New York and Boston, Chamberlain Communications
Group and Rasky Baerlein respectively.
Fourth: This section
contains specific examples of the ghost writing process, involving
two articles in two different journals.
The SSRI story collides
with a case that has raised concerns about academic freedom. Following
a lecture, which parenthetically noted the existence of a controversy
about Prozac, I had a job contract with the University of Toronto
withdrawn. See Chapter 10 of Let Them Eat Prozac. The contents of
the lecture and the associated correspondence are reproduced here.
One of the consequences of taking a stand on an academic issue that has commercial implications seems to be ongoing academic harassment or stalking.