Was The ‘ #Medicated And Mighty ‘ Campaign Started By A Marketing Company?

For those of us involved in spreading awareness of the dangers of psychiatric medications through Twitter, most would be aware by now of the ‘#Medicatedandmighty’ hashtag campaign and the so classed ‘#Pillshaming’ campaign. The idea behind both campaigns was apparently to end the stigma of taking psychiatric medication for ‘mental illnesses’. It’s still ongoing on twitter, and it can get quite heated at times. Personally I think both campaigns are a little immature, and they seem to appeal mostly to a very young demographic of teenagers, which is kind of worrying considering psychiatric drugs are particularly dangerous in these age groups (the SSRI antidepressants like Seroxat can cause increases in suicide and self harm).

The story of how ‘#medicated and mighty’ began was apparently from a blogger mother ( of Mutha Lovin Authism blog) of an Autistic child who takes medication for depression and anxiety. The idea seemed to go viral on the internet over a week and has even made some major news network content.

However, perhaps this campaign isn’t as organic and wholesome as it appears?

It seems that the #medicated and mighty‘ campaign might have been encouraged by a well financed start up internet marketing company– called (you guessed it) –The Mighty

Enter The Mighty: A content site based in Los Angeles designed for “a community of people who are thrown a curveball.” And today it’s announcing a $2.5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.

“…As for how the Mighty plans to bring in that revenue, Porath says they’ll be running ads from consumer brands and pharmaceutical companies...”

“....If you think about it from a pharmaceutical perspective, if they’re able to basically get a new client, someone who is using their drug. that person may use their drug for the next 20 years. That rate is much much higher than if you are selling soap.”…

Migghty MUtha

miggty2 MITY

I don’t think there is any shame in taking psychiatric medications, as long as people know the full dangers and are given informed consent, however if this campaign was originally funded, or conceived, by a marketing company (linked to the Mighty website) then I think that people who are supporting this viral hashtag deserve to know..

Psychiatric medications are nothing to be ashamed of, however making these dangerous and toxic drugs somehow cool, or trendy is a bit worrying, in my opinion…

Here’s the article ( from May 2015) which explains much more:


How health site “The Mighty” thinks it can build the next big content platform without selling its soul to Facebook

  By David Holmes , written on May 21, 2015

From The News Desk

When Mike Porath’s daughter was diagnosed with a chromosome disorder that includes autism and other challenges, he spent a lot of time on WebMD.

“But WebMD didn’t cover the day-to-day challenges and the emotional side,” said Porath. There was no digital equivalent, he felt, to the indispensable routine of talking to other families that are going through the same thing. And so with a CV that includes being editor-in-chief at AOL, an executive at SpinMedia, and a journalist for the New York Times and NBC News, Porath felt he had the content and platform chops to build the solution himself.

Enter The Mighty: A content site based in Los Angeles designed for “a community of people who are thrown a curveball.” And today it’s announcing a $2.5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.

The Mighty’s stories are produced by a small staff of journalists and a larger network of unpaid contributors, not unlike early iterations of Huffington Post and Bleacher Report. The pieces are made up primarily of personal essays, advice tips, and stories of inspiration: items on the homepage right now include, “I Have a Son With Autism and Don’t Know What’s Best For Him,” “The Secret Way I Get My Son With Special Needs To Brush His Teeth,” and “She’s 26, Lives With Williams Syndrome, and Has Her Own Successful Business.” And to give you an idea of how these stories are resonating, Porath says the site attracted 30 million visitors in its first year and 20 million over the last six months.

“For a long time I believed in contributor networks as a business model,” Porath said. “Why this works for us is we’re based on experiences and those are unique to individuals.” That means the contributions on the Mighty aren’t simply rewrites of the day’s news or embed posts of the most popular videos on Reddit or YouTube that any J-School intern could write. The content here is made up of truly unique stories readers can’t find anywhere else and that can’t be easily reaggregated by competitors.

The words “unpaid contributors,” however, should come as a red flag for many media observers. Sites that scale affordably on freely provided content — whether that means a social network like Facebook or a more traditional media site Bleacher Report — have rightly come under scrutiny. In the Mighty’s case, this concern is arguably amplified by the fact that these writers are in emotionally and financially vulnerable positions, and nobody wants to be accused of taking advantage of these contributors. But Porath argues that, unlike something like Bleacher Report where the contributors are aspiring journalists whose career is in writing, his contributors truly want to tell their stories on a platform that can amplify these pieces of content to large audiences. None of them have asked about payment, he says, and if any do ask about compensation, it’s in the form of charitable donations.

“Once we have revenue we can start distributing that to non-profits where a percentage of the revenue can flow back into the non-profit of [the writer’s] choice.”

As for how the Mighty plans to bring in that revenue, Porath says they’ll be running ads from consumer brands and pharmaceutical companies.

“Health brings in much higher ad rates,” Porath says, explaining how WebMD has been able to achieve the same revenues as sites with far greater traffic. After all, a reader on a story about a very specific disorder is likely in a very specific market for health products. “If you think about it from a pharmaceutical perspective, if they’re able to basically get a new client, someone who is using their drug. that person may use their drug for the next 20 years. That rate is much much higher than if you are selling soap.”

Along with the issue of unpaid contributors, there’s another concern about I have about the Mighty: Accuracy. If an unpaid contributor at, say, Buzzfeed writes a misinformed article about Buffy the Vampire Slayer there’s no harm except maybe to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s pride. But if an unpaid contributor at the Mighty writes about, I don’t know, vaccines, and communicates misinformation, is there an editorial process in place to catch any outright falsehoods?

Porath assures me that nothing goes on the site without first being factchecked by his editorial staff, which he plans to expand with the new seed round. That’s reassuring, though it’s worth noting that when it comes to health stories, even an outlet as prestigious and well-respected as the New York Times makes mistakes.

Concerns aside, Porath’s model is undoubtedly compelling: A passionate community of readers and writers, a vertical that brings in ad dollars as higher rates than others, and content that can’t be found anywhere else. Porath is so confident that he’s not striking the devil’s bargain with Facebook that so many other content properties have struck.

“Many other sites are paying Facebook to boost stories to get traffic. We are not. As we grow, we’re becoming less dependent on Facebook.”

Hey, if the Mighty can show a provable content model without being beholden to Facebook, that will be a boon in and of itself.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]

Double Standards? : GSK Sponsors Well Child Awards Yet No Apology For Seroxat (Paxil) Harming Thousands Of Children

a-seroxat-box-and-pills-are-seen-in-this-illustration-picture-taken-in-bucharest-april-19-2013-reutersbogdan-cristelAW Witty


GSK wellchild wC WCAW


GSK’s sponsorship of the Wellchild awards is nothing short of a spectacle of supreme irony. Looking at the photos from the glittering awards you would think that GSK really do care about the health and well being of vulnerable children wouldn’t you?

However nothing could be further than the truth.

GSK’s unethical promotion of Seroxat (Paxil/Aropax) through a fraudulent study (329) caused immeasurable harm (and in some cases death) to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of children, teenagers, and young adults over a number of years. This deplorable behavior has never been addressed by Andrew Witty, or GSK. I find it astounding, and also disturbing, how Andrew Witty can turn up to the Well Child awards not long after the re-interpretation of Seroxat study 329 harming kids made headline news (from Time magazine, to the Atlantic and The Guardian). It just goes to show the utter callousness of GSK executives.

The following statements from recent media reports about GSK’s Seroxat (Paxil/Aropax) contrast greatly with GSK’s PR promotion of the company at the Well Child awards.

An Australian-led review of a popular anti-depressant drug has found it can tip young people into suicide and is no more effective than a placebo.

The research team also uncovered evidence that the drug’s manufacturer downplayed its deadly side-effects and exaggerated its benefits.

We felt that bad prescribing decisions were being made on the basis of the way in which the study was reported,” said Professor Jon Jureidini, who led the international team of researchers from Adelaide University’s Critical and Ethical Mental Health Research Group.

“The study claimed to show that paroxetine, an anti-depressant, was effective and safe for young people and in fact, it’s the opposite.”

The team have established that the drug carried twice the level of severe adverse effects across the board, and four times the number of psychiatric adverse events.

Professor Jureidini’s damning reassessment comes after the review team reanalysed data that had originally been gathered during studies from 1994 to 1998 and was published in 2001 by the drug’s manufacturer, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

The data had been used to support papers published in scientific journals at the time recommending the efficacy and safety of paroxetine.

But Professor Jureidini’s reassessment of the same data has produced markedly different conclusions.

He said the conflicting outcomes demonstrates the system of researching and approving new drugs that is fundamentally broken.


The BMJ authors, led by Prof Jon Jureidini at the University of Adelaide, wrote to GSK in 2013 asking whether the company intended to re-analyse the data itself. They say GSK declined


“It’s a very uncomfortable thing for us to be saying,” says Jureidini about his findings. “I can hear the responses to this study: that what you are doing is poisoning people’s minds in relation to antidepressants, and psychotropic drugs and psychiatry in general, that you are going to do terrible harm. We’re trying to bring out the truth.”

With the current re-analysis, more doctors may weigh the risks of potential increased suicidality more heavily before prescribing the drug to teens. At the very least, physicians who decide to prescribe paroxetine should monitor their patients more carefully for any potential signs of worsening depression or desire to harm themselves.


Kaili Butin still has faint scars on her wrist from the day she tried to kill herself. A family physician had prescribed GlaxoSmithKline’s antidepressant Paxil to treat her depression. It was the fall of 2000, her sophomore year of high school, and she had stopped caring about schoolwork and lost interest in her friends.

“I wanted something to make me feel better,” she says. “I wanted to be a normal teenager. I saw my friends and none of them felt the way I felt.”

Butin was among millions of American teens who took Paxil in the early 2000s. Her doctor’s recommendation helped the antidepressant overtake the competition to garner the highest number of new prescriptions of any drug in its class in 2000. Sales of the pill increased by 17 percent to hit $2.4 billion. Butin, now a 31-year-old accountant living in Ankeny, Iowa, is angry about newly revealed information that GlaxoSmithKline withheld from the public regarding Paxil’s danger to teenagers. 

Prof Peter Gøtzsche : “It is not possible to serve two masters. Doctors should be patient advocates, not industry apologists.”

It is not possible to serve two masters. Doctors should be patient advocates, not industry apologists.

Professor Peter Gøtzsche to deliver a powerful critique of psychiatry

No doubt there will be plenty of debate generated by a series of lectures in Australia next month by Danish physician Professor Peter Gøtzsche, managing director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre based at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen (details here).

In a preview below, Professor Gøtzsche and two Australian colleagues, psychiatrists Professor Jon Jureidini and Dr Peter Parry, argue that the harms of psychiatric drugs have been under-played and the benefits over-sold.


Peter Gøtzsche, Prof Jon Jureidini and Peter Parry write:

The version of psychiatry that many professionals, politicians and laypeople would like to be true is that mental illnesses are specific brain disorders with specific drug treatments, to which they are very responsive if identified early.

In reality, the way we categorise mental illnesses is arbitrary, and the diagnostic criteria are overinclusive.

Furthermore, the focus on drugs means that the biopsychosocial model for understanding mental disorders has too often been reduced to a bio model.

Whilst psychiatric drugs can be helpful, the dream of a quick fix by targeted drugs has become a nightmare where we often do more harm than good in the way we use drugs, e.g. against depression, schizophrenia and ADHD.

The focus on drugs, combined with insufficient focus on what caused the patient’s problems and how to cope with them in the future, is dangerous for patients. Even though psychotherapy and other non-drug treatments are often advocated, the most common response to making a diagnosis is to prescribe a drug.

In an era of marketing-based medicine, drugs are often used in a way that is at odds with good practice and the scientific evidence, e.g. it is common to use several drugs at the same time, not only of different types but also from the same drug class. Side effects and withdrawal effects can be misinterpreted as disease symptoms, leading to even more drugs, higher doses and more harm, although a tapering off would have been beneficial for the patient.

Psychiatrists are not adept at noticing the harms done by medications, partly because vigilance in asking patients is difficult to maintain. Even when psychiatrists do ask their patients in surveys, they may sometimes ignore what they are told and believe that the patients are mistaken and need psychoeducation.

That a medication can be harmful doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad medicine; think of cancer drugs, for example. But the problem with psychiatric drugs is that the harms have been underestimated and the benefits overestimated.

This has happened at least partly because of the hold the pharmaceutical industry has over leading psychiatrists. Career advancement is contingent on research publications, networking opportunities and conference profile. The pharmaceutical industry opens the doors for early career opportunities in a way that nobody else can.

Psychiatrists have been slow to recognise the price they pay for this self-serving industry “generosity” and often remain genuinely puzzled that their patients and independent researchers see evidence of bias, both in their trials and in the way they practice.

A major problem with almost all placebo controlled trials of psychiatric drugs is that they are flawed by design. In particular there is a lack of effective blinding. The drugs have conspicuous side effects, and many patients and their doctors will therefore know if the blinded drug contains an active substance or placebo.

Many years ago, adequately blinded experiments were performed with tricyclic antidepressants. The placebo contained atropine, which causes dryness in the mouth and other side effects similar to those seen with antidepressants. A Cochrane review of these trials did not find any meaningful effect of the drugs. Clinicians, however, are being misled by their clinical experience, which is mainly the spontaneous remission of the depression.

The overuse of psychiatric drugs leads to many deaths. Based on drug sales and a meta-analysis, it has been estimated that just one antipsychotic drug, olanzapine, has caused 200,000 deaths worldwide.

The common use of antidepressants in the elderly is also lethal. A carefully controlled cohort study where the patients were their own control showed that antidepressants led to falls. These falls may lead to hip fractures, and a quarter of patients with hip fractures die. For every 28 elderly people treated for one year with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), there was one additional death, compared with no treatment. This is an extremely high death rate for any drug.

A final point is that the risk of suicide is underestimated in the randomised trials. Out of character violence against self or others can happen at any age.

What should we do better?

First, psychiatrists need to become better educated in psychotherapy and should not earn less if they prefer psychotherapy to drugs, which they unfortunately do today.

Second, we should use far fewer drugs than we currently do, as prolonged drug treatment can maintain the problems they were supposed to alleviate and can cause even worse diseases. For example, both antidepressants and ADHD drugs can precipitate bipolar disorder, and it is likely that all psychiatric drugs can cause chronic brain impairment.

Finally, psychiatrists should stop accepting money and other favours from the drug industry, as this is harmful for their patients.

It is not possible to serve two masters. Doctors should be patient advocates, not industry apologists.

Conflicts of interest: none.

• Prof Peter Gøtzsche is Master of Science in biology and chemistry, specialist in internal medicine, and director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen. He was co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent global organisation dedicated to providing information to assist evidence-informed decision making in health care by systematically reviewing the medical research literature.

• Prof Jon Jureidini is a child psychiatrist at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide where he works with ill and disabled children and their families. He is a professor in the Disciplines of Psychiatry and Paediatrics and heads Paediatric Mental Health Training Unit, and the Critical and Ethical Mental Health research group, all at the University of Adelaide. He is chair of Australian-Palestinian Partnerships for Education and Health. His other published interests include cognitive science, ethics, quality use of medicines, immigration detention, suicide, and child abuse.

• Dr Peter Parry is a child & adolescent psychiatrist, clinical director of mental health services at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and a senior lecturer at University of Queensland and visiting senior lecturer at Flinders University. He has published on issues relating to psychiatric nosology and the deficits and problems associated with the bio-medical model compared with the more accurate biopsychosocial model in child and adolescent mental health practice.

Details of the lectures are here.

What Did They Prescribe Christopher Harper Mercer? (The Oregon Shooter).


According to Christopher Harper Mercer’s (the Oregon shooter’s) mother:

“She said that ‘my son is a real big problem of mine’,” Alexis Jefferson, who worked with Harper at a care center in 2010, told the Times. “She said: ‘He has some psychological problems. Sometimes he takes his medication, sometimes he doesn’t.


Anytime I hear of a mass murder, a murder suicide, or a very violent suicide, I immediately think of psychiatric drugs. I do this because I know, from first had experience, that psychiatric drugs are extremely dangerous. They made me aggressive, hostile, and suicidal, as a young man, and they can push anyone over the edge. There are thousands of first hand patient reports of how these mind bending medications can literally destroy you psychologically. Homicide, violence and violent suicides are not hallmarks of depression, but they are common side effects of psychiatric medication. People, are still largely ignorant of these side effects though, and doctors and psychiatrists don’t warn or monitor people properly.

… the gunman’s mother sometimes confided the difficulties she had in raising her son, including that she had placed Mr. Harper-Mercer in a psychiatric hospital when he did not take his medication.”

Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights,  New York Times, October 5, 2015

….”This confirms, at least, the Oregon shooter’s access to psychiatric drugs.  Young people sometimes throw their drugs together and take them randomly as if they were recreational. Additionally, Mercer was also known to have graduated from a high school for youngsters with emotional and behavioral problems…” (Peter Breggin: Mad In America)

If the recent BMJ study into Paroxetine (Paxil/Seroxat/Aropax) and it’s links to an increase in suicide in under 18’s, and the recent study which linked all the SSRI’s to an increase in violence, doesn’t wake people up to the dangers of all psychiatric drugs, then I don’t know what will… psychiatric drugs can be particularly dangerous in withdrawal, or over the long term and it seems that the Oregon shooter was perhaps coming off his the drugs at the time of the shooting, however the details are unclear at this time.

We don’t know yet either, what drugs Christopher Harper Mercer was prescribed, or his psychiatric history etc… however we do know that there have been far too many murders, suicides, killing sprees and school shootings linked to these drugs.

These are very toxic medications..


An influential study which claimed that an antidepressant drug was safe for children and adolescents failed to report the true numbers of young people who thought of killing themselves while on it, re-analysis of the trial has found

Study 329, into the effects of GlaxoSmithKline’s drug paroxetine on under-18s, was published in 2001 and later found to be flawed. In 2003, the UK drug regulator instructed doctors not to prescribe paroxetine – sold as Seroxat in the UK and Paxil in the US – to adolescents.

But experts who have obtained the original data say the study is still referred to in the medical literature and needs to be retracted.


Young people taking antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat are significantly more likely to commit violent crimes when they are on the medication, but taking higher doses of the drugs appears to reduce that risk, scientists said.

In research published in the PLoS Medicine journal, the scientists said that while their finding of a link does not prove that such drugs cause people to be more violent, further studies should be conducted and extra warnings may be needed in future when they are prescribed to people aged 15 to 24.

Prescribed Paxil (Seroxat) When She Was 10 Years Old, Vickie Then Tried To Kill Herself 30 Times…


“Paxil turned me into a monster:” The still-unfolding story of GlaxoSmithKline’s Study 329

“I tried killing myself thirty times”


By Patrick D Hahn — Bio and Archives  October 5, 2015
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So says Vickie, a young nurse from Philadelphia who was first prescribed Paxil at the age of ten.

Vickie recalls her life before she began taking psychiatric medication. “I had a pretty nice life. I grew up with money, I was never deprived of anything, my parents were very supportive of me. I had a great upbringing.” But she had a tendency towards shyness, and her parents became concerned.


“I was just shy,” Vickie remembers. “I had friends but I liked to be home, and I liked to watch TV, and I liked to read, and I actually liked to be alone.” Nevertheless, her mother took her to see a psychiatrist, and after a forty-five minute consultation, during which her mother did most of the talking, the psychiatrist diagnosed her with “social anxiety disorder” and prescribed Effexor.

After six months, there didn’t seem to be any improvement in her condition, so her mother brought her back to the same psychiatrist, who prescribed Paxil.

The effects were devastating, Vickie recalls. “I really just wanted to die. I cried all the time. Almost daily I would sit in my room and cry.” Once more her mother took Vickie to the psychiatrist, who doubled her prescribed dose of Paxil.

Vickie found her condition worsening. “It was a downward spiral that I got into and couldn’t get out of.” She felt compelled to harm herself—starving herself, binging and vomiting, pulling her own hair out, cutting herself, and obsessively picking at the scabs. She also tried to dozens of times to end her own life. “I tried slitting my wrists, overdosing on Tylenol PM, I tried hanging myself, I tried drowning myself. I even considered jumping off a bridge at one point. It wasn’t a cry for help. I just wanted to die.”

“Remarkable efficacy and safety”


By Patrick D Hahn — Bio and Archives  October 6, 2015
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SmithKline Beecham’s Study 329 of Paxil may well be the single most infamous drug trial ever, and its history is instructive.

Paxil is one of several brand names for paroxetine, a drug developed in 1975 by the Danish pharmaceutical firm Ferrosan, which in 1980 sold the rights to the drug to the Beecham Group. (In 1989, the Beecham Group merged with SmithKline Beckman to form SmithKline Beecham, which in 2000 merged with Glaxo Wellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline, at the time the largest drug company on the planet.) Paxil, which was approved by the FDA at the end of 1992, is one of a class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s. Despite its alleged selectivity, this drug has been approved for a dizzying variety of human woes, including major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, hot flashes, and something called “premenstrual dysphoric disorder.”

The plans for Study 329 were drawn up in 1992. The study itself began two years later, and was completed in 1998. In July of 2001, the results of Study 329 were published in the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which has the highest impact rating of any journal in child psychiatry. The article, titled “Efficacy of paroxetine in the treatment of adolescent major depression: A randomized controlled trial” listed Doctor Martin B Keller of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University as first author, along with 21 others.

Study 329 was the largest study ever conducted on the effects of an SSRI on a pediatric population. The study subjects consisted of a group of adolescents, between 12 and 18 years of age, each of which was diagnosed with major depression of at least eight weeks in duration. 93 of these youths were given paroxetine, while 87 of them received placebo. Dropout rates were similar in both groups. Subjects were assessed by means of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, a questionnaire consisting of 21 items, with possible scores ranging from 0 to 60; the higher the score, the more severe the depression.

The paper listed two primary outcome measures: 1) change in HAM-D total score and 2) response, defined as a HAM-D score of 8 or less or a 50% reduction in HAM-D scores. For the first outcome, there was no significant difference between those treated the paroxetine and the placebo groups. For the second, 63% of patients treated with paroxetine were judged to have “responded,” as opposed to 50% of the placebo group. In plain English, an additional one out of eight patients given paroxetine “responded,” compared to those given placebo. Nevertheless, this difference was judged to be statistically significant.

In addition, the paper listed six secondary outcome measures; for three of these, patients given paroxetine were judged to have done better than those given placebo, while for three there was no difference.

Serious adverse events were reported for 11 patients given paroxetine, as opposed to 2 for those given placebo. The serious adverse events for youths given paroxetine included emotional lability (5 patients), conduct problems or hostility (2 patients), euphoria (1 patient), and headache (1 patient). The authors stated “Only headache (1 patient) was considered by the treating investigator to be related to paroxetine treatment.” The logic underlying this conclusion was not explained.

The paper concluded “Paroxetine is generally well tolerated and effective for major depression in adolescents.”

This was an auspicious moment for GlaxoSmithKline. Eli Lilly’s blockbuster drug Prozac was scheduled to go off patent in August of that year, clearing the field for any of several would-be successors to the title of the best-selling antidepressant in America. A 2001 internal memo GSK circulated to its drug reps proclaimed “Paxil demonstrates REMARKABLE Efficacy and Safety in the treatment of adolescent depression.”

On 7 October of the following year, Newsweek, which already had published not one but two laudatory cover stories on Prozac, weighed in with yet another cover story, “Young and depressed,” which warned readers “Without treatment, depressed adolescents are at high risk for school failure, social isolation, ‘self-medication’ with drugs or alcohol, and suicide – now the third leading cause of death among 10-to-24-year-olds.” Fortunately, the article advised, help was on the way, in the form of “another NIMH study looking at newer medications, including Effexor and Paxil, that may help kids whose depression is resistant to Prozac.” Paxil went on to become the best-selling antidepressant in the world, with annual sales in excess of three billion dollars.

Not everyone was so sanguine about all this. Even before the JAACAP paper came out, storm clouds had begun to gather on the horizon for GSK.

Next: Part 3: “An effective drug treatment”

List of Sources

  1. Buus-Larsen, J. 1980. Introduction to the development of paroxetine, a novel antidepressant.—Acta Psychiatrica Scadinavica 80 (Supplement 350):13.
  2. Bloomberg Business News 1993. British drug shares get lift. New York Times January 1 1993.
  3. Keller, M. et al. 2001. Efficacy of paroxetine in the treatment of adolescent major depression:—A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 40:762-772.
  4. Wingert, P. et al. 2002. Young and depressed. Newsweek October 7 2002.
  5. Moynihan, R. and A. Cassels 2005. Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients. Nation Books.

GSK Monitoring Social Media…

This is an interesting article on how GSK uses social media to collect data on its drugs. I wonder what data they collected about the dangers of Seroxat in teens (and adults!)… and how will they use that data? The recent study in the BMJ set social media alight and many thousands of comments were made about Paxil across facebook and twitter. Most of them were extremely disturbing in relation to side effects of Seroxat/Paxil…. so what is GSK going to do about all this damage from one of their products?

Very likely… nothing at all….



GSK, Merck use social media to learn how patients use drugs outside the lab

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 5, 2015     4   0   0

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MedWatcher, from Epidemico.

We’ve written before about Epidemico, a startup that grew out of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s work on combing social media for medical and health data. Today at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, Greg Powell, director of pharmacovigilance at GlaxoSmithKline, talked about how the pharma company uses the data it collects from its partnership with Epidemico.

“People really are communicating a lot online on social media,” Powell said. “There’s actually a wealth of information here that potentially hasn’t been tapped into until recently. The question is ‘If people are talking about our products, should we be listening to what they’re saying?’ The answer is ‘Of course’.”

GlaxoSmithKline collected data about public postings on Twitter and Facebook that mentioned any of a list of 1,000 of the companies drugs. Altogether, they found more than 6 million hits on Twitter and more than 15 million hits on Facebook.

“To put that in perspective, there’s more adverse events discussions online, in social media, in one year than there are in the FDA database since it started in 1968,” Powell said.

Epidemico helps GSK to filter that data, eliminate the noise posts, de-identify it (which importantly helps GSK get around FDA reporting requirements) and standardized the language around things like drug names and medical conditions.

The company uses the data more or less the same way it uses drug safety and usage data from other sources, Powell said: it gets turned over to the drug safety team, which identifies trends and takes action if necessary. In at least one case, Facebook postings monitored through this initiative directly led to a recall of an over-the-counter offering in Australia that had a manufacturing defect.

But sometimes social media turns out data that’s not really like anything pharma companies have ever had access to before. For instance, the company has come across rich sources of information about how people are abusing their drugs.

“There are three websites particularly rich in abuse data,” he said. “What people are doing on these websites is they’re actually coordinating clinical trial activities on abuse. They want to abuse drugs, get the maximum high out of it, and they don’t want to kill themselves doing it. So what they’re doing is they’re actually going in and telling people and coordinating, collecting data on the highs they get, collecting safety data, and then communicating to the abuse community how to abuse the drug.”

This can help the company make its drugs harder to abuse, and it’s information that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere.

“People don’t call their pharmaceutical companies and say ‘This is how I’m abusing your drug’,” he said. “They don’t go into their medical records and say ‘Can you add in that I’m snorting Bupropion?’”

The data can also be unexpectedly rich in helping compare adverse events to benefits of the drug. Twenty-nine percent of drug mentions the company has tracked mention the benefits patients received and 16 percent contextualize benefits around adverse events — as in “this drug gave me a migraine, but it was worth it”. Eleven percent of postings compared the drug to other treatment options.

Listening in on social media also helps GSK take the pulse on how well they’re communicating to their patients. By looking at the 6 percent of mentions that were information seeking, the company can identify information it isn’t presenting well.

In addition to the GSK presentation, Tim Fitzgerald, a Director in Merck’s Center for Observational and Real-World Evidence spoke at the event about how his company has used data from PatientsLikeMe. While GSK used social media data for postmarket research, Merck used PatientsLikeMe to do premarket research on Belsombra, an insomnia drug.

“Belsomra was launched in February of this year,” Fitzgerald said. “I did this project prior to launch with the idea to try to get a gauge on what is working, what is not working with the generic medications. To get an idea of what are patients saying about the drugs as far as their satisfaction. And then get into what are their sleep outcomes.”

What Merck found by examining data from the 90,000 insomnia patients on PatientsLikeMe was that even patients who tell their doctor they’re satisfied with their sleep medication are often continuing to have sleep problems. The benefits of existing drugs tended to decline over time and, most interestingly, people said the drugs worked to help them get to sleep, but didn’t keep them from waking up in the middle of the night.

The value proposition for Belsomra addressed some of these problems: it was designed to work over the long term for chronic insomnia, and to help people sleep the whole night. The data, Fitzgerald said, helped Merck to decide how best to market the drug.

At this same session last year, Genentech shared details about their partnership with PatientsLikeMe and other patient communities, and how they were using those insights.

From Bob Fiddaman: Seroxat Implicated In Fatal Sierre Bus Crash Tragedy


Monday, October 05, 2015

Did Seroxat Trigger the Fatal Sierre 2012 Bus Crash?

Sierre, Switzerland, March 2012

There were 52 on board, 28 people perished, 22 of them were children. The other 24 pupils, all aged between 10 and 12, were injured, including three who were hospitalized with severe brain and chest injuries.

The exact cause of the crash has never been determined. The driver, Geert Michiels (34), also perished in the crash. An investigation showed that Michiels was not intoxicated.

A full investigation into the crash was carried out by Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig, the results of which were inconclusive. He ruled out the involvement of a third party, shortcomings in the road surface or the tunnel infrastructure. Excessive speed, alcohol or technical problems with the vehicle were also ruled out. He, at no point, could determine whether or not Geert Michiels carried out an act of homicide/suicide with the vehicle. In fact the final report leaves more questions than it does answers.

Michiels had driven the coach through a tunnel, he mounted the curb, made no attempt to apply the brakes, and crashed head-on into a short wall. Photographs of the scene were taken by one of the parents whose daughter was killed in the crash. Her photo’s, taken whilst visiting the tunnel sometime after the tragedy, show how Michiels mounted the pavement and made no attempt to steer the coach back into the road, opting instead to drive straight into a wall. (Photos here)

Just by looking at the photos of the scene one has to ask why Michiels did not steer the bus to the right upon mounting the curb. One also has to ask why he never took his foot off the accelerator and, more importantly, never applied the brakes. As humans we have a basic instinct of survival, it kicks in when our lives are put in danger. Imagine, if you will, a pool of water. You are swimming blissfully when an undercurrent starts to pull you down. Do you fight for survival or do you just relax and let the current pull you under?

Michiels mounted the curb (Fig 1) and continued to travel at a rate of 99/101km (about 62mph) – I refer to my pool analogy – what happened to Michiels survival instinct?

Fig 1
If fig 1 has you thinking why didn’t Michiels steer to the right then you’ll be surprised that the 3D image comes from the original investigation. It has fallen under heavy criticism from the parents of some of the victims.
This from Foundation Busramp Sierre, a group calling for independent research to be carried out into the crash.
“This is a 3D reconstruction that has been released by the Swiss authorities in connection with the study, on which the trajectory of the bus in the veiligheidsnis is displayed. However, this 3D reconstruction is incorrect. In this image, the distance between the bus and side wall must have been a half bus width (approximately 1m25). The actual distance between bus and side wall was not even 25 centimeters.”
The actual width of the pavement can be seen in Fig 2. As you can see it would have been quite easy for Michiels to steer to the right to avoid the oncoming wall (Fig 3)
Fig 2
Fig 3

The autopsy results of Geert Michiels (above), revealed that his left coronary artery was blocked at least 60 percent due to fat deposits. This disease (atherosclerosis) can lead to heart rhythm disturbances or even a heart attack. The autopsy also revealed traces of paroxetine in the system, paroxetine is the generic name of Seroxat, also known as Paxil.

According to information Michiels had been taking Seroxat for several years, he had been prescribed it as, at the time, he was going through a divorce. However, he was, at the time of the accident, in the process of tapering off. (more on this later). Furthermore, during the initial investigation, it was learned that Michiels took the drug for two years and that the standard dose was reduced by half in early 2012. The intention was to eventually phase out the use completely. If the standard dose was 20mg then a reduction of 10mg could possibly have been too drastic.

Unsatisfied with the findings of  Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig, the parents of some of the children, who died in the crash, employed the services of the Dutch-based forensic agency Independent Forensic Services (IFS).

IFS found that Michiels made two clear movements seconds before the crash, consciously and with the intention of running the bus into the wall of the tunnel.

“The driver at no time lost control of the steering wheel,” IFS researcher Selma Eikenboom told Dutch TV. “He made those movements consciously, with some force. Then he drove straight on for several seconds and into the wall. That’s not something you do if you’re feeling faint.” Asked if this demonstrated his suicidal intent, she said. “That’s a conclusion you may draw for yourself. This is technical evidence that speaks for itself.”

According to Dutch lawyer Job Knoester, acting for the parents, Michiels’ medication, Seroxat or paroxetine, has been implicated in cases of suicide and serious aggression aimed at others. “If you know that, then the matter has to be investigated,” he said. “It seems as if the Swiss didn’t want to look into the question at all.”

Armed with this new evidence the parents applied to the Swiss courts, in essence they wanted the investigation reopened. The federal tribunal dismissed the appeal.

Lawyer Job Knoester from The Hague, counsel for some parents, said after the dismissal of the appeal, “The parents want to know why their children died.” He added that the Swiss court never carried out their own reconstruction of the disaster and no research had been done on the side-effects of Seroxat.

Don Schell

In February, 1998, Don Schell (60), a non-violent family man and doting grandfather, took a .22 calibre pistol and a 357 magnum in the middle of the night and shot dead the three people in the world dearest to him – his wife Rita, his daughter Deb and baby Alyssa. Then he killed himself.

In 2001, a jury of five women and three men ruled that taking Paxil was the proximate cause of the deaths of Schell and his wife, daughter and granddaughter. The jury ruled that GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of Paxil, were 80 percent responsible for the deaths. It held Schell 20 percent responsible. (Source)

David Carmichael

In 2004, while taking the antidepressant Paxil, Toronto fitness expert David Carmichael took his 11-year-old son Ian to a hotel room in London, Ont., and strangled him.

Charged with first-degree murder, Carmichael was found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder and transferred to the Brockville Mental Health Centre. On Dec 4, 2009, he received an absolute discharge from the Ontario Review Board.

According to Health Canada: “A small number of patients taking drugs of this type may feel worse instead of better … They may experience unusual feelings of agitation, hostility or anxiety, or have impulsive or disturbing thoughts that could involve self-harm or harm to others.”

David’s website, which goes into detail of the tragedy can be viewed here. A 10 minute segment aired by CTV W-Five regarding David’s story can also be viewed here.

The two cases are striking. In the Schell case we have a jury pretty much speaking for the dead to protect the living. In the Carmichael case we have the evidence given by the actual person responsible for the homicide.

Geert Michiels holds all the answers to the fatal Sierre coach crash, yet, it appears, nobody is willing to investigate the link between Seroxat and homicide/suicide. Nobody is willing to allow Michiels to give his version of events from beyond the grave.

Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig’s final report told us nothing, in fact, the report just tells us what didn’t cause the crash. Investigations like this are all about eliminating so one can arrive at a conclusion – the report was inconclusive. At no point, has Elsig investigated the possible link between Seroxat and homicide/suicide, it begs the question, why?

Geert Michiels was employed by De Lijn Vlaams-Brabant, a company run by the Flemish government in Belgium to provide public transportation. The coach he was driving on that fateful evening was owned by TopTours in Belgium. I wrote the following email to them…


I am doing some research into tour bus driver protocols with regard to driving whilst under the influence of prescription medication.

Do TopTours have any protocol in place where driver’s are either…

a) required to let TopTours know that they are on medication

b) required to stay off work until they have finished their course of prescription medication.

I have more questions but this will do for now.

Thanks in advance for your reply.


TopTours failed to reply.

I find it quite remarkable that the investigation failed to look into the fact that Michiels was tapering from a drug known to cause severe withdrawal problems, problems that have been, for years, downplayed by the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline. In fact, it recently came to light that Glaxo had known about the withdrawal problems (in adults) for some years, but failed to carry out their own clinical studies into this problem, furthermore, they kept this information from the public (See Seroxat – Project 1059 Laden With Withdrawal Problems)

If reports are correct that Michiels dosage of Seroxat had been halved in efforts to wean him off then we have a potential time bomb. The reduction of Seroxat by half was poor advice. I, myself, struggled tapering off Seroxat – it took me around 19 months just to taper from 40mg per day to 22mg per day – I was using the liquid formulation of Seroxat and tapering by just 0.5 mg per week. In the end, I went cold turkey and suffered horrendous side effects, one of which was seeking confrontation – I actually went out into a country park in the early hours of the morning looking/hoping I would encounter trouble. It’s all detailed in my book, The evidence, however, is clear, the Seroxat scandal.

Furthermore, Michiels and his wife, Evy Laermans, were allegedly at loggerheads with his decision to drive coaches. Michiels worked part-time but had, unbeknownst to Laermans, asked the coach company if they could offer him a full-time position. Laermans knew nothing about this as her speech at a commemoration for the victims shows. She said that Geert was giving up and that he was killed during one of his last trips. (Source)

Could the disagreements between Michiels and his wife have led to him deliberately crashing the coach, could this irrational thinking have been brought on by the reduction of Seroxat?

Going cold turkey on Seroxat is not recommended, the side-effects are too severe. And here’s where the investigation failed.

This from Michiels wife…

He (Michiels) had taken no pill taken before the accident.

Michiels was in withdrawal, this fact is unquestionable.

The current patient information leaflet for Seroxat says..

Possible withdrawal effects when stopping treatment.

Side effects.

  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady or off-balance
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Tremor (shakiness)
  • Feeling confused or disorientated
  • Visual disturbances

The patient information leaflet is written by GlaxoSmithKline, there is no mention of Seroxat causing completion of suicidal or homicidal acts in adults. They do, however, say…

Some people have had thoughts of harming or killing themselves while taking Seroxat or soon after stopping treatment. Some people have experienced aggression while taking Seroxat.

“Soon after stopping treatment” is the key here.

If Michiels, as his wife suggested, had stopped taking his treatment then, even the manufacturer of Seroxat claim, “Some people have had thoughts of harming or killing themselves while taking Seroxat or soon after stopping treatment.”

Why was this overlooked by Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig?

And what of Michiels treating physician? Was he interviewed at any stage of the original investigation – he, assuming it was a he, could have thrown light on the exact dose of Seroxat Michiels was taking, he/she could have also explained why he/she decided to tell Michiels to reduce his dosage by half – what protocol was Michiels physician following here?

Here we have a bunch of parents wishing for answers – they are each left in limbo until they get these answers. Every stone must be turned, every nook and cranny should be delved into. You cannot just dismiss something on a whim then move on to other matters in an investigation. It’s half-assed to claim that this was just an “accident” when such stark evidence exists that there may be more to it than that.

It must also be noted that we have a grieving wife too. Evy Laermans lost her husband on that fateful night so she too should deserve some respect here. She, rightly so, is defending the name of her husband. It would be difficult for any of the parents to feel any sympathy or indeed empathy for Michiels. Whatever way you paint it, he was in charge of the motor vehicle when it crashed. There are other factors here too. The finger of blame, or partial blame, could be pointed at Michiels doctor for suggesting such a drastic taper – then of course we have the pharmaceutical company that market and manufacture Seroxat – GlaxoSmithKline. They are, it appears covered though. The small, insignificant warning on the patient information leaflet is almost like a disclaimer for such tragedy’s.

In the case of Don Schell (above) we saw the jury return a verdict. They attributed 80% of the blame to Seroxat manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and 20% of the blame to Don Schell. The Swiss Chief Prosecutor Olivier Elsig has took the easy way out here, he has laid no blame on anyone, to do so would, no doubt, cause conflict, especially where GlaxoSmithKline are concerned. Elsig is sitting on the fence, he’s not wishing to rock the boat and this attitude is hindering the process of grief for the parents.

This case should be reopened. We may never be able to determine if Seroxat played a part in this tragedy but we should certainly put it on the table and, for the record, state that it may have induced a psychotic episode in Michiels. It needs to be an official statement here and not one of grieving parents, who will always be seen as people unwilling to accept that this was just an “accident”, nothing more, nothing less.

Operating any form of transport whilst under the influence of mind-altering drugs should also be looked into. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) don’t allow pilots on certain medications to operate aircraft, why, then, should coach companies be any different? In fact, back in 2010, the FAA cited Paxil as having a “severe withdrawal syndrome.”

With this knowledge, is it feasible to suggest that the coach company who hired the services of Michiels need to, at the very least, put something in place so no driver under the influence of psychiatric medication, is ever allowed to operate one of their vehicles again?

People should be talking about the possibilities in this case and not brushing them under the carpet. I doubt if the parents will ever find conclusive proof that Michiels deliberately crashed the coach into a brick wall, I doubt, if, indeed, Michiels did crash the coach deliberately, that the families will be able to determine whether or not Seroxat played a part in his decision making. It should, at the very least, be investigated and maybe listed as a possible causation.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie Jaws. Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is an expert in the field of sharks and shark attacks.

Hooper, examining the remains of the first victim, describes the post-mortem into his tape recorder.

Hooper: [to the m.e. and Brody] This was no boat accident!
Hooper: [to Brody] Did you notify the Coast Guard about this?
Brody: No. It was only local jurisdiction.
Hooper: [continues post-mortem] The left arm, head, shoulders, sternum and portions of the rib cage are intact…
Hooper: [lifts up the severed arm] This is what happens. It indicates the non-frenzied feeding of a large squalus – possibly Longimanus or Isurus glauca. Now… the enormous amount of tissue loss prevents any detailed analysis; however the attacking squalus must be considerably larger than any normal squalus found in these waters. Didn’t you get on a boat and check out these waters?
Brody: No.
Hooper: Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.

The parents of the children who perished in the Sierre coach crash have now formed a group. Foundation Busramp Sierre are calling for “Independent research into what really happened.”

In related news, Wendy B. Dolin, wife of the deceased, Stewart Dolin, charges that GSK negligently failed to warn her and her husband of what it knew to be a significant risk of suicide associated with Paxil (Seroxat).  – The full complaint can be read here.

Bob Fiddaman

A Song For Andrew Witty…

“Working Class Hero”

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
‘Til the pain is so big you feel nothing at allA working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
‘Til you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function, you’re so full of fear

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion, and sex, and T.V.
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me