Continuing with the Q&A’s from people that have played a role in my life for the past ten years or so that I’ve been writing this blog…
I’ve covered many stories of antidepressant induced suicide on this blog, each of them as heartbreaking as the next, each of them ignored by the medicines regulators, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical industry.
If a drug can induce thoughts of self harm and suicide then we can be safe to assume that this can also put others in danger.
In 2012 this assumption became a reality and, it appears, nobody wants to either talk about it or hold anyone accountable for it. It’s one of them cases where authorities have just shrugged their shoulders, in effect, pissing on the graves of those who perished.
Olga Leclercq’s daughter, Eline (Pictured), was one of the 22 children who died when, for reasons (apparently) unknown, Geert Michiels (34) drove a bus into a tunnel wall in Sierre, Switzerland. (Back stories at the foot of this Q&A)
It’s been established that Michiels was withdrawing from Seroxat (Paxil) at the time of the crash, he had missed his dose on the day of the crash. It’s also been established that Michiels deliberately drove the bus into a wall – a prior investigtion found that there were no mechanical problems with the bus and, more importantly, showed that at no point did Michiels apply the brakes of the bus.
I met Olga in London last year – what does one say to a mother who has lost a child in such horrific circumstances? I’ve wrote about the Sierre bus crash on numerous occasions on this blog, I’ve even corresponded with both the MHRA and the EMA (Medicines regulators) who have basically told me they are not interested and will not be carrying out their own investigations into this Seroxat related homicide.
Olga, along with other parents, are not letting go – why would they after the ‘official investigation’ was deemed to be “inconclusive”?
All of those involved in this investigation have, seemingly, ignored the most obvious cause, namely GlaxoSmithKline’s Seroxat – we see coroners, globally, do the same at inquests, not only where Seroxat has been implicated, but other SSRIs too.
This needs to change and people like Olga are at the forefront of that change.
Here is my Q&A with Olga Leclercq.
Name: Olga Leclercq
Location: Lommel Belgium
Q: Olga, this may be a difficult question, so forgive me if it’s painful for you. What is your fondest memory of Eline?
A: That is a difficult question because I have so many fondest memories of her. Eline was a very social girl, who loved to dance. She loved doing things together, it didn’t really matter what, walking the dog, cooking, watching a movie. She often had play dates with the girls in her class, most of them died in the crash as well. She often made cute notes or drawings which she would hide everywhere in the house for us to find. I miss finding those notes and drawings, I am so glad we kept them all.
Q: When did you first make the connection that the bus driver’s use of Seroxat could have been linked to him deliberately crashing the bus?
A: Given the trajectory, we knew at a very early stage that this could not have been an accident, the trajectory is way to difficult for that. I didn’t have any experience with antidepressants and when the Swiss authorities confirmed that the driver had Paroxetine in his blood, I started to look for more information.
I never knew these drugs were linked to suicidal ideation and violence. Akathisia was something completely new to me.
We asked the Swiss authorities to investigate a possible link with the Seroxat. They refused to look into this because they claim that only the first weeks are potentially dangerous, the driver was on this medication for 2 years, he was withdrawing at the time of the crash, and in fact had not taken his dosage that day. For the Swiss authorities there is no reason to look into this any further.
Q: Have you at any point corresponded with Seroxat manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, with regard to the bus crash or have they ever apologised for the role Seroxat played in Eline’s passing?
A: No, I never have. I know one of the attorneys that worked for them before looked at our website, but there has never been any correspondence between us and them. I doubt if they will ever take any responsibility, especially because the Swiss authorities never wanted to investigate and/or confirm a suicide. Officially it’s just an accident. The case was simply closed without a solid conclusion. Glaxo never made an attempt to look into this further. They never contacted us or the authorities to see if their drug might have been a cause, directly or indirectly.
Q: If you could ask GSK’s Andrew Witty three questions what would they be?
A: 1: Your drug Seroxat has been under discussion for more than two decades, many suicides, murders and family tragedies have been linked to your drug, how can you live with yourself?
2: are you willing to take a therapeutic dosage of Seroxat for two years, and then stop as fast as the bus driver did, by just cutting the pills in half? Could you keep a blog, just to show everyone how safe your drug really is?
3: What was one of your attorneys doing at our website? Did you connect the dots between the crash and your drug even before we did? I assume there must have been some curiosity about the cause of the crash, why didn’t you ask the Swiss authorities to investigate further, as we have done?
Q: What do you say to people who believe that antidepressants are safe and effective?
A: Please do your homework before claiming these drugs are safe and effective. Even the drug companies themselves cannot prove their effectiveness, and/or safety.
Q: You have recently received correspondence from the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. Can you tell me what that is about?
A: We asked for his help, we asked for the driver’s blood sample a couple of times before but the Swiss authorities refused, so we were hoping for the Prime Minister’s help in requesting this blood sample again. Maybe the request by the government will have more impact than the endless requests of a bunch of parents.
Q: Why is it important to you that the Swiss uthorities release samples of the bus driver’s blood?
A: We would like to have his DNA tested, through his DNA we can see if his body was able to break down his medication properly. Many people miss a certain enzyme (cytochrome P450) which means that they get toxic levels of the medication in their system. In other words: we could see if the medication was very likely to cause this crash.
Q: Can you tell me more about the Independent Forensic Services in Hulshorst, Netherlands?
A: We turned to them for help. It was a bit more than a year after the crash and we knew that the Investigation by the Swiss authorities were not going to give us any answers about the cause of the crash, all our requests (like a reconstruction) were denied. We were very happy that IFS wanted to take a close look at our case, they did the reconstruction with the help of Eugene Liscio, a forensic 3D expert. It confirmed our fears, it was a deliberate act. The report of the reconstruction and also the other findings were sent to the Swiss procureur. But this also has been ignored.
Q: Have you ever considered writing a book about your journey?
A: No, it would have been a good thing to do, because now I notice that I’m forgetting things. But I’ve never been keen on writing unlike my daughter Eline, who loved to write stories. My thoughts race from one subject to another, and I don’t have the patience to sit down and write. I wish I had.
Q: Tell me about the Foundation Busramp Sierre website.
A: We started this foundation to give background information about the crash and hopefully get some support in what we do and why. Especially in Belgium there is a “let it rest” attitude, and that is something I simply cannot do.
Q: Finally Olga, some personal questions…
1. What book are you currently reading?
A: Dr Peter Breggin: Medication Madness. The next one waiting on the shelf is Robert Whitaker, the anatomy of an epidemic and your book of course!
2. What was the last CD you listened to (in full)?
A: I mostly listen to the radio, but I have a toddler who loves “Jip en Janneke” that is the cd I even hear in my sleep 😉 I hear that one in full a couple of times a week.
3. What is the best movie you have seen this year?
A: I don’t know
4. What country would you most like to visit?
A: I would love to go to back to Indonesia.
We went there with the kids, 7 years ago. We travelled around for a month, I would love to do that again.
5. If you had the choice of being either a defence or prosecution lawyer, which would you choose and why?
A: Can I choose both? I would like to stand up for everyone who had to deal with a crappy investigation. Sometimes as a defence lawyer to help wrongfully convicted but also as a proscecution Lawyer to help families like us who are basically standing with their backs against the wall.