The Independent 1998-
Dr Baldwin comments on Seroxat in 1998-
“….Dr David Baldwin, senior lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Southampton, said it was one of the safest drugs ever made and also that its leading side-effect in men was delayed ejaculation (not to be taken with Viagra, presumably)….”
Dr Peter Gordon on his blog 2018–
“…In early 2004, a little more than a week following finally discontinuing paroxetine, I had my only severe depression. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital but took my discharge. I then tried to hang myself with my belt…”
“…On the 8th October 1998, paroxetine was licensed in the UK for “Social anxiety disorder”. I was commenced on it for anxiety just weeks later. Nearly twenty years on and I am still taking it. I was never told that I might be taking it life-long. Had I been told of this I would not have consented to take it. Professor David Baldwin was the lead co-ordinator of the European trial on paroxetine for “Social anxiety “disorder”…..”
The Independent 1998-
“….And what do the shy do in such an age, when their condition is no longer hidden by the reticence of society in general, when shyness might mean unemployment?
According to SmithKline Beecham and its supporters in the medical profession, they take a pill. Seroxat is the brand name – the generic is paroxetine – and last month it was licensed by the Government to treat “social phobia/social anxiety disorder” (or shyness), which means that it will be available on the National Health Service.
On Thursday, I went along to a press conference at the Royal Medical Society in Wimpole Street to hear about it. Smith-Kline Beecham had been stung by a front-page piece in last week’s Sunday Times which linked Seroxat to other new “lifestyle” drugs, Viagra and Xenical (for obesity), and estimated that it could cost the NHS an extra pounds 700m a year.
Drug companies need the patronage of the NHS, and therefore public support, and the anxiety of our host, SmithKline Beecham’s corporate communications director, Dr Lynne Smith, was apparent in her opening remarks. She said the Sunday Times story “incorporated a number of errors” and implied that it had trivialised “this misunderstood illness” by calling Seroxat “a pill for shyness”. She said that social anxiety disorder was to shyness “what clinical depression is to sadness”. But as the conference went on – and it lasted for almost two hours with slides, lectures, a video, and questions – it seemed to me that the paper had got the story pretty well right. Seroxat is an SSRI, a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, which works by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain and inducing feelings of confidence and well-being….”
An essential re-post from ethical psychiatrist Peter Gordon’s blog about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry upon his colleagues (other UK psychiatrists) such as Professor David Baldwin. Baldwin has been in the pocket of Pharma for a long time. He was instrumental in promoting the idea of Seroxat for social anxiety. I wonder what he thinks now, considering what we know of Seroxat and GSK, particularly in relation to Seroxat/Paxil causing suicide in adults (see the Dolin case) and Seroxat causing suicide in children? (see GSK Paxil study 329) I wonder also what Baldwin thinks of his Pharma paymasters? what does he think of the fines GSK have paid in the US, and China? (totaling 3 and a half billion respectively). Does he think that we can trust the data on these drugs? Does he think we can trust drug companies? (see David Healy’s blog about this).
But most importantly…
Does Dr Baldwin still think that Seroxat is one of the safest drugs ever made?
(See Dr Baldwin’s vast declarations of interest with the Pharmaceutical industry here but please note that this is merely the last few years from 2014-2017: how much has he been taking in honoria previous to that?)
Based on available evidence, and this is limited, it seems that Professor David Baldwin has worked for the pharmaceutical industry through most of his career as a psychiatrist, academic, and educator.
On the 8th October 1998, paroxetine was licensed in the UK for “Social anxiety disorder”. I was commenced on it for anxiety just weeks later. Nearly twenty years on and I am still taking it. I was never told that I might be taking it life-long. Had I been told of this I would not have consented to take it. Professor David Baldwin was the lead co-ordinator of the European trial on paroxetine for “Social anxiety disorder”.
After several months on paroxetine I stopped taking it. I thought nothing of this until 36 hours after stopping it, when I felt nauseated, began to sweat profusely, and heard a constant buzzing in my head. I found that I could no longer think clearly nor concentrate. In short, I felt dreadful. Wondering if it was paroxetine (given the temporal relationship to my symptoms with the stopping of my only medication) (I was thinking as a doctor) I restarted paroxetine . . . and within a few hours my ‘symptoms’ went away.
From that time on, I tried gradually to reduce my paroxetine. I failed. I found that cutting tablets into small pieces could never be exact. Whilst discontinuing from paroxetine, I felt like I had flu, woke up frequently during the night, and became irritable and bleak in outlook.
My GP then kindly helped by prescribing liquid paroxetine, and with the aid of a micro-pipette, I reduced it as slowly as I possibly could. At this time (though I was not aware of it then) the Guardian had reported an “inquiry thrown into doubt over members’ links with manufacturers”:
In my gradual discontinuation of paroxetine I was aware that my mood had become lower than I had ever experienced. In early 2004, a little more than a week following finally discontinuing paroxetine, I had my only severe depression. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital but took my discharge. I then tried to hang myself with my belt. I am here to tell you some of this story because the steel curtain rail broke. The suffering that my wee children and my wife must have gone through is beyond what a loving daddy should ever wish to to consider.
In December 2016 the Royal College of Psychiatrists offered reassurance that relationships with Pharma were “all in the past” and that all is now “puritanical”.
Concerned about what seemed to me as casual reassurance I shared with the then President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Prof Sir Simon Wessely, evidence that demonstrated that these reassuring public statements had been made without justification.
Over the period of his Presidency Prof Sir Simon Wessely kindly corresponded with me about this issue (though I often sensed his irritation with my correspondence). Prof Sir Simon Wessely made clear to me that our correspondence was to be considered as “private” and “chit chat”.
Following my communications with my College (mostly unanswered) changes were made to the governance of competing financial interests of College members.
The new system put in place by my College might be called the “Wessely system”: unsearchable, bureaucratic, and providing no detail.
My experience of Professor Sir Simon Wessely is that I had to follow his narrative.
I want to make absolutely clear that I consider key opinion leaders to be honourable people. However we need to acknowledge evidence that has demonstrated that paid opinion leaders promote prescribing of worse treatments for patients. It seems to me that my profession remains in denial about this.
In late February 2018, Professor David Baldwin, along with the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Wendy Burn, had this letter published in the Times:
1 in 6 of us are now taking antidepressants, and many of us indefinitely. Many of us find that we cannot stop taking our medication. If we have symptoms on stopping, these are generally considered as symptoms of “relapse”.
Geddes study of 2003 does not provide “compelling evidence” for “maintenance treatment” [the authors conclude as much in their discussion].
Professor David Baldwin has been chosen as one of the experts to give evidence on Prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal for the forthcoming Public Health England review. Given the narrative that I have presented, I worry about this decision.
Declaration of interest: I was one of those who signed a formal complaint to the Royal College of Psychiatrists and then to the Secretary of State for Health.