“….Two of the four CSM scientists, Michael Donaghy, a reader in clinical neurology from Oxford University, and David Nutt, professor of psychopharmacology at Bristol University, hold shares in GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers of Seroxat. They have to leave the room when Seroxat is discussed, although they stay for debate on the SSRI drugs as a class.
Prof Nutt and the invited expert, David Baldwin, senior lecturer in psychiatry at Southampton University, jointly fronted the promotional press launch of Seroxat after it won a licence to be prescribed for social anxiety disorder and was popularly dubbed the “shyness pill”….”
“….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.
It isn’t a new drug. Since 1991 it has been prescribed for obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. But its new constituency – its marketing opportunity – is for the shy. All they have to do is recognise that they are socially phobic.
Professor David Nutt, the director of the psychopharmacology unit at Bristol University, came to the lectern. He wanted to begin with a story. That morning on the train to Paddington he’d fallen into conversation with a woman who turned out also to be in the medical profession.
“Oh, the shyness pill,” she’d said when Professor Nutt told her of the conference he was off to. “I wonder if it could help me.” She was scared of “presentations”, where you have to stand up before an audience, speak and point to the slides on the screen. Her mouth dried, she couldn’t think, her sentences were scrambled. She’d stopped doing them.
I expected the professor’s point to be: no, the drug wasn’t meant to help with such professional hazards, it was designed to treat this much more serious condition, social anxiety disorder (I imagined frightened old people behind the locked doors of tower blocks). But in fact the professor’s point was the opposite. The pill may well be able to help her. Social anxiety disorder was precisely what she had – unlike the professor, who now began to talk in a relaxed way about the procession of statistics on the screen.”…
Not long after much fuss on Twitter, about the word ‘Pharma-Whore’ and the resignation of David Baldwin because of his links to Pharma, Royal College head- Wendy Burn- seems to see no problem in promoting another Pharma-Compromised individual – Prof .David Nutt.
Either Wendy Burn is oblivious, or she just doesn’t care, about these conflicts of interests. She doesn’t seem to see that these conflicts affect public discourse, prescribing habits and (in the case of Baldwin and Nutt in the 90’s) often help drug companies to promote products and harm patients by suppressing side effects (Seroxat is but one example).
Wendy doesn’t seem to think that doctors taking money from Pharma is a problem at all (see here– she more less told me that in a private message) and this leads me to think that she is not fit to represent the interests of people with mental illnesses. At the end of the day it is us (those prescribed the pills, and not warned of Side effects etc) who have had to suffer because of these conflicts of interests of Pharma-compromised individuals- not Wendy- it doesn’t affect her personally- so perhaps that’s why it doesn’t bother her that much?
I see a big problem with Pharma-Compromised individuals, often they have Pharma’s interests- not patients- at heart and that should concern
@wendyburn , if it doesn’t- then she is not fit to represent those with mental illnesses. She should be concerned with patient’s interests first, not psychiatrists on Pharma’s payroll.
Perhaps Wendy, on behalf of all those harmed by prescriptions, would like to ask David Nutt (and all of the other Pharma-compromised medical professionals) how much money would it take for them to feel they might be influenced by Pharma’s interests before patients interests?
Would it take 1,000 pounds? , 2,000 ? 10,000? 100,000?
Is there a limit to the price for their conscience, their ethics or their worldview?
According to a link below- David Nutt had/has 300 shares in GSK, at around 1,500 pounds a share – it seems that when Glaxo Benefits, so does David.
Maybe Wendy could find out if he has other shares in other Pharmaceutical companies?
I think that would be in patient’s interests to know..