10 YEARS AGO AND STILL NO JUSTICE!
Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Mark says coming off Seroxat made him violent
The drug has been linked to a number of suicides and is currently under review.
But its makers – the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline say that millions of patients around the world have taken it without suffering any ill-effects.
- To investigate the doubts surrounding Seroxat, Breakfast’s Luisa Baldini talked to Mark Hamilton, who claims that the drug turned him into a violent robber. Click here to go straight to a transcript of Luisa Baldini’s report
- Your comments We had hundreds of e-mails and text messages about Seroxat.
- The Seroxat debate
Benbow: Seroxat doesn’t cause aggression, but depression can
We put the questions raised by Mark’s case to Dr Alastair Benbow, The Head of European Clinical Psychiatry at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
We also talked to Andrew Isaacs of the Seroxat Users Group (you’ll find a link for this group on the right hand side of this page).
Dr Benbow, whose firm makes Seroxat, told us that he accepts the drug has some side effects, but the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
“Depression is a very serious condition, leading to 3,000 avoidable deaths every year.”
He added: “We saw here a case of potential violence and aggression “All the data suggests that actually Seroxat does not cause violence, whereas depression does.
“Depression often manifests itself in men in particular with irritability and depression, whereas in women it’s helplessness and hopelessness.”
The makers of Seroxat say that one in four patients will experience problems when coming off the drug – but it isn’t addictive. If you do want to come off the drug, you should take it slowly
“All people can get off by tapering gradually – working with the doctor to get off. And that’s the same with all anti depressants and agents which work on the mind.”
It was hailed as a miracle cure for anxiety and shyness.
But Seroxat has left thousands of people with a bitter after-taste.
There can be severe side-effects.
Its prescription’s already been banned to under 18s when it was found they were more likely to harm themselves.
And some say trying to withdraw from it is even worse.
Thirty year-old Mark Hamilton was working and living in Oxford last year when he claims Seroxat turned him into a criminal.
He says: “My personality changed so drastically I started to shop lift. I had violent thoughts towards other people – homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts.
“On top of all this I was physically falling apart. All of this culminated in me robbing a local garage.”
Mark was facing up to eight years in prison when his case was suddenly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
It followed this medical report suggesting his behaviour could have been altered by trying to come off Seroxat.
Pressed on whether he was just using this as an excuse, Mark says: “Violent is one thing I have never been – I’ve avoided violence all my life.”
There are other cases similar to Mark’s.
A woman in Scotland convicted of assault was spared a jail sentence after the judge told her:
“you would not have done this if you had not been taking Seroxat…the behaviour of normally sensible people can become aggressive after taking the drug.”
In Wales a police officer had assault charges against him dropped.
The claims are given some credence by the case of Donald Schell in the United States. He killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter after just 2 days on the drug. The government is reviewing Seroxat, looking specifically at potential withdrawal reactions, and reported suicidal behaviour. The findings are due before the end of the year.NameYour E-mail addresstown or cityComments
Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.
But doubts are beginning to surface about its effects on some patients – particularly when they try to come off the drug.
Taking Seroxat is increasingly being used as a defence for criminal behaviour. In one case, a man had charges dropped against him after claiming the drug turned him into a robber.
My personality changed so drastically I started to shop lift. I had violent thoughts towards other people – homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts.. All of this culminated in me robbing a
just 16 but within a week of starting seroxat had began self harming.
|October 9 2004, 4:59 PM|
Sarah Thompson says she
self harmed on Seroxat
Sarah Thompson was prescribed Seroxat for depression three years ago. She was just 16 at the time.
She had never had suicidal thoughts before taking the drug, but within a week had began self harming.
She told the programme: “I’d never thought about suicide before I took Seroxat and when I was taking it. I was obsessed about death it was part of my every day life.
“I would cut myself mainly and then I started to burn myself and found other methods, but it was mainly cutting myself to start with.
Three years on, she has strong views about the regulation of the drug: “Looking back at what happened to me because of Seroxat, and the great affect it has had on my life and to my relationships with my family and my future.
“I don’t think that the regulators are doing their job properly, because they allowed me to take a drug that has in effect taken away part of my childhood.”
Three days ago I wrote a blog post titled: “Would The Real Ben Goldacre Please Stand Up?”. The gist of the blog post was a general illustration of how people (particularly doctors, psychiatrists and academics) can be seduced and manipulated by the pharmaceutical industry. I used Ben Goldacre as an example because quite frankly- his stance on the pharmaceutical industry confused me. On the one hand- he writes about drug company corruption and advocates for better access to clinical trail data- but on the other- he accepts awards from GSK (one that I am aware of anyhow) and gushes undue praise on the management of the company (GSK ) that he criticizes in his books.
I find this attitude baffling. I really do.
I understand that there are obvious overlaps within the pharmaceutical world between the industry, regulation, academia, universities, marketing and science etc. It is common for scientists and academics to receive bursaries and funding for research (particularly early on in their careers) and this doesn’t always mean that a conflict of interest, a bias, or corruption comes along with that -but what really frustrates me is how the industry (and those attached to it) doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with this generally. It’s as if there is an attitude of- “it’s so rampant and ingrained” that they wonder why anyone would question it? The attitude seems to be- “everyone has either done it- is doing it- or will do it” so what’s the problem?
And herein lies exactly the problem…
Because it is so widespread: this forms the crux of the problem! Industry has too much power and influence. That’s the problem!
Companies like GSK have their monetary tentacles in literally every facet of UK society. Globally they are powerful too- but it is on their home-turf where they are virtually untouchable. They basically operate above the law.
Why is this?
It’s simply because they are the UK’s biggest drug company (and second biggest globally)- they are massively important for the UK economy- not just in terms of jobs in research, development, factories etc- but also in terms of what they donate to, support, and sponsor in regards to universities, science, scholarship etc. They are massively influential. Too influential.
Often it is difficult to entangle who is indirectly being funded by pharmaceutical companies because they can sometimes donate to organizations (patient groups, astro-turfing) who then funnel funding through to different people and on to individuals. And then we have the problem of who owns stocks and shares in companies like GSK? How does that influence policy? How much influence and power do GSK have over politicians, the government, regulation, academia, etc etc etc.
From what I have researched- GSK have immense power in the UK. Too much power.
This wouldn’t be a problem if GSK were an ethical and moral drug company who cared about patients before profits. But, alas they are not. They are just simply not ethical and they have never given any reason for us to believe that they ever will be.
I could rattle off dozens of instances of GSK’s unethical behavior but I won’t as I have almost 500 blog posts documenting that.. and I think anyone who knows the industry would have to be aware that GSK are amongst the worst offenders of corporate crime of recent times…but anyhow all that has been documented on this blog and all over the web so I won’t talk about that now…
But what I would like to talk about is Ben Goldacre’s comments on my blog-post.
I did not expect Ben Goldacre to comment on the blog-post and I was surprised when I noticed views coming from the Guardian. I did not expect the comments after the post to turn into something of a debate either. Furthermore, I honestly have had little interest in Ben Goldacre until recently. I was aware that he was involved in Alltrials and wrote Bad Pharma, but it wasn’t until I began to think to myself that he was possibly being manipulated by GSK that I started to research stuff online.
I don’t think that Ben Goldacre is corrupt at all. Not in the slightest bit. I think his heart is sincerely in the right place. I honestly think he is one of the good guys and I think he genuinely wants to do the right thing, but I do think he could be being misled by GSK and I think it could be precisely because of his trusting nature that GSK have endorsed him and his Alltrials organization. I also think GSK are cynically using his celebrity and popularity for PR purposes – and I hope Ben begins to see that too, or at least becomes a little aware of it…
That’s just what I think and that’s my opinion- and that was the purpose of the blog post. I hope I am proved wrong and that GSK will give access to all their trials- particularly the raw data- nobody would like that more than me- it’s what I have been calling for – for several years on this blog! I was prescribed Seroxat and I would love to know what GSK have hidden about that!
However, I have been scrutinizing GSK for a long time now- and I just do not trust them- nor will I ever -and I think it’s foolish to approach them with anything but mistrust and caution. They have broken every promise in relation to trial data so far so it is likely that they will not change their policy now, or they will find a way around all this… they always do. If they do give data it will be on their terms- they will not do anything that goes against their interest- they never do.
I could go on and on about how corrupt, fraudulent and criminal GSK are but everyone knows that- or at least they should!
But I would like to sincerely say to Ben..
and if you would like to contact Bob Fiddaman – he has information that he would like to pass on to you- it might help..
E-mail him here:
Good luck 🙂
Ben Goldacre is a doctor, journalist, blogger and writer whose media profile has risen exponentially over the past few years, particularly with the release of his last book on the pharmaceutical industry, Bad Pharma. But who is the real Ben Goldacre- and what does he really stand for?
Whilst Bad Pharma catapulted Ben Goldacre’s career firmly into the mainstream (and his trendy hip-doctor/guardian-journo persona seemed to capture the interest of the public imagination)- the content of Bad Pharma had more or less been covered already by other writers such as David Healy , Marcia Angell and others- over the years.
Actually, most of the topics and issues in Goldacre’s book had also already been covered on this blog alone – predating the content of his book by five years ( I set up this blog in 2007- Bad Pharma was published in 2012).
In other words- for a seasoned pharmaceutical industry critic, patient advocate, ex-Seroxat addict and blogger like me – what he had to ‘reveal’ about the badness and misdeeds of pharmaceutical companies was hardly revelatory at all. I could have written it myself as I was certainly familiar with most of the information.
All that aside- what interests me most about Goldacre is his association with GlaxoSmithKline.
Back in 2003- Goldacre received the GSK/ABSW award for his Guardian article ‘never mind the facts’. The article itself was basically a rebuttal piece in defense of MMR Vaccines and thus in turn- a defense of the pharmaceutical companies who make them and somewhat of an attack on those who claim that they can cause harm.
I am no expert on vaccines or their link to Autism, nor would I ever claim to be- but I am well versed in pharmaceutical misdeeds- in particular those of GSK (I have been researching and blogging about GSK related issues for over 7 years now). I am aware that one of GSK’s vaccines, Pluserix was banned in 1992 and like other GSK medicines- such as Seroxat and Avandia- not only was it causing immense harm- but GSK were allegedly aware of it.
From my own experience of Seroxat- I would like to categorically state that I believe GSK were aware that Seroxat might harm me but like many instances with many other GSK products, they failed to warn- because all that matters to GSK is the health of GSK. Profit is the bottom line. Patients- like me- are merely collateral damage. However, considering that Goldacre is a psychiatrist (a fact he seems resistant to overtly publicize) maybe he just doesn’t care much for those who claim to be harmed by psychiatric drugs like Seroxat? Nonetheless- there is surely enough quackery and pseudo-science in Seroxat marketing which could keep a self-proclaimed quack-buster like Goldacre steeped in column inches for months.
GSK have a murky history of malpractice and deception- their corporate history is littered with headline after headline of disturbing unscrupulous behavior. They are quite simply- pathologically sociopathic when it comes to harming the public. As a physician- I am surprised that Ben Goldacre would be so quick to jump to their defense- surely fraudulent clinical trials, intimidation of critics and widespread corruption resulting in damage to patients- would go entirely against the physician’s hippocratic oath?
Not so- it seems… in Ben Goldacre’s world.
Below is a picture of Goldacre receiving his BSW/GSK ‘science writers’ award from (none other than) GSK’s infamous Seroxat apologist Alastair Benbow (pictured right) in 2003. Apparently the award includes a 2000 pound bursary. (see link) http://www.badscience.net/2006/07/test-2/
Benbow was interviewed by BBC Panorama for their Seroxat documentaries and in (a diabolically delivered) defense of Seroxat he basically eventually admitted that Seroxat caused some children to commit suicide (after previously denying this in the Panorama documentary before it). Chillingly, Benbow seemed to think that this fatal side effect was almost inconsequential in the grand scheme of pharmaceutical depression treatment.
The year Mr Goldacre was receiving awards from GSK for writing articles in favor of the pharmaceutical industry, was also the year that coroners in the UK were calling for a withdrawal of GSK’s Seroxat from the market (see here).
2003 was also the year that (due to overwhelming evidence from the public) GSK were forced to abandon their no addiction claim about Seroxat. (see here)
The year that Ben was posing with an award from a GSK funded initiative is also the year that the UK regulator banned Seroxat for under-18’s due to it’s propensity to make them suicidal- a sinister fact that GSK failed to inform the public of- for years. (see here)
(Thankfully, for users of Seroxat, it was Ben Goldacre’s colleague- Sarah Boseley of the Guardian -who covered most of these stories)
According to a tweet (screen-grab below) sent in 2010 in response to Seroxat Secrets, Goldacre, knows the’ Seroxat story well‘ and apparently he thinks it’s ‘vile‘. If this is the case then perhaps he would relay his opinion on Seroxat to his chum Andrew Witty because Mr Witty doesn’t seem to give a damn about Seroxat at all. If Goldacre really thinks that the Seroxat story is so vile- then why be so chummy with GSK?
Goldacre’s stance on pharmaceutical companies seemed to take a sharp turn with the release of Bad Pharma, which on the surface paints them in a very negative light. However, since most of the content of Bad Pharma had already been covered either online, by blogs, in news-articles or in print form already- one would have to question whether it really had any negative impact at all on the reputation of the industry? Did it enlighten us to anything we did not know already?
An insightful (albeit also complex) review of Bad Pharma from David Healy (not so bad pharma) seems to conclude that the problem with Bad Pharma rests not upon the repetition of content already covered, or the many flawed arguments raised which seem to rally against the pharmaceutical industry but actually often work in their favor, “but on the premium Ben puts on controlled trials not found in other books”.
You would have to read Healy’s review a few times to understand just how flawed and -dare I say it- impotent –Bad Pharma is- particularly from a patient’s (or patient advocate’s) perspective. Perhaps it’s justified to ask- if a book highlighting the badness of Pharma actually serves to work in their favor in the long term- what use is it for the benefit of the public? Are we any safer? Possibly not.
In a video of a parliamentary discussion of clinical trial transparency in the UK parliament from April 2013- Goldacre sits alongside GSK exec- James Shannon, and William Burns from Roche (19:06:00). In this inquiry, Goldacre refers to GSK as being ‘rather badly behaved‘ in the past- he then goes on to congratulate them on their current progress towards atonement (a fairy-tale like ‘atonement agenda’ which Goldacre seems to be swallowing hook-line-and sinker). The irony of this is- GSK have no intention of giving any access to clinical trials which predate 2000- therefore trials on drugs like Seroxat will not be released for inspection (Seroxat Trials pre-date the 90’s).
I find Goldacre’s choice of words also quite astounding- ‘rather badly behaved‘ really doesn’t describe the destruction of life from a defective drug like Avandia or Seroxat. “Rather badly behaved‘ doesn’t illustrate the magnitude of a 3 Billion dollar fine for fraud and corruption does it? “Rather badly behaved‘ is the kind of phrase we might use in regards to naughty children who won’t do their homework- not the UK’s biggest drug company (with the responsibility and power to enhance or extinguish human life on any given day depending on which way their ethical compass intends to sway). Goldacre then proceeds to heavily criticize Roche and their Tamiflu debacle -conveniently leaving GSK looking much more ethical by comparison.
In an interview from March 2013– Goldacre says that he met Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK, before the announcement that GSK will release all trial data relating to its current products, with older data being released over several years. “He’d obviously thought very carefully about the practicalities of it, and that reassures me – he’d thought about how to do it, what the costs would be, and I think it’s to his enormous credit.” Following the announcement Among one of many celebratory tweets, Goldacre said the news was: “Amazing. Fantastic. Historic.”
Thanking GSK for its decision, he added: “This is the beginning of the end for a dark era in medical history.” This ‘end of an era‘- and ‘the beginning of a new ethical GSK’ concept– has long been the mantra of Andrew Witty and GSK- particularly in regards to crimes that were committed prior to Andrew Witty’s tenture as CEO. I’m sure that GSK is delighted to have people like Goldacre championing (and echoing) its PR agenda- tweets from Ben Goldacre (with 250,000 followers) go far and wide. Furthermore, these are just the perfect type of glowing PR sound-bytes that- pharmaceutical reputation management consultants- can’t even buy for GSK. Goldacre’s support must therefore be -utterly invaluable to them…
And here we come back again to Ben Goldacre and his association with GSK. At every given opening in the clinical trial transparency debate- it seems Ben Goldacre just can’t resist an opportunity to lavish praise upon GSK CEO Andrew Witty. In an article from October last year (2012) he says:
“I think Andrew Witty, the current head of GSK, is a good guy, and I discuss this at length in the afterword of Bad Pharma: because I don’t realistically think that we can rely on one person in one company being nice, as a strategy to address ongoing regulatory failure in a global $600bn industry where lives are at stake.” (see here)
However, considering that Andrew Witty has worked for GSK in various high level positions for most of his adult life I think it would be safe to assume that as CEO now he would have knowledge of most things that have – and do occur -within the company- including those things which would often undoubtedly come under the banner of big bad pharma…
And Ben… “good guys don’t become CEO’s of Billion-dollar Global Pharmaceutical companies”…
“You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God, the British Journalist,
For seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.1
What is true cannot be minted
into a falsehood, even by
the most distinguished professor. 4
4 Samuel Hahnemann.”
(Quotes Kindly Taken From http://www.whale.to/b/dwarfs01.pdf)
Listen to the podcast here :
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Podcast from Shelley Jofre BBC Panorama
Podcast from Shelley Jofre BBC Panorama speaking at Coventry University UK.
Shelley has taken on the likes of GSK, The MHRA – Confronted the patronizing Martin Keller.
She has grilled MHRA Chairman, Alasdair Breckenridge, put GSK’s Head of European Clinical Psychiatry, Alastiar Benbow, on the spot [“We haven’t got a licence in children yet”]
In this Podcast, Shelley discusses the four Panorama programmes where Seroxat was highlighted.
We all owe a great deal of thanks to Shelley – The decline in Seroxat prescriptions since the airing of her investigative programmes is not a coincidence.
This blog gives Shelley a 21 gun-salute.
Who the hell is Alastair Benbow, I hear you say? ..
The name Alastair Benbow sends shivers down the spines of many Seroxat Sufferers (and for some it has them reaching for the sick bucket.. and those are the one’s who are not in withdrawal!)
Alastair Benbow’s BBC panorama interviews (from the outstanding Seroxat documentaries) are a paradigm of bad PR Fuck Up’s…
Basically, Mr Benbow was carted out for damage limitation by GSK when the truth about Seroxat was documented by the BBC. Mr Benbow’s performance in defense of Seroxat for GSK on British TV can only be described as outstanding(ly bad)..
The sheer depth of his inhuman response gives us a great insight into the sociopathic tendencies of those whom rise to the top of major multi-national corporations… Not that I’m saying that Alastair himself has these tendencies… perhaps he was genuinely misguided.. Or maybe he was off-mood that day… Who Knows? ..I guess we can only speculate… But.. You can’t help but look into those pale icy blue eyes, below that furrowed and lined faux-concerned brow, on that robotic little condescending head and wonder?… What the hell were you thinking Dr. Benbow?… Seriously? …
Or as we say around here.. Are you for fucking real?
From Bob Fiddaman...
The Drug Industry Document Archive [DIDA] has obtained and released over 200 previously unseen court files from various Paxil litigation cases. Browsing through them last night was akin to losing £10 then later finding £100…make that a £1000
The Project on Government Oversight [POGO] is an investigation into ghostwriting in academia. They have managed to obtain many files, one of which I shall be highlighting today.
The file in question has, to my knowledge, never been seen before, it’s 19 pages long and is a transcript from an interview given by Glaxo’s Alastair Benbow to BBC TV’s investigative reporter Shelly Jofre back in 2002. What makes this transcript so unique is that much of it was never actually aired on BBC TV when the interview went out.
You will see how Jofre pushes Benbow for answers, answers that he just does not want to give. You will see Jofre push him for answers on the withdrawal issue regarding Paxil [Seroxat] and. time and time again, you will see how Benbow avoids the question.
Benbow has mastered the art of deflection but Jofre is an ankle biter – she just does not let go.
These files are like gold dust, I am highlighting this one in particular because I think it is important to see Glaxo’s stance on how they believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that their drug does not cause major withdrawal problems for those that take it.
What I find interesting is the exchange between Jofre and Benbow regarding the word ‘addiction’. Jofre, using the Oxford English Dictionary pushes Benbow on the definition of the word:
Q. Your leaflet says ‘remember you cannot become addicted to Seroxat’, but that’s not true is it?
A. Yes, it is true. There is no reliable evidence that Seroxat can cause addiction or dependence, and this has been borne out by a number of independent clinical experts, by regulatory authorities around the world, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a number of other groups.
Q. If people cannot stop taking a drug when they want to stop taking it they are addicted are they not?
A. No, that is not correct. The definition of addiction is not as you describe it. Addiction is characterised by a number of different criteria, which includes craving, which includes increasing the dose of the drug to get the same effect, and a number of other features, and those are not exhibited by Seroxat.
Q. That is not with respect what the Oxford English Dictionary says. It says, “Addiction is having a compulsion to take a drug, the stopping of which produces withdrawal symptoms.”
A. It is true that a number of patients will experience symptoms on withdrawal.
Q. That is what addiction means is it not?
A. No, it is not.
Q. That is what the dictionary says.
A. That is not a clinical definition of addiction or dependence. Dependence is very clearly laid down by international
Q. But when people start taking Seroxat they do not consult a medical dictionary.
A. No, and they will not consult the Oxford English Dictionary either.
Q. The Oxford English Dictionary tells you what common usage of the word addiction is. People understand that if they cannot stop taking a drug it is addictive.
A. The reality of the situation is that regulatory authorities around the world, independent clinical experts and key groups like the Royal College of Psychiatrists, have agreed that Seroxat is not habit forming or addictive.
Q. But your patient leaflet is meant to help and inform patients is it not?
A. Yes, it is, and it does I believe.
Q. Not according to the people we have spoken to who feel they were not warned that this could happen to them. They read, “You cannot become addicted to Seroxat” and thought they could stop the drug any time they wanted.
A. No, the reality is they can stop the drug, but it is true…
Q. But you cannot stop any time you want.
A. Yes, they can and the information clearly says that Seroxat is not addictive, and it is not. It is true that a proportion of patients may develop symptoms on stopping the drug. These are generally mild to moderate in nature … [Inaudible due to interruption] permitting, and will go away usually within a two-week period.
If this hasn’t angered the hundreds of thousands of sufferers world-wide yet then wait til you read the full exchange.
The way Benbow plays down the severe withdrawal issues has to be noted, they way in which he refuses to acknowledge the many thousands that have suffered horrendous side-effects at the hands of his company’s drug is also striking.
Back in 2008, Alastair Benbow instructed lawyers to contact me because I had apparently caused him ‘unwanted distress’ with a video I had created and subsequent comments to that video. I hope Benbow does not feel such unwanted distress with this file that is now in the public domain.
It’s fair to say that I do not like Benbow. I do not like the way he comes across when giving interviews on TV and his constant denials that there really isn’t a problem with Seroxat withdrawal. One only has to go to the Paxil petition to see that either over 10,000 people are lying or Benbow is…or wishes to ignore patient reports about his company’s drug.
Benbow, in effect, is calling me a liar, he is saying that I, along with thousands of others, are experiencing what is an ‘extreme reaction’ and, in truth, he and his company just don’t know why or how to help people who are suffering these severe reactions.
Only last week I highlighted how a patient had telephoned GlaxoSmithKline because she was at a loss of what to do regarding her tapering. She, just like me and many thousands, was finding it extremely difficult to wean herself off Seroxat, a drug that, claims Benbow, is not addictive. Glaxo told her to go and talk to her doctor, they refused to discuss the matter with her, citing some pharmaceutical code of practice ruling.
This is the company whose corporate motto is “Committed to improving the quality of human life.”
It’s a fascinating document, if only to show how dogged investigative reporter Shelly Jofre is and how Benbow appears to be in denial throughout the whole interview.
The document can be downloaded HERE