August 8, 2009
Adverse effects of widely-prescribed drugs are often overlooked because there is so little truly independent academic evidence
Since 2005, the SSRI paroxetine, first marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Seroxat, has carried warnings of risk of birth defects. In the US litigation in which I have been asked to give evidence, the plaintives will argue that, even before they were launched, there was good laboratory evidence that the SSRIs might cause problems, and, following their initial marketing, evidence emerged over a decade ago from clinical use that the drugs actually do cause problems.
Yet these drugs have been actively promoted, de facto primarily to women of child-bearing years. How could this happen?
Part of the problem is that having gone to their GP with a nervous problem, many women become dependent on a prescribed SSRI and find it impossible to stop using it whether they wish to get pregnant or if they find they are pregnant while on treatment. But few, if any, of these women will have been informed of either the risk of birth defects or the risk of becoming addicted. Why not?
What we are seeing here is the astonishing marketing power of pharmaceutical companies, which can now effect huge changes in medical culture within months. In this case, a great part of the scientific literature (the primary marketing tool of companies) on the use of antidepressants in pregnancy and on dependence on antidepressants is ghostwritten – just as virtually all literature on giving antidepressants to children was, at one point, company-written.