A Denmark-based medical researcher named Peter C. Gotzsche, MD recently stirred controversy with a strongly worded editorial published in the prestigious British Medical Journal. In his editorial essay, Dr. Gotzsche criticized accepted data and beliefs about the use of antidepressants and other common psychiatric drugs. According to Gotzsche, when you closely examine the data, these drugs are far less effective and far more deadly than what is widely reported. Dr. Gotzsche has been researching the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry and modern medicine for a number of years, leading him to publish a book on the topic called Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Health Care. In a blog article, Gotzsche stated “In 2012, I found out that the ten biggest drug companies in the world commit repeated and serious crimes to such a degree that they fulfill the criteria for organised crime under U.S. law. I also found out how huge the consequences of the crimes are. They involve colossal thefts of public monies and they contribute substantially to the fact that our drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.”
In researching antidepressant drugs, Dr. Gotzsche found serious problems with the mainstream data and conclusions about these medications. First, he said the FDA under-reports suicides linked to antidepressant drugs, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). For example, Gotzsche looked at one recent meta-analysis involving 100,000 men and women on antidepressants. According to the FDA’s published data, there were only five suicides in 52,960 patients. But when you look closer, you see the FDA only labeled a death as a “suicide” if it happened within 24 hours after the patient stopped taking the drug. When you broaden the scope of investigation, you see the real number is 15 times higher than what the FDA reports. When people stop taking these drugs, it typically takes weeks for the withdrawal effects to “wash out” of their systems. The withdrawal symptoms can be terrible and can lead to psychotic episodes and both suicidal and homicidal thoughts and behavior. Also, many people commit suicide while taking the drug, not just when commencing withdrawal. Thus, limiting the window of suicide to be associated with the use of these drugs to just the first 24 hours of time following the discontinuation of their use is scientifically absurd and is presumably a dishonest approach designed to hide the deadly outcomes that are connected to antidepressant medication use.
Dr. Marc Micozzi, once a consulting forensic pathologist, notes that there is a “tragically paradoxical connection between antidepressant use and suicide. “When you give an antidepressant to a depressed person who has thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), the drug gives them the energy to bring the idea of suicide to reality…the worst possible treatment failure,” says Micozzi. Dr. Gotzsche says many other studies come up with the same disturbing trend, especially among men and women over 65 years of age. He reports that conservative estimates from a number of trials suggest antidepressants increase death rates for this population by two percent overall. In addition, antipsychotic drugs, sometimes given to patients with dementia, and benzodiazepines, sometimes prescribed as sleeping pills, each increase death rates by one per cent. Gotzsche says that these types of psychiatric drugs altogether cause 539,000 excess deaths in men and women aged 65 and older in the United States and the European Union.
Dr. Gotzsche’s second serious problem with antidepressant research is the lack of actual benefit from their use. He reports that these industry-funded, randomized trials suffer from patient bias and poor design. These studies often include patients who are already taking another antidepressant drug. Consequently, in order to participate, these patients must first undergo a washout period of discontinuing their prior medication, which forces them into a “cold-turkey” withdrawal. Then, testing of the new study drug begins after the harsh withdrawal. Of course, the patients tend to feel significantly better on the study drug than how they felt during their withdrawal period. Dr. Gotzsche says this design flaw exaggerates the effect of the new study drug.
Pharmaceutical companies typically conduct clinical trials on antidepressants in the same way they conduct their trials for some other big-selling drugs… in such a way as to arrive at a desired conclusion that favors drug effectiveness. These studies have major commercial stakes, and there is always an incentive to distort the study protocol, data collection, and data reporting to favor the appearance of drug safety and efficacy while hiding any major adverse effects that may arise. According to Gotzsche’s investigation, most psychiatric medications aren’t any more effective than a placebo. Some studies show antidepressants only work for about one in seven depressed patients. And that one patient in seven may very well feel a benefit merely because of the placebo effect.
Antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs cause a wide range of serious side effects. In fact, animal studies – which are far better controlled and precise than human drug trials – demonstrate that antidepressants, other psychiatric drugs, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs can actually damage brain tissue or function. Dr. Gotzsche says there’s no legitimate reason for doctors to prescribe antidepressants and many other psychiatric drugs to their patients. He says the drugs would have to incur “colossal” benefits to justify their use, given their terrible safety profiles. But those “colossal” benefits clearly don’t exist, even with studies manipulated to enhance the appearance of drug efficacy. In an interview with Medscape, Gotzsche said, “Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm – by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs.”
Richard Smith, former Editor-in-Chief of the British Medical Journal says of Dr. Gotzsche’s research:
“Most of Peter’s book is devoted to building up the case that the drug industry has systematically corrupted science to play up the benefits and play down the harms of their drugs.”
“As an epidemiologist with very high numerical literacy and a passion for detail, so that he is a world leader in critiquing clinical studies, Peter is here on very solid ground. He joins many others, including former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, in showing this corruption.”
“He shows too how the industry has bought doctors, academics, journals, professional and patient organisations, university departments, journalists, regulators, and politicians.”
“These are the methods of the mob.”
While withdrawing from psychiatric drugs can be a difficult process that involves careful monitoring and multiple supportive resources, many people succeed in doing so and find that natural healing approaches lead to them feeling much better than they ever did with psychiatric medications. The future of mental health care may be one in which holistic and integrative healing approaches are used, to address physiological, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and environmental factors in ways that do not cause harm. If our society is to evolve in a positive direction it is imperative for the psychological well-being of the population to be addressed in ways that foster long term benefit rather than long term harm. Anyone observing the overall effect of the domination of mental health care by pharmaceutical products is likely to conclude that this approach has led to a worsening of societal mental health rather than improvement. Dr. Peter Gotzsche has collected the evidence that seems to confirm this assessment.