Clozapine’s new ambassador – Claire Danes

I actually wanted to have a nastier title, (two P words came to mind before I came up with “ambassador”) but I thought better of it. I wish Claire Danes had at least thought about the implications of what she is doing – but of course, money talks. May the Karma truck eventually drive up to her door and dump a load of excess calories her way.

Here’s a look behind the scenes at clozapine, courtesy of David Healy’s Mad in America post.

In the latest hit series Homeland Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison a CIA agent with bipolar disorder taking Clozapine. She takes the drug to prevent herself tipping over into frank paranoia in a world where being paranoid is necessary for survival.

Anyone who knows anything about Clozapine knows Claire Danes is definitely not on it – she would not be as slim and svelte as she is if she were taking it. Weight gain is something Evident about clozapine that stands in contrast to the Evidence showing no weight gain that companies have gone out of their way to produce for Clozapine and related drugs like Zyprexa and Seroquel (see False Friends).

The question is what does Claire Danes know about Clozapine and should she get paranoid rather than just play the paranoid? As an actress is she killing people playing the part she plays? Is there anything else Evident about Clozapine being hidden by the Evidence?

Clozapine began life in 1958. It was given to the world’s leading psychopharmacologist Pierre Deniker to assess. At the time the neuroleptic/antipsychotic group of drugs was regarded as very safe. Several of Deniker’s patients died on Clozapine and startled by the number and range of deaths he said it was Evident that it should not be developed.

The company who made Clozapine (Wander) paid no heed to him; business and clinical evidence are two different things. Clozapine’s development continued even after Wander was taken over by Sandoz. Then in 1975 a series of deaths on Clozapine following drops in white blood cell counts happened in Finland. Clozapine was removed from markets in Europe and never made it to the US – Homeland Security (aka the FDA) intervened.

But it re-emerged in 1988 in the United States, in part because of efforts within Homeland Security. The history of clozapine’s return has been spun and respun – see The Creation of Psychopharmacology – in the course of which a myth has been created that clozapine is more effective than other antipsychotics (very important for someone on whose wits the fate of America depends) even though head to head trials in first episode psychoses show clozapine to be no better than older drugs like chlorpromazine.

Read the rest here.

David Healy in Toronto on promotional tour for new website

Thanks to Chris for spotting this article.

From The Globe and Mail
Drug-risk website aimed at consumers

anne mcilroy Published Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2012 4:05PM EDT

Julie and Peter Wood say they wish they had known more about the stimulant a doctor prescribed for their son to help him concentrate.

John David Wood, a student at the University of Toronto, became addicted to the medication and developed serious mental health problems after he abruptly went off it. He committed suicide in 2008, at the age of 26.

In an effort to help other families learn more about the potential downside of prescription drugs, his parents are working with David Healy, a high-profile critic of the pharmaceutical industry, on a new website –

They hope the website will make it easy for people to research any drug that is approved for use in Canada or the United States, both brand names and generics. But they also want to build a grassroots database on side effects of these medications. For now, patients can search the new website, at no cost, for information about the adverse impact of drugs collected by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. But if all goes according to plan, in a few weeks the new website will ask patients to report side effects and allow them to see whether other people have experienced the same symptoms.

Read the rest here

Taken as prescribed, medications kill 100,000 people per year

What use do you make of your physician?” said the king to Molière one day. “We chat together, sire; he gives me his prescriptions; I never follow them, and so I get well.”

The 100,000 per year body count  is for the United States only. Medications, properly prescribed and properly taken, kill twice the number of people per day than car accidents do. The unsettling death statistics from prescribed meds is not something we hear much about. Yet many, if not most of us, simply take the medications we are given and probably take more than we need. It’s one thing if a person has a life threatening illness or condition and needs the medication in order to survive. But many people are taking prescription medications that they could shed if they changed their habits and did a bit of research into alternatives.

I got to thinking about this today when I visited a friend of mine in the hospital. She’ll be 90 years of age this month. She loves to tell me what her mother told her — to always buy the best food, because otherwise, instead of paying the grocer, you’ll be paying the doctor. She eats butter, not margarine. Up until a few weeks ago, my friend was on no prescription meds. None. She has a heart condition that gave her occasional problems in the past, but she always refused meds for the problem.  Today, the doctor informed her in my presence that she will need to take the meds he had prescribed her the rest of her life. After he left, she complained bitterly to me that she hated being on “these things.” I congratulated her for managing to dodge these bullets up until now, that she probably was healthier for having done so, and suggested that taking the meds now for the rest of her life was a small price to pay for avoiding landing back in the hospital. By all indications, she should be able to resume her normal activities within a month. But, she will be hounding her doctor to keep the medications to a minimum, I can guarantee it.

My favorite doctor, the one I prefer to go to avoid health problems in the first place, is Andrew Saul, Ph.D. When people protest that vitamins, not just meds, kill people, thereby implying that vitamins are inherently dangerous, Saul always asks the question, “where are the bodies?” He has done extensive data gathered from 61 U.S. poison control centers, which reported a mere 10 deaths linked to vitamins over the past 25 years.

Saul also recounts that “More than 1.5 million Americans are injured every year by drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s offices, a count that doesn’t even estimate patients’ own medication mix-ups. . . (O)n average, a hospitalized patient is subject to at least one medication error per day.” 

Just as I was about to push the publish button for this post, I was delighted to see that there is a new website about prescription medication side effects that contains a database for logging adverse effects.  The medical and research team behind this venture includes Dr. David Healy and author Robert Whitaker, and many other prominent names in pharmacology and other disciplines.

ALGERNON MONCRIEFF: The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live…so Bunbury died.

LADY BRACKNELL: He seems to have great confidence in the opinion of his physicians. I am glad, however, that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice. (From Act III of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde)

The humorous quotes on this page were directly cribbed from Andrew Saul’s website:

David Healy and Robert Whitaker address suicide rate in New Zealand

I’m passing on this e-mail from Vince Boehm and video link that I received in my maibox today via ISEPP.

“Risk of suicide” was one of the many reasons given by my son’s psychiatrists for wanting to keep him on medications, not that he was suicidal, but because “statistics show that people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia have an increased risk for suicide during the first five years after diagnosis.”  I always felt that the specter of suicide was invoked often for the wrong reasons — not because patients were suicidal, but in order to keep them meds compliant. I was being made to feel irresponsible by continuing to inisist that my son was unlikely to commit suicide and I would prefer to work with him in non-drug interventions. The problem is, how do one ever really know that someone else is or is not suicidal?  That’s where I feel drug companies have gained the advantage. You don’t know, and nobody wants to assume the risk, so medications are prescribed as some sort of “insurance policy.”

People can and do commit suicide while on meds and when off meds, so it’s kind of murky to now whether the meds would have prevented it or caused it. On the other hand, there is valid scientific concern about the effect of antidepressants on suicide ideation in children and teenagers because antidepressants are being used off-label and little to no research had been done for this age group before this practice became widespread.

Here’s the e-mail from Vince Boehm about the video link:

CASPER (Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education & Research), the New Zealand organization organized by two mothers who lost children to suicide, invited two of our prominent list members to present at their conference this past month.   New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD, twice the rate of the US and Australia and five times the rate of the UK. More young people in New Zealand die of suicide than all medical causes combined, with 10% of the deaths of New Zealand’s 10-14 year-olds being suicides.

David Healy is an Irish psychiatrist who is a professor in Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, Wales.  He became the center of controversy concerning the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medicine and academia. For most of his career Healy has held the view that Prozac and SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) can lead to suicide and has been critical of the amount of ghost writing in the current scientific literature.

In his segment of this compelling video, Healy delivers a powerful indictment of suicide and violence caused by psychiatric meds. Robert Whitaker is a friend and a former medical writer at the Albany Times Union newspaper.  In 1992, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT.  Following that he became director of publications at Harvard Medical School. In 1994 he co-founded a publishing company, CenterWatch, that covered the pharmaceutical clinical trials industry. CenterWatch was acquired by Medical Economics, a division of The Thomson Corporation, in 1998. His articles on psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry have won a George Polk Award for Medical Writing. and a National Association of Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article. In 1998, he co-wrote a series on abuses in psychiatric research that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. He is the author of four books. His most recent book is Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. His Mad in America has become a classic and belongs in your library.

These two books are destined to be mental health’s Silent Spring, the book that launched the environmental movement.