Blog Archive: March 2004

Blog subjects:

  • Pseudoscience in the mental-health industry

  • Unethical behavior among pharmaceutical companies

  • Whatever else strikes my fancy

Note:  This site has absolutely no association with any outside group, and most especially not with the “Church” of Scientology.

Other sites:

Blog archives:

Note:  Blog updates occur sporadically.  I'm just too busy to maintain a schedule of daily entries.  Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

When writing blog entries, it's easy to get carried away and descend into blanket generalizations and hyperbole.  That having been said, I think the word “evil” is fully justified in describing the men and women who worked for the pharmaceutical companies described in the following article:

A Dose of Denial

How drug makers sought to keep popular cold and diet remedies on store shelves after their own study linked them to strokes.

By Kevin Sack and Alicia Mundy  ||  Los Angeles Times

March 28, 2004


Only hours before these devastating strokes, each victim had washed down a seemingly innocuous over-the-counter cold medicine, one of billions of doses consumed annually nationwide.  The medicines contained phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, the active ingredient in scores of popular nonprescription decongestants and diet aids until November 2000, when the Food and Drug Administration declared PPA unsafe and asked drug companies to stop selling it.

By then, the drug industry had spent more than two decades fending off growing evidence of a possible link between PPA and hemorrhagic stroke.  But Patton and Newenham were among hundreds of PPA consumers who suffered attacks after a landmark study – sponsored by the drug industry itself – concluded in October 1999 that the use of PPA was associated with an increased risk of that deadliest form of stroke.

Recently obtained internal company documents show that rather than alerting the public during cold season, drug makers launched a yearlong campaign to keep the results quiet and stall government regulation.  By the time the FDA acted, 13 months and hundreds of strokes later, the companies had reformulated their brand names with little interruption in sales.  The market for PPA has been estimated at $500 million to $1 billion annually.

In the interim, Americans continued to purchase PPA products right off the shelf and assume they were safe.


The Times reviewed thousands of pages of documents produced through discovery in PPA lawsuits and obtained from the FDA through a Freedom of Information Act request.  The documents demonstrate that the pharmaceutical industry consistently challenged any notion that PPA could be dangerous and dismissed evidence to the contrary.  They also show that the manufacturers assured the public that PPA was safe even as some FDA scientists and industry officials were raising concerns.

As early as 1982, an FDA report warned that PPA had “the ability to cause cardiovascular effects, cerebral hemorrhage and cardiac arrhythmias.”  Two years later, a memo from the medical services department at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, which made the PPA products Triaminic and Tavist-D, referred to PPA as “an agent known to cause hypertension and stroke.”

Yet the drug companies accelerated their marketing of PPA, winning FDA approval to sell prescription PPA products on an over-the-counter basis and introducing flavorful new formulas for children.

As the author of PharmaWatch asked, how can these people sleep at night?  (Thanks go out to Dr. Michael Lascelles for the reference to this story.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

This next story has little direct connection to the mental-health industry, but it does illustrate why we should be very skeptical of experts.  How many people are in prison right now because some alleged expert testified that retinal bleeding is a sure sign that a baby was shaken to death?  (And to get back to psychiatry, how many experts used to believe that lobotomies were an effective treatment for mental illness?  How many experts today still believe that antidepressants are God's gift to unhappy people?)

Doubt over shaken baby diagnosis

Scientists have cast doubt on the theory that certain eye injuries are a sign a baby has been violently shaken.

Experts believe that bleeding behind the eyes probably indicates that an infant has been physically abused.

However, a team from the US's Wake Forest University says there is little hard science to support the view that this alone proves abuse.

Yes, this is just anecdotal evidence, and you can find an anecdote to support any position, but still -- this is an interesting article:

Widow cites medication in death of former chef

By Jim Baker, Journal-World (Lawrence, Kansas)

For many people, Don Fortel was Wheatfields [Kansas].

The former general manager of the popular bakery and cafe at 904 Vt. was almost always there, in his chef's whites, talking to customers and making sure everything was all right.  His suicide more than a year ago stunned the hundreds of customers and friends who knew him.

Now, his widow is convinced Fortel was among those who may have been pushed to suicide by an anti-depressant medicine federal health officials warned this week could be risky.

“Right from the start, it affected him,” said Perry artist Missy McCoy, who was married to Fortel for 16 years.  “He started crying all the time.  He'd wake up, get in the shower and I'd hear him sobbing openly.  I had never seen him cry in our 18 years (of dating and marriage) together.”


The medication [200 milligrams of Zoloft, taken daily] made Fortel irritable, restless and hypersensitive, and McCoy noted the change.

“It was just weird, and it's hard to put it into words,” she said.  “From knowing Don like I obviously did, his personality just did a 180-degree turn.  Instead of being the guy who was totally on top of it and outgoing, the in-charge guy who never cried, all of a sudden he was crying every morning and every evening when he got home.

“I would complain to him, he would talk to the doctors, and they would say, 'No, that's how it works, you just have to keep taking it.'  They didn't want to switch to another brand, and they didn't want to take him off of it.  It was the scariest three and a half months of my life.  I watched Don turn into this guy who was curled up on the floor crying.  It got worse and worse and worse.”

On March 12, 2003, Fortel killed himself.


[Fortel's widow says,] “I'll torture myself about that for the rest of my life.  Why didn't I get with the doctors and get him off of that?  That's a horrible feeling.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I failed.  Don couldn't be expected to have the wherewithal to say, 'I have to get off this.'  He was just following doctor's orders.

(Emphasis added by me.)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Washington Post has an excellent commentary about the way that Big Pharma corrupts science and medicine through selective reporting of clinical trial data (positive trials get published and hyped, whereas studies that show negative effects never see the light of day):

Keeping Doctors in the Dark

[...]'s likely we still wouldn't have the information on the antidepressants today, if it weren't for foreigners, specifically British doctors, who were more skeptical about the antidepressants' value in treating depression in children.  The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Britain's FDA, first issued a warning on Paxil and Effexor last summer.  In October, all the antidepressants known as SSRIs except Prozac were banned because studies from the United States did not show they were effective in treating children with depression, but did show that they were twice as likely as placebos to lead to suicide.

The British decision led to the FDA's move to hold a hearing on Feb. 2 in Washington.  Until that time, of seven published studies of SSRI use for childhood depression, only three demonstrated positive effects as compared with placebos.  At the meeting, doctors and patients learned that the FDA had eight additional drug company studies in its “back files” that also showed no positive effects for the drugs but were never published.  The drug companies had performed these studies under the “pediatric rule,” which extended the patents of these medications for the companies by six months.  But the companies were under no obligation to publish them, and so they languished in darkness until the British government's action made us aware of them.

At the meeting, even researchers and academic psychiatrists who were well-known proponents of psychiatric medication for children pleaded for transparency in research findings.  How can doctors make sensible decisions when most of the studies are withheld from public scrutiny?  The companies responded that the studies are proprietary company property and that publication of such data could hurt their product and stockholders.

So the FDA just sits on data that could potentially have far-ranging effects if it were made public.  You gotta wonder just whose side the FDA is really on.

More pharmaceutical wrongdoings:

FDA Says Wyeth Made False Claims About Effexor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned U.S. drugmaker Wyeth over circulating misleading claims that its antidepressant Effexor outperforms other popular competitors.

Several print materials, including a journal advertisement, misuse data to say more patients suffered fewer symptoms of depression with Effexor than with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, the FDA said.

Wyeth's claim that Effexor is better “has not been demonstrated by substantial evidence or substantial clinical experience,” the FDA said in a letter to the company.

Friday, March 26, 2004

OK, enough about antidepressants for the time being.  Here are two articles about neuroleptics.

The researchers are careful to qualify their claims, but here is additional evidence that antipsychotic drugs may cause brain damage:

Cell damage could explain why some schizophrenics fail to respond to treatment

Damage to brain cells caused by an excess of free radicals, naturally occurring bodily chemicals that have been linked to a variety of health problems, could help explain why some schizophrenics either fail to improve or deteriorate as they age, according to a new study.  [...]'s not clear if the issue is related to what health care professionals refer to as a “pro-oxidant lifestyle,” which is characterized by smoking, a lack of exercise and poor diet, or is linked to certain antipsychotic medicines, which in experiments with animals have been shown to produce oxidative damage to neurons.

The investigators found no evidence that the problems they observed were connected to recent use of antipsychotic drugs.  Still, they cautioned that, “We cannot exclude a cumulative effect from years” of taking certain medicines.

Here's some bad news about antipsychotic drugs.  Apparently, primary care physicians are getting in on the action:

More family doctors prescribe antipsychotic drugs

The Food and Drug Administration's warning on antidepressants this week is likely to add fuel to a separate debate about an even more powerful class of mental-health drugs.

A growing number of general physicians are now prescribing potent drugs called atypical antipsychotics.  The drugs are approved for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  General physicians are also prescribing the drugs for people with persistent depression, elderly patients with dementia, and children with severe behavioral problems.

In the past, such drugs were largely prescribed by psychiatrists. Some psychiatrists are critical of the emerging role of nonspecialists, arguing that general-practice physicians don't have enough specific training to dispense drugs to people with serious mental illness.

The shift comes amid increased concern about the potential side effects of other drugs used to treat more common types of mental problems.  On Monday, the FDA urged doctors to closely monitor children and adults taking antidepressants because they may be at risk of committing suicide.  That recommendation could prompt doctors to become more cautious about how and when they prescribe antidepressants.  Some psychiatrists worry that antidepressants are sometimes prescribed in cases of mild mood swings rather than full-blown depression.  Today, doctors who aren't psychiatrists write 75 percent of all prescriptions for antidepressants.

The FDA hasn't taken a position on primary-care doctors prescribing antipsychotics, nor is there any evidence that the class of drugs is linked to suicide risk.  But many of the drugs have serious side effects, which require careful monitoring.  These include weight gain, an adverse impact on blood fats called lipids, and diabetes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

This is a historic decision.  Maybe it's just my wishful thinking, but I believe we're witnessing the beginning of the end of antidepressants:

FDA Issues Side-Effects Warning on 10 Antidepressants

By Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration warned doctors, patients and their families Monday to watch closely for signs of deepening depression and possible suicide among those taking 10 popular antidepressants, and ordered the drugs' makers to include lengthy warnings on the labels.

The agency also alerted those involved with the drugs to look out for agitation, hostility, mania and other forms of sometimes violent behavior that have been associated with them.

[...]  The speed and scope of the FDA's action reflected its concerns about the breadth of the potential damage the drugs could cause.  “Our hope is that the new language and labeling will result in closer observation of patients who are being prescribed these drugs,“ said Dr. Thomas P. Laughren, leader of the FDA's psychiatric drug products team.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Hah, looks like the psychiatric establishment is getting some competition (and from philosophy, of all places):

The Socratic Shrink

By Daniel Duane

The New York Times Magazine

On a recent Manhattan morning, with a cold wind slashing off New York Harbor, Lou Marinoff took the granite steps of the federal courthouse two at a time – brown eyes fierce, ivory white skin offsetting his dark beard, a Russian fur hat making him the very picture of the engaged intellectual.  A tenured philosophy professor at City College of New York and the author of The Big Questions: How Philosophy Can Change Your Life and of the international best seller Plato, Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems, Marinoff is the world's most successful marketer of philosophical counseling.  A controversial new talk therapy, philosophical counseling takes the premise that many of our problems stem from uncertainties about the meaning of life and from faulty logic.

Passing through courthouse security, Marinoff placed his World Economic Forum tote bag in the metal detector – swag from his annual gig in Davos, Switzerland, and filled that morning with documents for Marinoff's lawsuit against his own employer.  Claiming a violation of his freedom of speech, the case stems from a C.C.N.Y. moratorium on Marinoff's campus counseling, instituted while administrators looked into liability questions.  What if a philosopher with zero mental health training, they worry, fails to recognize a student's suicidal tendencies and prescribes Heidegger instead of psychiatric intervention?

So is Marinoff's version of psychotherapy any better than the usual clap-trap dished out by the mental-health industry?  Who knows?  He should be given a chance to prove himself, though.

(Thanks go out to Dave Myers, who alerted me to this story.)

Nothing much terribly new here, but it's good to see a prestigious, high-circulation newspaper devote a substantial amount of space to the antidepressant issue:

FDA Probes Downsides of Antidepressants

Cases of youths turning violent while taking the drugs lead panel to examine possible links to adverse behavior, especially in minors.

By Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – A popular honors student who played on his varsity high school basketball and baseball teams in rural Washington state, Corey Baadsgaard nevertheless would come home complaining that no one liked him.

His family physician prescribed Paxil, a popular antidepressant. But Baadsgaard, then 16, sunk deeper into depression.  The doctor switched him to a different antidepressant, Effexor, and stepped up the dose over a three-week period from 40 milligrams to 300.  The first morning Baadsgaard took 300 milligrams, he felt rotten and went back to bed.

Three years later, he said, he still has no memory of what happened next: no memory of taking a high-powered rifle into his third-period English class, of herding his classmates and teacher into a corner, of holding them at gunpoint for 45 minutes, of being persuaded by the principal into giving up his gun.

He spent 14 months in a juvenile detention center.

Baadsgaard and his father believe the antidepressants made him suicidal at first, then violent.  The Food and Drug Administration – based on such anecdotal evidence and the results of clinical trials – is reconsidering its decision not to require that doctors and parents be warned about possible side effects of the drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

The link to suicide was the focus of an FDA advisory committee meeting last month.  But testimony from Baadsgaard and others who had turned violent while taking the drugs suggested to several members of the committee that the FDA should look more broadly at the medications' adverse effects.

If the website forces you to log in, then I think that "pseudosci" (minus the quotes) will work for both username and password.  Let me know if it doesn't work for you.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Robert Whitaker is an investigative reporter and the author of the excellent book, Mad in America.  He recently published a review paper called, “The case against antipsychotic drugs: a 50-year record of doing more harm than good”.  The paper appeared in the academic journal, Medical Hypotheses and is available as a PDF file (194K) here.  Whitaker is a very good writer, and even though this paper was not written primarily for a popular audience, the writing is relatively easy to digest.  Here's the abstract:

Although the standard of care in developed countries is to maintain schizophrenia patients on neuroleptics, this practice is not supported by the 50-year research record for the drugs.  A critical review reveals that this paradigm of care worsens long-term outcomes, at least in the aggregate, and that 40% or more of all schizophrenia patients would fare better if they were not so medicated.  Evidence-based care would require the selective use of antipsychotics, based on two principles:  (a) no immediate neuroleptisation of first-episode patients;  (b) every patient stabilized on neuroleptics should be given an opportunity to gradually withdraw from them.  This model would dramatically increase recovery rates and decrease the percentage of patients who become chronically ill.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Sorry about the lack of blog updates lately.

Antidepressants have long been known to interfere with sexual functioning.  But now it turns out that the problem may go even deeper.  Some researchers think that antidepressants may actually hinder the normal development of romantic love:

Too high for love: lost your drive? ...

Erik Baard reports on how antidepressants may tinker with our evolutionary mating instincts.

When the physicians come to me, / My heart rejects their remedies; / The magicians are quite helpless, / My sickness is not discerned. / To tell me “She is here” would revive me!

If this Ancient Egyptian poem is any guide, lovesickness has been with us for more than 3,000 years.  But psychiatrists may be unintentionally 'curing' us of that experience and other aspects of romantic love with modern antidepressant medications.

So argue the anthropologist Helen Fisher, and the psychiatrist James Thomson Jr.  Their case, sketched out in Fisher's recent book, Why We Love (Henry Holt, £13.22), centres on how certain antidepressants could be blocking chemical pathways in the brain that were paved by evolution to help us meet and keep mates.

(Incidentally, the title of that story is a mystery to me.  Is that a British joke of some sort?)

Interesting controversy going on down in New Zealand:

Critics' attack beats the book

A book which suggests schizophrenia is the result of trauma rather than a genetically linked biological illness has come under attack even before it is published.

Models of Madness, containing contributions from six New Zealand authors, will not be published until next month.

But Dr Ian Goodwin, of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, says ideas in it fly in the face of all scientific evidence.

One of the book's editors, Dr John Read, director of clinical psychology at Auckland University, said it argued that little, if any, evidence existed that schizophrenia was a biological disease arising from a genetic predisposition – the “medical model”.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Dave Myers from the forum page has pointed me to this excellent article in the New York Times:

Defying Psychiatric Wisdom, These Skeptics Say 'Prove It'

They have been called assassins and parasites.  They receive hate mail from the proponents of a variety of popular psychotherapies.  The president-elect of the American Psychological Association has accused them of being overly devoted to the scientific method.

But the ire of their colleagues has not prevented a small, loosely organized band of academic psychologists from rooting out and publicly debunking mental health practices that they view as faddish, unproved or in some cases potentially harmful.

In journal articles and public presentations, the psychologists, from Emory, Harvard, the University of Texas and other institutions, have challenged the validity of widely used diagnostic tools like the Rorschach inkblot test.  They have questioned the existence of repressed memories of child sexual abuse and of multiple personality disorder.  They have attacked the wide use of labels like codependency and sexual addiction.

The challengers have also criticized a number of fashionable therapies, including “critical incident” psychological debriefing for trauma victims, eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R., and other techniques.


Like medicine, these experts contend, psychology should have clinical practice guidelines, and psychotherapists should favor treatments that are backed by evidence from controlled clinical trials over treatment whose effectiveness is supported by anecdotes and case histories only.

I wish the article had also addressed the issues of psychotropic drugs and addiction-treatment centers, but I suppose I shouldn't be greedy.

This next article is not explicitly relevant to the mental-health industry, but see also the next blog-entry down from this one:

Study Finds That Teenage Virginity Pledges Are Rarely Kept

PHILADELPHIA, March 9 -- Among teenagers who pledged not to have sex before marriage, a majority did not live up to their vows, according to a national study reported here on Tuesday.  The teenagers also developed sexually transmitted diseases at about the same rate as adolescents who had not made such pledges.

OK, this article was originally published back in September of 2003, but I must have missed it the first time around.  The article is an excellent overview of what is wrong with drug-abuse prevention programs.  I am fully in favor of attempts to keep children from experimenting with illegal drugs, but let's not lose our minds here, shall we?  Worthless (possibly harmful) programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) do nothing but waste money that could otherwise have been spent on something effective, or perhaps spent on research to find something truly effective.

This is a long article, but it's well researched and well written.  The following is just a short excerpt:

In search of the 'anti-drug'

More money is being pumped into drug education than ever.  Yet the image of drugs continues to be one of glamour rather than danger.  As teen drug use holds steady, this much is clear:  No one seems to know just what to teach kids about drugs – or how, or when.


Experts continue to wonder why it remains so hard to identify the elements of a truly effective drug program.  Considerable time, money, and effort have been thrown at the question, and yet the hearts and minds of many young people seem to remain largely resistant to the cautionary messages of adults.  Drug education programs may have statistics, case studies, and “just say no” techniques on their side, but drugs have supposed glamour, adventure, and the promise of peer acceptance on theirs.  Messages coming from teachers and adult seem only rarely able to compete.

[...]  In the late '80s, when an egg and a frying pan were used as a metaphor for the brain on drugs, the campaign was shunned into oblivion.  Out of the backlash was born the popular slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to confuse with an egg.”  Kids weren't buying it, and antidrug campaigners admitted that fear and exaggeration don't work.  [...]

Even today, some drug education experts are reluctant to talk about what has become the most widely used prevention program – Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) – since the Los Angeles Police Department founded it in 1983.

Preliminary studies showed a rapid reduction in drug use among the fifth- and sixth-graders who went through the program, and nearly two decades of federal funding followed.  But in the late '90s, a new wave of studies deemed the program not only ineffective, but a possible cause of rising drug use among teens.  More kids who had been through D.A.R.E. said they were trying drugs than those who hadn't.

Despite these findings, D.A.R.E. remains the program of choice in 80 percent of US public school systems...

I get so angry when I read stories like this.  The addiction-treatment industry is constantly claiming that denial is the defining symptom exhibited by substance abusers.  Well, who's in denial here?  Still, I suppose I shouldn't be overly pessimistic.  The article does provide some reasons to be at least somewhat hopeful about the future of anti-drug programs.

Monday, March 7, 2004

I once (briefly) dated a woman who considered Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung, among her favorite books.  I tried reading it.  It was the most preposterous collection of codswallop I've ever seen.  You need a certain amount of talent to be a really bad writer.  First and foremost, of course, you need to be a bad thinker.

All of which leads us to this outstanding book review of a recent biography of the famous Swiss psychoanalyst:

Carl Jung:  the Madame Blavatsky of psychotherapy


[Jung's] contribution to positive human knowledge was small and disputable, his writings diffuse and contradictory, his character dubious, and his only lasting effect that upon a small if devoted coterie, though he enjoyed for a time the status of omnicompetent guru of world fame.

Jung was a preternaturally unclear writer and thinker:  he would never say anything clearly when obfuscation would do.  Whether this was from lack of talent or an unconscious appreciation that clarity led to the possibility of contradiction and even refutation, no one can say...

One thing that Miss Bair's doorstop biography brings out exceedingly clearly, though I doubt it was ever intended to do so, is the unutterable pettiness and self-absorption of the founders of psychotherapy.  Their storms in a teacup make most academic quarrels seem like the First World War.  Here was a healing discipline that was supposed to help people achieve some kind of mental equilibrium, and its founders were engaged upon court intrigues of Byzantine complexity, nastiness, and inconsequence.

What was Jung's lasting legacy?  He founded a small and on the whole harmless esoteric psychotherapeutic cult.  His doctrines will never attract large numbers of people because his writings and teachings are diffuse, contradictory, and overloaded with erudition that partakes more of pedantry than of scholarship.  [...]

To read Jung is to enter a world more of connotation than of denotation, of meanings hinted at rather than expressed forthrightly.  To extract a definite opinion from Jung is like trying to catch an eel with soapy hands, or trap steam with a butterfly net.  His esoteric erudition is formidable:  it is difficult to refute a man who will not say what he means, but backs whatever he means up with a plethora of references to fourteenth-century texts.  Actually, Jung was grossly superstitious, had no idea what a logical argument was, and was capable of believing the purest nonsense.

Hey, why should Sigmund Freud be the sole psychoanalytical whipping-boy?  It's time we gave others their fair share of the beatings.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Sorry about the lack of updates recently.  Here are five new entries to kick off March with a bang.

I haven't ranted about Alcoholics Anonymous in quite some time.  Here's a good article from waaaaay back in 1963, but still very much relevant today:

Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Harper's Magazine, February 1963

by Arthur H. Cain

A useful idea has turned into a religious movement – and a hindrance to research, psychiatry, and to many alcoholics who need a different kind of help.

[...]  As long as it restricted itself to informal organization and group “therapy,” A.A. enjoyed – and deserved – universal respect.  But a disquieting change has developed over the past fifteen years.  A.A. is now highly formalized.  The meetings, believed to be absolutely necessary, are ritualistic.  And any suggestion to members that The Program is less than divine revelation evokes an irrational outcry.

I have no personal axe to grind.  As a practicing psychologist who specializes in alcohol problems, I have been active since 1947 in both therapy and research.  I have worked closely with Alcoholics Anonymous.  I have also worked for the National Council on Alcoholism and for the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a charitable organization whose major interests are alcoholism and cancer.

I am disturbed by the fact that, for many members, A.A. is not as effective as it once was.

Moreover, I feel that much-needed scientific research is being diverted to other fields because of A.A.'s omniscient attitude.  And I am not alone in my concern.  Frequently in my practice, disillusioned men and women appeal to me:  “Doctor, I've tried AA. over and over and I still can't stay sober.  There must be something else dreadfully wrong with me!  What is it?”

For a more up-to-date look at the problems with 12-step programs, see The Orange Papers.

Good news out of New Zealand.  The New Zealand Herald reports that the government there is following Britain, Canada, and the U.S. in investigating the possible link between antidepressants and suicide:

Anti-depressants linked to suicide

The Government's drug safety agency Medsafe is investigating a possible link between anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac and teen and child suicide.

Young people in New Zealand use about 24,500 prescriptions of anti-depressants each year but international research suggests the drugs can spark suicidal thoughts.

Hah, this is great – reminds me of psychotropic drugs:

For Exercise in New York Futility, Push Button

By MICHAEL LUO  ||  The New York Times

Published:  February 27, 2004

For years, at thousands of New York City intersections, well-worn push buttons have offered harried walkers a rare promise of control over their pedestrian lives.  The signs mounted above explained their purpose:

To Cross Street
Push Button
Wait for Walk Signal
Dept. of Transportation

Millions of dutiful city residents and tourists have pushed them over the years, thinking it would help speed them in their journeys.  Many trusting souls might have believed they actually worked.  Others, more cynical, might have suspected they were broken but pushed anyway, out of habit, or in the off chance they might bring a walk sign more quickly.

As it turns out, the cynics were right.

The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago...

We didn't need any more reasons, but here's another reason not to use antidepressants:

Anti-depressants “cause bleeding”

Elderly people and those with a history of bleeding disorders have been warned of the risk of taking certain types of anti-depressants.

Experts say a group of anti-depressants called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or SSRIs may predispose some people to internal bleeding.

Writing in the Drug and Therapeutic Bulletin, they said the drugs should not be given to “at risk” groups.


The risks were even greater for those who took aspirin along with SSRIs.  They were seven times more likely to have suffered gastrointestinal bleeding.

The good news is that Pfizer failed (hey, I'm not above some schadenfreude when it comes to Big Pharma).  The bad news is that Pfizer will now turn its attention to women's brains:

Pfizer Gives Up Testing Viagra on Women

Women, the maker of Viagra has found, are a lot more complicated than men

After eight years of work and tests involving 3,000 women, Pfizer Inc. announced yesterday that it was abandoning its effort to prove that the impotence drug Viagra improves sexual function in women.  The problem, Pfizer researchers found, is that men and women have a fundamentally different relationship between arousal and desire.

For men, arousal almost always leads to desire.  So by improving a man's ability to have erections, Viagra measurably affects his sexual function.  But arousal and desire are often disconnected in women, the researchers found, to their consternation.

Although Viagra can indeed create the outward signs of arousal in many women, that seems to have little effect on a woman's willingness, or desire, to have sex, the researchers said.

“There's a disconnect in many women between genital changes and mental changes,” said Mitra Boolel, leader of Pfizer's sex research team.  “This disconnect does not exist in men.  Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women and want to have sex.  With women, things depend on a myriad of factors.”

Dr. Boolel said that he and his team were continuing their research.  But he said the researchers were changing their focus from a woman's genitals to her head.  The brain is the crucial sexual organ in women, he said.

Drugs that affect brain chemistry "could be an extremely interesting area of investigation," he said.