The drugs don't work, warn top psychiatrists
TOM PRENDEVILLE A DAMNING indictment by the country's most eminent psychiatrists paints a picture of patients' lives being needlessly put at risk by a cocktail of dangerous drugs, and a profession which is in the back pocket of vested interests in the pharmaceutical industry.
"The psychiatric world has to be cleaned up - it's appalling. There are over 200,000 people on over-the-counter tranquilliser drugs," says Dr Michael Corry, a consultant psychiatrist. "In Ireland, there are 25,000 people on Zyprexa and 20,000 people on Seroxat. With Seroxat, there is a one-in-500 suicide risk. They get totally overwhelmed by a sense of disinhibition, and they literally feel they can't go on, and they killthemselves." Coincidentally, a damning Oireachtas report on the adverse side effects of pharmaceuticals, which was released last week, has come to more or less the same conclusions.
The report stated that "the influence of the pharmaceutical industry is unhealthy". It also called into question the relationship between the pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric doctors, who are financially rewarded in the form of payments for ghostwriting medical-research reports, get free travel, research grants and numerous other perks.
The all-party committee report also took a swipe at the widespread prescribing of psychiatric drugs. "Their [drugs] use in therapy represents unwarranted medical intervention in what are often normal emotional difficulties," said. "The side effects include behavioural disorders, physical illness, dependence and even suicide."
The report went on to say that some of the drugs "were of doubtful benefit" and that "where side effects are well known, they seem not to be appreciated or are ignored by prescribers".
The Oireachtas Committee is now calling for the setting up of a Patient Safety Agency.
Other senior doctors raise the issue of the use of drugs such as Clozaril, a widely used schizophrenia drug which can produce a litany of life-threatening reactions.
"It's a very dangerous drug - and it's not the only one," said Dr Corry, who runs the Dun Laoghaire-based Institute of Psychosocial Medicine. "It's an absolute scandal that the Medicines Board has licensed these drugs - surely they can unlicense them, seeing as we have clear irrefutable evidence they are dangerous?"
Professor Pat Bracken, consultant psychiatrist and clinical director of the West Cork Mental Health Service, says that many of the woes befalling psychiatry can be directly traced to the vast influence which the pharmaceutical industry now wields over the academic faculties that teach psychiatry - an influence gained through the doling out of vast research grants.
"There are growing concerns about the way in which the pharmaceutical industry has come to dominate psychiatry," he warns. "The profession should be independent and be seen to be independent. And if it is not, it is a concern for everyone."