They sold us 'happy pills' - but all we got was suicide and misery
This is Peter Hitchens’ Mail on Sunday column
A scandal can exist for ages before anyone notices. Here is one such. Ten years from now we will look back in shame and regret at the way the drug companies bamboozled us into swallowing dangerous, useless ‘antidepressant’ pills.
You’d be far better off taking a brisk walk. The moment of truth must come soon, though most of Britain’s complacent, sheep-like media will be among the last to spot it. I would have thought it was blaring, front-page, top-of- the-bulletin news thatGlaxoSmithKline, one of our biggest companies, has just been fined £2 billion (yes, you heard that right, £2 billion) in the US for – among other things – bribing doctors, and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable drugs to children. Its drug Paxil, sold here as Seroxat, was promoted as suitable for teenagers and children, even though trials had shown it was not.
Doctors were sent on free trips where they were treated to snorkelling, sailing, deep-sea fishing, balloon rides and spa treatments (and cash payments), to persuade them to prescribe these drugs, or to reward them for doing so.
A medically-qualified radio host was allegedly paid more than £150,000 to plug one GSK antidepressant for unapproved uses. GSK paid for articles approving its drugs to appear in reputable medical journals.
It is well known now among doctors that other drug companies have suppressed unwelcome test results on modern antidepressants. These results show they are largely useless for their stated purpose. In many cases they were not significantly more effective than dummy tablets in lifting the moods of patients. Thanks to Freedom of Information investigations, the truth is now out.
Even worse than this is the growing suggestion that, far from making their users happy, these pills can increase suicidal thoughts in their minds, perhaps with tragic results. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency undertook trials which showed that teenagers and children who took Seroxat were significantly more likely to experience such thoughts.
Sara Carlin, an 18-year-old Canadian student with everything to live for, hanged herself in 2007 despite official warnings (and warnings from her mother) that the drug could lead to self-harm.
Quite why it should magically be safe for adults, I am not sure. Nor was the coroner in the 2003 inquest on Colin Whitfield, a retired headmaster, aged 56, who slit his wrists in his garden shed two weeks after starting to take Seroxat. The coroner recorded an open verdict and said the drug should be withdrawn until detailed national studies were made.
Mr Whitfield’s widow Kathryn said: ‘We have no doubt that it was the drug that caused him to do it.’
I would also remind readers of the recent statement by Dr Declan Gilsenan, Ireland’s former Assistant State Pathologist, who says he has seen ‘too many suicides’ after people had started taking antidepressants and is sure the evidence is ‘more than anecdotal’.
The defenders of this nasty, profiteering enterprise – including doctors who ought to know better – will come up with the usual bleat of ‘correlation is not causation’. Just remember that this was the same sly song that Big Tobacco sang, when it first became obvious that cigarettes caused cancer. It is time for a proper investigation, with evidence on oath and the power of subpoena.
Mr Slippery, who pretended to have wielded the European veto when he hadn’t, now pretends he is offering a referendum when he isn’t. The Tory leader’s struggle to avoid commitment on anything increasingly resembles that favourite entertainment at American country fairs, the greased pig contest. It takes quite a few honest citizens to catch one well-lubricated hog.
The CPS will put anyone on trial... except crooks
The main purpose of the Crown Prosecution Service is to save money by pretending that crime and disorder are not as bad as they really are.
That is why it is almost impossible to get it to prosecute anyone, unless you have clear, high-definition film of the crime actually being committed.
Burglary? Why bother? Here’s a crime number, if you can still get insurance in your postcode. Car theft? Happens all the time. Probably your fault. Assault? How about a caution? Drugs? Well, Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, reckons that it isn’t news any more that he smoked dope. So why would we trouble ourselves over that?
In which case, why on earth did the CPS think it was worth spending heaps of our money on prosecuting Cinnamon Heathcote-Drury after a bizarre and faintly comical scuffle in Tesco, in which nobody was hurt?
Could it be because her accuser was a Muslim who alleged she was a ‘racist’?
But now that a jury has thrown out this ludicrous case after 15 minutes of deliberation (God bless them), will anyone in the CPS be disciplined?
No real army and no real country
A country without an army isn’t a country any more. And, thanks to the Coalition, among the worst and most irresponsible and incompetent Governments in our history, we no longer have an army. We will pretend we do. But nobody will believe us. The British Army will soon be smaller than the sad, rump defence force that Vichy France was allowed to keep by Hitler. Something very similar has happened to the Royal Navy, now a demoralised, politically corrected remnant.
Meanwhile, money is poured into overseas aid, and into the huge apparatus of bureaucrats and sinecures that our state maintains to hide the level of unemployment. This Government will be remembered in ten years’ time for its bad management of the economy, its failure to reform schools, its pitiful inability to cope with crime and disorder, its stupid tinkering with the constitution and its cave-ins to Brussels.
But it will be remembered in 20 years’ time, with bitterness and remorse, as the Government that stripped our defences bare in a dangerous world.
The latest deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan are, as usual, needless – and are Mr Slippery’s direct personal responsibility.
David Cameron has long promoted the fantasy that we must stay in that hopeless country while we train Afghans to take over from us.
But everyone in Helmand knows perfectly well that the Afghans hate us, and that as soon as we go, the Taliban will take over.
A large share of our casualties now result from Afghans, who we have trained and armed, murdering the British troops who are supposed to be their allies. This fact is itself the proof that our policy will never work.
Only one thing prevents an immediate exit from this worse-than-pointless pit of grief and loss.
It is Mr Slippery’s cowardly refusal to admit that the whole deployment was a stupid mistake, and that his braying support for it, trumpeted in the Murdoch press, was the price he paid for the backing of the Sun newspaper during his fraudulent Election campaign.
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