Monday, January 19, 2015

Saying Goodbye





I created this blog way back in April 2006. Initially I had a gripe with the British drug regulator, the MHRA.

I was concerned because I had suffered at the hands of GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat, known as Paxil in the US.

Over the last nine years or so I've had an online stalker who, along with his internet acquaintance, stalked me and impersonated me online, at times targeting the parents of the victims that I had wrote about.

I've been threatened with legal action by one of GlaxoSmithKline's former employees (he was employed by them at the time)

I've met with the British drug regulator on numerous occasions, those meetings turned out to be as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I've met some wonderful people on my journey, even had intimate relationships with two of those I met, one of which, I regret.

In the main, I've covered many stories about children/teenagers who have succumbed to antidepressant use. I hope I have brought their parents some peace and satisfaction with my efforts. I hope I have drawn awareness to the dangers of these mind-numbing drugs that have, for many, caused nothing but heartache.

I've been fighting almost alone for nearly nine years with the blog work, dealing with other's grief, emptiness, and sadness. It's come to a point where it has just consumed me and, to be honest, I have to change things in my life after suffering a recent loss of my own.

It's hard to put my finger on any one story I've covered on this blog. Sara Carlin springs to mind. Through her death I met two wonderful friends in Neil and Rhonda - I hope to meet them again one day.

I was immensely proud to be presented two human rights awards from the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), one being presented to me in the US and one here in the UK. The CCHR introduced me to some wonderful people, many of whom still keep in touch with me via social media websites.

I was also very proud when this old blog of mine went over one million visits, a quick look now shows the counter at 1,189,171. Not bad for a Brummie who was expelled from school and told, "You will never make anything of yourself Fiddaman."

I had always dreamed of seeing my name on the front cover of a book - I achieved that too with my book, 'The evidence, however, is clear: The Seroxat scandal'.

During the past nine years I've seen new blogs appear... and then disappear. It's a tough game this blogging lark, kinda takes it out of you when you are the one that people turn to because they are addicted to antidepressants or they have lost a child to antidepressants or even given birth to a child with deformities due to antidepressants. It can be a very dark, lonely place when you take on stories such as these. They sit with you forever.

I'm pretty much running on an empty tank these days and am just bamboozled by the unkind acts and hardheartedness of some people.

To be honest, I'm exhausted by it all. I never ever thought that one of my foes would turn out to be the very same person who I tried to help by highlighting their plight on this blog, on numerous occasions. That toxicity for you folks!

I'm done with opening my email each day and seeing attachments hundreds of pages long and being asked, "have you seen this?"

I'm done with staying up until the early hours of the morning helping people find justice only to have them ignore me when my efforts found them the justice they craved (money)

I'm done with reading about GlaxoSmithKline making settlements to mothers who have had the misfortune of giving birth to children with serious defects. Done with it all.

During the last three weeks I've been to hell and back, I've still got a long way to go, I'm still struggling to come to terms with the whole 'gone in the blink of an eye'.

Deal with it I will, but I cannot continue being consumed by other people's lives, it's zapping my energy and causing bad vibes. I just need to get in sync with myself and start a new journey, one that doesn't involve the loss of loved ones. Losing someone you love is quite possibly the worst feeling in the world.

I started work on a new novel yesterday, it's been therapeutic. I don't know when it will be finished, don't even know how it will end but it's fiction and I can go pretty much anywhere I want with it.

It's called "No Other Man"

One day I hope to see it published.

For now, I'm saying goodbye.

I'll leave the last words for Sara...





Bob Fiddaman




Friday, January 16, 2015

Save the Children Respond Re GSK





Following on from my previous post 'Save the Children and GSK'

In my previous post I wrote about how I had wrote Save the Children and asked them the following regarding their partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.

As I am sure you are aware GSK recently pleaded guilty and were fined over $3 billion in the US for promoting drugs to children off-label. One of these drugs, Paxil, which goes by the brand name of Seroxat here in the UK, causes suicidal thinking in children. At the time of the off-label promotion GSK knew of this particular side effect but failed to inform medicine regulators and healthcare professionals. A result of which has saw children and teenagers go on to complete suicide.
My question to Save the Children is one of ethics.
Knowing that GSK promoted a drug that could harm children (and they (GSK) knew of the potential risk but failed to warn), do you (Save the Children) believe that a partnership with GSK is morally correct?
If you believe it is, please state your reasons.



Here is their response.

It's the first time I have ever seen an organisation, outside of the pharmaceutical industry, use the words 'benefit' and 'risk'.

I'm speechless.

We are aware of the reports on the historic issues relating to Paxil. As an organisation we take our role to protect children very seriously and assess all our partnerships and collaborations very much within this context. Save the Children works to ensure that decisions around who we partner with are made with the best interests of children at the core – and this means deciding whether the impact on children we can have through our programming and advocacy funded by a donor or partner outweighs any potential risks.
We consider carefully the risks associated with partnering with pharmaceutical companies and in the case of GSK our belief is that the risks are outweighed by the benefits of this partnership, in helping us achieve our ambitions for children. The focus of the GSK-Save the Children partnership is to help save a million children’s lives in the developing world.


Make of that what you will.

Save The Children can be emailed here.

Bob Fiddaman.




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Save the Children and GSK





This is another of those posts that has taken a while to construct. My personal life took a kick in the gonads recently and I've been mulling over where I go from here. Do I continue down the path that I've been walking since the conception of this blog or do I change and write that fictional novel I've been meaning to write for some years now?**

Do I continue to answer emails from people who want my help or do I just give it all up and ignore them all? There's times when I feel deflated, none more so than this period in my life. It's a period where you truly find out who your close friends are and whether or not you are made of steel, as many think to seem bloggers who go up against the likes of GSK, are. Truth is, I'm just like you, I'm human. I feel pain and every single human emotion that others feel. There's some people who go through life seeking revenge, these people just cannot operate without feeling revenge, they spoil the life of others and see it as Karma, when in actual fact it serves only to make them feel better because their current lives are blighted by an inability to move on and let go of the past. Ironically, both individuals have suffered loss so know what it feels like, their goal, it appears, was to inflict that pain upon someone else by colluding together to throw a spanner in the works of something that was quite beautiful.

The whole experience has left me feeling somewhat broken, so both individuals should take a bow at this point - Job done. Ironically they both share the same letter in their first names. They know who they are - I just hope now that they feel a sense of satisfaction and are able to move on with their lives, just as I am trying to do... I digress.

Corresponding with Save the Children has been difficult but it's kept me focused on what needs to be done (in this instance anyhow). Both they and GSK have been working together since 2005 on a number of public health projects, including GSK’s initiative to reinvest 20% of the profits it makes in least-developed-countries back into community programmes to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, primarily through the training of community health workers. Their current partnership, to help save the lives of one million children, builds on this existing partnership and will help them achieve their ambitions for children.

You can see my dilemma here. On one hand I applaud the efforts of Save the Children for taking measures to help children, on the other I feel that partnering with GSK is morally wrong.

In an email to Save the Children I asked if it were GSK who approached them or if it was they who approached GSK.

Here's the reply...

Save the Children and GSK have actually been working together since 2005, which began with a community health and well-being programme called ‘PHASE’ – Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education. Save the Children approached GSK to explore their potential support for our health programmes . Our global partnership with GSK was further developed and formalised in 2012, when the CEO of Save the Children was invited to speak as part of a GSK leadership conference. The discussions that took place at this event initiated the process to explore a more ambitious partnership between both organisations.

With this admission, I wrote back to Save the Children with the following...


As I am sure you are aware GSK recently pleaded guilty and were fined over $3 billion in the US for promoting drugs to children off-label. One of these drugs, Paxil, which goes by the brand name of Seroxat here in the UK, causes suicidal thinking in children. At the time of the off-label promotion GSK knew of this particular side effect but failed to inform medicine regulators and healthcare professionals. A result of which has saw children and teenagers go on to complete suicide.
My question to Save the Children is one of ethics.
Knowing that GSK promoted a drug that could harm children (and they (GSK) knew of the potential risk but failed to warn), do you (Save the Children) believe that a partnership with GSK is morally correct?
If you believe it is, please state your reasons.


I thought by asking them a direct question would, at the very least, tap in to their conscience, assuming they had one.

Stay tuned for their response.


Footnote


To me, at least, it's about giving children a voice. This vulnerable population, at times, need someone to speak up on their behalf. I'm not, or have I ever, professed to be a martyr. When I see the likes of GSK teaming up with an organisation who have children's best interests at heart it makes my blood boil for two reasons.

1. GSK have an abhorrent history regarding Paxil and children.

2. Save the Children would have already done their homework yet chose the unmoral path.

The picture that accompanies this article reads, "Don't Believe Everything You Think" ~ a valuable parable when trying to make the correct choices in life. I'm at the stage of letting go of believing everything I think, to go down that path is destructive. Save the Children, on the other hand, have evidence that their partners, GSK, were up to no good... yet they still wish to remain partners.

I'll never quite understand relationships.

**For what it's worth, I'm going to continue writing, albeit with my foot off the gas for a while. I need to make changes in my life ~ writing a fictional novel is just the start of that change.

Bob Fiddaman.





Saturday, January 10, 2015

Key Expert To Give Evidence Against Zoloft (Birth Defects)




A group action seems to be in full flight against in the United States whereby hundreds of mothers are claiming that Zoloft (sold and marketed by Pfizer) caused birth defects in their children.

Initially U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania barred the testimony of the group's previous expert,Dr. Anick Bérard, citing several problems with her research.

Plaintiffs sought a new expert and Pfizer objected, claiming that plaintiffs had plenty of time to put in place a reliable expert and bringing a new one forward was merely down to Bérard's testimony being dismissed.

Judge Cynthia Rufe ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and they can now move ahead in their case against Pfizer where they allege that Zoloft (Sertraline) caused a number of heart defects in their children.

Pfizer remains confident that there is no reliable scientific evidence demonstrating that Zoloft causes the injuries alleged by the plaintiffs.

Full story here (subscription only)

Bob Fiddaman

Saturday, January 03, 2015

ADHD - Market Challenge - Unknown Etiology





A market report carried out by TechNavio analysts predict that the Global ADHD Drugs market will grow at a rate of 5.33 percent over the period 2013-2018.

The 80 page report, if you are financially well off, costs a staggering $2,500 to purchase. The report covers...

The present scenario and the growth prospects of the Global ADHD Drugs market for the period 2014-2018. To calculate the market size, the report considers the revenue generated from the sales of various therapies used in the treatment of ADHD, which include:
Stimulants
Non-stimulants
TechNavio's report, the Global ADHD Drugs Market 2014-2018, has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. The report covers the Americas, and the EMEA and APAC regions; it also covers the Global ADHD Drugs market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.

Interestingly, one of the main market challenges the report found was...wait for it... are you ready yet?

Unknown Etiology

In other words, those manufacturing the drugs to treat ADHD don't actually know the causes of ADHD.

To combat this (small flaw) the Pharmafia (that's pharmaceutical companies and medicine regulators combined) will use various marketing strategies to say how bad ADHD can be if not treated... and actually skip the fact that they, themselves, do not know the etiology of it.

The report suggests that the Pharmafia must "increase the awareness" so expect a lot of pseudo-science over the coming years folks.

Drugs discussed in the report include Strattera, Concerta/Ritalin, Focalin, Intuniv and Vyvanse/Elvanse/ Venvanse.

The key vendors, according to the report, are Eli Lilly, Janssen, Novartis and Shire.

Between now and 2018 it appears that the goal is to not only target children who have a brain disease but adults too.

A brief abstract of the report reads...

ADHD is a psychiatric disorder, which is mostly found in children. However, adults have also been reported to be diagnosed with ADHD. The patients with ADHD suffer from several problems including hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and lack of focus and concentration. The causes of ADHD are not known. It is believed to be linked with genetic and environmental causes. However, it has been reported to be related with the decrease in the extraneuronal levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. In addition, the patients have an abnormality in the brain structure. It is more prevalent in boys than girls. The management of ADHD is done by counseling, medications, and lifestyle changes.

Notice how the causes of ADHD are played down and followed with the standard Pharmafia scaremongering line... "It is believed to be linked with genetic and environmental causes. However, it has been reported to be related with the decrease in the extraneuronal levels of norepinephrine and dopamine. In addition, the patients have an abnormality in the brain structure."

What you, as a prospective consumer, need to take from this are two key words...

1. Believed
2. Reported

In other words, the Pharmafia "believe" in a theory because it, coincidentally, means they will be able to treat a population based on this theory.

It has been "reported" basically means that the Pharmafia have cherry-picked reports, once again to suit their own agenda (selling drugs)

They did this with SSRi's when they were first launched. Back then we were told that SSRi's such as Prozac and Paxil could correct a chemical imbalance... (the cause of the anxiety and depression we were feeling)

When this theory was proven to be incorrect one would have thought that trading standards would have slammed the Pharmafia for selling products on a lie. However, the Pharmafia still had the luxury of tweaking their wording.

Look at any SSRi on the market today and you will see a key line...

"It is thought"

So, "it is thought" that anxiety and depression are caused by a chemical imbalance. It still gives us the message that they are right and we have something abnormal with us.

And that's exactly how they want it to remain folks.

If you want an alternative treatment for your child then read Psychiatric Medication or Play Therapy?

If you are an adult who has been diagnosed with ADHD and, as a result, you have been offered medication to control it then... well, you are grown up enough to know that the Pharmafia just want your money and want you hooked on their wares.

Some of the side effects of the drugs mentioned in the report are pretty severe - Pharmafia will play those down too.

In a nutshell, before you decide to go down the road of drugging yourself...or your children, do your homework.

Don't believe me? When diagnosed answer your doctor with a two-worded question and watch his face.

The 40 second video perfectly shows this.




Bob Fiddaman.









Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Where Are They Now? - Dr Alastair Benbow






Alastair Benbow was once GlaxoSmithKline's mouthpiece when it came to defending the safety (and efficacy) of Seroxat (known as Paxil in the US) - but where is he now?

Benbow is now Chief Medical Officer and Head of Operational Services at Kinapse, an expert advisory, capability building and operational services to the world’s leading life sciences organisations.

Benbow's role, according to his profile page on the Kinapse website, is to be accountable to the CEO and Board of Kinapse for the integrity and effectiveness of Kinapse’s system for medical governance. His role as Head of Operational Services covers Kinapse Regulatory, Medical Writing and Information, Clinical Trial Disclosure and Pharmacovigilance functions.

Have you finished laughing yet?

Apologies if you have choked on your cornflakes.

Responsible for  Clinical Trial Disclosure, Pharmacovigilance and Medical Writing?

Other employees of Kinapse include:

Head of Strategy - Suzanne Budsworth
Senior Pharmacovigilance Scientist - James Whitehead
Regulatory Associate - Kapil Pal
Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs - Stuart Goodall

All are previous employees of GlaxoSmithKline.

Former Management Consultant at Kinapse, Stephen Mayhew, is now Head, R&D Strategy Development and Programme Management Office at GlaxoSmithKline.

Revolving door anyone?

Benbow is infamous (whether he likes it or not) for defending Seroxat and playing down the suicide link and other side effects associated with it.

He also took umbrage to a video slide-show I created about him back in 2008 [Seroxat Secrets]

Here's part of a transcript featuring Benbow and BBC investigative journalist, Shelley Jofre. Much of what is transcribed here never went to air.

Key:

Q = Jofre
A = Benbow


Transcript GSK Tape - Panorama Interview - Dr Alastair Benbow 9 October 2002




Q. Let us move on. What has the company done about the Wyoming verdict?

A. As I told you before, in this matter because of a confidentiality agreement between the family and GSK I am not able to specifically comment on the mitigation, but what I can say is that there is no reliable clinical evidence that Seroxat causes violence, aggression or homicide. This tragic, tragic case is something that does occur from time to time in patients who are depressed...


Q. This man had no history of suicidal thoughts or tendencies. The jurors sat and listened to all the evidence and decided that there were four deaths that were mainly caused by Seroxat. Your company was found guilty of negligence. You cannot ignore that.

A. No, and nor would we want to ignore it. This was a tragic case but we remain firmly convinced that Seroxat did not cause the tragic events in this case.


Q. So the jurors got it wrong!

A. No, I am not saying that. What I am saying - as I have said before - is that there is a confidentiality agreement between the family and GSK in this matter and I cannot comment on the specifics of this but we remain firmly convinced that Seroxat did not cause the tragic events in this case.


Q. It was pretty clear-cut. There was nothing else to explain his behaviour. He had only been on the drug two days and he clearly had a reaction that threw him into mental turmoil and made him behave in this way.

A. Yes, but there is a lot of speculation in the question you asked there but as I said I cannot comment specifically on this case because of a confidentiality agreement between the family and GSK. What I can say is that looking at all the data and the clinical trials there is no reliable evidence that Seroxat causes violence, aggression or homicide.


Q. All the evidence was produced in the trial. I am sure your company more or less produced the best evidence that was available. The jurors decided Seroxat was responsible for those four deaths and that is pretty serious.

A. As I have said before, I cannot comment on the specifics of the case...


Q. You cannot tell me that the clinical trials support Seroxat as not being linked to aggression or suicide?

A. Yes, I can say that. The clinical trial data and spontaneous adverse event data for reporting over the last ten years since Seroxat was made available in the UK do not support the finding that Seroxat causes aggression, violence or homicide.


Q. All of this data was presented to the jurors so they had ample opportunity to hear arguments on both sides and they felt Seroxat was responsible for the deaths.

A. As I say I cannot comment on the legal situation because of a confidentiality...


Q. I am not asking you to comment on the legal situation. I am asking you to comment on the fact that your company's drug was found responsible for four deaths.

A. As I said, I cannot comment on the specific situation but what I can say, quite clearly, is that when you look at the data from clinical trials and from the data in use in tens of millions of patients in 1999 that there is no reliable evidence that Seroxat causes violence, homicide or aggression.


Q. Is your company just going to ignore this verdict as if it never happened?

A. No we take very seriously any event that occurs when patients are taken off...


Q. What have you done to make sure that this does not happen again?

A. We have looked very, very carefully at the data, and as I say the data clearly shows that there is no reliable evidence that Seroxat causes violence, aggression or homicide.


Q. What does the warning in the patient leaflet mean then?

A. What do you mean?


Q. The warning about self-harm and suicide that is on the Seroxat leaflet, what does it mean?

A. As you will know, in patients who are depressed there is a significant risk of suicide and self-harm. That risk of suicide is at its worst when people have their worst depression, and that is often when people go to the doctor...


Q. Why would the risk of suicide increase once they start taking Seroxat?

A. No, I am not saying it increases when they start to take Seroxat; I am saying people are at risk of suicide early in treatment because it takes a while for an anti-depressant to work.


Q. The suggestion in the warning is that there is an increased risk in the first few weeks of being on Seroxat, but you say it is nothing to do with your drug?

A. What I am saying is that there is an increased risk of suicide early in the treatment of depression. Whatever the treatment, or indeed if there is no treatment there is an increased risk of suicide, and this is a very...


Q. So it is just a co-incidence that the increased risk of suicide starts when they start taking Seroxat?

A. No, what I am saying is that there is an increased risk of suicide even if patients receive no therapy. This is a fact of people who have depression. The reality is that many people with a severe depression have a very low mood and loss of energy. As people start to recover their energy and mood encourages...


Q. But they are not recovering, you say, until a few weeks after they start the Seroxat.

A. Early on in treatment the major affects of anti-depressants take a week or two to start, but the reality is that energy levels are one of the first things that start to improve, but mood comes later.


Q. Is it not that they get agitated?

A. Not at all. Not at all.


Q. It sounds to me here as though you are trying to have it both ways. You are trying to say the risk increases when you start taking the drug but it is nothing to do with the drug. It is meaningless warning.

A. No the warning is there, and has been agreed with the regulatory authorities, and it is basically to tell doctors, 'Look, you have a patient who is depressed. They are at risk of suicide. Don't just think just because you have started them on anti-depressants that they are not going to remain at risk of suicide immediately. The fact is that antidepressants take a while to work. If you look at the data what does the data show? The data shows that Seroxat reduces suicidal ?hydration and thought. Over the past ten years - or the ten years between 1990 and 2000 - with the increasing use of antidepressants, suicide rates in England and Wales have fallen by 15%...


Q. Are you taking credit for that?

A. I am saying that the increased used of anti-depressants, the better diagnosis of depression and the better treatment that is available - yes, that has contributed to the fall in suicide rates.


Q. Perhaps over the long term drugs like Seroxat are useful for avoiding suicide and reducing suicide rates but what we are talking about is a window in the first few weeks where there is quite a lot of evidence that people can become agitated, restless and anxious. It seems to correspond exactly with the period that you are saying there might be an increased risk of suicide but you are saying it is nothing to do with your drug.

A. No, I must disagree with the comments you made. There is not a lot of evidence to suggest that patients are getting agitated and restless and anxious. The reality is that anti-depressants do take a short while to work, and during that first few weeks, when patients are taking therapy, doctors should be aware that patients are at risk of suicide, because of their underlying depression.


Q. So it is not an increased risk. I do not understand what you are saying. If you are saying, 'Until the anti-depressant starts working they are at the same risk of suicide as they have always been' then that is one thing. However, your warning says there is an increased risk of suicide...

A. What I am saying is the greatest risk to patients of committing suicide is in those who are severely depressed.


Q. But in those first few weeks of... [talking simultaneously] start Seroxat?

A. No, the most severely depressed patients are those that have just presented their doctor and just started on therapy.


Q. Of course not everyone take Seroxat for depression and we have spoken to someone who took Seroxat for panic attacks and he began to self-harm in the first few weeks of taking it, something he had never even dreamed of doing before.

A. Seroxat is indeed available for a range of depression and anxiety related disorders, all have clear criteria for laying down exactly what the conditions are. There is a range of different conditions - panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder etc. Many of them are associated with depression and the same patients will be at risk of suicide and...


Q. Again is it just a coincidence this behaviour would start a few weeks after taking Seroxat?

A. No I am not saying it is a coincidence. I am saying it is a reality of depression and other related disorders...


Q. Panic attacks?

A. Yes, panic attacks and...

Q. I thought that is a link to self-harm.

A. Panic attacks are linked to depression, which is linked to self-harm.

**At this point Jofre pushes home the point about Seroxat withdrawal - She then continues with...


Q. Well, let us move on. Here is a drug that is linked to suicide and self-harm, a drug that thousands of people say they are addicted to; do you seriously think it should be given to children?

A. Let me just correct something in your question. There are a number of allegations you made there none of which are correct. In terms of whether we think Seroxat should be made available to children, absolutely. Two percent of children, 4% of adolescents, will develop depression. The adolescents are at particular risk of suicide.


Q. You think this is safe for children?

A. I think we need to do the trials to determine this. We have an obligation to make our medicines available to those patients at need. Adolescents are some of the patients who are most at need of anti-depressants. Suicide in adolescents is the third leading cause of death. Do not trivialise depression for those patients. We have a strong obligation to study our medicine in these patients to see if we can help them.


Q. In a recent study that Glaxo funded more than 10% of children developed psychiatric problems within eight weeks of taking Seroxat.

A. I think you will have to tell me a little more about the specific study so that I can understand your question.


Q. It was funded by Glaxo and carried out in America - the biggest ever study of Paxil in depressed children and more than 10% of children developed psychiatric problems within a few weeks of taking Seroxat.

A. I think in any study a proportion of patients (as in this particular study) where patients were either taking Seroxat, or Imipramine, or a placebo, a proportion of patients will develop adverse effects in the course of the study.


Q. There were far more children on Seroxat than on the other drug, or on sugar pills who developed these psychiatric problems.

A. There are a number of different elements that you lump together in psychiatric disorders.


Q. I will run through the list of problems if you like. Five of the children suffered suicidal thoughts and gestures. There was aggressiveness. There were behavioural problems at school. None of this sounds very safe; it all sounds quite worrying for the children who are on Seroxat.

A. Actually not because some of those symptoms were also seen on the patients taking Imipramine and placebos.


Q. Not as frequently.

A. Maybe not as frequently, but they still suffered. This is typical of the sort of symptoms that occur in this population of patients. This is a difficult population to treat and you will be aware that for many medicines there is no licensed implication for use in children so much of prescribing in children is done off-label. We firmly believe that we have an obligation to study our medicine to treat population to examine the safety and the efficacy of that medicine.


Q. I appreciate that but there were many problems on Seroxat than on the other drug or the sugar pills.

A. Actually the majority of those side effects were relatively minor.


Q. No, a lot of these children were hospitalised it was so serious.

A. If you look at the proportion of patients who withdrew from therapy - and you can see less than 10% had to withdraw from Seroxat - more than 30% withdrew from the other active therapy and just under 10% withdrew from the dummy.


Q. It is heart complaints with the other drug, and I understand that, but-

A. But that is the sort of therapy that is the alternative, which is why it is very important that we study Seroxat in this group of children who are most at risk from suicide.


Q. What we are talking about here though are psychiatric side effects, the sorts of side effects that can lead to suicide and there were far more children on Seroxat suffering these problems than on the other drug or sugar pills.

A. What you are trying to do is make a link here with the adult data. The adult data clearly shows that there is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat causes suicide.


Q. But why should it be that so many more children should suffer these side effects on Seroxat than the other drug or sugar pills.

A. Actually, if you look at the more serious of those side effects the number difference was very small, and the sort that you would expect to see in clinical trials. On one trial there may be more than on another, in another it will go the other way.


Q. And for the 10% of the children on Seroxat who had these side effects you are not worried that it was caused by the drug?

A. The vast majority of these patients did not have side effects significantly enough to withdraw from the treatment. The reality is that in this population depression is an extremely serious condition and in many cases leads to suicide.


Q. I appreciate that.

A. Are we worried by the side effect profile? We take the safety of our medicines extremely seriously and we will look very carefully at this, and the combination of other data, to decide whether this medicine is suitable for children. My belief is that it will be but because there is a lack of treatment for this serious condition that this medicine will be suitable for a range of children as well as adults.


Q. You cannot be sure that the 10% of children on Seroxat who suffered these problems did not suffer them because of Seroxat can you? You cannot be sure about that.

A. One can never be sure of anything in medicine, but just because you take a medicine and you get an effect does not mean to say cause and effect because the same sort of symptoms occur with the dummy pills.


Q. That is why if you compare it to another drug and the sugar pills, in that comparison Seroxat was much worse.

A. In that comparison the proportion of patients withdrawing from the study due to adverse events was much lower on Seroxat than one of the other potential treatments available.

Q. There are 60 psychiatric side effects - the sorts of side effects that are linked with suicide and self-harm.

A. Let us look at the totality of the adverse event profile because it is the total risk and input that is important.


Q. We are considering the link with suicide, and this evidence points very strongly to the fact that more children are suicidal and had suicidal gestures in fact on Seroxat than the other drug.

A. With respect the totality of the data is important. What you are talking about are five patients out of the 275 on Seroxat, three patients on Imipramine. That difference is not significant and one patient had a placebo.


Q. No, I am talking about five children. The figures are-

A. I have given you the figures. Five on Seroxat, three on Imipramine and one on placebo.


Q. There were children out of 93 children on Seroxat who had suicidal thoughts and gestures, another five out that 93 had serious psychiatric side effects. Do you not think parents would be worried about that if their child were to be given this drug?

A. I believe that what parents would be more worried about is the risk that their children had of committing suicide and other symptoms of severe depression if no treatment was available. In my opinion parents want treatments to be properly evaluated during clinical trials before their children are given any medicine.


Q. But the evidence here suggests that their children might be at more risk of suicide if they go on Seroxat.

A. No, the evidence is not there. There is no statistical difference between the groups. The reality of the situation is that in this trial Seroxat was generally well tolerated by this difficult to treat population.


Q. You are not concerned about this and you do not think parents should be concerned about this?

A. What I am saying is that we are attempting to study Seroxat in this difficult to treat population. If, and when, we demonstrate the efficacy and the safety of the product, then the data will be submitted to the regulatory authorities with a view to getting a licence so that these patients and their doctors have another treatment available to them to treat this difficult disease.


Q. You would like it to be licensed for children?

A. Of course it must be driven by the data. There are many times we do clinical trials where you find that the balance of risk and benefit is not capable, in which case you do not try and get a license. The reality in this situation is the data we have generated so far is favourable. There is more benefit than risk in this population but until we have developed all the clinical trials, and done a full package of information, and adequately studied this drug in this population we cannot say that.


Q. Are you satisfied then that your company, generally, has done everything it can to keep patients properly informed about the negative side of the drug?

A. Absolutely, and it is not something we just sit and watch. Our summary of product characteristics is a living document. You start with a very limited number of healthy volunteers. Then you develop the clinical trials in thousands of patients. Then you make it available to tens of millions of patients around the world. As time moves on you collect more information and more data becomes available, and as a result we regularly change the information, which we provide to prescribers and patients for all our medicines, and of course for Seroxat as well. We will continue to do that. We will continue to monitor the safety of our medicines. We will make changes to the information to prescribers and patients, driven by facts and data not by anecdote.

Interview ends.

Here's some brief segments of Benbow in action. The other 'Alasdair' in this short video is Alasdair Breckenridge. Both Breckenridge and Benbow are seen here defending Seroxat.

Breckenridge was the former Chairman of the British drug regulator, the MHRA. Before joining them he worked at GlaxoSmithKline.






Bob Fiddaman.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Andrew Witty: The Acceptable Face of Big Pharma?




Dr David Healy has a belter of a post over at his website. The post, entitled, "Persecution: He Who Would Do A Great Evil", throws out much for debate and readers have been forthcoming with comments.

Many of the comments mention the AllTrials Campain, spearheaded by Dr Ben Goldacre. He and I have never really seen eye to eye, he thinks I'm one of those "angry smeary conspiracy theorists", (Fig 1) which is a shame. I'm really just a patient seeking answers from a big corporate company who lied about one of their prescription drugs that I took.


Fig 1

Three days ago All Trials published a letter from Ben Goldacre on their website, the crux of which sees the announcement that Goldacre, along with Síle Lane (Director of Campaigns at Sense About Science) are going to be banging on the doors of individual pharma companies to ask them what they’re doing to fix the problem of future clinical trials reporting.

At present pharmaceutical companies carry out clinical trials for their drugs and hand over the successful trial results to medicine regulators in efforts to get a licence to sell their wares to the public. Any failed trials (that shows the drug didn't work or caused serious adverse events) are kept away from the regulators, doctors and the public.

I'm almost certain that Ben Goldacre didn't wake one morning and think to himself, "I know what needs to be done, I'll start a campaign calling for transparency and enter into a partnership with GSK on their terms."

He probably (and this is just an assumption) was delighted when the UK's biggest pharmaceutical company jumped on board the AllTrials train. His measure of elation overriding what lay beneath GSK's reasons.

It looks great for GSK, even more so for AllTrials - what a coup!

One of the most abhorrent pharmaceutical companies in the history of medicine agreeing to open their doors to "the privileged" so "the privileged" can just see how GSK are trying, oh so desperately, to make it look as though they have nothing to hide.

Do you think for one minute that GSK would have jumped on board any campaign spearheaded by any of their fiercest critics?

The Seroxat User Group, back in 2011, asked for a meeting with GSK's Andrew Witty. The meeting was an attempt to ask Witty for help on behalf of the thousands of patients suffering severe withdrawal problems at the hands of his company's antidepressant Seroxat (known as Paxil in the US)

Witty declined, even though Janice Simmons, who operates the Seroxat User Group, had amassed over 60,000 emails from Seroxat patients, most of them are struggling to get off Seroxat.

GSK’s UK medical director Dr Pim Kon wrote back to Janice informing her that they (GSK) was not allowed to discuss personal matters with patients and that they should 'talk to their doctor'. [See - **Exclusive - GSK's Andrew Witty in Patient Aftercare Snub]

It's a perfect escape route for GSK. 60,000 emails from patients complaining about one of their products and 60,000 patients being told "Um, we can't talk about your experience or offer you any guidance regarding withdrawing from our product... but you can talk to your doctor."

AllTrials, however, have had red carpet rolled out for them by GSK because their campaign would actually make GSK look good. I mean whose idea was it to forget the 60,000 or so patients wanting help from GSK and, instead, focus on how to make GSK look like a great, caring company.

Put the two together - what's more important?

GSK had nothing to gain by meeting Janice Simmons but they have everything to gain by teaming up with AllTrials. It's all about image. Not the image of AllTrials. Not the image of Dr Ben Goldacre. The image of GSK.

Dr David Healy has given evidence against GSK in US Courts. Would they have been so obliging to him had they had been approached by him regarding a campaign to open their doors to show their clinical trials?

I think we know the answer.

So, why have they teamed up with Ben Goldacre who has, in the past, been slightly critical of them?

Well, Ben, as mentioned above, seems like the sort of chap who can be beneficial to GSK. Labelling me an "angry smeary conspiracy theorist" would have, no doubt, given the likes of former Glaxo spokesperson Alistair Benbow and Andrew Witty a jolly good laugh - "Way to go Benny boy, that Fiddaman guy is just a blogger and knows nothing about our medicines and how they have helped millions of people all over the world."

By turning against the patient, be they disgruntled or be they advocates pushing for answers, Ben Goldacre has created a divide. He, himself, is a physician and any patient with questions about prescription medication should not be turned away and be labelled in such a way to make them feel they are wrong.

I think the concept of AllTrials is a good one. I think the terms under which pharmaceutical companies are agreeing to open their doors is a recipe for disaster. Goldacre, for what its worth, seems like a decent enough guy, I wouldn't like him if he were my doctor though, especially if he could dismiss my concerns over a drug with a brush of the hand and a slur of conspiracy theorist.

If the likes of GSK wish to be transparent then they should be so with absolutely no restrictions.

Joining forces with AllTrials is pretty on the eye yet deceiving.

GSK, in this instance, are your street magician. They are showing the public the delights of magic and the public applaud.

Always bear in mind that magicians often use secret helpers to accomplish their magic. They also use sleight of hand to make things just disappear... Think Paxil 329.

Bob Fiddaman.







Friday, December 19, 2014

Lundbeck: Possibly, Probably or Certain about Celexa Birth Defects?





Possible or probable, so what is the difference?

I've struggled with these two definitions, really tried to get my head around them both.

First off I used Dictionary.com

Possible:
1. that may or can be, exist, happen, be done, be used, etc
2. that may be true or may be the case, as something concerning which one has no knowledge to the contrary

Probable:
1. likely to occur or prove true
2. having more evidence for than against, or evidence that inclines the mind to belief but leaves some room for doubt.
3. affording ground for belief.

When it comes to prescription medications causing adverse events, the World Health Organisation (WHO) use "causality categories" and define possible and probable as thus...

Possible:
• Event or laboratory test abnormality, with reasonable time relationship to drug intake
• Could also be explained by disease or other drugs
• Information on drug withdrawal may be lacking or unclear

Probable:
• Event or laboratory test abnormality, with reasonable time relationship to drug intake
• Unlikely to be attributed to disease or other drugs
• Response to withdrawal clinically reasonable
• Rechallenge not required

In essence both words have two possible outcomes yet both have different meanings.

I am going to focus on the case of Cheryl Buchanan here and her correspondence with citalopram makers Lundbeck. Citalopram is better known as Cipramil in the UK and Celexa in the US. ( Forest Laboratories)

Cheryl has been at loggerheads with Lundbeck regarding the death of her baby girl. Cheryl made the heart wrenching decision to abort her fetus at 23 weeks because she had been told that scans had detected a series of anomalies in her unborn child, namely...


  • Diaphragmatic hernia or eventration
  • Long bone immobility
  • Cystic hygroma 
  • Unilateral cleft hand
  • Microgynathia


Cheryl had been taking Lundbeck's citalopram prior and during her pregnancy. She wrote a guest post for my blog back in 2013 and has since been trying to get answers from the Danish pharmaceutical giant Lundbeck.

Lundbeck carried out an assessment of Cheryl's claims and forwarded their findings to the MHRA.

Lundbeck, as far as I am aware, also use the World Health Organisation "causality categories".

Here's what they found.

(Foetal death in utero) - drug related - possible
(Pulmonary hypoplasia) - drug related - possible
(Diaphragmatic hernia) - drug related - possible
(Hand deformity) - drug related - possible
(Skin laxity) - drug related - possible
(Skin swelling) - drug related - possible
(Drug exposure in utero) - drug related - possible

Fig 1.




Fig 2. **Initial reporting from Lundbeck to the MHRA did not give any indication for Cheryl's fetus developing Pulmonary hypoplasia**



Fig 3. **Updated assessment by Lundbeck sent to the MHRA regarding a possible connection between citalopram related Pulmonary hypoplasia**






Sometime later Cheryl wrote to Lundbeck and asked if citalopram could cause birth defects?

Here's the reply from Lundbeck's Dr Andrew Jones, Medical Director, Medical Department.

"...there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects over the background risk in general population (i.e. of mothers not taking citalopram). " 
It was at this point that I wrote to Dr Jones to ask him if this was a personal opinion or an opinion of Lundbeck. He replied...

Dear Mr Fiddaman,
I confirm that this is the position of Lundbeck.
What I am struggling with here takes me back to the definitions of possible and probable.

Lundbeck assess Cheryl's case and write to the MHRA with their findings. They tell the MHRA that the birth defects (listed above) are possibly drug related. Using the WHO criteria this means that...

The defects could just be coincidental to Cheryl's "drug intake" or

The defects may possibly have been caused by "disease or other drugs" or

The Information Cheryl provided Lundbeck "may be lacking or unclear" 

Let's now take a look at the position of Lundbeck regarding citalopram use and birth defects. Remember, it was their own Dr Jones that told me that the following was the position of Lundbeck...

"...there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects over the background risk in general population (i.e. of mothers not taking citalopram). " 

So, how do we categorize the position of Lundbeck. Are they suggesting that it's possible that there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects?

Are they saying it's probable that there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects?

Or are they saying they are certain that there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects?

Back to the WHO criteria again.

Certain:
• Event or laboratory test abnormality, with plausible time relationship to drug intake
• Cannot be explained by disease or other drugs
• Response to withdrawal plausible (pharmacologically, pathologically)
• Event definitive pharmacologically or phenomenologically (i.e. an objective and specific medical disorder or a recognised pharmacological phenomenon)
• Rechallenge satisfactory, if necessary


Lundbeck have done nothing more than open the door for debate when sending information back to the MHRA.

Where the mother is concerned they have quite literally slammed the door on her face by telling her that their position is there is no evidence to indicate that usage of citalopram in pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects over the background risk in general population.

Why would they (technically) tell the MHRA otherwise?

Why would Lundbeck tell the MHRA that it was possible that citalopram caused the birth defects in a mother's fetus but tell that same mother something completely different?

I'm confused by it all. Is the WHO criteria merely a set of probabilities with at least two possible outcomes? If so, it doesn't really tell us much does it?

Is the WHO criteria not as stringent as they think and each category open for debate?

What we basically have is two opposing statements of reality intertwined.

The third statement of 'certainty' by Lundbeck to Cheryl Buchannan being an ultimatum, in essence, "our drug does not cause birth defects", forgetting or purposely failing to add that they told the MHRA otherwise.

It's certain that Cheryl Buchanan aborted her fetus at the age of 23 weeks because, she was told, the chances of survival were minimal due to a series of internal defects.

My money is on citalopram being the cause of those defects.

Any good lawyers in the UK?

Bob Fiddaman.

Back Stories

Citalopram Birth Defects (Guest Post)

Are Lundbeck Luring Pregnant Mothers With a Red Apple?








Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Study Uncovers Paxil's Hidden Toxicity





As if we didn't know already (as if Glaxo didn't know all those years ago)

A new study carried out by the University of Utah has revealed what Glaxo have been hiding from the public for many years. The only people that really know the truth are the US Courts where information has been suppressed as part of settlement agreements made between Glaxo and Plaintiff lawyers.

In a nutshell, GSK attorneys come to a compromise when their case defending Paxil goes pear-shaped. They, of course, use all the tools at their disposal - the statute of limitations, whether or not a fetus is viable, ie, whether or not it can be regarded as a human at the time it was aborted - they also use many other points of law to defend their toxic blockbuster drug.

According to Neurotoxicology and Teratology, Volume 47, January–February 2015, mice exposed during development experienced a multitude of problems: males weighed less, had fewer offspring, dominated fewer territories and died at a higher rate. Females took longer to produce their first litters, had fewer pups and pups that were underweight.

The Paxil doses were relatively close to those prescribed for people.

In the study, researchers gave food laced with Paxil to 20 breeding pairs of mice for several weeks, until all had produced up to four litters. The offspring also ate Paxil-laced chow until they reached breeding age.

This from Newswise...


Researchers then released the exposed offspring into the competitive arena with the offspring of a control group of mice never exposed to Paxil. Groups consisted of eight males and 14 to 16 females, creating population densities comparable to those seen in the wild. The researchers started five such populations and kept them going for six months.
Males exposed to Paxil were about half as likely to control a territory. They also lagged behind control males in body weight throughout the weeks of competition and were more likely to die. Exposed males produced 44 percent fewer offspring. Exposed females showed no significant weight or mortality differences, but they produced half as many offspring as control females at the initial assessment. Their fecundity rebounded at later time points.

Are we surprised anymore?

Question is... Why has it taken so long for such a study to be carried out? In truth, it hasn't.

Here's a bit of history...

3-year-old Lyam Kilker was born with serious heart defects. While pregnant, Kilker's mother took the antidepressant paroxetine [Paxil]. The Jury's decision in this case was that Paxil was the causation of Lyam Kilker being born with heart defects. In other words, Paxil was deemed responsible as the agent that disturbed the development of an embryo or fetus.


The following was taken from the court transcript in the Kilker v GlaxoSmithKline trial. [Verbatim]

"In May of this year, 2009, a study was published by Doctor Sloot. The study said this.
"What Doctor Sloot did is, he took Paxil and all the other reuptake inhibitors and he exposed rat fetuses to these 12 different drugs, including Paxil. And what Shearing Plough was trying to figure out, what they were trying to do was figure out whether one of the drugs that they were going to put on the market to compete with GSK's drug was capable of causing birth defects. And so they took the drug they were going to take to market, and before they took it to market, they did this test. And they compared it to all the other SSRIs. Because, as you will learn, GSK never did this test.
"What Doctor Sloot discovered in May of this year is that out of all the teratogen, out of all the SSRIs, the 12, only one was a clear teratogen, Paxil. He discovered that Paxil in May of this year was actually more powerful a teratogen than cocaine.
"It would be safer, according to Doctor Sloot's study, to take cocaine than it would be to take Paxil while you were pregnant.
"Now, Shearing Plough, quite rightly, took their drug that they were thinking about taking to market to compete with Paxil, and even though it was just a possible teratogen, they scrapped their plans to take it to market and decided the risk was not worth the benefit."

Upon this revelation I emailed both Glaxo and the British drug regulator, the MHRA. All of that correspondence is featured in my book, The evidence, however, is clear, the Seroxat scandal. For those of you that don't have a copy there's an extract featuring that correspondence here.

No doubt medicine regulators around the globe will raise an eyebrow at the latest study by the University of Utah, they may shuffle uncomfortably... then ignore the findings. That's my experience of regulators. Quite why they are called regulators baffles me.

Paxil is just one example of a pill causing birth defects, there are many more, much of which are dished out to women because they have some form of dangerous depression during their pregnancy, a depression, that we are told, if left untreated can be passed on to the fetus.

Genius marketing folks...with the sole aim of making money...and lots of it.

Bob Fiddaman.

Related

Ryan, Glaxo's Non-Viable Fetus - Part I

Ryan, Glaxo's Non-Viable Fetus - Part II - The Twists








Wednesday, December 10, 2014

FDA Shake-Up New Pregnancy Drug Guidelines






I'm all for a shake-up for a more simplistic approach to drug safety drug guidelines for pregnant mothers, so a recent article filled me with hope with the headline 'New Pregnancy Drug Guidelines A Mixed Bag For Consumers'.

Alas, it's not all it's cracked up to be.

The FDA have, for many years, categorized a number of prescription drugs, particularly for use in expectant mothers.

Here's how it currently stands.

Category A

Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).

Category B

Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.

Category C

Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.

Category D

There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.

Category X

Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use of the drug in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.

Simple enough but, in my opinion, very vague. Let's take a look at Category C.

Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.
In essence the FDA are telling pregnant mothers that the drug they have in their possession has had an adverse effect on the fetus of animals...they go on to say that there have been "no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

It's more or less telling the mother that they should take the drug at their own peril.

So, a shake-up to make these guidelines more crystal clear is welcoming.

Are the FDA going to consolidate all the cases of birth defects that have been settled by pharmaceutical companies throughout US courts and then apply them to the new guidelines?

Nope.

Are the FDA going to read the countless stories on the internet and in the media about mothers giving birth to children with defects after taking a specific prescription drug?

Nope.

Are the FDA going to contact pediatricians to ask if they have ever come across instances where children [fetuses] have had to be aborted due to prescription drug medication causing birth defects?

Nope.

Here's what they plan to do.

They are, it seems, going to ask the drug companies to write the warnings.

So, the likes of Paxil, a drug marketed and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, a drug that has, on countless occasions, been implicated in hundreds, possibly thousands of birth defects, will now get a new lease of life. Glaxo, who have settled many of these birth defect cases out of court, will now be asked by the FDA to come up with a warning for pregnant mothers to read.

Are we expected to believe that Glaxo are going to have the consumer in mind when writing a warning about ingesting Paxil while you are pregnant?

To my knowledge GlaxoSmithKline have defended the majority of Paxil birth defect lawsuits. Those they win are usually down to absurd state laws [see Ryan, Glaxo's Non-Viable Fetus - Part I and Ryan, Glaxo's Non-Viable Fetus - Part II - The Twists.]

Do we really believe that the likes of Wyeth are going to be anything but truthful when they write a warning for Effexor? [see - Two Hours With Matthew - The Story of "Effexor Baby", Matthew Schultz and Effexor Baby's Grieving Mother Protests Potential MOTHERS Act, Warns Others]

Perhaps Lundbeck will cease the opportunity to cover their drug, citalopram [Celexa] in garlands when there are cases suggesting that it can cause all sorts of problems to the fetus. [see Citalopram Birth Defects and The Lundbeck Emails [Citalopram Birth Defects]


The FDA plan to remove the pregnancy categories A, B, C, D, and X from all human prescription drug and biological product labeling, they are recommending that the labeling include a summary of the risks of using a drug during pregnancy and lactation.. and they are leaving this to the manufacturers of the said drugs, the same manufacturers who have suppressed information surrounding their drugs and birth defects.

On one hand the FDA are looking as if they really do care about the dangers of these drugs in pregnant mothers, on the other hand they are passing the buck back to the pharmaceutical industry whose main priority is to make bucket loads of money out of the supply of these drugs.

It's just like allowing the cannibalistic witch to provide information on candy and food to Hansel and Gretel.

Don't get me started on the British drug regulator, the MHRA, they still insist that Paxil is not a teratogen...despite the fact that it has been proven to be one in US Courts.

There will be many who read this who will claim that they took antidepressants during pregnancy and their babies turned out just fine. To those I ask just one simple thing...please spare a thought for those mothers who, through no fault of their own, don't have the luxury of holding their babies or ever having the chance to hold their babies babies.

Bob Fiddaman.







Friday, November 28, 2014

Suicide - The Utah Paradox








Neuroscientist Perry Renshaw, who works out of the University of Utah, is offering a theory to the high rate of suicide that exists in the state of Utah. It's a theory that may surprise many, may make many laugh or leave exasperated.

Theresa Fisher, a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes and edits for 'Brain Mic', has written an article based on Renshaw's findings [theories].

As expected the whole antidepressant/suicide link is not even refered to, quite bizarre given that the opening ramblings of Fisher's article mentions that Utah is, and I quote, "...the No. 1 state for antidepressant use."

Rather than delve into the suicide link between antidepressant use we are taken down a different path of opinion that results in the suggestion that the high rate of suicides in Utah is down to... wait for it... altitude.

Fisher reports that...

"Renshaw believes that altitude has an impact on our brain chemistry, specifically that it changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two key chemicals in the brain that help regulate our feelings of happiness. America's favorite antidepressants (and party drugs) work by controlling the level of these chemicals in the brain. The air in Utah, one could say, works just like this."

The above, of course, is supposition but the author of the study believes that he has found "mounting statistical, scientific and anecdotal support for his theory."

Utah, we are told, is not only the No. 1 state for antidepressant use, it also has the highest suicide rates in the country (aside from Alaska)

Putting these two facts together throws up some interesting theories for people like me that writes about the dangers of antidepressants. One would think it would have raised alarm bells for Renshaw - alas, he, it appears, avoids the blindingly obvious, opting instead to lay the blame on altitude.

In a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Renshaw, along with others, analyzed state suicide rates. The criteria they focused on were gun ownership, population density, poverty, health insurance quality and availability of psychiatric care. Once again we see no focus on whether or not the medication could be playing a part in suicide.

According to Renshaw, the 2011 study and a follow-up study found a positive correlation between suicide and altitude, adding that the elevation at which people live, he found, is a strong predictor of their mental health status.

It's an alternative opinion yet one that I find hard to swallow, particularly (and I know I keep saying it) that Renshaw et al seem to totally dismiss the notion that the actual 'cure' for depression could be the cause of the suicide. Even if it's not, the two statistics for the state of Utah would suggest that the antidepressants just aren't working. Dig deeper and you may just find that these pills that have been heavily marketed as 'life-savers' may just be the exact opposite.

Whilst dismissing the antidepressant suicide link Renshaw (on evidence he found regarding altitude and suicide) says that his evidence is "too strong to dismiss as coincidental."

"Hello, McFly, anyone at home?"

Let's just see what he overlooked again...

1. Utah is the No. 1 state for antidepressant use.

2. Utah has the highest suicide rates in the country (aside from Alaska)

Ergo it must be altitude causing the suicides!

The highest city in the world is, according to Wikipedia, La Rinconada in Peru. I'm left wondering if Renshaw et al actually obtained suicide reports from this part of the world?

It would be very interesting if Renshaw and co could go back to their study and through their evidence obtained try to decipher which of those who died by suicide were on an antidepressant medication at the time of their death... or were taking an antidepressant 3 months prior to their death.

Maybe then we can put the altitude theory to bed and focus on trying to save lives.

Bob Fiddaman.










Tuesday, November 25, 2014

AC/DC - Rock or Bust Review





First and foremost, no pussy-footin' around on this one folks. Crank the volume up to an acceptable level, I suggest 11.

Secondly, and most importantly, if you want lyrics that will make you sit and ponder, go listen to Coldplay or any other band of that ilk.

AC/DC's 'Rock or Bust' appears in stores Dec 1 and 2 but the band have given fans a very special, an early, Christmas gift by allowing the whole album to be streamed in its entirety via Itunes, that glunky piece of software that causes more headaches than...well, than any other piece of software I've ever known.

Being an AC/DC nut, I managed to hear the full album before AC/DC launched the 'official stream'. Hey, that's what us Acca Dacca nuts live for.

The one thing, for me at least, that sticks out about AC/DC's new offering, is the vocals. Brian Johnson has been belting out songs for AC/DC since the early days of Back In Black - anyone who has tried to imitate 'BJ' will have found, like me, that it's just plain impossible to sound like him without sounding like Donald Duck.

Johnson, like a fine wine, improves with age - is it down to his actual vocals or the production and mix of the album? - Does anyone really care?

It's almost as if Johnson has been given a new lease of life. "Here's the Mic, just do what you do best."

... and he does.

We hear the standard AC/DC sound throughout with a few little surprises thrown in.

I remember, back in 79, when I read a review in Sounds for the Highway to Hell album, the headline read "AC/DC Discover Harmony" - if they did, indeed, discover it back in 79, Rock or Bust shows how they have perfected it.

Here's a breakdown of the album...along with my thoughts.

1."Rock or Bust" -  3:04
I was fortunate to be present at the video shoot for Rock or Bust back in October [back story] - my views on this ballbuster haven't changed. It's AC/DC rockin out with their cocks out, balls n' all. As title tracks go, it's on a level with 'For Those About To Rock' [minus the cannons]. Their previous title track, 'Black Ice' , didn't really cut it for me - the album was great, the title track didn't really tick all the boxes. 'Rock or Bust' ticks them all.

2."Play Ball"  - 2.47
Another that has been circulating for some time - the song is better than most think, again it's your typical AC/DC riff with some nice picks, nothing too complex, just simple rock n' roll. The accompanying video to 'Play Ball' could have been better. Memo to AC/DC and David Mallett - AC/DC's 6th man is the fan - always include the 6th man in any future videos.

3."Rock the Blues Away" - 3:24
The opening is.... um, fuck me, Georgia Satellites meets The Angels. The verse is the same, I mean exactly the same melody as 'Anything Goes' (Black Ice). The chorus will just grab you buy the Jaffa's, superb harmonies - it's akin to a Geordie chorus [Brian's former band] - The lead break from Angus builds up slowly with some fine rhythm playing from Stevie. This is a crowd pleaser and is, at present, my favourite from the album.

4. "Miss Adventure" - 2:57
Stevie and Cliff have voices! Nice little shout of "Miss Adventure" and "Na na's" thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure about this one yet, for me, at least, it sounds like something that could have come a year or so after they released Rock or Bust, you know, a track that never made the final album, similar to the way 'Down on the Borderline' never made it to the final cut of 'Blow Up Your Video'. I'm sure it will grow on me...it may take some fertilizer though.

5. "Dogs of War" - 3:35
AC/DC fading in a song? Hmmm? Think 'War Machine' (Black Ice) "We be the dogs of war" (Soldier's of fortune") - It has one hell of a groove that will give most hardcore AC/DC fans callouses on their back foot  [left or right, depending how they have emulated Malcolm over the years] - Great harmonies once again, hard to believe that Malcolm is missing on this one - it has his rhythm written all over it. Take a bow Stevie!

6. "Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder" - 3.22
Typical Rudd beat, typical foot-stomping start, typical psychic presence of the Young family just knowing when and when not to hit those strings. AC/DC aren't just about music, they are about knowing when to give us those little pauses in between hitting those strings. Nice guitar work from Angus on this one - fades out too quickly - would have liked to have heard more Angus. If they play it live we probably will.

7. "Hard Times" - 2:44
This little baby is all about the chorus and harmonies. Stevie keeps things rolling in the style of Uncle Mal whilst Cliff's thumping bass holds everything together. It's refreshing to hear backing vocals over lead vocals - makes everything sound like a party.

8. - "Baptism by Fire" - 3:30
Oh baby! I would just love to have been in the studio when they knocked this one out. What fun, what movement (groove) -  it's a train that starts at high speed and keeps its momentum throughout it's 3.30 short journey - it's something you could imagine a younger band doing...but doing it poorly. AC/DC are the past (and present) masters of the locomotive groove. You jump on board the party train and just feel the motion of it all through every part of your body.

9. "Rock the House" - 2:42
A Zep type riff, a 'Faith No More' funky bass riff, a killer vocal, with the help of Cliff and Stevie's shout of "Rock the House". It's the shortest song on the album, not the strongest AC/DC track you will ever hear, not the most memorable either. Another one that will, undoubtedly grow on me over the coming months.

10. "Sweet Candy" - 3.09
Oh yeh, oh yeh... if track 9 [Zep and Faith No More] disappoints then Sweet Candy gives us the return of AC/DC. This could have been lifted straight from the 'Blow Up Your Video' sessions, only with better production, much better!

11. "Emission Control" - 3:41
Like "Rock the House"we have the funky bass riff. What sets this aside is the chorus and harmonies. Stevie brings in a voice to the harmonies that, for most hardcore fans, will be the only sign that Malcolm is missing from this album.

All in all it's an album that will delight the majority of AC/DC fans. Sure, there will be those who may even suggest that AC/DC should hang up their guitars, uniforms and cloth caps - those that suggest such sacrilege should be tried for treason.

AC/DC are, without doubt, the biggest rock act on the planet. They have a style and, for the most part, they have stuck to that tried and tested formula throughout Rock Or Bust.

If you enjoyed Black Ice, you'll enjoy Rock Or Bust. If you compare it with Back In Black or the phenomenal 'Powerage' then it will disappoint.

Never, under any circumstances, compare one AC/DC album with another... just enjoy each one individually.

To stream the album go to Itunes here.

Liverpool and Scottish legend Bill Shankly once said, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Same can be said for AC/DC





Bob Fiddaman.