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The FDA Guerillas of Wonky DrugWonks - Part II

By       Message Evelyn Pringle     Permalink
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“And this guy is head of the Health subcommittee? Why is he being taken seriously? Why isn't he being held accountable?”

In the blog, Mr Goldberg includes the following statements made by Rep Stupak a hearing, which he claims are “scientifically incorrect,” “misleading” and “dangerous”:

"SSRI’s have not been proven effective in treating adolescent depression. To the contrary their use may actually increase the suicide rate of its young patients.

"In response to these reports of increased suicide rates with SSRI use, FDA officials suppressed their own post marketing surveillance, prohibited FDA employees from discussing the report, and launched an investigation to find the person who leaked information to the press. Today, SSRIs remain on the market without a clear medical benefit to the patient."

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"There should be a black box warning around everything Stupak says regarding medicines," Mr Goldberg declares, "particularly SSRIs which have been shown to benefit patients and are associated with a decline in suicides."

Prolific smear campaigns are directed at medical experts who testify against Big Pharma in litigation or government hearings. A life-time reputation of credibility and high regard may be targeted for assassination as punishment for this capital crime. Attempts to destroy the reputation of Dr David Healy, the world-famous expert on psychopharmacology, with 20 books to his name, appear frequently on DrugWonks. For instance, on December 19, 2006, Mr Pitts wrote:

"Dr. Healy recently testified at the FDA hearing on antidepressants. He is a psychiatry professor at Cardiff University in Wales but also, according to the New York Times, has worked for plaintiff's lawyers in cases brought against pharmaceutical companies. That's transparency."

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"When I served as Associate Commissioner at the FDA, Dr. Healy visited with me -- but he never mentioned that he worked for the tort bar," Mr Pitts said. "That's dishonesty."

The untold story here is that Dr Healy traveled to Washington on his own dime in 2004, for the meeting of the FDA Advisory Committee to consider the suicide risks of SSRIs. During his visit, Dr Healy and a group of people that included parents of children who committed suicide while taking SSRIs, also met with Mr Pitts and other FDA officials.

As a follow-up to the meeting, Dr Healy prepared a lengthily report with summaries of all the available suicide data on each SSRI, including his own studies, and sent copies to Mr Pitts and the other FDA officials, free of charge. Dr Healy’s trip to Washington to testify at the advisory committee meeting in December 2006, was also on his own dime.

In an email, Dr Healy was asked whether he would like to respond to the above allegations by Mr Pitts on DrugWonks. In a return email, Dr Healy explained that he consults as an expert in litigation for drug companies and trial lawyers alike, and wrote:

"When I went into the FDA to meet with Peter Pitts, I made no efforts to conceal my links to trial attorneys - some of whom were at the meeting - and no efforts were made to conceal my links to the pharmaceutical industry, all of which were well known."

"I went," he said, "because in my experience Republicans such as Senator Grassley and staffers working for them such as Emilia DeSanto have appeared more concerned about and more effective on the issue than anyone else and as a Republican appointee I thought Peter Pitts' heart might be in the right place."

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"What was not well-known at the time was that Peter Pitts was transiting between working for pharmaceutical companies - or perhaps not even transiting," Dr Healy wrote. "I'm not sure how many of us would have felt it worth going if we had known his background," he noted.

"Retrospectively," Dr Healy says, "it seems astonishing to me now that with people like Peter Pitts in FDA that it was ever possible to bring the suicidality issues to light."

It seems even more astonishing after reading Mr Goldberg’s blog on February 15, 2008, which declares: “And again, there is no link to SSRIs and in increase in suicides, rather some unclear evidence based on an unvalidated measure called suicidality that includes just talking about self harm in general.”

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.

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