One image kept popping in and out of these thoughts, an image that would interrupt and bang at my head, an image that will live with me til my dying day, an image complete with audio that echoed through my head whilst being looped over an over again. Oh how I wished it could have been an image of someone hot looking with words of wisdom or an image of my mom whom I lost earlier this year. Alas, it was not, it was an image that plays on my mind every day and a sentence that loops. The image was GlaxoSmithKline's spokesperson [when it comes to Seroxat] Alistair Benbow, the audio 'Absolutely, it could be, we haven't got a licence in children yet'. This coming after BBC Investigative journalist, Shelly Jofre, had asked him if he thought that the drug [Seroxat] could be safe in children. This was in April 2003
Now why would he say that? At that point he must have been certain that Seroxat was safe in children. Does he now realise the implications of that statement? Here we have a spokesperson for GSK who has gone on national television and announced to an ever increasing concerned public that the drug, Seroxat, is safe for children to take. Parents and doctors watching could not have failed to be impressed by this statement from Benbow. Imagine the scene, if you will. A 16 year old girl tells her parents there is a documentary on TV tonight about the drug she is taking, a drug that has recently had bad publicity regarding the suicidal thoughts it can bring on with those that take it. Her parents decide to watch, they are astounded by the revelations of the investigative journalist, Shelly Jofre but comforted in the knowledge that the head of European clinical psychiatry at GSK has said it is safe for children to take. Benbow didn't stop there. He added, ' The evidence however is clear, these medicines are not linked with suicide, these medicines are not linked with an increased rate of self harm.' Whatever side effects the 16 year old may or may not have had were down to the depression, the self mutilation was not down to the drug. Thank goodness they had heard it from the horses mouth so to speak. No need to worry, they can keep their child on Seroxat because the head of European clinical psychiatry has said the drug is safe.
And what of the doctors around the UK watching Benbow's performance, would they have not been swayed by the head of European clinical psychiatry? Maybe the following day a parent would go to see her family doctor concerned at the Panorama programme aired the night before. The doctor, being a professional, would side with a fellow professional, in this case Alistair Benbow. "Don't worry Mrs Smith, your child will not suffer as a result of taking Seroxat." Who knows, some doctor may have even quoted Benbow, ' The evidence however is clear, these medicines are not linked with suicide, these medicines are not linked with an increased rate of self harm.'
I think Alistair Benbow has had plenty of time to come forward to retract that statement. Of course I am aware that GSK's legal team would claim that Benbow didn't know at the time of that statement that Seroxat was unsafe for children but let's look at the facts.
In 1998, some 5 years before Benbow made the above statements on national TV, an internal GSK document clearly acknowledged that GSK were aware that Paxil Study 329 was negative.
The document advised staff at GlaxoSmithKline to withhold clinical trial findings in 1998 that indicated the antidepressant paroxetine [Seroxat] had no beneficial effect in treating adolescents. Study 329, conducted in the US from 1993–1996, was the largest trial to date on using an SSRI in a pediatric population. According to the document, the results indicated paroxetine was no more effective than placebo. [Source]
So, why wasn't the head of European clinical psychiatry at GSK, Alistair Benbow, aware of this in April 2003?
Cynics would suggest that Benbow was aware, how could a spokesperson for a particular drug not know all the facts?
The MHRA failed to bring any prosecutions when they carried out a four year investigation into this matter, this still sticks in my throat. Surely, the promotion of a drug known to be ineffective is illegal? - because Alistair Benbow did actually promote the use of Seroxat when he claimed on national television that these medicines [Seroxat] were not linked with suicide or self harm. This, five years after his own company's internal document had indicated that paroxetine was no more effective than placebo.
Why would any human being promote a drug that was known to be ineffective?
Alistair Benbow may have been GSK's scapegoat here, he may have been unaware of his own company's findings from 1998. Question I have to ask is why was he unaware? [assuming that he was]
Until we get answers from Benbow himself I guess the images and audio of Benbow will continue to bug me at night. I'm lucky, I never lost a child to Seroxat.
Read the new book, The Evidence, However, Is Clear...The Seroxat Scandal
By Bob Fiddaman
AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD HERE
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