Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Website Challenging Coroners About Suicide




I love it when an idea comes along that has been so blatantly obvious to me... that it's passed me by.

There are many bloggers who have their own styles, their own personal stories to tell, their own take on the pharmaceutical industry, psychiatry, antidepressants.

An area that has interested me has been the whole coronial process. I first became interested in this during my coverage of the Sara Carlin inquest and later the inquests of Shane Clancy and Toran Henry. Three young human beings whose lives were cut short by suicide, all were seemingly normal kids, all were taking antidepressant medication at the time of their deaths, namely, Paxil [Seroxat], Citalopram [Celexa], and Fluox [Prozac].


AntiDepAware is a new website that challenges the coronial system, it's a fascinating read and the author, Brian, has collated many media stories where suicides have occurred but coroners have just ignored the medication link.

Yes, it's another website created to make people aware of antidepressant dangers but where it differs from many is it highlights the failure of coroners to take this issue seriously. It's coming from another angle that I like most about Brian's website, that and the fact that he has meticulously crafted a very strong database of 1600 inquests in England and Wales between 2003 - 2012.

Brian has painstakingly gathered all the information, which he freely admits is just the tip of the iceberg, through various media resources. He writes:

"...all the information here has been found on the Internet, mostly in the archives of local newspapers. I have had no privileged access to any other material. I have limited myself to reports from the past 10 years concerning deaths in England and Wales.

"...this list is far from complete. In fact, it could be subtitled “the tip of the iceberg”. For every inquest report that I was able to include, there was at least another where toxicology was completely excluded from the report, or where medication was hidden behind phrases such as “she was being treated for depression” or “he saw his GP”."

I was reading one of Brian's posts earlier about Coroner Ian Smith. Smith became famous in 2004 when he spoke out about antidepressants during the inquest of a local writer who had hanged himself “out of the blue”.

Smith had heard evidence during the inquest that the local writer was in the course of switching medication from Effexor (Venlafaxine) to Seroxat. To make the transition, he had gradually stopped taking Effexor and had been taking Seroxat for 11 days when he died.

In his summation, Smith pressed for more research into the antidepressant/suicide link as he had previously held two inquests where the person/s had been switching medication.

In 2008 Smith hit the news again.


In March 2008, at the inquest of a retired bank manager, Mr Smith spoke of a link between antidepressants and suicide:
One of Cumbria’s coroners is to contact drug authorities because he fears people are killing themselves after taking antidepressants.
Ian Smith is to write to the Committee on the Safety of Medicines – an independent advisory body …
… Mr Smith told the inquest he knew of several other suspected suicides involving the same group of antidepressants, known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
He said: “I have to say this is probably the fifth, if not sixth inquest I’ve heard within a period of three years when somebody either just going on to Citalopram or Seroxat, or coming off it, have killed themselves one way or another, totally out of the blue, totally without expectation, without a history of suicidal thoughts in the past.” 
The following month, Mr Smith conducted the inquest into the death by hanging of a farmer.
He … criticised the use of antidepressants and expressed concerns over a pattern of people taking their own lives days after being prescribed the drugs …

Coroner Smith was right, although contacting the Committee on the Safety of Medicines [CSM] would have been frivolous. My experience of the CSM is that they are about as effective as trying to slam a revolving door.

In 2004 the, then, chief executive of Mind, Richard Brook resigned from the Committee after he was told by the British drugs regulator, the MHRA, not to reveal the Committee's findings that Seroxat had, for years, been prescribed by doctors in an unsafe dose and that the regulators had the evidence in their possession for more than 10 years. The MHRA threatened Brook with prosecution if he went public, he basically handed them the middle finger and went public anyhow. [1]

What the MHRA were asking of Brook was to keep secret from the public that GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat was being prescribed in unsafe dosages. The MHRA, who remember carry the tagline, "Safeguarding human health", had knew this for ten whole years but decided, in their infinite wisdom, that this information would be best kept under lock and key, in other words they didn't see that releasing this information would safeguard human health. Perverse kind of thinking, wouldn't you say?

Not so perverse when you learn three things.

1. The MHRA are entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry

2. The Chairman of the MHRA at the time had previously been employed by GlaxoSmithKline.

3. The Head of Licensing at the MHRA was former world safety officer at GlaxoSmithKline, one of his interests whilst working for Glaxo was the antidepressant, Seroxat.


Anyway, talking or writing about the MHRA always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

AntiDepAware is a must read. It will open your eyes to the closed eyes of Coroners.

The home page is HERE, recent posts are on the right hand side.

Bob Fiddaman



[1] The riddle of the drug regulators [Link]




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