Back in April this year my blog reached a milestone. It was the ten year anniversary of when I first launched this blog and as part of its 10 year birthday I decided to run a series of Q&A's with fellow advocates and people who have been part of my 10 year journey. Previous Q&A's can be seen at the foot of Kristina's (Pictured above) Q&A session.
I first became aware of Kristina after I had read the history surrounding her daughter, Natalie, whom at the age of 19 took her life, shortly after her dosage of Zoloft was increased over the telephone by her prescribing physician. Kristina has wrote a two part series for David Healy's blog, RxISK. Kristina's two accounts of her daughter were beautifully written, so much so that it prompted me to leave a message in the comment section of RxISK commending her on her excellent writing skills. (Natalie's Story can be read here & here.)
Some months later I opened my email and saw a message in my inbox from Kristina. I knew straight away who she was as her two accounts about Natalie's prescribed death had penciled her name into my subconscious. I am a fan of writers, those who have the ability to paint pictures with words. Kristina has this ability. This prompted me to ask Kristina to write a guest post for my blog, a post which has attracted over 3,000 views to date and one which has been 'liked' and shared on Facebook hundreds of times. See - Guest Post: Let's Bring Akathisia Out of the Darkness.
Today sees the birthday of her daughter, Natalie, she would have been 23. I feel it's fitting to publish Kristina's Q&A today, much of which will astound you if you are unfamiliar with the background of Natalie's treatment by apparent health care 'professionals'.
Pay particular attention to Kristina's explanation of the state of Virginia's negligence laws - I must admit, these laws are absurd given the number of deaths by prescription drugs throughout America these days.
Also, you HAVE to see Kristina's outstanding delivery to members of an FDA Advisory Panel, a delivery that left FDA employees stunned into complete and utter silence - link to the footage is within Kristina's answers below.
We shall be meeting in person soon and both heading off to Chicago for a showdown with a major pharmaceutical company. We're also going to be sharing stories over a pint or two in her hometown of Virginia, hopefully not in a jazz bar though. More on that in a future post.
Anyway, here's Kristina's Q&A.
Full Name: Kristina Kaiser Gehrki
Location: Fairfax, Virginia
Q: Kristina, Natalie would have been 23 today (Dec 8, 2016), this may be a difficult question, so forgive me if it's painful for you. What is your fondest memory of Natalie?
A: There are so many fond memories it is difficult to choose just one. Natalie was a petite girl with a super-sized laugh and witty sense of humor. Overall, my fondest memory is simply hearing the beautiful sound of my daughter's laughter. It is something I dearly miss.
Natalie often used humor to spotlight the cruel ironies of the world. My fondest specific memory is a letter to the editor she wrote our local paper, the Washington Post. Natalie was sixteen at that time, and the U.S. planned to execute a man whose IQ was so low he was legally “mentally retarded.” Natalie shared her death penalty views and pointed out the absurdity of killing a person who was “mentally retarded.” She said the execution clearly reflected the lowest IQ’s— that of the politicians who made this decision.
I still have her letter and reading it encourages me as I advocate for fully Informed Consent. Informed Consent is a fundamental human right. Consumers have a right to know what they are consuming, whether it’s a genetically-modified tomato or a Black Box drug that can cause violent death. Fully Informed Consent should be provided by prescribing doctors and by pharmacies. It is critical and something we, unfortunately, never received.
Q: What do you say to people who believe that antidepressants are safe and effective?
A: I have several family members who work in the health care field. I am not anti-drug, I am simply pro-information. The fact is “antidepressant” drugs are neither safe nor effective for children. This has, belatedly, been reported in scholarly journals and by some of the few remaining independent journalists. My daughter was prescribed SSRI drugs (Prozac and Zoloft) not for depression but for what the doctor labeled “OCD-like symptoms.” Natalie didn’t receive a specific diagnosis; she was assigned a rather ambiguous billable code that enables doctors to collect insurance money. We asked for a specific diagnosis many times and our questions were often met with excuses. The intense anxiety (Akathisia), confusion, memory loss, change of gait, nausea, etc., Natalie experienced after consuming the products were not presenting symptoms: They were adverse drug reactions.
I’ve learned a lot about unethical pharmaceutical marketing tactics and FDA failures since my daughter’s death. Unfortunately, like many parents who unwittingly gave their children dangerous, ineffective drugs, I learned too many facts far too late, despite that I asked all the right questions I knew to ask. Ironically, my academic and professional background is in communication and marketing. Before Natalie’s death, I presented conference workshops regarding how to communicate crisis and risk. I share this information only to stress that if this tragedy can happen to us, it can happen to anyone. And when I say “tragedy” I am not speaking only of Natalie’s akathisia-induced death. Rather, Natalie was poisoned for many years. Even when she stopped taking the drugs, many of the adverse drug side effects were still present. We simply didn’t recognize then what was happening nor why.
It is difficult if not impossible to recognize signs of adverse drug reactions when consumers are intentionally left in the dark. Several internal memos from Eli Lily (Prozac), Pfizer (Zoloft) and GlaxoSmithKline (Paxil) show these companies knew their respective products were dangerous and no more effective than a sugar pill. The FDA also appears to have known about these risks long before my daughter was ever conceived and before the Black Box warning. Natalie was first prescribed Prozac prior to the Black Box warning. The FDA warning came out while she was taking the drug, but the doctor never informed us. Years later when she was prescribed Zoloft, the doctor assured us "Zoloft is a different drug than Prozac.” This doctor communicated nothing at all about the existence of a Black Box warning. The pharmacy never communicated it. While I believe Black Box warnings have saved lives, I also have spoken to many parents who stated their doctors actively discounted the Black Box warning, claiming the warning is overblown and unnecessary. One doctor dismissed it by telling the parent, whose son later died an SSRI-induced death, “Don’t worry. The FDA puts that label on everything.”
Q: What advice would you give to Coroners faced with suspected suicides of teenagers?
A: It seems many coroners don’t speak for the dead. Too often they seem to protect fellow doctors and the pharmaceutical companies by failing to recognize and/or report adverse drug reactions associated with polypharmacy and metabolism. My daughter died a horrifically violent death one day after first taking 200 mg. of Zoloft, a dose prescribed over the phone, by a doctor who never physically saw Natalie. The doctor never informed me that she had directed such an increase.
After Natalie died, I asked the coroner for blood samples because I wanted my daughter's blood tested for metabolism. The coroner rather casually declared she might not have enough of my child’s blood left after she was done conducting the state’s tests. The state of Virginia would not test for metabolism when I requested it. I was able to obtain a small sample of Natalie's blood which was sent to an independent lab. The results showed Natalie was not a very effective metabolizer of SSRI drugs.
Q: What advice would you give to parents whose children/teenagers are on antidepressant medication?
A: I’ve previously stated it seems our society has gone from one in which “Mother knows best” to “Mother knows nothing.” I believe “modern medicine,” the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries and government regulators have helped create this paradigm shift. My first advice to mothers is, "Don't be intimidated and coerced. Take back your motherly instinct and parental power. Recognize that it is you who knows your child best. Follow your gut instinct."
My second piece of advice is do not believe the “chemical imbalance” theory, and that so-called “antidepressant” drugs are a safe and effective treatment for children. I now have to live the rest of my days missing my child and feeling profound guilt for having believed such fallacies.
My third piece of advice to parents is to reflect on your child’s presenting symptoms vs. your child’s current symptoms. It is sometimes easy to forget what your child was like before the drugging began, particularly when these adverse drug reactions create more desperation to help your child. Doctors, many of whom are also duped, may convince parents that they are doing a great job parenting because they are actively “treating” their child. My daughter’s personality changed dramatically after consuming these drugs. They robbed Natalie of her soul, her spirit and, in the end, took her very life. It was a slow, painful death.
Lastly, I'd like to encourage parents not to buy into the medicalization of anxiety, sadness and worries. Try safer, more effective ways to reduce such feeling such as exercise, diet, art therapy, etc.
Q: You are in the process of writing a book, can you, without giving too much away, tell me a little bit about the whole process of book writing, and in particular, the difficulties you face as a parent who has lost a child.
A: The book has some similarities to the Diary of Anne Frank, considering it is Natalie, herself, speaking from the dead. She was an intelligent, prolific writer who kept a diary of sorts. You can see some of Natalie's writing in the documentary “Letters From GenerationRx.” She documented many adverse drug reactions without ever knowing she was experiencing and documenting them. She believed what the doctors repeatedly declared: that her physical and mental suffering was a sign of a disease and not signs of drug toxicity. Drug-induced psychosis and akathisia causes extreme anxiety and fear. I’m amazed Natalie did as well as she did for as long as she did considering that, as her side effects worsened, doctors routinely increased the offending drug.
The book is quite difficult for me to write and compile because it requires a careful review of Natalie’s medical records and diaries. These records clearly highlight signs of drug toxicity, yet the doctors repeatedly failed to recognize this reality. I should also add that the psychiatrist responsible for the ultimately fatal 200 mg of Zoloft did not provide us with Natalie’s complete medical records. This psychiatrist stalled, giving us only a few records at a time. Finally, the doctor called and left a voice mail message—a message I still have. She claims an “office flood” destroyed Natalie’s remaining medical records.
Q: You and I have briefly discussed the state of Virginia negligence laws. For the benefit of the readers, can you explain in laypersons terms how difficult it is for residents of Virginia to file suit for negligence?
A: This is an unbelievable injustice and one I learned about only after Natalie's death. Virginia is one of only three states in the U.S. that has an archaic law called contributory negligence. It requires a jury to find the defendant 100% responsible for the outcome or the victim gets nothing. In cases such as Natalie’s it means we must prove her death was 100% the result of the doctor’s negligence and/or the product manufacturer. Given that the general public does not want to believe the truth surrounding SSRI-induced “suicide,” it is extremely difficult to meet the Virginia requirements and also challenging to find attorneys who will take these cases. If I were a doctor, I’d choose to practice medicine in Virginia. And I do mean “practice” in the true sense of the word…
For more information about the contributory negligence law, see: Link.
Q: Would you recommend blogging to parents, or anyone for that matter, who had lost someone dear to them through antidepressant-induced suicide?
A: Bob, I don’t know enough about this to answer here.
Q: Back in September you kindly wrote a guest post for my blog, entitled, 'Let's Bring Akathisia Out of the Darkness.' The post featured a letter you wrote to Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) - Can you tell me what feedback, if any, you have had from the letter you sent them?
A: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) takes a lot of money from the pharmaceutical companies, and their board of directors contains several people with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry. These incestuous relationships remind me of the FDA’s revolving-door employment agency. AFSP has never responded to my letter in which I requested they help increase akathisia awareness and reduce drug-induced “suicides.” I put the word “suicide” in quotes because I don’t believe people who die from prescription-drug induced self-harm while suffering from SSRI-induced akathisia have died by their own hand, so to speak. These deaths are sometimes labeled ego-dystonic suicides or suicide beyond one’s will. I simply call it prescripticide.
Q: Have you ever had any correspondence with either Eli Lilly (Prozac) or Pfizer (Zoloft)?
A: No. I learned that Eli Lilly was largely responsible for starting the whole “antidepressant” industry scam by intentionally skewing the real data in their Prozac clinical trials. I consider Eli Lilly my daughter’s first killer. Pfizer comes in next as killer number two as their internal documents show Pfizer knew their product, Zoloft, caused akathisia and suicidality among healthy volunteers in their clinical trials. Glaxo Smith Klein was so impressed by the “Lilly Protocol” deceit that helped gain Prozac FDA approval they then recruited the same employee to conduct similar trials for Paxil. Natalie never was prescribed Paxil, but it is interesting to note how the pharmaceutical industry shares their top talent.
Drug company fraud and corruption—all designed to put profits before people—ought to be made into a Hollywood movie. People might not believe such evil is real. But my daughter went off in a coffin instead of off to college. Her violent death is our reality forever more.
Q: You have met many fellow advocates on your journey, many of whom who have suffered personal tragedies with regard to antidepressant induced death. How has this helped you and do you still keep in contact with this network of fellow advocates?
A: Shortly after Natalie died, I started googling “Zoloft causes suicide” and similar searches. I quickly found stories of many families, such as Woody Witzack, Stewart Dolin and Candace Downing, families whose loved ones also died SSRI-induced deaths. Mathy Downing, who lost her twelve-year-old daughter after Zoloft, told me “Ours is a sad club to belong to, but you will meet a lot of wonderful, caring people.” She was right. I’ve met many wonderful people similarly dedicated to helping others avoid our tragedies. I very much appreciate these fellow advocates and friends.
Q: I was recently privy to witness a speech/statement to you gave to members of an FDA Panel. Can you tell me what that was about and, for the benefit of the readers who never saw this, could you tell me what you said to those panel members? (Footage of Kristina's delivery to the FDA after her answer)
A: I attended the FDA’s recent hearing on “Manufacturer Communications Regarding Unapproved Uses of Approved or Cleared Medical Products.” I had no plans to speak and wasn’t on the speakers’ list. However, after listening to hours of pharmaceutical industry propaganda and industry-funded shills, to include the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, I felt upset and nauseous. Many of the so-called “patient advocates” were sent to the hearing by the pharmaceutical companies and their funded organizations. Few people can afford to travel to the Washington Metro area and speak up for their loved ones who were harmed or killed. I was glad I did.
I arrived with no prepared speech and simply spoke from my heart. Perhaps I could have been a bit more cordial and succinct, but, really, who can expect parents to be pleasantly deferential when speaking to the government body whose actions and inactions caused the torture and death of their child?
Watch Kristina's speech here.
CLICK HERE - Skip to 0.45.55
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: Like other people whose loved ones have been harmed and/or killed, I will continue advocating to help prevent this from happening to other families. Losing a child, or any family member, to avoidable death, is terribly painful. However, the best thing we can do to honor our loved ones is to cherish their memory, create happy moments and live our lives with meaningful purpose. Ten years down the road, I will still be advocating, but, hopefully living in a sunny place surrounded by lush greenery and a little garden.
Q: Finally Kristina, some personal questions...
1. What book are you currently reading?
A: Ah, this is a difficult question. I have a large stack of books I want to read, some for pleasure and others for research related to my own book. None of the research related books are happy reads, but the authors--Robert Whitaker, David Healy, and Peter Breggin--are all excellent writers.
2. What was the last CD you listened to (in full)?
A: Vienna Teng’s Waking Hour. She is a talented musician with a beautiful voice. Natalie loved Vienna Teng. Shortly before she died, she downloaded the song “Lullaby for a Stormy Night.” Natalie was suffering from Zoloft-induced psychosis, complained of violent nightmares and insomnia. I doubt she was able to truly understand she was going to die. Akathisia is so overwhelming; perhaps Natalie just wanted to go to sleep. Hence, the lullaby.
3. What is the best movie you have seen this year?
A: The Edge of Seventeen with Woody Harrelson. It’s an entertaining comedy about the awkward challenges of the teenage years. Given that I taught high school marketing for many years, the movie resonated with me. It was realistic and made me laugh. Laughter is a very important part of my life.
4. What country would you most like to visit?
A: While I’ve traveled a lot, I would like to see Ukraine. Given that my grandparents were Ukrainian, I grew up eating Ukrainian food and have fond memories of my grandfather playing the accordion and dancing the polka.
5. If you had the choice of being either a defense or prosecution lawyer, which would you choose and why?
A: I would aim to be proficient at both, but would prefer defense. It seems the U.S. system is increasingly stacking the deck against the “common person” and not just regarding pharmaceutical fraud. Unfortunately, the U.S. imprisons more people at a higher rate than any country. Every person should have the right to adequate legal representation. The notion of the right to a fair trial, along with “anyone can grow up to be president,” are two quaint, Disney-like notions that are U.S. fallacies.
December 8, 1993 - February 6, 2013
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