Zantac Lawsuit

Researching drug company and regulatory malfeasance for over 16 years
Humanist, humorist

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Special - An Open Email to Robin Young

Last Thursday, psychologist Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber was given 10 minutes of airtime on WBUR, a National Public Radio station based in Boston.

Gerstenhaber was interviewed by Here & Now's host Robin Young. I say "interviewed," but it was more like a free infomercial for antidepressants.

The 10 minute program which can be listened to here, was a classic example of a one-sided shtick regarding the safety of "antidepressants" such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc. Gerstenhaber offered tidbits of information which she claimed to be true. In fact, nothing she said appeared to be true. Neither could she back up her ludicrous claims that prescription drugs cannot cause suicide.

To date, more than 36 comments have been left on the WBUR page and all have gone unanswered by Gerstenhaber and host Robin Young.

One such person who felt compelled to leave a comment was Kristina Gehrki. Kristina has been featured on this blog in the past here and here.

In honor of U.S. veterans and Memorial Day, today she emailed the host. Her open letter, published here in its entirety, includes some interesting analogies. It's powerful. Perhaps Robin Young will have the decency to reply?

Here's the email (Published with the permission of Kristina Gehrki)


Honoring US Vets, Active Duty Servicemembers & Families through Accurate, Unbias Reporting

Robin Young, Cohost of NPR/WBUR "Here and Now"
890 Commonwealth Avenue, Third Floor
Boston, MA  02215

Dear Ms. Young,

Today is Memorial Day. Given your father was a United States Marine, I'm sure you are reflecting on his service. As a Marine wife for many years, I share your connection to the Corps and appreciation for veterans, servicemembers, and military families. Here's an old photo of my daughter, Natalie, age three at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

When reading your bio after last Thursday's NPR radio program I learned we have several other commonalities: We both have journalism backgrounds, been recognized for our efforts on behalf of children, and worked on White House related communications.

However, today I'm contacting you about something we don't have in common--something I hope we never do: I lost my daughter at age 19 to prescription-drug-induced death.

Natalie was suffering from akathisia and Serotonin Toxicity, severe adverse drug reaction (ADRs) caused by SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.) Dr. Roger Lane, a Pfizer scientist for the company that made the product (Zoloft) that caused my child's demise, has stated "the subjective components of akathisia are distinct and overwhelming." In another peer reviewed medical journal Lane went on to note "It may be less of a question of patients experiencing fluoxetine (Prozac)-induced suicidal ideation, than patients feeling that death is a welcome result."  (SSRI-Induced extrapyramidal side-effects and akathisia: implications for treatment - Roger M. Lane)

Further, Dr. Robert Temple, former director of the FDA's office of medical policy, has said "that analyses of 15 clinical trials, some of which were hidden for years from the public by the drug companies that sponsored them, showed a consistent link with suicidal behavior." (Harris, New York Times, 9/14/04, p. A01)

Yet on your show last week it appears your guest, Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, withheld this information.  Doctors who don't want to harm their patients would benefit from being better informed.

Natalie's doctor didn't recognize Natalie's symptoms as ADRs. She assumed Natalie was ill with various difficult-to-classify disorders. Natalie unwittingly documented her ADRs despite erroneously being told they were signs of unspecified illness and not ADRs. (You can learn about our avoidable tragedy here & here)). Informed of Natalie's violent death, her doctor screamed, "Oh my God! Oh my God! It doesn't make sense; she wasn't depressed." Natalie's doctor, who didn't communicate the risks related to the product she promoted, said she prescribed Zoloft because Natalie was "too focused on dieting and exercising."

Your program last week never mentioned "akathisia." It featured one guest, Gerstenhaber, with one agenda. Gerstenhaber didn't discuss the adverse side effects and withdrawal problems associated with the "antidepressant" drugs she promoted. Neither of you disclosed Gerstenhaber and her Columbia University project's financial and professional ties to these product manufacturers.

Perhaps this collective failure was simply an oversight? Whatever the reason, it is unethical. It is also poor journalism to cover this critical topic by excluding scientific research, medical experts and consumers whose views and lived experiences are far different from those expressed by a solitary guest. These troubling omissions can cause avoidable suffering and death of our nation's vets, servicemembers, and children.

Suicide is, literally, a life and death topic. More than 22 veterans die by suicide every day, many of whom were prescribed drugs that carry the FDA's Black Box warning stating these products can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. Like my family, many are never informed of the products' risks vs. benefits and never receive Informed Consent; Therefore, their basic human right to medical freedom of choice is effectively denied.

Your father and all our vets served to protect Americans' right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Tragically, for some unsuspecting consumers, SSRI drugs rob them of life, liberty and happiness.

Today as we honor our nation's vets, I also remember those who died from terrorist attacks. Some victims of the September 11th World Trade Center attack jumped to their deaths. No decent person would ever state these deaths were "suicides." Rather, these innocent victims jumped to escape a burning building. It is a similar situation when consumers die from self-sustained injury while suffering prescribed akathisia and psychosis. These iatrogenic deaths are not "suicides" in the traditional sense of the term; I use the word "suicide" only because the English language hasn't yet coined a definitive term to describe such death. Prescripticide is likely the most accurate term. And so it is: My teenaged daughter, Natalie, died from prescripticide, as do many veterans.

To hear your guest, Gerstenhaber, claim SSRI drugs have few risks and great benefits conjured up an analogy about peanuts.Years ago I left journalism to pursue a fulfilling profession in education. At the start of every school year, I received district letters alerting me of students with peanut allergies. These serious allergies could result in my students' deaths. When I hear Gerstenhaber dismiss the risk of SSRI drugs and tout all the supposed benefits, I think about peanuts and my students. What would I tell a parent whose allergic child died in my class because I cavalierly chose to bring students a special treat containing peanuts? How would the parent of the dead child react if I replied, "Peanuts are healthy for most children. They are high in protein, easy to swallow, cheap and widely available. Sorry your child died. But remember, for most of my students, these peanuts were a healthy snack."

I've worked with children and teens for decades and recently paid my respects to fallen servicemembers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Many of these casualties were teenagers--the same age as my students--when they died. As I stood at the wall, I pondered how long a wall would be if a similar memorial honored victims of medical error and ADRs. Given that the broken U.S. medical system is the leading cause of death and injury, few visitors would have the stamina to walk such a great distance when paying respects to lost loved ones.

Today some vets who survive akathisia and other ADRs bravely share their experiences. Dave Cope, a Navy veteran, shares his avoidable suffering in an open Letter to Congress. Cope attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) near your WBUR office and, like fellow MIT grad, Dr. Kelly Brogan, would have been an appropriate source for last week's program. Another Boston-area resident and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, Robert Whitaker, could have also been invited to share his research. Clearly, you need not have ventured far from your office to find reliable sources for more balanced programing.

Since Natalie's death in 2013, I've met many intelligent people whose loved ones also suffered ADRs and died iatrogenic deaths--people with no financial motives nor conflicts of interest. Their loved ones were pharmaceutical executives, lawyers, marketing professionals, doctors, teens, and children. In the interest of public health and responsible journalism, I respectfully request you host a follow-up program in which medical experts and families can share independent research, personal ADR experiences and fatal outcomes.

You can reach me at should you wish to do so.

Semper Fidelis,
Kristina Kaiser Gehrki


"Netherworld," from the film 'Letters from Generation Rx' by Kevin P. Miller.

'Netherworld' is told from the voice of Natalie Gehrki and her mother Kristina.

Back story

Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber - Incredulous!

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