Zantac Lawsuit

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: MHRA Asked Sky News to Remove Antidepressant Reference

The controversy and confusion created last week by MHRA and their Sky News article continues. In the interview, MHRA enforcement officer, Danny Lee-Frost, stated, “...sleeping pills and antidepressants are a lot more dangerous. People have committed suicide as the ultimate resort to try to get off them. They are fiercely addictive.”

The original article aired on the Sky News website at 10:14 am on Thursday, July 20.

I wrote to Lee-Frost approximately an hour later asking:
Is it now the position of the MHRA that antidepressants are addictive and that "people have committed suicide as the ultimate resort to try and get off them?"
Can you clarify that this is a personal belief or one of the MHRA?
Lee-Frost promptly responded:
Dear Mr Fiddaman
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the article commissioned by Sky News on the dangers of buying medicines online.
I work in the Enforcement group and my role is concerned with investigating illegal activity involving medicines. I am not medically qualified and therefore matters of clinical diagnosis are not in my area of expertise.
The focus of this piece was the online sale and supply of medicines and the increased use of Facebook as a medium of sale.
Part of the interview concerned sleeping tablets and I referred to Zopiclone and Diazepam specifically.
We have seen an increase in the number of websites offering both of these medicines for sale. Sky presented evidence that both were available on Facebook and I asked for details of the sites they had found in order to make further enquiries.
We also discussed the dangers of purchasing large quantities of these medicines from websites without medical supervision and the increasing amounts that we are seizing as part of our enforcement activities.
My reference to suicides was in relation to a case that the MHRA is aware of involving addiction to Zopliclone.
Sky did not include the interview in its entirety in their piece.
Danny Lee-Frost MSc
Head of Operations
Enforcement Group 
What's striking here is the timeline of events.

At 3.15 pm Sky News edited its original version and omitted part of Lee-Frost's original statement. The statement had been changed to, "The sleeping pills and antidepressants are a lot more dangerous. Sleeping pills particularly, they can be addictive. People have committed suicide as the ultimate resort to try and get off them. These are fiercely addictive."

However, the video of Lee-Frost's original statement remained on the Sky News website.
Screenshots, with Sky News provided subtitles, are found below:

The original video can be viewed here, with Lee-Frost's 18-second segment here.

Puzzled as to why Sky News would change Lee-Frost's direct quotes and make edits after publication, I inquired:

Stephanie Jones, Sky News PR Manager, states:
"The changes were made after MHRA got in touch to clarify Frost's comments. They made the point that antidepressants shouldn't be included with sleeping pills."
Hmm...MHRA and Lee-Frost's original statements couldn't possibly be referring to ads such as this, now could they?

All ads still remain on Facebook today.

Lee-Frost's Email Response

Let's look at the email Lee-Frost sent me, in particular, his statement:

"My reference to suicides was in relation to a case that the MHRA is aware of involving addiction to Zopiclone."

This new info is troubling as nowhere on the product labeling does it suggest Zopiclone can be addictive. Moreover, the SPC label does not mention suicide being a result of withdrawing from Zopiclone.

The  SPC-DOC_PL 41684-0003.PDF is hosted on the MHRA website and was last updated on 02/06/2017

If Zopiclone is or can be addictive as soon as you start taking it, as Lee-Frost suggests (see video) then why does MHRA omit this info on its website? Moreover, if Zopiclone is a drug where "people have committed suicide as the ultimate resort to try to get off them," why is this relevant information not included by MHRA in the SPC?

The SPC for the other drug mentioned  in Lee-Frost's  reply, Diazepam, does not support Lee-Frost's two claims that:

1) withdrawal can lead to suicide and
2) is "fiercely addictive once you start taking them"

On the subject of dependency (addiction), the Patient Information Leaflet for Diazepam states:
Dependence: When taking this medicine there is a risk of dependence (a need to keep taking the medicine). The risk increases with the dose and length of treatment period.

As you see, the Patient Information Leaflet clearly states the risk of addiction increases with the length of the treatment period. It does not state it "can be addictive as soon as you start taking it." Therefore, it's safe to assume MHRA believes neither Zopiclone or Diazepam can cause addiction as soon one starts taking them, nor can they cause people to carry out "suicide as the ultimate resort to try to get off them" as Lee-Frost claimed.

According to MHRA's public documents, Lee-Frost's claims are false. So why would Lee-Frost believe differently than his employer, the MHRA? (Remember, Lee-Frost is the head Enforcement Officer of the MHRA!)

Why would he make repeated statements that antidepressants can be addictive and cause suicide upon withdrawal if he did not know this to be true?

Why would he later claim he was speaking about Zopiclone and Diazepam instead of antidepressants as he said in his original article?

Why would MHRA contact Sky News and direct them to change their Enforcement Officer's own statement?

I think I know why and my readers likely know why, too. I believe in his Sky News interview, Lee-Frost was speaking about antidepressants as a whole. He subconsciously told the truth, something MHRA didn't appreciate. I believe MHRA knows that drugs labeled "antidepressants" are addicting. It appears MHRA also knows "antidepressant" withdrawal is such torture that some people would rather die than suffer these drug side effects. Hence, sufferers end their lives. I don't prefer to call these drug-induced deaths "suicides" as they are iatrogenic.

Stay tuned: Next week the saga continues with the MHRA and Lee-Frost responses.

Lee-Frost now claims the suicide related to Zopiclone withdrawal he referred to in his first email to me, was simply "anecdotal."


(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research

Bob Fiddaman

No comments:

Please contact me if you would like a guest post considered for publication on my blog.