Zantac Lawsuit

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

Monday, March 08, 2021

Seroxat and the Fallacy of Centrality


Shane Cooke

Last week, I learned a new term and planned to blog about it. Days later, I read "Gripped by and Discarded by GlaxoSmithKline," a guest post on Dr. David Healy's site. This blog explores how the two relate. 


Fallacy of Centrality

The term "fallacy of centrality" was coined by Ron Westrum, a researcher who observed pediatricians' diagnostic practices in the 1940s and 1950s. He found that many of these doctors assumed that they were in a central position, and they presumed if something serious was occurring, they would know about it. If something occurred that they didn't know about it, well, it just wasn't happening. This distorted thinking prevented many pediatricians from recognizing and reporting child abuse before the early 1960s. The pediatricians' applied the "logic" that if parents were abusing their children, they'd know about it. 


A present-day example of this type of magical thinking is below (Fig 1). The former head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Wendy Burn, uses her "clinical experience" to dismiss SSRI withdrawal. Burn hasn't seen SSRI withdrawal problems in her practice; therefore, it doesn't exist or rarely occurs. The fallacy of centrality is problematic among doctors, especially psychiatrists who expose their illogical thinking via social media accounts. It took Burn and many of her colleagues years to belatedly acknowledge the large SSRI withdrawal problem. Their admission came about after many members of the prescribed harm community and a handful of ethical researchers shared the real experiences and scientific facts.


Burn and Professor David Baldwin previously claimed in the national media that " the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment." (Fig 2) Once again, they embraced the fallacy of centrality.


Fig 1

Fig 2


The same arrogant, illogical thinking is illustrated in "Gripped by and Discarded by GlaxoSmithKline." It's the story of a young man, Shane Cooke, who suffered SSRI harms and was later repeatedly victimized by a chain of experts who employed the fallacy of centrality. Shane was just 21 when he decided to leave his foster parents, whom he had been with for nearly 20 years. He became engaged to a young woman, and they agreed to move in together. Both were in their final year at college, which caused understandable stress as they finished their degrees. 


Shane was having difficulty eating and sleeping and was anxious about his coursework deadlines. In 2002, he saw his GP, who prescribed two different SSRI brands that precipitated Shane's suicidality. His GP then switched him to Seroxat, an SSRI sold by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Prescribing Seroxat was the norm in the early 2000s given that doctors were not yet familiar with the serious risks the product presents. However, GSK and the British drug regulator, the MHRA, were aware of the problems with Seroxat.


In October of the same year, BBC's Panorama aired its first of four investigations into Seroxat. Scottish BBC journalist Shelley Jofre extensively reported the problems caused by the so-called 'wonder drug.' 

Prescribing physicians have no excuse for pushing this dangerous and risky drug after this date. Some doctors might argue they never watched the show, but this is a lame excuse. Once again, however, the fallacy of centrality comes into play here: What would an investigative journalist know about a drug that the medical profession doesn't know? 


After being prescribed Seroxat, Shane developed severe agitation, often asking his foster parents, "What's wrong with me?" 

I can relate. The adverse effects I experienced while taking Seroxat and withdrawing from it are documented in my book, this blog, and numerous podcasts. 

Shane's angry outbursts worsened, and he drove a car through a glass entrance of the Ablett Psychiatric Unit in Clwyd after he had been drinking alcohol. (SSRIs can increase cravings for alcohol and drive people to drink who have never previously consumed alcohol.) 


The Courts then ordered Shane to leave the home he shared with his wife-to-be and move back in with his foster parents. According to his foster parents, he complied with the order but would often go missing and later be found hiding in hedges or grass verges. His foster parents agreed that it was the medication causing Shane's bizarre behaviour, which now had spiralled to threats of suicide. Two doctors who then assessed Shane decided to decrease the Seroxat dose. Ten days later, Shane said he became "normal" again.


Unfortunately, Shane again became a victim of another professional's fallacy of centrality. A judge at Caernarfon Crown Court jailed Shane for two-and-a-half years for crashing his car through the doors into the foyer of the Ablett Unit Clwyd on June 2. While Shane had been drinking on the night of the crash, the judge failed to consider the role Seroxat had played. The judge wrongfully assumed that alcohol made "Shane do it." If a judge has never witnessed violence and alcohol cravings as adverse effects of prescription drugs, the judge decides this simply cannot and does not happen. (It is also true, however, that some judges do know but decide to blame alcohol; it is more convenient and less problematic than blaming a pharmaceutical company's drug.) 


Devastated by their son's incarceration, Shane's foster parents eventually heard about a psychiatrist from Bangor, Wales, who was researching the link between Seroxat and rage. That doctor is David Healy. They contacted Healy, who assessed Shane's medical records and determined Seroxat had induced Shane's fury on the evening of June 2.


The decision to jail Shane was going to be appealed, but the appeals process would have been lengthy. Shane was nearing his sentence's completion (shorter than the punishment he was initially given), and he decided not to continue an appeal. He served the prison sentence for his Seroxat-induced crime. GSK continues to deny Seroxat causes dependency and suicidal thoughts and actions. However, I do not believe GSK's false claims are products of the fallacy of centrality.


Upon Shane's release, he was electronically tagged and sent back to his foster parents. His engagement, independence, and career all destroyed by a risky drug and repeated fallacies of centrality. Despite these travesties of injustice, Shane went on to complete his coursework and passed his exams. Today, Shane is active on Twitter and hopes others won't suffer what he did. Shane and his foster mom, Mary, now run the Prescribed Medication Withdrawal group in Wales.

You can follow him here and read his full story here.

Mary, who is one of the unsung heroes in the advocacy world, can be followed on Twitter here.

The withdrawal group is now doing fortnightly zoom meetings. Anyone within travelling distance of Prestatyn, in particular, are welcome to join in. (this is in the hope of meeting face to face in the future) 

You can reach Mary via email at



If you still need convincing that Seroxat isn't problematic, watch the four investigative reports here. Perhaps you can share them with healthcare professionals who, like so many prescribers out there, probably suffer from a fallacy of centrality.





Bob Fiddaman

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