A little over a year ago, there was consternation in psychiatric circles as a French psychiatrist, Daniele Canarelli was found guilty after her patient hacked a man to death. She had not recogized the hazard he posed. Doctors didn’t like the implications they saw.
In a series of lectures I have raised the question as to how long it might be before a doctors would be found guilty for a suicide or homoicide linked to an antidepressant, given that we have known that these drugs can cause suicide or homicide for over 50 years. See RxISK’s Violence Zone.
In March 2008 17-year old Toran Henry who was on Fluoxetine (Prozac) committed suicide, fifteen days after starting the drug. Maria Bradshaw, his mother, convinced that the drug had caused the problem refused to have his death attributed to a depression or other disorder he didn’t have.
Unbeknownst to her, the company that marketed it in New Zealand, Mylan, had looked internally at the case and decided their drug had caused Toran’s death. Maria had to fight to get this information. Mylan withheld their assessment and forced her to get the High Court to agree she was her child’s legal representative.
Following her efforts for her son, Maria and others formed CASPER, a New Zealand based organization aimed at raising awareness of suicide and the role that treatments like the antidepressants can play in provoking this. It is now spreading to other countries and its profile is rising steadily.
Meanwhile in 2011 in Old Zealand (Denmark), Danilo Terrida, 20, committed suicide eleven days after he was prescribed antidepressants following an eight-minute-long conversation with a doctor.
The doctor never followed up on the consultation and was recently found responsible for the suicide by the National Agency for Patients’ Rights and Complaints.
The health agency, Sundhedsstyrelsen, has decided to make it harder for doctors to prescribe antidepressants to 18-to-24-year-olds after Danilo’s suicide.
From now on, young patients will have to face an assessment and an in-depth conversation with a doctor before antidepressants can be prescribed.
“Along with the Danilo case, there have been other cases that we, as the oversight authority, are not satisfied with. That is why we are now tightening the rules for this vulnerable group,” Sundhedsstyrelsen spokesperson Anne Mette Dons told TV2 News.
Danilo’s family said that they were pleased that the rules had been tightened for prescribing antidepressants.
“It doesn’t change the fact that we have lost our son,” Danilo’s mother, Marianne Terrida, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “The fact that it’s a dangerous drug is not new, it’s been known a long time.”
The case has sparked a debate in Zealand about the dangers of psychiatric drugs, and in Politiken newspaper today Peter Gøtzsche, medical researcher and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet, wrote that antidepressants have caused healthy people to commit suicide.
“It is true that depression increases the risk of suicide, but antidepressants increase it even more, at least up until the age of 40,” he wrote.
He added that psychiatric medication often does more harm than good and that patients would often be better off without medication.
“Doctors cannot cope with the paradox that drugs that can be useful for short-term treatment can be highly dangerous when used for years and even create the illnesses that they were supposed to prevent, or even bring on an even worse illness,” Gøtzsche wrote.
Editorial Note: The risk of suicide and violence affects all age groups – up to 100. If they go wrong, these drugs are likely to be highly dangerous in the short term.