Ed Note: This is part two in Laurie Oakley’s Pharmaceutical Rape series.
WHEN IT COMES to pharmaceutical rape, it is no simple task to determine just who the “rapists” are (or to determine the safety or lack of safety of the treatments that they promote), but we are certain that the behavior exists, and that decisions are being made with no regard for the lives that are damaged and/or ended by the reckless promotion of pharmaceutical products. This type of industry behavior, and the behavior of all who are in collusion with it, makes it clear that the untold suffering of millions is not too great a price to be paid for the satisfaction these individuals get from their advancing prestige and monetary gain.
The Violators (knowingly) – Corporate and governmental decision makers involved in the processes of production, approval, and marketing of said products; academic researchers involved in the study of said products while receiving industry funding; those psychiatrists, medical doctors or other professionals receiving financial compensation for lending their names to ghostwritten articles and other misleading materials about said products. (Key opinion leaders).
In the case of pharmaceutical rape, the “DNA” or proof that links industry behavior to individual injury is often found in a company’s internal documents. For example, e-mails and memos from the makers of the blood thinner, Pradaxa (dabigatran), showed they had both knowledge of Pradaxa’s dangers and financial incentive to let the drug onto the market without issuing any warning:
“Employees of Boehringer Ingelheim, the German drug maker, continued to express concern over whether sales of their blood thinner, Pradaxa, could be harmed if the public learned that some patients might need regular testing for safety reasons, according to new documents unsealed by a federal judge in Illinois on Thursday.
“The documents, which include a series of internal emails and memos, add to a trove of court records that were made public last week by Chief Judge David R. Herndon, of the United States District Court in East St. Louis, who is overseeing thousands of lawsuits filed by patients and their families, who say that Boehringer Ingelheim failed to properly warn them about the risks of taking Pradaxa.
“Since its approval in 2010, the drug, which can cause fatal bleeding, has brought in more than $2 billion in sales in the United States, according to the research firm IMS Health. It has been prescribed to 850,000 patients, but has also been linked to more than 1,000 deaths.”
—The New York Times. Feb. 7, 2014
The Accomplices (unwitting, assumed unknowingly) – Shareholders, government officials, the psychiatric establishment, persons in academic institutions, medical journals, medical and mental health care systems, front groups, pharmacists, other prescribers, and the media. In practice, doctors act as accomplices; because many are unaware of the extent to which the drug industry permeates medical education and culture, they are also victims.
Gwen Olsen, author of Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher, worked as a pharmaceutical drug rep until she figured out that people were being harmed by her participation in this system:
“I was being encouraged to minimize side effects when I talked to doctors. I started to realize that these patients were literally being tortured by the drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug. I was so disillusioned, as well as angry, when I found out how much deception, how much misinformation was taking place and how I’d been used in that game. I literally was the one on the frontlines. I was harming people unintentionally, but I was responsible. I carry a burden for that now.”
—Global Research. March 26, 2015.
When Bruce Levine, a clinical psychologist, recognized that he was a cog the system alongside doctors who prescribed medications in ways that were harmful to children, he began speaking out against it:
“[I] wanted to distance myself from [the mental health profession]. In the 1990s, I used to say, half-seriously, that when kids found out what had been done to them – including shrinks’ pathologizing and drugging their reasonable rebellion –- these kids, when they grew up, would go after mental health professionals, and I was hoping that by speaking out that they would spare me. I was only half-joking.”
—Daily Kos. March 4, 2014
Psychiatrist, Mark Ragins, had prescribed the psychotropic medication, Zyprexa, trusting that it was safe. Later he would learn that it caused diabetes in many patients:
“For me the last straw with drug companies was when I found out that they knew about diabetes and Zyprexa all along and intentionally hid it from doctors, leading us to put people at risk without knowing it. That felt like a terrible betrayal to me. (though, of course, not in the same league as what the people who got diabetes or even died went through)[…]
Although I’m sure that I’ve helped many people with medications, the drug companies are extraordinarily dangerous partners[…]”
—Psychology Today. October 10, 2010
The Victims – Persons who experience unexpected physical, emotional, mental, and/or psychological adverse effects (immediately or from longer-term use) as a result of being prescribed products where insufficient or misleading information has been given. (Also victims are doctors who have been led to prescribe said products without giving full safety information, whether because of drug industry influence or by following accepted prescribing protocols within medical and mental healthcare systems).
A Post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction (PSSD) Story
I first took citalopram (Celexa) in November 2007, at the age of 22. I had quite bad obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and because there was a long wait to try cognitive behavioral therapy, I was persuaded to try citalopram to treat my OCD.
Initially it made me feel a bit sick, but the most noticeable thing was it completely abolished my sex drive. I simply stopped thinking about, desiring, or fantasizing about sex in any way. When I had an orgasm, it was nearly pleasure-less, and my penis felt anesthetized.
I only took the drug for 4 weeks, but when I stopped taking it my libido didn’t return to anywhere like it was before. After 2 months I became concerned, and asked my GP. He said my low libido and citalopram could not be connected in any way, as I had stopped taking the drug, and my low libido was likely down to low mood/anxiety. I wasn’t convinced as I know how low mood or stress can affect my libido, and it is nowhere near as severe, and returns quite quickly when I relax, or my mood lifts. I wasn’t too concerned though, and assumed it would just take a few more months to return to normal.
I was then persuaded to take fluvoxamine (Luvox) for at least 3 months, as this is the time it is supposed to take before improving OCD symptoms. I started taking this drug in July 2008, and took it for about 5 months. I stopped after seeing no improvement in my OCD symptoms. I felt fluvoxamine had no effect on my sexual functioning whatsoever, and ironically it is the SSRI that has been reported to cause the least sexual problems, although some people are affected.
I was persuaded again to try citalopram for a longer period of time, and I agreed as I was ignorant to the potential of SSRI’s to cause long lasting sexual dysfunction. In December 2008, I took it for about 3 weeks. This time I noticed an even further decrease in libido, and two days after taking it, I developed severe premature ejaculation. I had never experienced premature ejaculation up to this point in my life. After 3 weeks I developed a severe headache, which my GP thought was connected to citalopram, so this is why I stopped taking it.
After a few months of being off all SSRI’s, my libido was still non-existent; I still had pleasure-less orgasms, my penis still felt anesthetized, and I had severe premature ejaculation. I started to become more concerned. Puberty had started for me at thirteen, so I have had many years to get to know how my libido works, and how it is affected by my mood or stress levels etc. The sexual dysfunction I experienced since taking citalopram was much more severe, was consistent every day, whatever mood I am in, and started directly upon taking citalopram.
Low mood, stress or OCD had never caused pleasure-less orgasms, severe premature ejaculation, or for my penis to feel anesthetized. All of these symptoms have been known to be caused by SSRIs, including citalopram. So I went to my GP hoping he would see that citalopram was the most likely cause. I explained the situation to him, and he told me there was no way citalopram could have caused my on-going sexual problems, as the drug was not in my system anymore.
He said “you will get better when you decide to get better.”
Frustrated, I went to another doctor, this time with literature from credible scientists who had expressed concern that SSRI’s could cause persisting sexual dysfunction, even after cessation of their use. She briefly looked at them, suggested my OCD could be the cause of my problems, and said I should never mention this problem to a doctor again. She also told me that as I had a history of mental health problems, it is unlikely that I would be taken seriously.
So I met with the psychiatrist who initially prescribed the citalopram. I sent him some literature I had found on the internet regarding post SSRI sexual dysfunction, as that was what I was now sure I was suffering from. He refused to read the literature, and also stated he felt my sexual problems were down to low mood or OCD. Eventually I insisted on him reading the literature. He then told me that although PSSD might exist, he couldn’t say whether or not I was suffering from it.
I have been to many doctors in the following years, explained to them why I was convinced I was suffering PSSD, and they have all attributed my sexual problems to low mood/ anxiety. My problems have been attributed to almost everything, apart from citalopram.
The only exception was a GP, ex psychiatrist, who told me he had no doubt citalopram was the cause of my on-going sexual dysfunction, and that he had a number of ex patients who had a similar experience to me; ongoing sexual dysfunction long after stopping an SSRI, that he had no doubt was caused by an SSRI. He then told me he couldn’t predict if or when I would recover, but that if I did recover, it would take years.
The effect of living with PSSD is devastating. It has destroyed two relationships. Relationships with women end up being like an asexual friendship, with sex being like a pleasure-less boring chore, with no emotional connection or lust whatsoever. If I don’t make a full recovery I don’t think I will ever be able to have a “normal” sexual relationship in the future.
This obviously has serious implications for my future. In the years after developing PSSD, I have suffered from a severe depression, as I have been left in a horrible limbo state which has gone on year after year. This is directly linked to PSSD and has resulted in self-harm, a suicide attempt, and I have often contemplated taking my own life.
I feel alienated from my peers, as I can’t relate to them – I can’t get excited about girls with them and relationships, etc. I don’t like listening to music as much anymore, as nearly all music is about love, sex, and romance in one way or another, and I don’t like to be reminded about what I am missing out on. The same applies to certain films and T.V programs.
It is difficult to talk about this problem. When I have talked to people about it I have regretted it. People don’t understand, or don’t believe you. I have been laughed at even by doctors. People have suggested I might just be gay. In my social circle, only my parents and one close friend knows. The subject is taboo. This must be why this problem hasn’t received much publicity. You are shamed into not talking about it.
I have now lived with PSSD for almost 7 years. The severe premature ejaculation has resolved, but it took 15 months to do so. The pleasure-less orgasms, penile anesthesia and non-existent sex drive remain. I live with a barely suppressed rage about what has happened to me, and especially about how I have been treated by the medical profession.
Since I first took citalopram I have felt like an old man, in a young person’s body. I don’t even feel like a proper human being anymore, I would describe PSSD as a protracted mental torture. I hope that one day I will recover, and be able to put this behind me, and that the medical profession will eventually treat this serious condition with the respect it deserves.
—RxISK. July 15, 2014
As with sexual rape, the victims of pharmaceutical violation are everywhere, walking among us unrecognized. Many may not even connect what they experience to their medications. This is a violation involving physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual damage at the hands of those holding power over medicines, who deny any wrongdoing and remain free to do the same to others.