Pharmaceutical Rape: Cast of Characters

January, 25, 2016 | 26 Comments


  1. Well put, again Laurie, and Powerful Experiences which you have to wonder why they find it so impossible to accept.

    Why, why, why do they find it so difficult to open their minds to the people that actually swallowed this muck.

    In this new Apollo, note the word Novel.

    We have all written the Novel, either properly, as you have, or, in our heads..

    The Gr eek God or The Rocket..

    Glaxosmithkline – News
    • Apollo Therapeutics: Consortium of World-Leading UK…
    Business Wire via Yahoo UK & Ireland Finance18 minutes ago

    £40 million Apollo Therapeutics Fund aims to significantly improve the speed and potential of university research being translated into novel medicines

  2. Just picking up on the example of Pradaxa (I have an uncomfortable feeling that I’ve gone on about it before but my experience sparks such boiling anger in me, here it is again).

    I was prescribed it in 2013, after a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. Then, in the UK, A Fib led to warfarin rather than aspirin, because NICE had decided that rat poison was more effective. I had no real problem with the idea of warfarin because it’s been used for donkey’s years, the bleeding dangers are well understood and patients are carefully monitored. There is also an effective way of reversing the excess bleeding in the event of an accident. But – it does require a huge amount of juggling the dose – and many many blood tests, at least to begin with. At the time I was struggling with severe withdrawal symptoms – and getting to the hospital for several blood tests a week really ground me down (and my arms looked like a pin cushion). I decided I’d had enough and would take my chances – it was after all, only a risk of stroke that I was reducing.

    My GP (him again) said irritably that he would prescribe a new drug, Pradaxa, which meant no blood tests at all – but only because I was ‘non-compliant’ about warfarin. He managed to say ‘non compliant’ about 5 times – I now know mainly because that was the criteria I had to satisfy in order to be given it rather than warfarin (so he could tick the relevant box. Pradaxa was extremely expensive, rat poison is very very cheap so he was constrained by budget rules). He wrote the prescription out without any more discussion and I went home and started taking it. After a few days of the most appalling diarrhoea and uncontrollable wind I googled pradaxa to see it it was the culprit. It was – but what made me, well, really shit myself, was discovering that there was NO way at that time of reversing a bleed – and it was the subject of numerous lawsuits in the States. I was angry – and yes, I felt violated (raped) – because I’d been kept in the dark, had taken it in utter ignorance of the dangers (death). It truly was a case of non-consent.

    So – I looked up the British Medical Association’s guide to consent to treatment – copied it into an email to Dr Hateful – and didn’t send it. Why? for the same reason that rape victims don’t speak up – I knew I wouldn’t be believed, Dr H would maintain that he had discussed the matter with me and I’d be deemed even more of a trouble maker. I did tell him why I wasn’t going to take it though – the small matter of no antidote to bleeding – and he said cheerfully ‘Oh yes, that’s why no one else here is willing to prescribe it’. As if it didn’t MATTER!

    And since then, as Laurie says, the information that Boehringer hid the information that Pradaxa is only truly effective when patients’ blood is monitored as regularly as with warfarin has been exposed, which seriously undermined its sole advantage over rat poison – but, as ever, the fuss quickly died down.

    So rape seems an entirely appropriate word to me: bodily violation without consent.

  3. I suppose one way to look at it is that the absent gods in all of this are the politicians, who want to engage in magical thinking. They don’t want to hear the downside from their advisers, they want our universities to make money, they want to court global corporatists. If there is anything bad they would rather it did not come to their ears. In fact they want to be told what to do. They have forgotten that they have role in regulating the system. Sometimes it is important to ask questions and sometimes the real answers are not so technical or abstruse. I used to write letters to my MPs – they were very patient with me. Letters would go to a minister and eventually an emollient, but transparently unsatisfactory reply would come back from the Department of Health, and that would be the end of the matter: science and good government had spoken.

    You can look at each one of the institutional components and see how they malfunction most of the time. Just over a decade ago the House of Commons Health Committee got its teeth into these o so serious problems and wrote an excellent report. Of course, nothing happened: it was a doleful commentary not a blueprint for action. There was a general election, the membership of the committee changed and now we are in an even bigger pickle than ever.

  4. The families of some of the victims speak up, as the victims themselves cannot – being dead from the drug given.
    They speak and speak and speak. They testify. They write books. They confront directly people in the F.D.A. who look away or even run away.
    And every now and then they may have a small victory.
    But to face an overwhelmingly corrupt government – corrupted by corporate money – and never see a single person brought to justice – sometimes wears them out.
    They see the very same executives and physicians who made those decisions – to hide potentially lethal side effects for the sake of the bottom line – go on to become governors, heads of universities, chairmen of psychiatry departments, consultants on how to “get” products approved by the F.D.A. And they realize that they are voices crying in the wilderness.

    Yet in honor of the memory of their precious lost one, some of them will never give up.

  5. Regarding the PSSD case involving Citalopram above… the victim mentions that we the sufferers of PSSD are shamed into not talking about it. That is and isn’t the case, but the problem is that feelings of sadness, insomnia, and reduced sexual libido are common in depression anyway, so if you have just once been diagnosed as depressed, don’t ever expect a GP to believe that the new symptoms you report represent SSRI side effects rather than residual depressive symptomatology. I reported mine to more than 4 doctors and not one believed me either even though the patient information leaflets now list sexual dysfunction as a side effect. “Stop talking nonsense – the drug is no longer in your system”. I wasn’t shamed into not talking about it – I got fed up of telling people about my PSSD only to have no-one believe a word I said.

  6. I believe that parents also play a crucial role in your cast of characters, but did not see them illustrated. It is an especially important burden of responsibility that parents must bear to make an informed decision on behalf of their children, but too many trust doctors, unquestioning. May I suggest that parents who first unwittingly follow doctors orders and encourage their children to take (especially psychiatric) meds are also victims, especially if when those parents discover the dangerous truth, that they empower their children to choose or help get them off the unnecessary meds. Such parents also suffer the trauma of having harmed their children by going naively along with a corrupt system. Parents become accomplices if they do not empower themselves or their children in any way despite evidence that the meds are dangerous. Can parents move from accomplice to violators when they know the dangers yet continue to push meds on their children despite clear evidence that their child is getting worse or dying or does not wish to be on the meds? It may be argued that a parent can reach no higher than accomplice as they are operating under the power and authority of the physician, who bears the highest burden of responsibility to First Do No Harm.

    • Terry – you said it well. Parents and family caregivers are most often victims and I need to add that in.

      Maybe we could say that the transition from victim to accomplice takes place when a person is presented with evidence and yet chooses to look the other way. I just think, as you suggest, that the weight of it falls on those working in medical and mental health care systems. They are the authorities parents are influenced by and if we look at the Milgram experiments, we see the extent to which humans will harm others at the suggestion of authorities.

      It takes a huge shift in consciousness to accept that our medical systems would cause so much harm, and the price for acknowledging this reality entails suffering on many levels. While I was brought to awareness by the abuses I suffered, I can see how the so-called unaffected (including doctors) end up avoiding it. The rewards for sticking with the status quo are great–it’s easiest thing to do.

      • Thank you for your reply. Yes, I like your wording for when a person moves from victim to accomplice.

        In spite of medicine’s continued belief in a disproved and outdated “standard of care” that essentially continues to do harm, I strive to forgive both myself as a parent and those physicians in whom I had (mis)placed my trust. As we learn the truth, we can become our own authority, and do not need another’s approval, or even an acknowledgement of the harm another has done to us in order to forgive them, although certainly that would make it easier. We must not let this be our story that we stay stuck in trauma and victimhood, as my husband likes to say. In other words, I believe the struggle to forgive those who have done us harm is central to our healing process.

    • Also consider children of elderly parents. I am currently up against my older brother who has carer status of my elderly mother. I am not a doctor, or a pharmacist or professional of any kind, but I know that the drugs she is on are contributing to her cognitive struggle, loss of balance, dizziness and falls.

      But what do I know? The doctors and my brother share equal accomplice status for her decline.

  7. Laurie, thanks for spelling it out so well – no-one can be in any doubt as to who is on which side of the fence after reading this. I’m not sure that I’m in complete agreement with you regarding doctors being ‘victims too’ though. I tend to feel that it should be part of a doctor’s role to check that he/she has all the facts on a medication before they prescribe it – ‘all’ meaning exactly that and not just what they’ve been told by the makers. I know that doctors are busy ( GPs especially) and I know that funds are low in the UK’s NHS, but it seems to me that prescribing in the haphazard way that seems to happen so often is only adding to the costs and to their workload. I feel that there is a serious lack of listening to and taking advice from each other within the profession.
    Apart from that small point, I agree wholeheartedly with everything that you say.
    You quote from Gwen Olsen’s book – a friend of mine sent me that book. I was so impressed with it that I offered it to my son’s care co-ordinator once I’d finished with it and he was astounded by her story. There lies another part of this story, I feel, that workers within the mental health system are so often ignorant of the reality of what is really going on – possibly because that is the way that it suits their ‘bosses’ for it to be – yet, given the opportunity to read for themselves about the ‘other side’, their understanding of the truth behind the condition of some of their ‘cared for’ group is enhanced.

    • Hi Mary, I get what you’re saying about doctors as victims and sometimes I’ve felt that way too–especially in light of the overbearing attitudes and actions of many doctors.

      I see the medical profession as a whole as having been railroaded by big business interests. Doctors are realizing this in many ways, but not so much when it comes to the medicines they prescribe. I’d like to give them credit for the ways in which the warped medical culture has influenced their actions, and then give them a chance to do the right thing as Gwen Olsen, Bruce Levine and Mark Ragins have done.

      But yeah, you make some really good points.

      • Laurie and Mary – I agree that Doctors can easily be classed as “accomplices” and “victims” here.

        Doctors are told (by their Corporate Fleet Owners) that they have to process patients in 12 minutes. They cannot run additional tests, due to this constraint, nor do they have the time to do the research required to meet the Stable Owner’s needs.

        I have a GP friend in the US who left her Corporate Stable due to frustration with patient care – most of her day was spent doing “data entry” and she could not pursue the lines of care that she wanted.

        Contrast with a country doctor I saw while travelling in Australia for an emergency infection. He looked at me as a whole being. He did not have a Corporation or Insurance Standards overseeing how he practiced. I felt like a human, not a “case” or “client” or “consumer.” He believed me when I told him that my reaction to SSRI’s caused me to receive a bipolar diagnosis, or at least, didn’t critique my assessment.

        He wanted to address anything he observed (clubbed fingers, blood sugar) about me while I was in his office, and the interview wasn’t over until he was satisfied that I was managing my health to his standards. He asked me if there were any other tests I wanted or needed.

        This no longer happens (or is very rare) in the US standard-of-care practice, though I cannot speak for the UK and Canada.

        In the Corporate profit model – the Doctor is answerable to shareholders and Insurance Companies – not to the patient, or the Oath, or even his own standards of care. Thus, the Doctor can be considered a victim – and an accomplice – in the system.

  8. Thirty-some years ago a psychiatrist gave me a new wonder drug to help me sleep: Xanax. “It is a very good drug,” he said cheerfully. “It is somewhat like the old Valium, but it is not habit forming.” Well, he was known among his colleagues as the Smart Guy who kept up with all the latest research. And that’s what he was reading …

    A year later I told him I’d become concerned about that nice drug, especially my tendency to take two or three when things got really bad. So I tried to stop it. And stared at the ceiling, wildly insomniac, for several nights in a row. I’d also had an odd conversation with a young man who told me he preferred to grind up his Xanax and snort it. “I think it might be habit-forming after all,” I told the doctor. He listened, wrote it down — and advised me how to ease off the Xanax gradually. Later he told me he had heard a few more stories like mine, and was definitely becoming a Xanax skeptic. A doctor like that has the right to say he’s been hoodwinked too. I blamed the drug company, but I didn’t blame him.

    Too bad I meet so few doctors like that nowadays! Especially in psychiatry. So many of them pooh-pooh even FDA warnings and officially published drug interactions. As for patient reports of side effects, they are presumed to be just further proof of mental illness. Doctors who let their egos and economic self-interest blind them to what’s right in front of their noses are not victims. At the very least they are accessories to the crime.

  9. I had a piece of my drug history restored recently when I found that I had emailed back and forth with the psychiatrist who misdiagnosed my withdrawal mania as bipolar. I didn’t even have a mood disorder when I started taking Effexor but that didn’t sway the idiot. I’d forgotten but he first put me on an epilepsy drug called Trileptal and boy did it not work. Comparing my emails from right before the withdrawal mania, and right after, regardless of addressee, I was made much worse on the stuff. I also had the first panic attack of my life (and the last, so far). He denied it could be Trileptal because I had been on it for a few weeks, and poor me said “Well I just switched the the brand name from the generic, could that be it?” Its generics turn out to have the most variability in bioequivalence among the epilepsy drugs studied in this 2012 piece: Generic Antiepileptic Drugs: How Good Is Close Enough?.

    After finding the emails I embarked on a Pubmed search to see why he chose it. He wanted to use Lamictal, but scared me about the possible S-J rash by telling a story about man with the rash whose lips stuck to his cigarette and came way from face as he removed the cigarette from his mouth. I found no study that tested trileptal in mania and recommended it. One said it could be an adjunct, on said it’s an option for children (sad) and others said further study was needed. And it can produce the rash just as ably as Lamictal.

    The other day I found a lawsuit against its maker, Novartis. $422M for off-label promotion of Trileptal. The shrink was pretty tight with drug reps, as it happened. He also lost his license for dosing up a female rep and, well, raping her. Double Pharma Rape, or triple if you award 1 point for the shrink, one for the pill, and one for the sexual assault. Quadruple if you add me as the chump.

    I don’t even know if this story has a point. The doctor was villain because he prescribed a drug without reading about it. Whatever rep was flogging it, ditto.

    I didn’t look up drugs back the. Now I see thatI lived up to much of the warning on Medline:

    Side Effects of Trileptal
    panic attacks; agitation or restlessness; YES

    new or worsening irritability, anxiety, or depression; YES days of sobbing over nothing

    giving away prized possessions*; YES massive, beloved outdoor exotic plant collection and thousands of dollars worth of vintage clothing from the store I was manically trying to open, and might have done were it not for the drug

    difficulty falling or staying asleep; YES (he added Trazodone for that)

    aggressive, angry, or violent behavior; YES, not violent thought.

    mania (frenzied, abnormally excited mood); VERY MUCH SO

    acting on dangerous impulses; VERY MUCH SO. –or so my inbox shows. I just checked. The Very Scary thing I did (which I remembered before finding the emails) was just days after I became his patient. Good, I’ll stop blaming myself for that as of right now.

    talking or thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or end your life; don’t recall
    withdrawing from friends and family; don’t recall
    preoccupation with death and dying; don’t recall
    or any other unusual changes in behavior or mood. don’t recall

    Maybe the pharma rep he attacked sold him on Trileptal. Maybe he prescribed it as a way to get her onto his sailboat. Who knows. But despite my complaint on top of the probation he was on while I was his patient, he’s still a doctor.

  10. Behind the scenes, behind the science..

    GSK ‏@GSK 14 hrs14 hours ago
    Murray Stewart on why we’re committed to #datatransparency. More on what we’re doing at

    New independent review panel for clinical data sharing website appointed
    19 January 2016

    …the vision…

    “Dr Murray Stewart, Chief Medical Officer at GSK, said: “The appointment of this new independent review panel by the Wellcome Trust is another important step forward in providing access to clinical trial data and further supports the vision we had when we established the system in 2013 for it to be run independently of trial sponsors.

    “Providing researchers with access to data from clinical trials is scientifically essential and helps ensure that the contribution made by volunteers who participate in our clinical trials is used to maximum effect in furthering knowledge. We’re encouraged by the continued growth of support for greater transparency and we hope that the Wellcome Trust’s involvement will encourage further participation from the broader scientific community.”

  11. Witty’s Off to Delhi

    GSK ‏@GSK 4h4 hours ago
    India has opportunity to develop flexible & modern healthcare system; our CEO Andrew Witty speaks to @EconomicTimes:

    A memoir in a mug…..hilarious..continuing the Indie Theme..

    GSK ‏@GSK 1 hr1 hour ago

    A story that predates the camera, telephone and even the teabag; watch to find out more #tbt

    Expect more from Mumbai..

    • The adventures of our favourite snake oil salesman would make a wonderful cartoon strip…

      Funny how he is now an Indophile, not long ago he was a Sinophile…until a local he employed there ripped the sheet off his covered wagon, to show that it was full of cash, doctors, sex tapes, and prostitutes. In the stampede to leave town, one of his assistants (R) was pushed under the wheels; while another (H) was left behind, and was banged up by the town sheriff.

      With his chairman now breathing down his neck, his patter in India town, about eating well and getting exercise, is nothing to do with the ‘goods’ he peddles, but is all about getting a place in the saloon card game, along with all the other sharps. On past performance, it won’t be long before the wheels come off this wagon again.


  12. Hi Laurie,

    I am very impressed by the way you rebounded from the harsh criticism you received for claiming that the most accurate term, the one that captures both the crime committed and the suffering, damages to victims is, *rape*. I applaud the way you have presented your argument in this series, which I read as a tutorial for speaking truth to power — keeping the crucial issues on the front burner and fearlessly identifying pharmaceutical rape down to the colluders, enablers and stone cold deniers. I didn’t need to be convinced that you were spot on employing the team, rape– and have no issue with your use of the word, rape, as a description that defines what has truly been an unspeakably agonizing ordeal for victims and their loved ones. I am, however, starting to worry that the truths you tell and share in this very provocative context might fall short of generating definitive action on a wide scale.

    My concern is that employing the term rape and identifying rapists, though not out of line with the definition of the terms, is tantamount to name calling and mud slinging– which, I agree is well deserved, but none of these *rapists* can be criminally charged with *rape*, because our criminal codes are specific in identifying criminal rape as sexual assault. IN this vein, it seems more appropriate to introduce terms that correlate with criminal charges that can be filed and indictments that would stick.

    I am thinking of terms like *medical* assault and battery; accusations of fraudulent *business* claims that have caused substantial harm and death; references to misuse of power, license, authority– which boils down to violating the public trust; identifying the exploitation of vulnerable people for profit—ALL using the legal lexicon that begs the question WHEN does our criminal justice system begin to function as a means to both protect the people paying their salaries, and prevent the inevitable *angry mob* scenarios that civilized forms of government are supposed to quell???

    I am not suggesting you walk anything back, or tone down the rhetoric of confrontation with this heinous reality—. I am thinking more along the lines of channeling this righteous anger into avenues that clearly illuminate a reasonable course of action.

    Our criminal justice system in the U.S. would definitely cite your use of the word rape as a metaphor, and continue to view this scourge as something outside of their jurisdiction.

    Your writing is a very formidable challenge to accepting any of the window dressing and the smoke and mirrors tactics employed by the *Data Transparency Warriors* . You are dropping the gauntlet as they spin their image of heroic rescuers of science– all the while missing the point. A pivotal moment…

    Language is the heart beat of this battle. Words have meaning. Titles/Names wield power.
    I think we could gain a very strategic advantage by employing legalese and recruiting lawyers.


  13. Katie, thanks for your comment. I like the points you make and invite you, or anyone, to expand upon this in whatever ways you are inspired. Your comments on the original piece (Feb 2015) were part of what encouraged me to put pharmaceutical rape into this social justice framework, and I’d hoped it might become something that others would then build upon.

  14. Apart from the obvious, Delhi Belly, and, Mumbai (Bomb bay) what else does Witty have to say as a Self-Confessed Indophile……see The Economist.

    Without Seroxat/Paroxetine/Paxil winning a UK Landmark Case then any Superlative Effort on Behalf of a Patient Will Not Stand the Test, as I discovered to my Peril.

    Lawyers wanting to Win is one thing, but, Privately sought Lawyers fighting on behalf of anyone else is a Hiding to Nothing. It was a Good/Grand Day when Lord Montague won considerable costs but if you know you have a case then it is a kick in the teeth when it is decided that you do not.

    Does Anyone, here, have a Successful Outcome to England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland with a Case of Gross Negligence, Aiding and Abetting, Assault and Battery?

    In particular, with Seroxat/Paroxetine/Paxil Indi.gestion?

    Or, in Sweden..

    US Law is very different to UK Law which is why US Paxil Scores are High but UK Scores are Low.

    • Back to Del(H)i

      That was a long way to go to say that, Mr. Witty..

      EconomicTimes Retweeted

      ShaileshMenonET ‏@ShaileshMenonET 19 hrs19 hours ago

      We always initially over-complicate every process. Then we simplify it: GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty at #ETGBS #ET_GBS @EconomicTimes

      GSK Retweeted

      Bhavna Vij ‏@BhavnaVijET 19h19 hours ago

      India should take the lead to strike a balance between innovation and access @GSK chief #ETGBS @EconomicTimes

      Yes, it should…has he read Study329 yet..?

      It is Cultural etiquette to normally respond and what is right for India is right for the UK and Adults and Paroxetine means some adults have the mind of a child “are we there yet?”, seriously underestimating Adults…..:-)

  15. Some really interesting points here Katie! Still, we’ve got a long, long way to go before reaching criminal charges against doctors – and LIGHT-YEARS to cover before any Pharma CEO goes to jail for an assault on an actual human being.

    It’s almost impossible to get a doctor charged with physical assault or murder for doing something “medical” to a patient. Dr. Farid Fata of Detroit came close. He confessed in open court to poisoning people with chemotherapy he KNEW was medically unnecessary, for pure financial gain – but even he was finally sent to prison for defrauding Medicare, not for crimes against the patients. And there was plenty of supporting evidence to charge him with murder.

    Fata was an extreme case. Most doctors who have done terrible harm (including those who clearly acted out of Fata-style greed) manage to make the case that they were “merely” negligent, or even following the “accepted standard of care.” The few doctors jailed for assault or rape have usually been scumbags who sexually assaulted a patient the old-fashioned way, like any other rapist.

    When it comes to Pharma itself, our best weapon has been the federal False Claims Act – the same law that punished Dr. Fata for defrauding the U.S. government. Among other things the FCA allows whistle-blowers to claim a share of the damages, giving them an incentive to risk their livelihoods. This is the law that forced GSK, Medtronic and others to pay huge fines and sign “transparency” agreements to avoid criminal charges. Even this law is under attack. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the FCA from your old friend UHS, the huge for-profit psych hospital chain.

    So yeah, let’s use the language! But don’t expect the lawyers to line up. At least, not out of simple economic interest – which is the main reason most lawyers get out of bed in the morning. For the foreseeable future, “murder” and “heinous battery” (just like “rape”) will usually be a metaphor in these cases.

  16. Whilst The Telegraph Article is still fresh in our minds, who was thinking and what is ‘iffy’?

    Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports

    BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 27 January 2016)

    I think most of us Adults are surprised at the cut off age of 18 for Seroxat, not to be taken, Prozac, to be taken, under caution..

    18 is the Coming of Age and this has nothing to do with effects of medication.
    This plucked number is the age that it is decided that a ‘mature’ individual can make life changing decisions, personally and, with that, medication gambles..

    The Pharmaceutical Companies have used this yardstick to claim innocence of the effects of these drugs on Adults.

    It is a heavy weight to carry, those adults who have been irrevocably harmed, their children, partners, relatives and even friends..

    Adults, over 18, cannot in all fairness choose the path they take when coerced by doctors whose ignorance is astounding. These doctors can be in groups which renders the patient hapless and decidedly not sure footed.

    When the article appeared on the front page of The Telegraph, how many doctors do you know who have responded to you or once again pooh poohed it..

    How do you even cross a doctor who has put you in an undignified and potentially life threatening situation and do it with aplomb?

    How many doctors read this article and squirmed uncomfortably when they thought back to their patient, child patient, or, do doctors just move on to the next patient without reflecting……

    Something quite good happened with one of a handful of journalists, it enabled one, in particular, to have more ammunition in which to talk to his readers, rather than brief paras, regularly, and, we can be thankful for this:

    The comments section left a lot to be desired, however…..

    Adam said #alltrials:

    “I don’t care how good your cause is, there is never an excuse for using dodgy statistics as part of your campaigning.”

    31 Jan
    Adam Jacobs @statsguyuk

    Adam Jacobs @statsguyuk
    @daverussell @Benjiffy #alltrials is campaigning for a great cause, but do watch their stats. Some are a little iffy

    A Stats guys take:

    Dave Russell @daverussell
    @Benjiffy No I was not aware of #alltrials I will have a look and explore. Thanks.

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