HEALY: Dr. Nemeroff came up to me in the course of the meeting in what was a very scary meeting between him and me and told me that my career would be destroyed if I kept on showing results like the ones that I’d just shown, that I had no right to bring out hazards of the pills like these.
MACINTYRE: In a written statement, a doctor who witnessed the confrontation told us, when it became clear that David Healy would not back down from his points of view, Nemeroff said that what Healy was publishing might harm the drug industry, specifically Eli Lilly. He, Charles Nemeroff, said that these people were ruthless and would go to great lengths to make life hard for academics who published articles associating suicide with Prozac.
HEALY: It was a fairly short encounter. It lasted about two or three minutes but a very scary one…
MACINTYRE: Just a few months after the Nemeroff incident, David Healy flew into Toronto on what should have been his last trip to the city as a visitor. He planned to give a lecture at his future place of employment, hire some staff, pick out some furniture for his office and meet with his new boss, David Goldblum.
HEALY: He was keen for me to move from the U.K. much than I was keen to move. He hoped that I would move within weeks whereas I had hoped I’d move for April first.
MACINTYRE: So it was a very positive day?
HEALY: Absolutely. Absolutely. Couldn’t have been more positive.
MACINTYRE: And no hint for you that there was any trouble at all?
HEALY: Not the remotest of hints.
MACINTYRE: But that was about to change completely. Two days later, Dr. Healy delivered his lecture at the symposium. It was a sweeping review of the history of psychiatric drugs. He covered all the old ground about S.S.R.I.’s and suicide and raised concerns about some new anti-psychotic drugs. But one of the main themes concerned conflict of interest with drug companies and the increase challenge doctors face in avoiding it. Members of the audience who filled out evaluations forms rated Healy’s lecture the best of the lot. But it seems his new boss didn’t agree.
HEALY: When I met Dr. Goldblum that evening after the lecture, my guts told me that there was a much more serious problem than my head said that there could be. I saw a man who was more worked up than I’ve seen almost anyone else before ever. He seemed to me to be at risk of a stroke he was so worked up. It’s an extraordinary switch to have happened just during the course of a few hours.
MACINTYRE: The centre wouldn’t allow us to interview Dr. Goldblum. Instead we were referred to the President and C.E.O. Paul Garfinkle. He says Healy’s lecture was to blame.
GARFINKLE: Essentially, it was the extreme nature of his views with extraordinary extrapolations based on inadequate science, that really are scientifically irresponsible. For example, the view that anti-psychotics cause more harm than good.
MACINTYRE: Did Dr. Healy actually say that anti-psychotics do more harm than good? I believe that he claims he didn’t actually say that.
GARFINKLE: I have to tell you, I wasn’t at the lecture. But I’ve been told by a number of people that he essentially said that.
MACINTYRE: Dr. Garfinkle may not have heard the lecture but someone else did. Charles Nemeroff. He was also scheduled to speak that day and it seems he didn’t restrict his comments to the podium. Although he refuses to interviewed, Dr. Nemeroff said through his lawyer, the centre asked for his opinion of Dr. Healy that day and he gave it. What he said then, we don’t know, but later that day he flew to New York where we do know he told a meeting of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention exactly what he thought about Healy. One scientist who was there said Nemeroff’s attack was furious, angry, exercised, that the thrust was Healy was a nut.
MACINTYRE: A few days later, the centre dumped Dr. Healy…
He sees the book and the two web sites as related pieces of an effort to make the protest against the current mess into a scientific project aimed at making real changes in the system rather than just making noise about its foibles – to produce an accurate and quickly available compendium of the adverse effects of drugs. I don’t yet see the entire picture, but I think there is going to be one to see as he proceeds. If you’re looking for a star to hitch your wagon to, Dr. David Healy is as likely a candidate as we’ve seen in a very long time.
|the DataBase: Rxisk
|Not yet fully implemented, as I understand it the database will be a place for patients, doctors, and doctor/patient pairs to report on possible adverse events and see the reports from others. He envisions the database as being data, not opinion. It’s an interesting concept but it’s usefulness will obviously depend on the effectiveness of the implementation. The site is http://www.rxisk.org|
|the Book: Pharmaggedon
|Dr. David Healy has been seen as many things – a gadfly, a danger, an oracle, an activist – to mention a few, but no one has seen him as irrelevant. He has been a consistent leader in the efforts to wade through the murky depths of modern psychopharmacology looking for clarity in an area where deliberate misinformation has been all too regular. His newest book, Pharmaggedon is due to be out soon and looks to be more sweeping than his previous offerings – the big picture of our current pharmacologic nightmare. I stuck in the purchase now button from his site because I can’t imagine anyone reading this blog would want to miss the view from a real expert.|
|I think most of us are aware that things are completely out of hand and that it’s time for a substantial change. I haven’t even read this book, but I know that Dr. Healy is definitely one of the directions to look in for understanding the lay of the land and recalibrating our spinning compasses.|
|the Blog: David Healy|
|Another ambitious offering, explained in his opening post, Welcome to Data Based Medicine. The main themes are action and data. He’s proposing to try to find ways to transcend the easily discounted anecdotes of suspected drug adverse effects by collecting this information – raising it from the level of anecdote to the level of data.|