before that became cool!…

Posted on Sunday 22 January 2012

The first thing I ever read about Dr. David Healy was about his encounter with Dr. Charlie Nemeroff in 2001:
    MACINTYRE: Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Atlanta’s prestigious Emory University, Dr. Charles Nemeroff is a highly respected and influential scientist. And a paid consultant to a dozen drug companies. A leading psychiatric magazine recently profiled him under the headline Boss of Bosses. Is the brash and controversial Charles Nemeroff, the most powerful man in psychiatry. Inside the authors wrote, Nemeroff is among the most coveted advisors to the pharmaceutical industry. And he fully expects to lead the corporate strategies of those he advises. Those who do not heed his advice are often the recipients of his wrath. Last summer at Cambridge University in England, Healy had a brush with the boss of bosses.
    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…
It’s ten years later. Charlie Nemeroff is marginalized to Miami [“dumped” by Emory], and David Healy is going strong with two new websites and a book that Amazon says will arrive in early February [see below]. That speaks to the fact that there are at least some forces in the universe pressing for the greater good.

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

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.

He’s got my support based on his past successes, his endurance, his goal, his design [and maybe for standing up to Dr. Nemeroff before that became cool!]…
    Joel Hassman, MD
    January 22, 2012 | 8:45 PM

    As long as the APA keeps giving validation by electing corrupt people as president and other prominent positions in the organization, and academic publications continue to publish invalid papers and KOL commentary, our field is a joke! When will people actually show they have gonads of substance to effectively laugh and dismiss these charlatans of alleged prestige and prominence out of the spotlight and into the septic tank of dismissal they deserve?

    Come on, I respect what you write here, but it is deeds, not words that define who you are. Where are colleagues who care and do what is right? Oh yeah, they are too busy doing 40 + med checks a day while doing 30 minute psychiatric evaluations defining most of the patients as Bipolar or ADD!

    The only thing that will save our profession is that a sizable portion of the colleagues over 70 years old retire, or, sad to say, just die! And why do I attack this age group? Because this field still acts and practices like a paternalistic organization! When will people realize that corruption can be unredeemable? I really do not care how harsh this sounds, this is what we as invested and concerned physicians have to face these days!!!

    Being a leader and voice for the public is earned and continuously validated by responsible choices and actions. Where the hell are people to finally conclude the people who claim they are leaders and definers of clinical direction are just destroying the profession from within?!

    I am sorry to submit this comment, but, truth has to be ugly at times!

    January 22, 2012 | 9:34 PM

    I know it’s just a passing wishful fantasy, but is it so bad to joyously imagine Nemeroff coming up to me with this kind of threat. 🙂

    “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”.

    Do you think the University of Corruption Miami would cover his medical expenses?…

    January 22, 2012 | 9:43 PM

    Speaking of Nemeroff, don’t forget doctors can get CME credits at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Feb 16-18 and be taught by Nemeroff, Schatzberg, et al ! ka-ching! KOL’s and high rolling what could be better!

    January 22, 2012 | 9:44 PM

    Oops the link! Las Vegas Psychiatric Society 4oth Psychopharmacology Update

    January 22, 2012 | 9:47 PM

    Karen Wagner co-author of PAXIL 329 teaching on Pediatric Mood Disorders really is disturbing….

    January 23, 2012 | 10:10 PM

    Let us not forget the brave Dr. Healy has been speaking and writing about severe and prolonged antidepressant withdrawal syndrome for many years. He has taken a special interest in those who do not seem to be able to go off the drugs no matter how gradual the taper.

    Dr. Hassman, why don’t you and others of the same mind start an alternative organization to the APA? Stop paying dues to an organization you don’t respect and support one that reflects your values.

    I nominate Dr. Mickey Nardo as the first president of the new organization.

    January 24, 2012 | 12:23 AM

    I haven’t been in the APA for a long time – maybe 15 or 20 years.

    January 31, 2012 | 3:55 AM

    Healy for president and a knighthood!. Go Dr Healy i pray that you continue to be the voice for the voiceless! (from an SSRI drug addict by stealth, thanks to the ignorant medical profession….)
    Dr Healy is an angel from heaven sent to stop this evil, ruining peoples lives. God Bless you Sir, !!

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