What a tangled web we weave…

…when with our lies we practice to deceive.

Seems all’s fair in love and… drug marketing


This thread all started out with a UK charity called Depression Alliance. Another UK charity, Mind, has a distinguished record of tackling the might of the Pharmas. They take no money from the industry. The integrity of other charities may have been compromised; Depression Alliance admits to taking more than 80% of their funding from Pharmas in the recent past. Their mouths have been bandaged into silence throughout the exposure of the Seroxat scandal – Depression Alliance’s sole contribution to the debate was an attack on the accuracy of programmes on the subject made by the BBC’s Panorama. I got this information from an article by Paul Flynn MP. Depression Alliance is also pretty free and loose about the ‘information’ it posts on its website – many attempts to get just one news story corrected came to nothing – until the Charities Commission got involved and so the ‘news’ item was quietly removed.

Big Pharma can make use of patients’ groups as Trojan Horses to get access to MPs and to influence decisions. It’s just another part of their marketing mix.

So… my first thought was who ran Depression Alliance when they were taking Big Pharma money? The Chief Executive was called Jim Thomson. He left suddenly. So I started researching and found a very interesting set of coincidences.

There are two new websites Jim is involved with – the Centre for Mental Health and the Healthwell. Neither organisations actually do anything though, the sites have not changed one bit since they were first published, well over a year ago – maybe they’re just there to provide entries on a CV – to provide some credibility to someone?

Not many people know this but Jim Thomson is also Business Development Director for Innervate Ltd“a private company specializing in relationship-building in healthcare”. Innervate ‘works’ with The Diabetes Monitoring Forum, Migraine in Primary Care Advisors, Primary Care Neurology Society, PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome UK and Primhe – Primhe is run by Chris Manning, who was with Jim at Depression Alliance a few years ago – in fact the same Chris Manning who is with Jim at the Healthwell.

But it gets even more complicated as Jim has links in America with Safe Medicines – a Big Pharma run organisation… then there’s European Depression Day, of which Chris Manning has a part and which has links with the European Depression Association whose vice President is Amelia Mustapha… who ‘works’ with Jim at the Centre for Mental Health and the Healthwell (and who can be contacted via an email address at Innervate). By the way, European Depression Day/Association are other organisations that do very little if their websites can be taken as indicators. The plot seems to be thickening by the minute…

Maybe the easiest way is to show you – click on this link – charities-web.pdf – to see a graphic of the tangled web.

I don’t know what I’ve found out – maybe nothing.

But to me it looks very cosy. It has Big Pharma links/sympathies. Jim’s websites/organisations do NOTHING – they’re not real – just go and look, especially at the biogs of Our People on ‘About Us’ at the Healthwell!

You tell me what I’ve found out.


23 Responses to “What a tangled web we weave…”

  1. Matthew Holford Says:

    Yes, it’s funny how entities, which are ostensibly set up to do one thing, are actually doing another. I’ve mentioned to you, before, about my ex-employers, with its armada of dodgy shell companies in the BVI and Grand Cayman, which were used to hold and channel funds for the purpose of evading UK taxation.

    I used to find it really confusing, until I stopped believing what was coming out of people’s mouths, and looked at the consequence of their activities, because if that looked dodgy, there was sure to be something dodgy going on, underneath! This is why silence and secrecy are such powerful indicators, for me.


  2. seroxat secrets… Top posts for April « Says:

    […] What a tangled web we weave… […]

  3. seroxat secrets… Depression Alliance - such an attentive and caring charity... « Says:

    […] That is unless the Charity is the Depression Alliance…. […]

  4. jim thomson Says:

    I have been alerted to your comments about me and have just spent a most diverting half hour reading them. You are extremely lucky that I am not the litigious type. What you have “uncovered” is a tissue of conjecture and you are, clearly, a master at putting two next to two and seeing several dozen. For the record (and this will be the only message you receive from me as I have far better things to do with my days) I’ll try to sort out your maths. Just this once.

    I did not, as you say, leave DA suddenly. I wanted to move the organisation in one direction (that being to broaden its remit) and the Executive Committee did not. Nor do I work for Innervate. I did for a short time, while I was trying to establish the Centre for Mental Health. Oh, and on that subject, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Centre has received penny-not-a-one from GSK – not that we would refuse it if it were freely offered (see below on Charity Law, before screaming “I told you so” at top of hysterical voice.) So, in baseball parlance, you are currently 0 and 2.

    As to thehealthwell.org, that is a concept that I came up with over a year ago and which may still come to fruition. You ask where its funding comes from – that’s simple, it comes from my back pocket. Chris Manning and Amelia Mustapha do not “work for it”. They are my friends and I gave them shares in the venture – shares which I paid for and which are presently worthless. My role with the Partnership for Safe Medicines is totally pro bono, as are some other patient safety initiatives that I am involved in. However, other work is paid for – that doesn’t make me a mouthpiece, it makes me gainfully employed. Is that a crime in your Pharma-Warrior world. It certainly wasn’t when I was in my previous employment – as I recall, it paid rather well. I believe that beating up on pharma still does – see below….

    Incidentaly, I think there was a third strike in there somewhere, and you should be shuffling back to the dugout.

    It seems to me that your main aim is to draw the conclusion that anyone who accepts corporate funding must be influenced by it. I gave evidence to the contrary to a Government Health Select Committee – did you not read that evidence??? Or did it suit your fifth-form conspiracy theory to ignore it? Had you bothered to read it, you’d have found out exactly how improbable it is that I could ever be influenced by this particular industry (a look at my previous employment will provide a clue – I believe I mentioned it in my evidence.. I suppose I could do so again here, but what the Hell, go fish.) While you’re at it, you might want to try to get even a tiny grasp of UK Charity Law – particularly those clauses that relate to exactly how and when a Charity can refuse funding. There is some pretty interesting case law on this as well. You would also have found that some of the recommendations that the Health Select Committee made went on to find their way into the new ABPI Codes of Conduct. These tighten up the conditions around any relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and charities. Chummy, ya might want to refer back to my evidence to see how it informed this process, and then remove the albumen from your noggin.

    To save you further digging, most of my time these days is spent campaigning against counterfeit medicines – a simple google search would have shown this – and I appear to be quite good at it. Now that is an area where there are very real bad guys – as opposed to decent folk being painted as such.

    I really should leave it to Chris to tell you about Primhe but he probably has much better things to do as well. Suffice it to say that if you believe Primhe to be anything other than an excellent organisation doing tremendous work on something rather less than a pittance then, my old bean, the Douglas Fir you are so rabidly barking up, is actually a baobab. Or perhaps an acacia. If the latter, then beware, the thorns are murder to remove from one’s snout.

    Now I hold no remit as far as Seroxat is concerned (or any other pharmaceutical product for that matter – and I defy you to establish – factually, that is – otherwise) but I do have one suggestion. You might just do this one thing for me – well for your readers actually. You might find out how much money has been made on the back of the media-fuelled campaign against this medicine. You could start by finding out how much certain individuals have made by appearing as so-called “expert witnesses.” You could go on to find out how so-called “research” was later totally discredited. And you might also establish how many donations came into certain organisations on the back of their stance on Seroxat. In the interests of balance, you understand. But somehow, I doubt you’ll bother – it doesn’t really do much for your conspiracy theory.

    An afterthought… I returned this morning from the United States, where there is much debate currently around the Second Amendment of their Constitution. You and I have never, to my knowledge, met – yet you seem to believe that you can say what you like about me. You are extremely fortunate that I believe so passionately in the content of the First Amendment of the above Constitution. Vaya con Dios, this is me signing off.

  5. admin Says:

    I wrote “I don’t know what I’ve found out – maybe nothing.”

    Where do patients like me fit into your world? I was harmed by Seroxat. I should have been protected. The drug is not safe and should not be handed out like Smarties at a kid’s party.

    As I shuffle back to the dugout, head down, I would just like to say one thing – if you want to talk cases then let’s talk about the booklet that was produced for the “Pulling Together” campaign in 2005:


    Let’s talk about that shall we, and then we’ll go on from there.

  6. Bob Fiddaman Says:

    It’s a pity Mr Thomson goes to great lengths to defend his integrity yet the charities he has been tied to in the past and present do not even carry warnings on their pages that Seroxat & GSK are currently being investigated by the MHRA. He rants about experts being paid by Pharma yet these experts speak out against the drugs, something he maybe should do to convince the public that the funding he has obtained does not sway his views.

    Perhaps Mr Thomson can answer ‘What constitutes a proper chemical imbalance of Serotonin in the brain?’ or maybe comment on the 10,000 plus signatures of those who claim that Seroxat has ruined their lives?

    I don’t know you either Mr Thomson, same as I don’t know George Bush or Tony Blair but you wouldn’t feel put out if folk made comments about them would you?

    Way I see it, the author of this page has merely provided links and offered a personal opinion – he’s soooo lucky you aren’t the litigous type.

    I’ve recently been corresponding with Amelia Mustapha – to be honest, we were actually getting somewhere with our views, strides were made. Maybe Mr Thomson should enter into some correspondence with the author of this blog? It’s surprising how calm debates can be if approached in a more mature manner.


  7. jim thomson Says:

    I reply mainly on a point of clarification.

    I do not “rant about experts being paid by Pharma.”

    You need to read more carefully. What I WAS doing was seeking balance. I was proposing that the stance of certain individuals and organisations might have something to do with how much they make appearing as expert witnesses (in certain cases using their own, flawed, subsequently discredited research)…. or how much they can generate in donations…. or perhaps how much compensation they might be awarded as a result of class actions. I wonder, are either of you party to the class action against GSK? How many of the people reinforcing your campaign by contributing to your websites, are party to class actions? Does this in any way influence your stance?

    Not pleasant having one’s integrity questioned, is it?

    That was my point of clarification, and I will not comment further save to ask you to, please, please, study your Charity Law before accusing me of being silent over this issue. What you ask me to do is specifically against Charity Law and would expose me to personal liability. You might be interested to know that that liability is the ONLY unlimited liability in English Law, and would lead to the loss of my home and everything in it. You take my perceived silence as an endorsement of Seroxat. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a legal process to be gone through with this medicine and while it is ongoing, I must adhere to the Law governing me in my role (and previous role.)

    Actually, I would ask one more thing and that is that you desist from promoting the notion that only those who have been affected by a condition or a medicine, have a legitimate right to comment. You use this to ask where patients fit into my world. You know nothing about my medical history, or those of my friends or loved ones. This is because I choose not to share that information with the world via a website like this one. You do choose to share your medical experiences and that is your prerogative – just as it is mine not to. Lastly, had you done even the most scant research, you would be well aware of exactly where patients fit into my world.

    I am delighted that you have entered into dialogue with Ms Mustapha, and have no doubt that in due course you will realise that you made a massive misjudgement in questioning her motivation and efforts on behalf of people affected by depression and other mental health problems. I believe that Dr Manning has decided, pro temps, not to pursue legal action against you for your sleight on his character and his organisation (incidentally, you could not have picked a less appropriate target had you tried – that man has done more, single-handedly, for people with mental health problems, than anyone else I know.) For my part, I have clarified my own position and, frankly, would rather skateboard naked, with a pineapple on my head and a feather boa around my neck, down Oxford Street, than engage in further correspondence with either of you. I wish you good health.

  8. jim thomson Says:

    Sorry, in the penultimate sentence, I meant to add…”singing the Albanian National Anthem”

    Nice poetry by the way, Bob.


  9. Bob Fiddaman Says:

    Dr Manning ceased communication with me, if you ask him you will find that there was never any animosity between us – his decision to stop corresponding not mine. I would say, however, that he put up a better argument than yourself Mr Thomson and didn’t once rely on sarcasm as a form of defence.

    So will you offer a warning on your webpage, literature, that GSK are currently being investigated by the MHRA? Or will you continue to bury your head in the sand? I’m sure you agree, the patient needs/expects all information available to him/her before he/she puts a drug into his/her mouth?

    It’s a real pity that you aren’t as mature in debate as your other two collegues


  10. admin Says:

    Thanks for the detailed reply, Jim, but I think you missed one thing… I mentioned that I would be interested to talk about the booklet that was produced for the “Pulling Together” campaign in 2005:


    In fact – that’s the only thing I mentioned – strange you decided not to mention it.

  11. jim thomson Says:

    Okay, once more unto the well.

    “Admin” Thank you for your more measured response. However, where I addressed all but one of your points, you fail to address my direct question. Are you party to that class action? If so, and the case is successful (which it might well be) you stand to get very rich. Good luck to you – if a medicine harmed you, you deserve to be compensated. But, in the same way as I am gagged by the Law governing my chosen profession, surely you should either say up front that you stand to get very rich, or maintain a silence on the subject.

    I apologise for not addressing your point about “Pulling Together” and have just spent time re-reading it (in fact I’m not even sure if i was still with DA when it was published, but I may have been.) I have also been reading your critique of it, which is conspiracy theory of the first water. I doubt I can convince you of this, but I can assure you that the research was undertaken for very different reasons than those you assume.

    For some time, many of us working in mental health, had become concerned at how depression was being viewed within the DOH. You might not know that the illness was not even included in the GP GMS contract – effectively dis-incentivising GPs from diagnosing it. You most certainly won’t know that in a recent re-shuffle, there wasn’t even a Minister with responsibility for mental health until lI telephoned the DOH and told them than it might be an idea to correct the ommission before I contacted the media. It seems that they “forgot” about mental health.

    This de-construction of depression looked to us to be very deliberate. The illness was not (and is still not) classed as an SMI (serious and enduring mental illness – which is where all the DOH funding goes.) This is convenient because if GPs actually diagnosed all of the undiagnosed depression in this country, the NHS would be in worse shape than it already is. The reason GPs don’t diagnose early, is that they often don’t realise that patients are presenting with the physical symptoms of depression.

    Again this backdrop, a piece of research was planned, to try to underline that somatic symptoms are (or can be) very much a part of the illness. That was the strategy – it had nothing to do with Cymbalta. You can take my word for that or not – it is immaterial to me because, whether or not it satisfies your concerns, it is the truth. If you want to ake it further, then take the matter up with the ABPI – and before you counter that the ABPI is an industry body, I would remind you that they have suspended, I believe, at least three of their big pharma members in the past year, for the sort of activity you imply.

    Right, Bob. I spoke to Dr Manning on the telephone yesterday. I’m not sure which of the two of you he was referring to, but he had just – by a narrow margin – decided not to sue for libel. I know Chris Manning very well – indeed he is my mentor – and I know exactly the depth of hurt he felt at what had been written about him. There is much that I am absolutey certain that you do not know about Dr Manning and, as I said before, he can if he chooses deal with you himself. I suspect he won’t and if that is the case, then you are spared the realisation of just how big a misjudgement of him you have made. And as for sarcasm, Chris Manning is just too damned nice a chap to engage in it. I am not, and anyway, you appear well able to hold your own in the sarcasm stakes.

    As for the website, here’s what I WILL undertake to do. I iwill contact the MHRA and verify the status of any investigation (if they will talk to me – you see I am not their favourite fellow given that I frequently slate them in the context of counterfeit medicines and parallel trade.) When they respond, I will discuss what they have to say with colleagues and if appropiate, I will ask Amelia to post something on the website. Knowing the MHRA (as I do very well) my enquiry might be met with silence and if this is the case, then you must understand that I am bound by the legal constraints I mentioned earlier.

    So, I believe that I have adequately adressed your points. However you, like your friend, have not answered my question relating to whether you are party to the class action. Are you? Because if you are, you might also be getting very rich quite soon and I think your readers (or at least those who are not also part of the action) deserve to know. They would then be able to draw their own conclusions about your impartiality. At the same time as you’re telling me (and them) if you are suing GSK, you might want to mention any previous compensation cases you have embarked on against large corporations.

    I am going out for a meeting now but await your responses with a great deal of interest – and I assure you that I will take the above up with the MHRA. Indeed, if you like, I will post a copy of what I write to them here.

  12. admin Says:

    Dear Jim – I think you’re missing the point completely, mate. Maybe you’re being deliberately obtuse, who knows?

    I’m not trying to be seen to be impartial, I’ll leave that to others…

    You seem happy with the way drug companies operate and I’m not.

    We’re a world apart, you and me.

  13. jim thomson Says:

    Thank you Admin,

    So you ARE biased. And I’ll take your silence on the litigation issue to mean that yes, you may stand to gain financially from your position. Which is what you accuse me, quite wrongly, of doing. You’re right, we are a world apart. As for my satisfaction with “the way drug companies operate” you really need to do more research into my background. You could start by asking Bob, with whom I am having a separate discussion because, apparently, this site wouldn’t let him respond to my questions.

  14. admin Says:

    Ouch Jim – that smarts!

  15. admin Says:

    Jim – so what about this…

    Consumer Media Campaign
    National Depression Week for Eli Lilly’s/Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cymbalta

    National Depression Week is held annually by Depression Alliance, the leading UK charity for people with depression. The 2005 campaign, Pulling Together, which highlighted how people pull together to defeat the illness, was co-sponsored by Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim.

    The aims of the campaign were to achieve increased awareness amongst healthcare professionals and patients of the established link between depression and somatic symptoms such as general aches and pains, and to improve recognition among journalists of general aches and pains in depression.


    Why was the aim to increase awareness of the established link between depression and somatic symptoms such as general aches and pains, and to improve recognition among journalists of general aches and pains in depression?

    Maybe – just maybe – because Lilly had Cymbalta to launch in the UK – the first antidepressant/painkiller combo?


  16. admin Says:

    And as for the ABPI, Jim – I’d be very interested to know the 3 companies you say have been suspended in the past year – they certainly flew under my radar -that is, if you’re right, of course….

  17. seroxat secrets… Things are getting a little heated, I see... « Says:

    […] Thomson used to be Business Development Director with them, although he plays down his time there, telling us “Nor do I work for Innervate. I did for a short time, while I was trying to establish the Centre […]

  18. mark shepherd Says:

    It is interesting to note that BeyondBlue, the national depression initiative in Australia, makes a point of not taking money from pharmas. To quote: “This allows beyondblue to retain independence and impartiality and promote evidence-based approaches to depression, anxiety and related disorders across all program areas.”

    It is depressing indeed that the only English depression charity is not only not independent, but seems to provide no advice or links on the downsides of anti-depressants. Perhaps it is time for a beyondblue-style initiative in the UK?

    I also notice that the chair of the Depression Alliance executive board has links to the pharmas. “Alison Lawrence is an independent consultant in public affairs, specialising in health care. Her clients include individual pharmaceutical companies, voluntary organisations, industry associations, Department of Health and related agencies, and public affairs and communication agencies. Projects range from policy development, crisis management, strategy development, communications and lobbying activities.

    Prior to this Alison gained extensive corporate experience working in the pharmaceutical sector in public affairs, marketing and sales.”

    The presence of a doctor on the board seems to me to also favour the medical approach to depression.

  19. Depression Alliance - clumsy conflicts of interest once again? « seroxat secrets… Says:

    […] Alliance and the various individuals connected to the organisation then I suggest you read here and here and here and […]

  20. B Says:

    This reading has been very interesting to me.
    I am not someone who works in the medical field or in any area to do with depression, antidepressants, etc. In fact, I am currently on incapacity benefit due to depression.

    I don’t know how I came about this page exactly, but I was very upset (once again) with the crappy support from Depression Alliance. The website says in big letters: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Well, I am. I live in Southampton (not a small town by any means) and for the last 3 years, once a year have contacted Depression Alliance with regards to whether they had any depression support groups in the area. Unfortunately not, came the reply. Three times (about once per year) and the same reply with no explanation. I have been on so many different antidepressants and other medication to no avail. What I really needed more than anything was to connect with people face to face who are going through the same thing. I believe this kind of therapy is invaluable. Since Depression Alliance is one of the biggest charities on helping people with depression, why is there no support group here? Not only that, I have checked with other big players in the charity world and there aren’t any support groups in Southampton. Oh, but there is a support group for people with a phobia for plastic and other remote fears.
    It’s very upsetting that apparently there is so much help out there for depression, when there isn’t. There is just medication, Gp, medication, medication, psychiatrist (medication). When I tried to get counselling or some form of talking therapy, I was told there was a waiting list of at least two years!!. All I wanted was to meet other people and feel I wasn’t alone. I have managed to find a place for counselling for which I only have to pay £5 for a full 50 minute session, as long as I need. This, I did all by myself. Three years I’ve been out of work and all the while wanting to get better and feel confident again to get back into work and no one gives a damn to be honest.
    What makes it even more frustrating is all these organisations who say you are not alone. Well, I am.

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