This from the Boston Globe article “Suicide rates as a public relations tool”
Alison Bass asks two questions that reporters suffering from shyness are afraid to ask:
1. “Why are some in the psychiatric community, despite lack of evidence, working to convince the American public that the FDA may have erred in putting the most serious kind of warning possible on the use of [SSRI antidepressants] in young people?”
Answer: The alarmist call by such ‘pillars of the psychiatric community’ as Dr. David Shaffer and Dr. J. John Mann of Columbia University, to rescind Black Box suicide warnings on antidepressant drug labels, may be viewed as protecting their investment in the antidepressant drug business. Both Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Mann–and an army of other academics who, like them, are ‘on the take’–can be counted upon by drug manufacturers to ring the fire alarm despite the lack of evidence of any fire.
In fact, Bass, points out, the authors of the AJP study overlooked the fact that prescription rates did not drop in the year when suicide rates among youth increased, (2003-2004). Since suicide rates for 2005 are not yet available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence of a connection between variations in youth suicide rates and antidepressant prescription usage.
2: “Who stands to benefit from the latest alarm about an apparent upturn in youth suicide rates?”
Answer: The sharp drop in the sale of SSRIs since 2004 has put a big dent in their manufacturers’ bottom line. These companies have an enormous stake in reversing the current FDA warnings. That might explain why Pfizer (the maker of Zoloft) contributed $30,000 to cover the cost of collecting data for the American Journal of Psychiatry study, which was also funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
“It’s also worth noting that the two lead authors of the paper have disclosed financial conflicts of interest: Columbia professor of psychiatry Dr. John Mann has been a paid consultant to at least two SSRI makers, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (the maker of Paxil), and Robert Gibbons has served as an expert witness for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (the maker of Effexor, another SSRI).”
More can be found here at the AHRP blog.