Dancing to the Piper’s tune..

Pharma funded Sane

What’s wrong with the above image, you might ask? What harm could possibly be drawn from this innocuous, even noble concept? A ‘charity’ with links to a pharmaceutical company extolling the virtues of using psychiatric drugs (that the same company might manufacture) – no conflict here, let’s move along.

Hmm, actually, let’s not. This twitter image was put out by the mental health charity ‘Sane’ – a group ‘partnered‘ by Lundbeck, a Pharmaceutical company that make drugs (of arguable-efficacy) that target depression. In fact, citalopram (sold as Celexa and Cipramil) is an SSRI antidepressant created by Lundbeck – it has been linked to more self-inflicted deaths in the UK than any other SSRI antidepressant. (My son being part of citalopram’s deadly Irish contingent.)

So, a suicide group with links to a pharmaceutical company whose very existence relies on manufacturing depression drugs – drugs that incidentally raise the risk of suicide – what could possibly be the problem? Indeed, this particular image was re-tweeted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, along with the following perspective:

Agreeing to take medication for my mental illness was massive for me. I was so ashamed that I had to take medication to sort my head out. But I’ve finally realised its the same as taking medication for a physical illness – makes you feel better.  

Eh, the fact that it’s the polar opposite to taking meds for a physical illness, could well be seen as a problem. Often likened to a person taking insulin for diabetes, according to Cochrane’s Peter C. Gøtzsche, this analogy is just plain wrong. He states:

When you give insulin to a patient with diabetes, you give something the patient lacks, namely insulin. Since we’ve never been able to demonstrate that a patient with a mental disorder lacks something that people who are not sick don’t lack, it is wrong to use this analogy… Moreover, in contrast to insulin, which just replaces what the patient is short of, and does nothing else, psychotropic drugs have a very wide range of effects throughout the body, many of which are harmful. So, also for this reason, the insulin analogy is extremely misleading.

Indeed, the fact that psychiatry, whose profession is largely reliant on the prescribing of psychotropic drugs, is pushing to end the ‘stigma’ of taking said drugs, could surely be seen as a conflict of interest? One look at an SSRI PIL will show that these commonly prescribed drugs can substantially increase the risk of suicide. In the case of GlaxoSmithKline’s paroxetine (where brand names include Paxil and Seroxat), a court case earlier this year revealed that the risk is actually 8.9% greater than placebo – see Dolin v GSK. However, that there is no mention of the increased risk of suicide with said psychotropics (from either body) is not just conflicting – it’s pretty shameful.

As shown above, ‘mental health charities’ often suggest there is no ‘shame’ in taking ones meds, implying an act of bravery – sure, aren’t the ‘mentally affected’ so feckin brave for taking their prescribed psychotropics? Pardon the sarcasm – I’m not suggesting for a second that a person who chooses to take prescribed medications, for whatever the reason, is deluded. There are many who need prescribed drugs to survive, and those who just feel they need them – that is their right of choice. However, it is a wholly different argument, that while many are dancing to his tune, one should know who’s actually paying the piper. Clearly, there is an underlying issue when we consider that people are medicated to such an extent that pharmaceutical residue is showing up in our rivers and seas – even affecting the way fish behave. Perhaps more disturbing, is that drugs such as steroids, antibiotics, antidepressants, contraceptives etc., are showing up in our drinking water (1).

While a recent English report found that that almost half (48%) of adults are consuming at least one prescription drug – almost a quarter (24%) are taking three or more drugs prescribed to them. The report calculated the total cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community (for 2016 alone), at £9.2 billion.

A very prosperous piper – indeed, one could say that medication is undoubtedly working for him (or her).


COLLIER, R. 2012. Swallowing the pharmaceutical waters. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184, 163-164.

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