Monday, February 28, 2005

Deaths Involving Overdoses of Antidepressants Have More Than Doubled in Five Years

Deaths in Britain involving overdoses of antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat have more than doubled in five years.

Doctors and mental health campaigners warned that over-prescribing, coupled with a lack of accurate research into their risks, was fuelling the rise in the number of people who have committed suicide as a result of taking pills which are supposed to alleviate depression.

More than 3.5 million people in Britain received 20 million prescriptions for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) last year. But concerns about the safety of the drugs have increased after reports that some patients who only suffered from mild depression had committed suicide within days or weeks of being prescribed the pills.

In 1999, 38 people died as a result of SSRI overdoses, according to Health Statistics Quarterly, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). By 2003, this had more than doubled to 81.

Because one of the advantages of SSRIs is their low toxicity level, most of these deaths are considered to be deliberate overdoses. Still more people - at least eight in the UK in the past two years - have killed themselves by other means, such as hanging, after being prescribed the SSRIs.

The British government-run Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), ruled last December that, for adults, the benefits of SSRIs outweighed the risks. But the controversy has highlighted how doctors, patients and regulators such as the MHRA are reliant on information supplied by the drugs companies making the drugs.

GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Seroxat, is under investigation for withholding safety data on the drug and only publishing favourable results from clinical trials.

Richard Brook, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "I think these figures are very worrying ... the way in which SSRIs contribute to suicides has yet to be understood. We haven't got all the data because we haven't had proper follow-up studies, post-licensing procedures are poor and, most of all, we still have to rely on the drugs companies to supply the data, whose record on this issue is deplorable."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Science Proves people's brains equivalent to Jell-O

As seen online at the Jello Musuem and elsewhere:

March 17, 1993, technicians at St. Jerome hospital in Batavia test a bowl of lime Jell-O with an EEG machine and confirm the earlier testing by Canadian Doctor Adrian Upton in 1969 that a dome of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women. In 1969, Dr. Upton connected an electroencephalograph (EEG) to a dome of lime Jell-O, only to find the readings to be almost identical to those of healthy human beings.

Also as originally reported in Mother Earth News back in 1976

THERE'S ALWAYS ROOM FOR MODERN MEDICINE . . . OR IS THERE? Dr. Adrian Upton, professor of neurology at MacMasters University in Hamilton, Ontario, recently rigged a brain wave machine, artificial respirators, and intravenous feeding equipment to a bowl of lime jello about the size of a human brain, and—gasp!—recorded readings typical of those emitted by a living person. In fact, the good doctor noted, the results of the electronic analysis would not have qualified the dessert as sufficiently "dead" to have the life-sustaining plugs pulled under existing legal guidelines!

What an electroencephalograph machine (or EEG) does is measure electrical activity in the brain. This is probably useful for something, though I’m not sure what. Of course, the experiment proved that EEGs are quite susceptible to environmental interference. But it seems amusing that brain scientists are using this to try to detect thoughts. How much phenomena is attributed to the mere monitiring of enviromental noise?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

BMJ issue: Do SSRI's Cause Suicide?

The British Medical Journal has devoted the cover story of a major issue to the question Do SSRI's Cause Suicide? Typically, they have one story for, one story against, and one story that says that SSRI's are no worse in this regard than another class of drugs. And in a bit of irony, there is also a paper included that states "Neither emergency department staff nor psychiatrists can predict which patients will repeat self harm"

Friday, February 11, 2005

ADHD Drug Adderall Pulled Off the Shelves in Canada

A public health warning has been issued in the United States for the drug Adderall, after the Canadian government pulled the drug from shelves. The drug, which is a common prescription for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has been linked to the sudden death of 14 children, and six adults, as well as a dozen strokes.

Despite the Canadian action, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not taking the same action in the United States. The FDA is reviewing the action taken in Canada.

The drug has been prescribed more than 30 million times since it hit shelves in 1999. Today, more than a million people take the drug and most of them are children. Parents who have a child that takes the drug are encouraged to contact their physician if they are worried.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

So Much Easier

As seen at the comedy site: