The Lilly Suicides – Adbusters | Journal of the mental environment

This article was published in Adbusters No.41 MAY/JUN 2002

In the final days of the 20th century, a North Wales psychiatrist named David Healy conducted a curious study, and with more than a curious result. Twenty volunteers with no history of psychiatric problems were recruited, half of whom were given the drug Zoloft, an antidepressant from the Prozac family of drugs known as the SSRIS, or “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.” The other half were given an antidepressant that, unlike Zoloft and Prozac, does not selectively target the brain chemical serotonin. Each group took their respective drug for two weeks and then, shortly thereafter, switched to the other.

Healy had designed his “healthy volunteer study” to compare the psychological experience of being on a serotonin antidepressant versus a non-serotonin antidepressant, but before he knew it, two of his volunteers became dangerously agitated and suicidal. Both were taking the SSRI drug. The adverse reactions couldn’t easily be blamed on psychological instability – these were healthy volunteers. And the rate of 10 percent made it clear that such results were not so rare as to be incidental.

Healy was surprised at the effect, but he would not stay surprised. Some months later, when serving as an expert witness in a civil action against Zoloft’s manufacturer, Pfizer, Healy obtained access to the company archives. There he discovered an unpublished study from the 1980s in which healthy female volunteers were given either Zoloft or a placebo. The study was canceled four days later, after all those taking Zoloft began complaining of agitation and apprehension.

via The Lilly Suicides – Adbusters | Journal of the mental environment.


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