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Prozac critic sees U of T job revoked

Saturday, April 14, 2001


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

A world-renowned scientist saw a job offer at the University of Toronto
evaporate after warning that the popular antidepressant Prozac may
trigger suicide in some patients.

The drug's manufacturer, Eli Lilly, is an important private donor to a
mental-health research institute affiliated with the university.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Taking Big Pharma (the world-wide pharm industry) money is one
way in which researcher’s/scientist’s/academic's, freedom is terminated,
and it is happening in academia all over the US.]

Critics say it appears that David Healy's job offer was rescinded to
avoid offending the corporate giant or for fear of compromising future
fundraising efforts.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Healy has also authored the book of interviews with noted
scientists in the field, The Psychopharmacologists (Altman—Chapman Hall,
1996) Nor would this book, in which many of those interviewed speak
candidly of the shady under-world or science-polluted-by-industry
considerations, and of the side effects of antidepressants, endear Healy
to Big Pharma and to universities, like NYU, Yale, the U. of Toronto,
and others, to numerous to mention, on the payroll of Big Pharma]

Eli Lilly said it had no role in the matter. The university said the
decision not to hire Dr. Healy was made by the Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health, an affiliated teaching hospital, and that it would not be proper for the
university to question it. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,
for its part, steadfastly denies that it has allowed fundraising concerns to
interfere with academic freedom.

"If you are asking me if his comments influenced our decision, let me be
clear that there were a number of factors involved. We regret that our
actions have been misinterpreted as an attack against academic freedom
and as a conflict of interest," said Paul Garfinkel, chief executive
officer of the CAMH.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Might this be the same Garfinkle who, while at the U. of Minnesota, I
believe it was, was caught up in a flagrant ADHD research fraud? Does
anyone out there know?]

Dr. Garfinkel said the reasons for the decision to revoke Dr. Healy's
job offer are confidential. "Let me be clear, we've never made an offer or
withdrawn an offer on the basis of an impact on an outside donor."

When initially approached by The Globe and Mail several months ago, Dr.
Healy, who works at the University of Wales, was reluctant to speak
publicly about what happened.

He said he decided to do so to publicize his concerns about Prozac and
to raise questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest at U of

"I've had people call from a number of countries asking whether it is
safe to  say something [critical] about pharmaceutical companies. The public
needs to know what happened here," he said in an interview.

Dr. Healy said that he made his views clear in private interviews with
university officials before the speech.

University of Toronto colleagues are providing a public platform for him
to express his views on Prozac next week. He will give a lecture at the
Joint Centre for Bioethics on Thursday evening.

U of T and CAMH had been courting Dr. Healy since July of 1999. They
made him a formal written offer of a combined faculty and clinical position in
May of 2000, followed by a more detailed letter in August.

They hired a lawyer to help him immigrate.

Then, on Nov. 30, 2000, Dr. Healy gave a wide-ranging lecture at CAMH,
part of a colloquium titled Looking Back, Looking Ahead â€" Psychiatry in the
21st Century: Mental Health and Addiction.

He criticized pharmaceutical companies for avoiding experiments that
could demonstrate problems with their drugs…

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
exactly as they have refused to do the simple, straightforward
research that would have been necessary to show whether or not Ritalin
and other of the amphetamine psychostimulants were causing the brain
atrophy regularly found and reported from 1986 to the present; regularly
found and claimed to be the evidence confirming that ADHD was a bona
fide disease, when, instead, as was the fact of the matter there was no
physical variable between the subject group and normal controls, meaning
that the brain atrophy could only have been due to their long-term
stimulant treatment]

…and for not publishing unfavourable
results. He said the data show that Prozac and other popular antidepressants
in the same chemical family may have been responsible for one suicide for
every day they have been on the market.

A week later, Dr. David Goldbloom, physician-in-chief at CAMH and a professor
at U of T, rescinded the offer to Dr. Healy in an e-mail, a copy of which was
sent to The Globe and Mail in an unmarked brown envelope.

Dr. Goldbloom told Dr. Healy his lecture was evidence that his approach was
not "compatible" with development goals. Development, in the university
context, is widely understood to mean fundraising, although CAMH denies that
fundraising was what was meant.

Eli Lilly, the drug company that manufactures Prozac, is its "lead" donor
according to the CAMH Web site, contributing more than $1-million to the 
centre's $10-million capital-fundraising campaign.

Last year, Eli Lilly cancelled its $25,000 (U.S.) annual donation to the  
Hastings Center in New York, a think tank that looks at ethical issues, after
it published a series of articles about Prozac, including a critical one by
Dr. Healy titled Good Science or Good Business.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Here we have the pollution even of the bioethicists of US medical
academia by money from Big Pharma. The Director of the Hastings Center,
Thomas Murray, Ph.D. chaired hearings at the NIH in 1993 in which they
sought to legitimize claims that psychiatric disorders were actual
organic diseases]

"The centre had published articles that Lilly felt contained information that
was biased and scientifically unfounded and that may have led to significant
misinformation to readers, patients and the community," said Laurel Swartz,
manager of corporate communications for Eli Lilly.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Another favored tar-brush of theirs, an old one, is to call opponents
‘Scientologists.’ I have been among those thus ‘tarred’. Their real
fear is of true, ethical scientists, such as David Healy who they cannot
buy or quiet at any price. Dr. Healy is perhaps the most fortunate of
all regarding the outcome of this sorry situation; he comes out of it
with his conscience, ethics, and scientific integrity intact. Eli Lilly
cares little about such thanks so long as the financial/stockholder
bottom line is healthy. Further they know that they majority of
academics can be bought]

Two U of T professors, who have asked that their names not be published, said
that what happened to Dr. Healy in Canada raises disturbing questions about
whether professors are free to be critical of drug companies in an era where
medical schools are heavily dependent on them for financing.

James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University 
Teachers, said the paper trail appears to make it clear why Dr. Healy was no
longer welcome at U of T.

"The language they use indicates they feel they can't hire this guy because
it will give them trouble raising money," Mr. Turk said.

Experts such as Bob Michels, the former head of medicine at Cornell
University in New York, say Dr. Healy is internationally renowned, both as a
clinical psychopharmacologist and a historian of the role of drugs in modern

He is also well-known for his outspoken criticism of Prozac and other similar
drugs and has appeared as an expert witness on behalf of families suing Eli
Lilly and other drug companies.

Dr. Healy says the data show Prozac and related medications, which are widely
prescribed for people who in the past would not be deemed sick enough to 
require medication, can cause patients with no history of mental illness to
fall into a state of extreme agitation anxiety. In some cases it can lead to
suicide, or thoughts of suicide.

Last year, Dr. Healy published a study that found that two healthy volunteers
out of 20 who were given Prozac reported feeling extremely anxious and that
they entertained thoughts of suicide.

Eli Lilly says Prozac is safe. "There is no credible scientific evidence that
establishes a causal link between Prozac [fluoxetine hydrochloride] and violent
or suicidal behaviour," Ms. Swartz said.

Dr. Healy insists warning labels are needed on Prozac so doctors will know to
watch for suicidal tendencies when they prescribe the antidepressant.

His speech did not go over well at U of T. Dr. Healy said Dr. Goldbloom
appeared unhappy when they discussed the lecture at a dinner that evening.

Dr. Healy said he understood Dr. Goldbloom to be critical of his speech
because people would take away from it the understanding that Prozac makes
people suicidal and the Eli Lilly knew about the problem but wouldn't
acknowledge it.

Dr. Healy left that weekend for New York, where he was scheduled to give the
same speech at Cornell University.

On the Monday after the Thursday speech, Dr. Goldbloom began sending Dr. 
Healy e-mails saying it was urgent they find a time to talk by telephone. Dr.
Healy kept copies of them, and has provided them to The Globe and Mail.

When the two men couldn't arrange the phone call, Dr. Goldbloom sent the 
e-mail rescinding the job offer on behalf of both CAMH and U of T.

"Essentially, we believe that it is not a good fit between you and the role
of leader of an academic program in mood and anxiety disorders at the Centre
and in relation to the University. This view was solidified by your recent
appearance at the Centre in the context of an academic lecture," the message

"While you are held in high regard as a scholar of the history of modern 
psychiatry, we do not feel your approach is compatible with the goals for
development of the academic and clinical resource that we have."

Dr. Goldbloom would not be interviewed for this story. Dr. Garfinkel said he
didn't know what Dr. Goldbloom had said to Dr. Healy in person after the
speech. But he categorically denied that when Dr. Goldbloom referred to the
development of the centre he was referring in any way to the ability to raise
funds, either from Eli Lilly or other drug companies.

"Development is a technical term that many places use to talk about
fundraising. This is development of a program, totally different meaning,"
Dr. Garfinkel said.

He said the meeting where senior managers from U of T and CAMH made the
decision to rescind the job offer was on Dec. 8. Yet Dr. Goldbloom sent the
e-mail on Dec. 7, and began requesting an interview by phone several days
before that.

Dr. Healy didn't quit his job in Wales and said he is not planning legal 
action. He said he has asked for a more detailed explanation about why the
job offer was rescinded, but none was given. He said he would like to hear
from Dr. Garfinkel about the confidential reasons the job offer was revoked.

"Nobody has offered me any other reasons at all. I don't believe there are
any other reasons. We have the paper trail, and what I am asking them to 
explain is the paper trail. Maybe there is an explanation that will let them
off the hook, but if there is, maybe they could try explaining it to me."

He certainly never imagined that his speech, which contained nothing he
hasn't said before, would cost him the job.

In fact, Dr. Michels said the same speech did not cause problems at

"He certainly has many people who sharply differ with him. That's not unusual
in science. He has points of view that other people don't agree with. He has
certainly been very open and expressive about his points of view. The
material is an area where there is great controversy, and he takes positions
in that controversy, but they are well within the dialogue in his field."

This is the second controversy of its kind at the university. Researcher 
Nancy Olivieri faced an ugly internal battle and a lawsuit in when she
published data unfavourable to the drug company that funded her work.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Not only must we fear for the integrity of the scientific record in
academic medicine, especially in regard to psychiatry, but we must
question whether there is a place any longer for the unfettered truth.
What journal edited by what professor from what medical school
department funded by what pharmaceutical giant will publish Dr. Healy’s
speech, or anything else as candid and critical of a particular drug,
that he might write]

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