David Healy psychiatrist
David Healy, a professor of psychiatry at Bangor
University in the UK,
is a psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, scientist and
author. His main areas of research are the contribution of antidepressants to suicide, conflict of interest between pharmaceutical companies and
academic medicine, and the history of pharmacology. Healy has written more than
150 peer-reviewed articles, 200 other articles, and 20 books, including The Antidepressant Era, The
Creation of Psychopharmacology, The Psychopharmacologists Volumes
1–3, Let Them Eat Prozac and Mania:
A Short History of Bipolar Disorder.
Healy has been involved
as a expert witness in homicide and suicide trials involving psychotropic drugs, and has brought
concerns about some medications to the attention of drug regulators. He has
also said that pharmaceutical companies sell drugs by marketing diseases and
co-opting academic opinion-leaders. In his 2012 book Pharmageddon he argues that
companies have dominated healthcare in America, often with life-threatening
results for patients. Healy is a founder and chief executive officer of Data
Based Medicine Limited, which aims to make medicines safer through "online
direct patient reporting of drug effects".
David Healy originally
trained in Dublin, Ireland, and at Cambridge University.
He is a former Secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology.
He is currently a
professor of psychiatry at Bangor University in the UK, a psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist,
scientist, and author. His main areas of research are the development and
history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of psychotropic drugs on our
culture. Healy has written more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, 200 other
articles, and 20 books, including The Antidepressant Era and The
Creation of Psychopharmacology from Harvard University
Press, The Psychopharmacologists Volumes 1–3 and Let
Them Eat Prozac from New York
University Press, and Mania: A Short History of Bipolar
Disorder from Johns
Hopkins University Press.
Healy has been involved
as a legal expert witness in homicide
and suicide trials involving psychotropic drugs,
and has brought concerns about some drugs to the attention of American and
British regulators. He has alleged that pharmaceutical companies sell drugs by
marketing diseases and co-opting academic opinion-leaders, sometimes ghostwriting their articles. His most
recent book, Pharmageddon, claims that pharmaceutical companies
have dominated healthcare in America, often with life-threatening results for
patients. In 2000 a lucrative job at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health was withdrawn under unclear circumstances. Healy and his supporters have
claimed that this withdrawal was due to Healy giving a speech and publishing a
paper claiming that the SSRI antidepressant fluoxetine increases the risk that
patients will commit suicide. Lilly was a major contributor to the Centre at the
time. A settlement was reached, in which Dr. Healy received a
visiting professor appointment, and a joint statement was released stating
"Although Dr. Healy believes that his clinical appointment was rescinded
because of his November 2000 speech at the CAMH [Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health], Dr Healy accepts assurances that pharmaceutical companies
played no role in either CAMH's decision to rescind his clinical appointment or
the University of Toronto's decision to rescind his academic appointment."
Healy is a founder
and chief executive officer of Data Based
Medicine Limited, which operates through its website RxISK.org, which aims to
make medicines safer through "online direct patient reporting of drug
effects". Healy sits on the Honorary International Editorial Advisory
Board of the Mens Sana Monographs.
Antidepressants and suicide[
an international review article, Healy (and Aldred) say that the idea that antidepressants might contribute to
suicide in depressed patients was first raised in 1958. For 30 years
antidepressants were primarily used in severely depressed and often
hospitalised patients. The issue of suicidality on selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) became one of public
concern with reports in 1990 that Prozac could lead to suicidality in
patients. Fourteen years later, warning labels were put on
antidepressants suggesting particular difficulties "during the early phase
of treatment, during treatment discontinuation, and when the dose of treatment
is being changed, and that treatment related risks may be present in patients
being treated for syndromes other than depression, such as anxiety or smoking
Healy has written
many papers and presented many lectures on his
view that all SSRI antidepressants – Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft – should show warning labels, as
they could "trigger suicidal and violent behavior in some patients".
Healy says that the pharmaceutical
industry has a pervasive influence on academic medicine. Most
of the authors published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association have received research funding from, or acted as a
consultant for, a drug company. Major journals have expressed concern at the ghostwriting of and conflicting interests
surrounding pharmacotherapeutic studies, especially in psychiatry.
occurs when anonymous scribes with
scientific backgrounds are paid to produce reports for publication as if
written by better-known experts. Healy estimates that up to 50 percent of
literature on drugs is ghostwritten. This estimate has been widely quoted in the literature in
a manner that was cited as an example of "misleading and mistaken
evidence" in a 2014 systematic review. In his thesis, Healy states that ghostwriters write on
research given to them by drug companies, which want both positive results and
positive research; therefore ghostwriting is biased from the beginning.
Healy allegedly encountered
ghost writing involving Wyeth's
SNRI Effexor. Healy attended a meeting promoting
Effexor, and was offered for his approval a draft article that had been written
for him. He left it intact, but made two additions. One contradicted Wyeth's
claim that Effexor got patients fully well compared to patients on other SSRIs
and another stated that SSRIs could make some individuals suicidal. The article
had already been submitted to the Journal of Psychiatry and
Neuroscience before Healy saw it again; both of his additions had been
removed. In response Healy removed his name from the article.
In the preface of
his book Let them Eat Prozac Healy
describes the need for a "new contract between society and the pharmaceutical
industry – a contract that will require access to the raw data". Healy
suggests a new division that can manage the hazards that only becomes visible
after products are launched. This new division would be separate from the
regulatory bodies and pharmaceutical companies. In "Interface between
authorship, industry and science in the domain of therapeutics" a paper of 2003 for The British
Journal of Psychiatry, David Healy notes that
literature profiles and citation
rates of industry-linked and non-industry-linked articles differ. The emerging
style of authorship in industry-linked articles can deliver good-quality
articles, but it raises concerns for the scientific base of therapeutics … If
ghostwriting is an inevitable feature of modern scientific writing, the
potential availability of the raw data would do more to ensure a correspondence
between those data and a published end result than could be achieved by any
In his book 2012 Pharmageddon,
Healy discusses the well-publicised birth defects crisis caused by thalidomide, a
drug initially marketed as a sleeping pill. The 1962 disaster involved more
than 10,000 children in 46 countries being born limbless and disabled. The
United States Congress wanted to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy, and
sought to limit the marketing excesses of the pharmaceutical industry. So new
drug development was rewarded with product rather than process patents, and new
drugs were made available only through prescription. Also, new medications had
to prove they worked through controlled trials before they reached the market.
On the 50th anniversary of the 1962 FDA bill enacted by Congress, Pharmageddon argues
that these arrangements have not been successful and have actually led to an
escalating number of drug induced deaths and injuries. In
the same book, "Pharmageddon," on page 155, Healy states
that life expectancy for the seriously mentally ill in the United States has dropped dramatically
in the last fifty years, rather than increasing.
The Suspended Revolution: Psychiatry and
Psychotherapy Re‑examined, Faber & Faber, London 1990.
Images of Trauma: From Hysteria to Post‑traumatic
Stress Disorder. Faber
& Faber, London, 1993.
Psychotropic Drug Development; Social,
Economic and Pharmacological Aspects. Chapman and Hall, London
Psychopharmacologists Volume 1,
Chapman & Hall, London, 1996; Arnold, London, 2002
The Psychopharmacologists Volume 2.
Chapman & Hall, London, 1998; Arnold, London 1999.
The Psychopharmacologists Volume 3.
Arnold, London 2000.
The Rise of Psychopharmacology & The
Story of the CINP,
Animula, Budapest, 1998.
The Triumph of Psychopharmacology & The
CINP, Animula, Budapest,
Neuropsychopharmacology & The Story of the CINP,
Animula, Budapest, 2002.
Reflections on Twentieth Century
Animula, Budapest, 2004.
The Creation of Psychopharmacology (Paperback 2004) ISBN
Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy
Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression New York University Press (2004) ISBN
Therapy: A History of
Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness. Rutgers University
Press/ University of Toronto Press 2007.
Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder Johns Hopkins University Press (Paperback
Drugs Explained Churchill Livingston (Paperback 5th
Pharmageddon University of California Press(2012) ISBN
there is a list of selected articles on SSRI
Antidepressants and suicide, on
of interest, and on History of pharmacology.