Thursday, 22 February 2018

Antidepressant Drugs. Why is the Mainstream Media an Echo Chamber for the Pharmaceutical Industry?

BBC News is promoting pharmaceutical drugs, yet again! Today, it is Antidepressant Drugs. And in doing so it is failing to provide the public with full and accurate information about these drugs.

The study they having been referring to is 'Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis', published in the Lancet. BBC News has featured this study throughout the day (22nd February 2018). The headlines provided  are

  • The study provides 'compelling evidence' that antidepressant drugs work, and are effective.
  • The arguments about the drugs "have been settled".
  • This is good news for patients and clinicians.
  • More people should be taking the drugs.
  • One person is quoted saying that there was a stigma, a reluctance to take the drug, which was unnecessary, and that 'talking therapies' did not work for him.
All this is 'compelling evidence' that has 'settled the argument' is taken from the study, and the BBC article covering the study can be found here. Other mainstream news agencies have also covered the study in much the same way, regarding it as authoritative, and all reporting it without question or reservation. So what are the questions that should have been asked?

Who funded the study?
BBC News never asked! But the study itself provides a large list of pharmaceutical companies who paid for the study. In the 'declaration of interest' at the end of the study the companies mentioned include:
  • Eli Lilly, Janssen, Meiji, Mitsubishi-Tanabe, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Pfizer, Takeda Science Foundation, LB Pharma, Lundbeck, Otsuka, TEVA, Geodon Richter, Recordati, LTS Lohmann, and Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, Lilly, Lundbeck, Otsuka, SanofiAventis, Servier, Otsuka and Meiji, Yoshitomi.
It is well known (except perhaps by the mainstream media) that research funded by pharmaceutical companies routinely produces more positive and favourable results than research that is funded independently.

How effective were antidepressant drugs found to be?
BBC News never asked, although it did say that each drug was tested against "dummy pills" (or placebo). What this means is that antidepressant drugs are better than nothing! Did the drugs cure the condition? If so, in how many patients? If not, to what extent was the depression relieved?

And how effective are antidepressant drugs compared to 'talking therapies'? Other than producing one person who said that talking therapies did not help, but drugs did, the BBC did not bother to ask!

Were antidepressant drugs found to be more or less effective than herbal treatments, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc. BBC News did not ask, perhaps because they never acknowledge the existence of any of these alternative medical therapies!

What are the side effects of antidepressant drugs?
BBC News never asked and never mentioned these either. Whenever they report the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines they rarely do, and if they do they only ask conventional doctors (so called 'experts') who, of course, have no vested interest in providing their answer!

Yet the answer is well known to the conventional medical establishment because it is published in the doctor's drug bibles, the British National Formulary (BNF), MIMS and similar. These include serious withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, irritability, sleep disturbance, nightmares, psychosis, and seizures. In many parts of the world, including Britain, all antidepressants come with a warning about their use in children and adolescents. They also increase the risk of suicidal thinking, suicidal behaviour and violence. 

These side effects are available online on websites such as Drugs.com, Rxlist.com, and others, although the pharmaceutical industry is now buying into these too! So I have outlined the serious side effects of the many kinds of antidepressant drugs in this article.

BBC News presumably is presumably not aware of these side effects, perhaps thought that their recommendation for more people to take them should not be qualified in any way!

Why is this evidence reported when other evidence is ignored?
Other studies, including many published by the Lancet, have not been reported. Why is this? Is it because they are more critical, more questioning of the value of antidepressant drugs?
Many similar studies are ignored by the mainstream media. So the reason for highlighting this research seems clear - it is about the rehabilitation of antidepressant drugs.

Drug Rehabilitation. How will this study be used?
The BBC article makes it clear that this is an important study for the pharmaceutical industry. Here are some of the comments that can be found in it.
  • "Scientists say they have settled one of medicine's biggest debates after a huge study found that anti-depressants work". (My emphasis).
  • The authors of the report ... said it showed many more people could benefit from the drugs.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists said the study "finally puts to bed the controversy on anti-depressants". (My Emphasis).
  • The lead researcher is quoted as saying "This study is the final answer to a long-standing controversy about whether anti-depressants work for depression". (My emphasis).
  • A Royal College of Psychiatrists spokesperson said: "This meta-analysis finally puts to bed the controversy on anti-depressants, clearly showing that these drugs do work in lifting mood and helping most people with depression". (My emphasis).
All these statements indicate that medical science has decided that the concerns and controversy surrounding these drugs are matters no longer to be discussed. Medical science is telling us that it has given its final decision. There is to be no more examination, no more questioning. And the mainstream media will no doubt go along with this too. It has done so before!

The MMR Vaccine and the Thompson Debacle
Take-up of the MMR vaccine plummeted following links with the Autism epidemic. It was a matter of concern for the conventional medical establishment so the pharmaceutical industry funded several 'scientific' research projects in the early 2000's which determined that no such link existed. Since that time the issue has never been discussed in the mainstream media, including the BBC. It is out-of-bounds. I suspect that this study will be used in the same way - to stifle discussion, to censor information, to keep the public misinformed.

The censorship has continued. In September 2014 Dr William Thompson, one of the co-authors of one of these 'conclusive' studies, admitted that the researchers had destroyed evidence that would have led to the conclusion that there was, indeed, a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. I have blogged about this situation several times. The information regarding this situation was clear then, and it remains clear now. What Thompson revealed concerns corruption throughout the conventional medical establishment, including bogus medical science and crooked drug regulators.
 
But the information has never been published by the mainstream media.

I made a formal complaint to the BBC about their failure to report this, but was informed that it was not a matter of public concern, and that BBC editors had lots of other stories to cover!


Why do I focus on BBC News reporting?
The BBC is a public service broadcaster. It is paid for by licence fee payers. Other news organisations are funded by advertisers, and it has been calculated that the pharmaceutical industry provides as much as 70% of this advertising revenue. This not an excuse, the public have a right to full and honest information about the drugs they are prescribed. But it is a reason. The BBC has neither reason nor excuse.

Antidepressant drugs are failing, but just as with the MMR vaccine, they are highly profitable for the pharmaceutical industry. As the BBC article states,

               "There were 64.7 million prescriptions for the drugs in England in 2016 - more than double the 31 million in 2006 - but there has been a debate about how effective they are, with some trials suggesting they are no better than placebos."

Perhaps this is the only piece of honesty in the entire article, although to be fair, the BBC has engaged in the antidepressant debate in the recent past.
I suspect that this research may be intended to end this critical debate - certainly as far as the conventional medical establishment is concerned, and most likely our mainstream media too. Whether the BBC will also draw back into the safety of conformity remains to be seen.

Health Freedom, Informed Consent and Patient Choice
The debate does matter. No-one should be expected to accept any form of medication or treatment without being fully aware of both the potential benefits and the possible dangers. In caving in to the conventional medical establishment over the Autism, MMR vaccine link, the mainstream media, including the BBC, has allowed parents to put their children in danger with the vaccine for the last 15 years or more.

They now have to decide if their viewers, listeners, readers and licence payers deserve to be given full and honest information about antidepressant drugs.