Healy vs. University of Toronto

Healy vs. University of Toronto

Scientist stands by views of drugs after settling lawsuit with U of T

A prominent British psychiatrist who found his offer of a post at a University of Toronto teaching hospital rescinded after he criticized a popular form of antidepressants says he stands by his controversial view of the drugs
Healy vs. University of Toronto

5/24/2002

Scientist stands by views of drugs after settling lawsuit with U of T

http://www.canoe.ca/NationalTicker/CANOE-wire.HEALTH-Healy.html

A prominent British psychiatrist who found his offer of a post at a University of Toronto teaching hospital rescinded after he criticized a popular form of antidepressants says he stands by his controversial view of the drugs. Dr. David Healy said he continues to believe that Prozac and other drugs of its class — known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — can be addictive and cause suicidal tendencies in some people.

“My views haven’t changed at all,” said Healy, who recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the university and the hospital, the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

“I think the SSRIs can make people suicidal. I think you can get physically dependent on them and can have a withdrawal problem. You may not be able to stop. Full stop.”

Healy, who teaches at the University of Wales, made the comments at a news conference Thursday, his first since he settled his $9.4-million lawsuit against the university and hospital.

The settlement, many of the terms of which remain undisclosed, has resulted in the university offering Healy a visiting professorship which will see him spend a week a year at the University of Toronto for several years, beginning next spring.

Healy launched the lawsuit after the university withdrew in November 2000 a five-year job offer to run the centre’s mood and anxiety program.

“I bore no ill will towards them,” he insisted Thursday. “And clearly the process going on too violently or too long wouldn’t do them any good, wouldn’t do me any good.”

That’s because Healy has other issues he wants to bring to the public’s attention, such as the way drug companies selectively release safety and efficacy data on drugs and use ghost writers to author articles on their drugs for submission to scientific journals.

“And there’s a real hazard that I go on about these things and the legal action was still there, people would say: “Well, we don’t need to pay any heed to that. He’s just saying this because he’s trying to sue the University of Toronto.”

“If I want people to listen to some of the other things, it seemed to be a good idea, (especially) when people on the other side (the university) were being reasonable and weren’t awful people.

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4/17/2001 – Snub to Prozac critic upsets teachers

http://www.globeandmail.com

Snub to Prozac critic upsets teachers

Faculty group sees academic freedom
at risk in U of T withdrawal of job offer

ANNE McILROY
SCIENCE REPORTER
Monday, April 16, 2001

The Canadian Association of University Teachers says it is disturbed by the
University of Toronto’s decision to revoke the job offer it made to an
internationally recognized psychiatrist after he criticized a drug company.

“It appears that there has been a very serious violation of academic freedom
at the University of Toronto that requires remedy,” James Turk, executive
director of the association, said in a letter to U of T president Robert
Birgeneau.

The U of T and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, an affiliated
teaching hospital, had been courting Dr. David Healy since July of 1999. He
is an expert in drugs and psychiatry at the University of Wales.

They made him a formal, written offer of a combined faculty and clinical
position in May of 2000, and sent a more detailed letter in August. The U of
T hired a lawyer to help him immigrate.

Then, on Nov. 30, 2000, Dr. Healy gave a lecture at the CAMH in which he
criticized drug companies for avoiding experiments that may show there are
problems with their drugs, and for not publishing unfavourable results. He
said the data show that Prozac, manufactured by Eli Lilly and Co., may cause
suicide in some people.

Eli Lilly is the “lead” donor to the CAMH, according to its Web site, and has
contributed more than $1-million to the centre’s $10-million capital
campaign. It argues Prozac is safe.

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.

“There are good grounds to believe that Prozac can trigger suicidality. The
pharmaceutical companies are not investigating, however; one wonders whether
they are receiving legal advice echoing that given to the tobacco companies,
that any investigation of these issues may increase product liability,” Dr.
Healy wrote.

Eli Lilly says it withdrew funding because the Hastings Center published
“articles which 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.

A week after Dr. Healy’s speech, Dr. David Goldbloom, physician-in-chief at
the CAMH and a professor at the U of T, rescinded his job offer.

The CAMH says the decision was made on the basis of a number of factors it
can’t make public. Eli Lilly says it played no role.

Mr. Turk has asked for a meeting with the U of T president to discuss what
happened.

David Naylor, dean of the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, says
it is not the U of T’s role to launch an inquiry.

The eight hospitals affiliated with the U of T are responsible for their own
human-resources decisions, he said. In the case of Dr. Healy, the CAMH would
have been the primary employer, not the U of T.

Yet it was the U of T vice-provost who sent Dr. Healy a memo confirming his
offer of employment and informing him that a lawyer had been hired to help
him immigrate.

While saying that the Dr. Healy affair is strictly in the domain of the CAMH,
Dr. Naylor acknowledges that he did make inquiries about what happened.

“I don’t believe there is any particular conspiracy, conflict of interest or
any malice here. In fact, I am satisfied there is not.”

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3/24/2001 – Med school study reveals unethical practices

Thanks to Daryl Duhamel in Canada for sending us an article from Canada’s
National Post newspaper.

The National Post online alert.

March 23, 2001

Med school study reveals unethical practices
Unnecessary exams, practising on dead at teaching hospitals

Margaret Munro
National Post

Medical students frequently face pressure to act
unethically and most say they have seen their clinical teachers acting
unethically as well, a study by researchers at the University of Toronto has
found.

The study surveyed 108 medical students and found that
47% said
they “very frequently,” “frequently” or “occasionally” felt pressure to act
unethically. Almost two-thirds of the students had also seen their teacher
behave unethically.

The study listed some of the unethical activities,
including practising procedures on dying patients and conducting unnecessary
examinations on unconscious ones.

Some students at the University of Toronto’s teaching
hospitals were asked to conduct vaginal exams on patients under general
anaesthetic without their consent. One described being told to perform an
unnecessary “femoral stab,” which involves locating a vein, on a dying
patient who was in a vegetative state and without getting any family consent.

Another watched as a woman who had asked not to be given
narcotics as she gave birth was given the potent drugs without her knowledge.
The study was conducted by five young doctors who recently trained at the
university. The results will be published in the British Medical Journal on
Saturday.

“It’s not as if it happens every day,” says co-author
David Robertson, who is about to graduate from the medical school. But it is
disturbing to know it happens at all, he says.

The students, some of whom reported being “scared to
death” of professors barking orders at them, also described how patients’
identities and medical problems were described in public places. The students
were also expected to perform procedures they were not competent to handle,
such as closing wounds, assessing unstable patients and giving psychotherapy.
They also report that patients were sometimes asked to return to clinics for
unnecessary follow-up visits that were only for the students’ benefit.

U of T medical school officials say they are familiar
with the study’s findings and are working to put an end to such
“reprehensible” activities.

“We’re aware of it and distressed by it and trying to
stamp it out,” said Dr. Rick Frecker, associate dean of
the university’s undergraduate medical education.

Dr. Frecker said no action was taken against professors
involved, as the identities of the students and doctors were protected as
part of the study, which was conducted a few years ago.

He said there would be serious repercussions for
professors if the students were to bring such cases of unethical behavior to
his attention today.

Dr. Frecker said he was approached a few years ago by Mr.
Robertson and a group of concerned students wondering what
could be done about the unethical activities and coercion that have long been
part of medical training. He said he encouraged the students to document
specific cases in a bid to raise awareness of the problem.

He and other university officials were surprised to learn
yesterday that the findings will be showcased in the
prestigious British Medical Journal, which is publishing the students’
findings and has an editorial and commentary condemning the “hypocrisy” in
the medical profession.

“There may have been a time when doctors could get away
with being trustworthy in public, but despicable in private, but this is an
age where no secret is kept for long and really all doctors should know
better,” says the commentary by Andrew West and colleagues at Oxford
University.

“The medical profession urgently needs to learn respect
for the living and for the dead, and thereby earn the public respect that is
its lifeblood,” they conclude.

In the editorial, medical ethicist Len Doyal, of the
Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, says the Toronto findings are
likely relevant to medical education in schools around the world. They
reinforce the need for detailed codes of acceptable activities in medical
education to prevent abuse of both patients and students, he wrote.

Mr. Robertson said in an interview that such policies
need to be backed by a culture that is receptive to change.

He said the University of Toronto medical school is
“moving in the right direction.”

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