A group of patients who once took the antidepressant drug Prozac accuse the Food and Drug Administration of covering up the drugs dangerous side effects for 14 years. As a result, they say hundreds of people have become victims of murder and suicide.
Bonnie Leitsch, founder of "Prozac Survivors Support Group," and Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, founder of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, are calling for immediate federal action to warn the public that antidepressants not only can induce suicide in adult patients -- but also acts of violence.
They point to 30-year-old Indiana mother Magdalena Lopez, who last week was charged with murdering her two young sons. Lopez, they maintain, had been taking an antidepressant.
In June, the FDA issued its second warning that adults taking antidepressants should be monitored for suicidal ideation and worsening depression. Leitsch says that it is unconscionable that new mothers are being prescribed drugs that have been known to induce psychosis, violence and suicide for more than a decade.
"In 1991, there was evidence of 500 deaths associated with antidepressants presented to an FDA Psychopharmacological Drugs Advisory Committee hearing investigating Prozac," Leitsch said.
"The failure to issue the warning has led to more suicides, homicides, school shooters and mothers killing their own children."
PSSG says it has the original film footage from the 1991 FDA hearings, where dozens of testimonies were given by family members of those who had either killed themselves, or loved ones, or individuals who had attempted suicide which they directly attributed to taking an antidepressant. The group has lined up a number of health professionals who support their position on Prozac and other antidepressants.
"These are extremely dangerous drugs that should have been banned, as similar drugs were in the past. Federal investigations into the violence-inducing effects of these drugs are long overdue," Tracy said.
Tracy has been an outspoken critic of SSRI antidepressant drugs and has testified as an expert witness in numerous court cases involving such drugs.
"The scientific evidence behind this has been out there for decades. All anyone ever had to do was read it," she says.
The group says Magdalena Lopez is not the only woman who has murdered her children while under the influence of antidepressants known to cause violence, psychosis, and suicide in adults. They provided details of several other cases:
• Annie Mae Haskew smothered her 10-week-old son in October of 2002. Before the murder she had been diagnosed with postpartum depression and had been taking antidepressants.
• Andrea Yates drowned her five children, aged 6 months to 7 years in the family bathtub on Nov. 22, 2004, while taking two antidepressants Effexor and Remeron, both had been given at maximum dose.
• Dena Schlosser killed her 10-month-old infant daughter in November 2004 by severing her baby's arms. She had been diagnosed with postpartum depression, hospitalized and prescribed psychiatric "medication for depression" before the crime.
• Mary Ellen Moffitt suffocated her 5-week-old daughter and herself July 26, 2004. Before this she had been diagnosed with postpartum depression and had been taking the antidepressant Paxil.
• Emiri Padron smothered her baby daughter in her crib on June 22, 2004 and then stabbed herself twice in the chest. Emiri was receiving psychiatric treatment before the incident and investigators found the antidepressant Zoloft in the apartment where the crime took place.
• Mine Ener used a kitchen knife to cut the throat of her 6-month-old daughter on Aug. 4, 2003, after being diagnosed with postpartum depression and taking "medication" for the condition.
Leitsch says that the FDA's claim that it could take a year to review the suicide adverse effects of antidepressant drugs is negligent.
"They must warn the public that not only can the drugs include suicide -- but heinous acts of violence -- mothers killing their own children, or children killing other children, she said.
Late last year FDA directed manufacturers to add a "black box" warning to the health professional labeling of all antidepressant medications to describe this risk of suicide in children, and emphasize the need for close monitoring of patients started on these medications. FDA has also determined that a Patient Medication Guide, which will be given to patients receiving the drugs to advise them of the risk and precautions that can be taken, is appropriate, and is in the process of developing one.
According to Lietsch, 36 million Americans are taking the antidepressant drugs.