Children of the Cure, A review by Heather and David Roberts, Olly’s Friendship Foundation
We were greatly cheered to read Children of the Cure, not because its message is uplifting, far from it, but as parents who had slowly watched the demise and death of a much loved, very intelligent son, over a period of 11 agonising stress-filled years, this book at last gave us the proof that all we had long suspected was true.
The information laid out about Seroxat (Paxil) SSRI was the most welcome of all, again not because it was cheering, but because it showed us, in manageable timeline book form, that all our protestations about what this drug did to our son, were well founded. Remembering how brilliantly he had been working at University until he took Accutane prescribed for his acne, then got lost in the ‘low mood’ so many report on isotretinoin, and knowing what a well-balanced, optimistic and reasonable person he’d always been, despite the misery his severe acne caused him, we were shocked when he changed totally after a summer on Seroxat (prescribed as a gentle drug for shyness which would lift the low mood) which didn’t make any difference, and admittedly he stopped suddenly in September, but he had received no medical warnings about doing this.
Our 21-year-old son became suicidal almost immediately and when we attempted to explain that the effect of the drug being stopped had surely done this, we were ridiculed by doctors and told that maybe our son was verging on being ‘pre-psychotic’. He asked to go into hospital for a few days for his own safety as the extraordinary mental promptings which now never gave him peace, kept telling him to kill himself and he feared he might give in to them. The psychiatrist literally threw us out of the hospital for daring to suggest that isotretinoin and Seroxat could have brought about our son’s illness. He was given more and more similar drugs and got far worse. We wrote to the psychiatrist, pleading to be listened to about our son’s earlier ‘normality’ pre-SSRIs but he said he hadn’t time to read letters, or see us. So we asked MIND locally to help us by acting as intermediary between us and the psychiatrist, as our son was getting worse by the day. They instead blamed us for being overprotective and had discovered that our son’s grandfather had been diagnosed with manic depression, which seemed to them the reason that our opinion counted for nothing. This was in 2002 when Seroxat was already ringing warning bells in many quarters.
Our son was fortunately offered an IT job designing sites for a local firm whilst still in hospital, and despite being in an akathisic state, other patients urged him to take it and he grasped this chance to re-engage with normality. He gradually eased off the medications, but could not face going back to university. At no time did any doctor admit that the medications could have caused his ‘breakdown.’ But they didn’t diagnose any mental illness either which left him puzzled for the rest of his short life as to why he felt so unwell, fuzzy brained, with poor memory and OCD-like suicidal thoughts which never went away; he said he could never again get that restful peace of ‘no thoughts’ in his mind, which he’d had prior to 2001 when he took isotretinoin and Seroxat.
Later, after forming and running a very successful IT company, he became stressed with work issues and was advised by a psychologist he’d been seeing, to have a few days’ voluntary rest in hospital. In that time he was again put on various drugs, and the same scenario began again. The worst of these were Sertraline and Olanzapine. Again the treating psychiatrist told him there was nothing much wrong with him, that he had brought the restless mind, hellish nightmares etc, the relentless shaking, on himself. No one took him seriously when he again tried to explain his overwhelming suicidal thoughts. Believing himself to be a weak and useless person, he ended his life when trying to withdraw from Sertraline and Olanzapine
In Children of the Cure, we were also very interested to learn how the medical journals influence doctors’ prescribing by publishing ghostwritten articles. After our son’s tragic death, we were supported in our attempts to speak to the CEO of our local NHS Mental Health Trust by a trusted Consultant Physician who was appalled by the numbers of young people dying from suicide on isotretinoin. However, just when we were making some headway backed by him in our crusade, he read an article in a medical journal about the drug, suggesting that it was acne itself that caused the suicides, and that the drug in fact was saving lives. His attitude changed, he lost his resolve. We were on our own, unbelieved, yet again.
Children of the Cure, at last, gives patients and their relatives the documented truth about how Pharma really operates, how the regulators and guideline makers are not quite the safeguarders of our health that so many of us long believed them to be. And worst of all, the influence the medical journals have on our health by sleight of hand. So many of us did begin to wonder, after appalling experiences about which we were never taken seriously. But in this book we have a talisman, something to generously give to our GPs, full of facts which cannot any longer be discounted. We cannot be brushed away with lies and obfuscations any more. A much needed, carefully researched and documented book which definitely should save lives.
Heather and David Roberts set up and run the Olly’s Friendship Foundation in memory of their son Olly who was badly injured by isotretinoin – Accutane – and subsequently by a series of psychotropic drugs.