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Did Attacks on Prozac Cost a Psychiatrist a New Job?

A psychiatrist and critic of antidepressant drugs is suing the University of Toronto and an affiliated mental health center for breach of contract, after the center rescinded a job offer to him. The suit, filed in Toronto on 24 September, seeks reinstatement of the job offer, at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), or $9.4 million in lost salary and damages for libel.

David Healy, an expert in psychopharmacology at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff, has testified as an expert witness for plaintiffs claiming injury from antidepressant drugs like Prozac and other so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In August 2000, CAMH offered him a job as clinical director of its mood and anxiety disorders program and professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. But after hearing Healy give a talk in Toronto on 30 November, where he linked antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs to brain injury and suicide, CAMH officials had second thoughts and less than a week later retracted the job offer.

Healy says his academic freedom was violated, and he filed a lawsuit to that effect. Colleagues have been supportive. Last month 30 scientists--including Nobelists Arvid Carlsson and Julius Axelrod--complained to the university that the case was an "affront" to academic freedom. Healy says that university officials may be trying to assuage Eli Lilly and Co., the maker of Prozac, which in recent years has given $1.5 million to CAMH. CAMH officials have denied that their actions have any financial motive.

Jack Barchas, chair of the psychiatry department of Cornell University Medical School in New York City, says that Healy has done "superb" work on the history of psychopharmacology but that his claims about SSRIs are "not convincing." Healy says that "confidentiality orders" prevent him from revealing data to support his position.

Related site

The David Healy Affair

Posted in Scientific Community