“Doc! His wife is on the phone, screaming obscenities, and says wants to talk to you. Apparently he tried killing himself last night.”
I was wary.
She was not my patient. They were in the midst of a bitter, ultra nasty divorce. I could not share information with her. Why was she calling?
There had to be an ulterior motive.
“Please find out what she wants.” I did not want to talk to the woman if I could avoid it.
A few minutes passed while I worked on other patient medication refills. Eventually the secretary stuck her head into my office.
“Uh, doc? She says she is going to sue you for malpractice.” My heart started pounding.
“She says you are responsible for her husband’s attempted suicide because of the medication you prescribed….”
And the accusations, since dismissed by the court, that he was molesting the children had nothing to so with it? The revelation that she had had sex with other men repeatedly in the bed she shared with him did not affect him one iota? And the newest allegations of marital rape held no sway over his state of mind?
His life was falling apart when he came to see me. He was at risk of losing his job, his kids, everything. I had known him for a couple of years, watched him get married and become a wonderful young man and father. He was broken that day. He sobbed, begging me to help him.
We picked an SSRI. I don’t remember if it was Paxil or something else.
At the time I told him that he had to also start counseling and he would have to return to see me in two weeks time.
I sat in my office knowing I had done the best that I could but not being able to shake the feeling of guilt, nonetheless. Was it the drug? Did I do something wrong?
He survived but he was not the only one with this story. I saw it with other drugs in this class. It has since become a well established fact that these medications cause an increased risk of suicide in teenagers and young adults.
Then, this article came out last week in the Atlantic. The data from a 2001 clinical trial paid for by Glaxo, the pharmaceutical company marketing the drug Paxil, was reexamined and showed that not only was Paxil not effective, it was not safe. The increased risk of suicide was hidden, labeling it as other less serious side effects.