It's always difficult taking the step into the world of blogging, particularly when one finds an unscrupulous opposition in GlaxoSmithKline. Let's face it, we've seen their complete disregard for children with the whole Study 329, we've even seen how they, seemingly, bully anyone who files a suit against them, Wendy Dolin currently feeling the wrath of Glaxo's American defence attorney's, King & Spalding.
There were very few people writing about the perils of Seroxat when I started researching the drug 10 years ago ~ a forum was in place called Paxil Progress (PP) , it has since been removed. (PP) is where I first came into contact with The Truthman, although his 'handle' was different to the one that we've all come accustomed to these days.
His blog is brilliantly titled "GSK: Licence to (K)ill" and has been running now for around 9 years.
I've met the Truthman, in fact I'm one of the very few who know who he actually is. He's become a major force over the years and now, it would appear, he is the pit-stop for Glaxo employees, past and present, wishing to spill the beans on activities that include bribery, off-label marketing and plant violations.
Truthman and I always correspond, he'll often give me a heads-up in what's about to be published - in fact over the past few months or so we have been both reading documents that were sent to the Truthman from an alleged GSK whistleblower from the Yemen - keep your eyes on the Truthman's blog (link at the foot of his Q&A's) for an explosive revelation that GSK have been keeping out of the press.
The world needs more Truthman's, a shy unassuming young man with a courageous heart and an inbuilt empathy that shows just how effective one can be when they are passionate about seeking justice for those harmed by Glaxo's powerful antidepressant Seroxat.
Here's the Truthman's Q&A's...
Full name: Truthman30
Location: A chilly island
Q: Truthman, first off, the burning question that I'm sure will be of interest to readers. Why do you choose to remain anonymous when writing?
A: Good question, there was no reason in particular as to why I started writing anonymously, it just happened like that- however I think it has been good in a way because some of the topics that I deal with perhaps I can do better by writing anonymously. Also, I am actually very shy... but who knows, maybe some time in the future, I will not write anonymously.
Q: Your blog has a brilliant name ~ GSK Licence To Kill. Can you tell me why you came up with that name?
A: I called the blog GSK licence to (K) ill because I was a big fan of 'The Beastie Boys' growing up and they had an album called 'Licence to ill'. I believe that GSK have a licence to kill with drugs like Seroxat (Paxil) and many people have died because of that drug (and other GSK products) and many more have been harmed and maimed. So the name of the blog is quite accurate I think, and also it's a pun on GSK having a licence to make you ill too, as you would know from taking Seroxat yourself- it's a drug that makes people very ill.
Q: Tell me about your experience with Seroxat (Paxil)
A: Where do I start? Well, I was prescribed it initially for depression in my early twenties but the side effects almost killed me. I had a seriously debilitating withdrawal and at least 6 years of my life were taken from me due to being on the drug and suffering multitudes of side effects on a daily basis (suicidal thoughts, self harm, violent urges, personality changes, akathisia, etc etc) then through a withdrawal that lasted at least 18 months, and then of course the 'recovery time'. The loss from a severe Seroxat reaction is incalculable, the side effects are inhumane. I am sure that some people don't fully recover from a severe reaction like I had, I still get some weird lingering symptoms.
Q: On average, how much time do you spend with work that relates to your blog?
A: Another good question, I would spend often at least 3 hours a day, but it depends on what research I am doing, often I have done much more.
Q: You started writing about a year or so after I created this blog. Back then there was hardly any negative news that surfaced on Google with regards to how dangerous Seroxat can be. Why have you persevered so long with your blog?
A: There was a good bit about Seroxat's under its US trade name- Paxil but yeah not a lot on Seroxat really back then. I first got involved with researching Seroxat through the Paxil Progress forums (which is now gone unfortunately). I don't really know why I have persevered, I suppose the blog just morphed into something bigger than my own personal experience with Seroxat. I also believe that Seroxat is the canary in the coalmine when it comes to dodgy drugs on the market therefore its hugely important to keep bringing awareness.
Q: If you could pick just one story on your blog where you felt you were starting to make a difference, what story would that be?
A: Difficult question, there are so many threads and stories over the years which I was interested in. I guess one which seemed to garner a lot of hits and still does was my post on 'SSRI's and Emotional Blunting'. People still seem to find it through Google when they are looking for answers about an adverse reaction they are having on an SSRI and they seem to identify strongly with it. I think in general my blog has made a difference, like yours has also, but often it's difficult to measure the difference, we can only guess, however I suspect both of our blogs have made a bigger impact than we could ever really imagine.
Q: Would you recommend writing a blog or public diary to people who had suffered severed antidepressant withdrawal events?
A: Absolutely yes, I think blogging, or writing in general can be very cathartic, whether that's just writing on your interests, or personal experiences, for expression, activism or whatever, it's all a good process for the mind, or at least it is for me.
Q: Your blog seems to be very attractive to whistleblowers of late. Can you tell me a little bit about the whistleblowers who have contacted you over the past few years or so and also what they are alleging?
A: Well, I have been in contact with several, or should I say they have been in contact with me (they initiate it- I don't). They come mostly from lower down the food chain in the GSK corporate machine- drug reps etc. Mostly they seem to be very unhappy with the way GSK behaves internationally, and the genuine ones (some are not so genuine but most are) seem seriously concerned about the impact that unethical behavior has on consumers of GSK products. GSK's unethical behavior is global. I recently had a whistle-blower alleging that GSK have a 'ticking time bomb' in their global manufacturing because of their failure to comply with proper health and safety regulations in the production line. These allegations would echo previous allegations from a separate whistle-blower who contacted me last year about asbestos contamination in a GSK plant in Sligo, Ireland. And of course, there are the current allegations which I am investigating from a whistleblower who contacted me in Yemen. Stay tuned for that one...
Q: Have you ever considered writing a book about your journey?
A: I have , but the blog takes up most of my writing head space at the moment.
Q: What do you say to people who believe that antidepressants are safe and effective?
A: I say, that's nonsense.
They aren't even really 'anti' depressants at all. To say that an SSRI is an 'anti-depressant' implies it's similar to an 'antibiotic' or 'anti-viral' drug. They aren't, in fact they are more like hypnotic - narcotics. The so called benefits are no different to what we would term 'street drugs' in the sense that they create an altered state, however they have no medicinal qualities. They are not safe, nor are they effective. The reason why they appear to me effective for some, is the same reason why alcohol or cigarettes appear to help some people with their nerves etc. If you drug someone they will feel different, and they will rely on the drug as a crutch. These are extremely unsafe drugs too.
Q: If you could ask GSK's Andrew Witty three questions what would they be?
1. How do you sleep at night?
2. How much would you be worth if you were penniless tomorrow?
3. Is Seroxat safe and effective, and if you think it is - prove it.
Q: Do you think that Seroxat and other SSRis need to be banned or do you feel that they do benefit some people?
A: I think Seroxat should be banned yes, and all the SSRI's should be severely restricted until full reviews are taken into their effects. I think they could be useful (in the sense that Valium and sleeping tablets are useful) but in the short term only and with very close supervision by experienced medical professionals. I feel that any perceived benefit is because of the 'emotional blunting' aspect, but it's debatable whether that's really 'beneficial' - particularly long term.
Q: For you, what is the most frustrating part about being a patient advocate?
A: The most frustrating part is how slow change comes.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Woah.. I have no idea! Hopefully not blogging about Seroxat and GSK! But who knows!
Q: Finally Truthman, some personal questions...
1. What book are you currently reading?
Not reading currently anything really, although I read (a novel called) 'A short history of tractors in Ukranian' last Summer and I thought it was hilarious, very sharp and well written.
2. What was the last CD you listened to (in full)?
Chequerboard- 'The Unfolding'
3. What is the best movie you have seen this year?
Dallas Buyers Club
4. What country would you most like to visit?
So many. I'd like to see some of India.
5. If you had the choice of being either a defence or prosecution lawyer, which would you choose and why?
A defence lawyer, I'd choose that because I am drawn to fighting for the underdog. However I couldn't defend someone if I knew they were wrong, so I don't think the legal profession would suit me! I'll stick to blogging for the time being!
GSK: Licence to (K)ill
Q&A With Ablechild's Sheila Matthews-Gallo
Q&A With Leonie Fennell