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Healy vs. University of Toronto


Scientist stands by views of drugs after settling lawsuit with U of T

A prominent British psychiatrist who found his offer of a post at a University of Toronto teaching hospital rescinded after he criticized a popular form of antidepressants says he stands by his controversial view of the drugs. Dr. David Healy said he continues to believe that Prozac and other drugs of its class — known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — can be addictive and cause suicidal tendencies in some people.

“My views haven’t changed at all,” said Healy, who recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the university and the hospital, the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

“I think the SSRIs can make people suicidal. I think you can get physically dependent on them and can have a withdrawal problem. You may not be able to stop. Full stop.”

Healy, who teaches at the University of Wales, made the comments at a news conference Thursday, his first since he settled his $9.4-million lawsuit against the university and hospital.

The settlement, many of the terms of which remain undisclosed, has resulted in the university offering Healy a visiting professorship which will see him spend a week a year at the University of Toronto for several years, beginning next spring.

Healy launched the lawsuit after the university withdrew in November 2000 a five-year job offer to run the centre’s mood and anxiety program.

“I bore no ill will towards them,” he insisted Thursday. “And clearly the process going on too violently or too long wouldn’t do them any good, wouldn’t do me any good.”

That’s because Healy has other issues he wants to bring to the public’s attention, such as the way drug companies selectively release safety and efficacy data on drugs and use ghost writers to author articles on their drugs for submission to scientific journals.

“And there’s a real hazard that I go on about these things and the legal action was still there, people would say: “Well, we don’t need to pay any heed to that. He’s just saying this because he’s trying to sue the University of Toronto.”

“If I want people to listen to some of the other things, it seemed to be a good idea, (especially) when people on the other side (the university) were being reasonable and weren’t awful people.