What Was Cho Seung-Hui On?

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The Times reported that Cho Seung-Hui was taking a psychoactive medication. Was it an antidepressant? No doubt antidepressants save many lives, but they also cause side effects. Psychiatrists know that in a percentage of patients, they trigger mania, exacerbate delusional thinking, and agitate suicidal ideation. [See NIH links for data]. In short, they sometimes push troubled people over the edge. Antidepressant manufacturers years ago actually teamed up with district attorneys to make sure the Zoloft defense didn’t fly. As Rob Waters reported:

In the early 1990s, Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, started the practice of aiding district attorneys who were prosecuting defendants who blamed the drug for their acts of violence. Lawyers for Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, later created a “prosecutor’s manual” for the same purpose.

The Zoloft manual itself is a closely held secret — and Pfizer has fought hard to keep it that way.

In 2001, a widow sued Pfizer because her husband shot and killed himself after six days on Zoloft. Her lawyers discovered in Pfizer’s records a reference to a document called “prosecutor’s manual,” and requested a copy.

Pfizer fought the request, claiming it was privileged information between the company and its attorneys. The judge allowed the manual to be introduced — noting it was designed to prevent “harm to Pfizer’s reputation” if a defendant successfully raised “a Zoloft causation defense” — but he agreed to thereafter seal the manual and keep it out of the public record.

James Hooper, an attorney for Pfizer, says that “in rare cases”” the company’s attorneys have provided the manual to prosecutors if a defendant “is attempting to blame some sort of criminal behavior on the medicine.” Read on…..

Let’s be clear: Cho may not have not been on antidepressants. If the Times was right that he took a pill around 5 a.m. on Monday, it might have been something else. But it will be interesting to find out.

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