Open letter to Kamal Ahmed, Political Editor, The Observer, re his article "Britons swallow cure-all drugs"

I welcome your article's support for the Liberal Democrat's campaign on the issue of the increasing cost of drugs to the NHS. There is a political dimension to the over-medicalisation of personal and social problems.

Of course, people have always sought to bolster and restore their health and have not always taken a rational approach to this key problem of life. Quackery was profitable because sufferers believed in the cures for their ailments. The safety and effectiveness of modern medicines is regulated, but there are biases towards the interests of industry and trade against the interests of patients and public health.

You give the example of people who are left on "prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac for longer than they need" and suggest this is "because overworked GPs find it easier to offer repeat prescriptions than alternative forms of treatment". I do think the issue of reliance on antidepressant medication is important and have developed the Antidepressant Discontinuation Reactions website. The problem of antidepressant discontinuation is real. The cost of antidepressants is significant. For example, paroxetine, an SSRI antidepressant, was the drug with the greatest net ingredient cost to the NHS in England in 2000

You may be interested in the Critical Psychiatry Network ( This group of psychiatrists provides a network to develop a critique of the contemporary psychiatric system, which is dominated by biomedicine. It currently has a campaign against pharmaceutical company sponsorship of psychiatric conferences and educational activities (see Guardian article).

Duncan Double
Consultant Psychiatrist