Minister organizes bid to have Prozac taken off market — (York Daily Record)

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York Daily Record (PA)

January 28, 1993

Author: ANDREW COMPART, Daily Record staff writer

Motivated by her daughter’s suicide, a Nebraska pastor has enlisted five other ministers nationwide in her battle against what she believes to be dangerous psychiatric drugs.

She found one of those ministers in York County.

The Rev. Jim Nicholls, an independent minister in Windsor Township, said he joined the newly formed Psychiatric Drugs Awareness Coalition because of stories he’s been told of problems with drugs such as Prozac, an anti-depressant.

“I have been involved in speaking out against Godless psychiatry,” said the host of WGCB-TV’s “Voice of Freedom,” a religious talk show the Red Lion station (Ch. 49) beams nationwide.

Nicholls said he does not totally discount the value of psychiatric drugs, but he is leery of their usefulness and considers much of psychiatry to be “a tool of Satan.”

More testing of the drugs is needed, he said, and “if they are of value, they need to be he handed out under strict supervision.”

The ecumenical coalition of clergy was launched this week by the Rev. N. Joan Ranney, a United Methodist minister in Omaha, Neb. Her daughter, diagnosed with depression, committed suicide Oct. 27. The 28-year-old had been taking Prozac since January.

Having researched the drug since then, Ranney concluded Prozac “was associated quite strongly with her death. She had become a legal druggie, and I was not aware of it.”

Her coalition’s first goal is to get Prozac taken off the market.

The controversy over Prozac – used by more than 3 million people in the United States – began several years ago and has not abated.

As of September 1991, the Food and Drug Administration had received more than 14,000 reports of adverse reactions from Prozac since it was introduced on the market in 1987; more than 500 of the reports involved suicide attempts.

However, in September 1991, a panel of experts told the FDA there is no sound scientific evidence to conclude that Prozac or any other anti-depressant causes suicide or other violent behavior. Mental health professionals noted that depression by itself can be a lethal disease if left untreated.

“I think that (Prozac) has saved the lives of many people,” Mary Ellen Rehrman, of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Pennsylvania, said Wednesday. Any psychiatric drug can be misused, she said, but “the problem isn’t with the drugs; the problem is with how they’re prescribed and monitored.”

Rehrman, director of policy, said the way to prevent misuse is through better education of drug providers and users, not through bans.

Ranney said she is not against all psychiatric drugs, which she sees as the only way to help people in some cases. She’s even willing to back off the demand that Prozac be taken off the market entirely, if patients are told about all its potential side effects and it is used only as a last resort.

“I definitely feel that psychiatry is good,” Ranney said, noting pastors do a lot of counseling of parishioners.

Janney said she contacted Nicholls for the coalition because of his membership on the Prozac Survivors Support Group, a Church of Scientology-affiliated organization based in California. Nicholls said he is not a Scientologist but supports some of their causes.

The other ministers in the coalition are from Nebraska, Indiana and California. Ranney said the coalition’s next step would be to expand its membership.

Nicholls CORRECTION, Jan. 29, 1993-Because of incorrect information supplied to the Daily Record, the affiliation of the Prozac Survivors Support Group was misidentified in this story. The group in Clovis, Cal., is independently run, according to Guy McConnell, its national director. It is open to anyone who has experienced an adverse reaction to the drug or who knows some- one who has had such an experience.

Record Number:  1993028067