October 20

Prozac in Drinking Water / Prozac in Streams Hurt Frogs fish / Newborns suffer Withdrawal

Prozac in Drinking Water / Prozac in Streams Hurt Frogs fish / Newborns suffer Withdrawal

Tue, 10 Aug 2004

An article in the UK Observer–“Stay calm everyone, there’s Prozac in the drinking water” (below) — reports that British environmentalists are calling for an “urgent investigation into the revelations, describing the build-up of the antidepressant [Prozac] as ‘hidden mass medication’.

The article was forwarded to me by at least 12 concerned, knowledgeable people from the UK and US–their concern is justified. The UK Environment Agency has found that Prozac is building up both in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies. This is a direct result of the inordinately high quantity of antidepressants consumed and excreted into the environment.

In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey tested 139 rivers in 30 states and found that 80 percent of streams sampled by showed evidence of drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes.

In October, 2003, US scientists reported that Prozac and other pharmaceuticals were polluting US streams and affecting the development of fish and other wild life. According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, more than 61 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were prescribed by U.S. doctors in 2001. As pointed out, because prescriptions like anti-depressants are for chronic conditions, patients often take them for months and years at a time, making them more likely to build up in wastewater

CNN reported: "Researchers are working on several fronts to determine how big the problem is and just what short- and long-term ecological effects there might be on wildlife. Bryan Brooks, a toxicologist at Baylor University in Texas, discovered evidence of Prozac, an anti-depressant, in the brains, livers, and muscles of bluegill, caught downstream from the Pecan Creek Water Reclamation Plant in Denton, Texas, near Dallas"

Marsha Black, an aquatic toxicologist at the University of Georgia found that low levels of common anti-depressants, including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa, cause development problems in fish, and metamorphosis delays in frogs.

Frogs, fish and pharmaceuticals a troubling brew:

Prozac, other drugs detected in streams and their inhabitants

By Marsha Walton

Two tapdpoles after 57 days of development in the lab. The one on the right, which has yet to sprout limbs, was exposed to fluoxetine, also known as Prozac.


See also: Fish on Prozac? How depressing! Antidepressant ingredient detected in Texas lake water Dallas, MSNBC, Oct. 23 2003 http://www.msnbc.com/news/984141.asp?0sl=-10

Newborn human infants are also affected by unwanted drug effects.

Newborns have suffered from severe drug withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants that their mothers were prescribed. Since 1993, there have been numerous reports about adverse drug effects suffered by infants born to women who during pregnancy took Prozac or another of the SSRIs. See: https://ahrp.org/infomail/04/06/29.php

In August 2003, an Australian alert was issued against prescribing Prozac to pregnant women or to breastfeeding women because the drug could expose their babies to withdrawal and toxic effects. No such alert was issued by the FDA.

See: Alert over taking Prozac during pregnancy. Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2003 http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/03/1059849278453.html

In April 2004, a report by the National Toxicology Program–Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, indicated there was reason for concern about the toxic effects of Prozac on the developing human embryo. See: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/news/fluoxetine/fluoxetine_final.pdf

On June 9, 2004, an FDA advisory committee and FDA’s medical reviewer recommended that the labels of all SSRIs and SNRIs be changed to include a warning about the adverse effects suffered by newborn babies. The committee urged the FDA inform not just physicians, but pregnant women about the potential hazards these drugs pose for their developing babies. FDA had received hundreds of adverse event reports linking the drugs to jitteriness, respiratory depression, seizures, and other reactions in newborns whose mothers took the drugs in their third trimester.

See: Todd Zwillich. FDA urged to carry stronger pregnancy warnings on SSRIs. Drug Topics, Government/ Law Jul. 12, 2004;148:58. http://www.drugtopics.com/be_core/content/journals/d/data/2004/0712/d3ssri07a.html

Given the extensive body of evidence that has recently been uncovered, demonstrating that antidepressants can have serious adverse effects n children, adolescents and developing embryos, the inappropriate escalation in prescribing antidepressants (and other psychotropic drugs) for children violates the Hippocratic Oath – First, do no harm – and goes against science-based medicine.

The FDA has been dragging its feet for years. Only after evidence of SSRI harm leaked to the public, only after the British regulatory authority acted to protect children from unnecessary risk, did the FDA even bother analyzing the pediatric clinical trial data that had been submitted to the agency by drug manufacturers. In August 2003, Wyeth took the unusual step of issuing a warning to health care providers–seven months before the FDA issued a class warning about suicidality and SSRI and SNRI antidepressants. See Wyeth letter: https://ahrp.org/risks/effexorLtr082203.php

Indeed, FDA attempted to suppress the report and recommendations of its own medical expert: Dr. Andrew Mosholder, found a twofold increased risk of suicidal behavior in children who tested an SSRI in clinical trials compared to those on placebo. His findings and recommendations–to issue warnings to physicians and parents–contradicted drug industry marketing goals.

The FDA’s attempted suppression of Dr. Mosholder’s report and recommendations is an illustration of the collision between conflicting interests: Senior FDA officials abused their authority when they attempted to shield industry’s financial interests rather than act in the public interest–to protect children’s lives.

See: Drug report barred by FDA Scientist links antidepressants to suicide in kids by Rob Waters, Special to The San Chronicle Sunday, February 1, 2004 at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/02/01/MNGB64MJSP1.DTL&type=printable

As noted in the British Medical Journal, it was not until the Alliance for Human Research Protection posted the report on our website that the Mosholder report became available to the physicians and the public. AHRP did so, in order to ensure that fewer children would be put in harm’s way. See: Secret US report surfaces on antidepressants in children. BMJ. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/329/7461/307?ehom&eaf

See Dr. Andrew Mosholder’s embargoed report at: https://ahrp.org/risks/SSRImosholder/index.php

On June 28, 2004, Wyeth with the FDA issued a new MedWatch drug Alert to healthcare professionals, noting: “Neonates exposed to Effexor, other SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), or SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), late in the third trimester of pregnancy have developed complications requiring prolonged hospitalization, respiratory support, and tube feeding.” http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/SAFETY/2004/safety04.htm#effexor

The Wall Street Journal reported that a second analysis of the data was conducted by another FDA expert in collaboration with Columbia University, whom the FDA had contracted. Under the shadow of NYS Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer’s lawsuit, there was little opportunity to "massage the data." The second analysis of the pediatric SSRI clinical trials corroborated Dr. Mosholder’s findings: SSRIs pose a twofold increased suicide risk for children / adolescents compared to those given a placebo.

See: FDA Revisits Issue Of Antidepressants for Youths New Analysis May Pressure Agency to Set Limit on Use Because of Suicide Risk By Anna Wilde Mathews. The Wall Street Journal August 5, 2004, p. A1

Since the placebo effect is harmless and costs nothing, why are children being assaulted with toxic drugs that put them at increased risk of harm?

Instead of restricting the use of these drugs in children­as Britain and the European Union have done–US mental health policies seem Hell bent on increasing the use of psychotropic drugs in children and adults. The ever expanding US psychiatric industry is churning out one after another dubious “finding” based on the DSM IV diagnostic manual to promote the expansion of mental health services and increased drug use.

According to a survey published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, “31 million people, or 15 percent of the adult population, suffer from at least one type of personality disorder.” An example cited: “Miserly spending habits are tied in with the obsessive-compulsive personality. They have a compulsion to hang onto money.”

The last mental disorders list that I saw, called "the urge to shop" a disorderŠ.whatever your predilection, expect some mental health professional to determine– it’s a disorder.

The "study" is not a Monty Python spoof. The author is chief of the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – which means taxpayers paid for it. Such psychiatric expansionist "findings" don’t even merit the classification of pseudo-science – this is pure and simple turf expansionism. See: Personality Disorders Common in U.S. Survey finds 31 million American adults have at least one By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay Reporter. http://www.healthday.com/view.cfm?id=520521

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Tel: 212-595-8974

The Observer
Stay calm everyone, there’s Prozac in the drinking water
Mark Townsend
Sunday August 8, 2004

It should make us happy, but environmentalists are deeply alarmed: Prozac, the anti-depression drug, is being taken in such large quantities that it can now be found in Britain’s drinking water. Environmentalists are calling for an urgent investigation into the revelations, describing the build-up of the antidepressant as ‘hidden mass medication’. The Environment Agency has revealed that Prozac is building up both in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies.

The government’s chief environment watchdog recently held a series of meetings with the pharmaceutical industry to discuss any repercussions for human health or the ecosystem. The discovery raises fresh fears that GPs are overprescribing Prozac, Britain’s antidepressant of choice. In the decade up to 2001, overall prescriptions of antidepressants rose from nine million to 24 million a year.

A recent report by the Environment Agency concluded Prozac could be potentially toxic in the water table and said the drug was a ‘potential concern’. However, the precise quantity of Prozac in the nation’s water supplies remains unknown. The government’s Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said Prozac was likely to be found in a considerably ‘watered down’ form that was unlikely to pose a health risk.

Dr Andy Croxford, the Environment’s Agency’s policy manager for pesticides, told The Observer: ‘We need to determine the effects of this low-level, almost continuous discharge.’ Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat’s environment spokesman, said the revelations exposed a failing by the government on an important public health issue. He added that the public should be told if they were inadvertently taking drugs like Prozac.

‘This looks like a case of hidden mass medication upon the unsuspecting public,’ Baker said. ‘It is alarming that there is no monitoring of levels of Prozac and other pharmacy residues in our drinking water.’ Experts say that Prozac finds its way into rivers and water systems from treated sewage water. Some believe the drugs could affect their reproductive ability.

European studies have also expressed disquiet over the impact of pharmaceuticals building up in the environment, warning that an effect on wildlife and human health ‘cannot be excluded’. ‘It is extremely unlikely that there is a risk, as such drugs are excreted in very low concentrations,’ a DWI spokesman said. ‘Advanced treatment processes installed for pesticide removal are effective in removing drug residues,’ he added.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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