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Thursday, June 7, 2007

He should not be allowed to harm anyone else: Drug study and schizophrenia

Susan Endersbe battled depression her whole life. When her illness worsened, she would check into a hospital. When she did so at age 40 in May 1994, doctors at the Minnesota hospital gave her an anti-depressant, and three weeks later she said she was ready to leave soon.

The next day she was referred to a doctor who enrolled her in a drug study he was paid to conduct, though her suicidal tendencies should have excluded her. He stopped giving her the anti-depressant, and then she had to wait two weeks before getting an experimental drug or placebo.

During those two weeks, the doctor recorded her adverse effects as "0," though nurses documented a steady decline. Susan expressed reservations about being part of a drug study, telling a hospital worker, "I guess I didn’t understand that I would be going off all my other medications."

She spoke repeatedly of killing herself. But on June 10 the doctor wrote that she was "medically improving," and cleared her to visit her apartment alone, though leaving the hospital violated the study’s rules and she had mentioned suicide the night before.

She walked home, and committed suicide the next day.

Her brother learned that the doctor has since been receiving money from drug companies, overseeing clinical trials. Stunned to hear this, he said, "He should not be allowed to harm anyone else."

Indeed, this doctor, and many others in Minnesota, had received money to conduct drug studies even after formal disciplinary efforts by the state board of medicine.

Advice: In considering your participation in a drug study, find out whether you can keep taking your other medicines.

Read another story on this topic, or read the source story in Sunday’s New York Times.

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