Gone too Soon: A Sister Lost to Antidepressants

"My sister Lori died suddenly on Sept. 22, 1981. She was 25 years old. I always knew my Sister’s sudden death was suspicious. I had searched for years for the answers to why, which included contacting the police department and studying the report several times! Someone or something did this to her, she would not have killed herself! This I knew for sure! I would sit in the driveway where she lost her life and look at our house many times over and say how did you sit here, looking at our family's home with your daughter, niece, sisters, and parents sleeping inside, how how could you have done this to us...and yourself?!"

Questions and Answers

by Trung Nguyen

Can you tell us what happened to your sister Lorraine (Lori)?

What happened to my sister was that out of the blue she started talking about dying and killing herself. Also, as she did this she would laugh and say, “I don't know why I'm thinking like this or saying these things. You don't have to worry. I would never do anything. I'm too chicken, and if I did do it, I wouldn't want it to hurt.”

She then began to act very strange, like she was on illicit drugs or something. My sister did not smoke or do illicit drugs. She would ask me to help her commit suicide and think of ways I could help her, such as putting a belt around her neck. She would say, "Here now, pull until I can't breathe anymore or come suffocate me in my sleep." To name just a few.

Nothing made sense. She started losing a lot of weight. She did not want to eat, get out of bed, etc.

Then suddenly one morning I went out to the school bus and saw her lying with our father’s gun in her lap, mouth slightly open, and dripping with blood. There was a trail of blood where she fell in the car, slumped over to the passenger side of her Buick.

We had no answers!

How long was your sister on Imipramine (Tofranil, also known as melipramine), an anti-depressant, for before she started acting erratically ?

From start to finish it was about a month. She started the drug on Aug. 18, 1981. Then stopped. She told a friend, "I don't like how this medicine is making me feel. I’m not taking it anymore." She stopped cold-turkey.

On Sept. 22, 1981, she shot herself in the head at 1 AM.

She was found at 7 AM and announced dead at 8:32 AM.

Her suspicious suicide was just recently solved.

Based on what you know, do you think there was a causal link between your sister's suicide and the medication she had been on?

Yes, definitely there was a link. Not only do I know, I saw first hand all the side-effects listed on this drug today and witnessed my sister go through them!

At the time we didn't know the drug she was taking was causing her symptoms. She did not even know why she was saying bizarre things and acting like she did. She didn't understand why she was feeling worse! Then she abruptly stopped taking the drug.

No one at the time connected the side-effects with her erratic behavior because there was no reason to even think there was a link. The drug she was on was a prescription drug, prescribed by a medical doctor, that was supposed to be SAFE according to the FDA.

Today we all know differently! However, 1981 we did not have the Internet, and ways to research issues my sister had while she was on the drug. Back in 1981, when loved ones died, families were left in shock and carried on with no answers!

It was cruel and unfair to ruin lives for profit!

When you surmised that there was a link between the antidepressant and your sister's suicide, who did you tell? What were their reactions?

After I had put it all together, I was shocked! But relieved to finally, after all these years, have the answers to my sister's erratic behavior.

I told just about everyone I knew back then. I went on to look for the doctors, medical professionals, etc., who were involved. I also made a trip to the police station down the street and talked to an officer who had been at the scene. Like me, he had remembered the incident like it was yesterday!

I even went to a lawyer to see if there was any justice that could be served for Lori and for US--her family! They told me that even if I was right there wasn't much they could do--they did believe me with all the proof (paper evidence, medication bottles, etc.). Back in 1981, the antidepressant drugs were in dark, opaque plastic bottles with twist-off caps. The patient’s name was hand-written on a label taped to the bottle. That was how they used to do it in 1981, before computers came on the scene. I still have Lori's medication bottle today! I even still have the paperwork from the professionals she had seen, the bills that were paid, etc.

At any rate, the lawyers told me that even if I was 100% correct--that there was a causal relationship between antidepressants and my sister’s suicide, the statute of limitations was only 2 years! So I tried to get THE TRUTH out within 2 years but I was almost 3 decades late. In 1981, we did not have the Internet and access to information like we do today.

I told my family about the for-profit pharmaceutical industry, and my mother said, “You mean she died because people were greedy and had to make money!” My mother said those words in the same living room where she had been notified of her daughter’s death.

And I said, “Yes.” The pharmaceutical industry had to make a profit at the expense of human lives. "

My mom passed away 3 months later. I was glad I was able to provide closure for Lori’s death. My mom's wish was to be buried with my sister, and that’s what we did for her.

Before she passed away I placed my sister's picture on her chest and my father placed his cross over the picture. As my mom took her last breaths, I said to her, “It is okay to go be with Lori now. We have the truth and we will be okay.”

And my mom passed away

It appears you've done a lot of research into the causal relationship between that particular medication and your sister's death. What information did you uncover that you'd want the public to know about?

See, the thing is the public has access to information today that we did not in 1981. Now thanks to computers, the Internet, and the families who came forward to the FDA—there are groups now fighting to get certain antidepressants off the market. However, they only succeeded in getting a BLACK BOX WARNING on those drugs, like the one my sister was on! But there were no black box warnings in 1981.

Once I had put it all together in 2009 it was easy to verify the research. There were no warnings on these drugs when my sister lost her life in 1981! The drug companies failed to warn of the dangerous side-effects! That was wrong! And yes they had known since 1950 according to my “Klein and Fink” research. http://www.ssristories.com

So many lives have been needlessly lost, but at least since 2004 the black box warnings have been placed on these antidepressants! The side-effects can inflict anyone! We need to get the age limit up to 24 years old changed to ALL AGES!

I have also been trying, but have not yet succeeded, to find other families from my time era who have lost someone like we lost our Lori—lost their loved ones to the concealed side-effects of this drug and others. But you see, their families, like ours, would have never thought it could be linked to a drug prescribed by a medical doctor (MD)—the drug that was supposed to help her with “situational anxiety.” At the time, she was going through a divorce, as many of us have gone through! I'd like to find these families, and along the way tell, my sister’s story. They all deserve to have closure for the loss of their loved ones.

We were in the dark for decades. It was cruel and unfair. Not only did we suffer the loss of a loved one, but we never had answers!

When you say that the drug companies knew since the 1950s of the link between their drugs and suicides, can you elaborate on the research that you've uncovered? What information surfaced in the 1950s?

“Antidepressants have been recognized as potential inducers of mania and psychosis since their introduction in the 1950s. Klein and Fink (1) described psychosis as an adverse effect of the older tricyclic antidepressant Imipramine. Since the introduction of Prozac in December, 1987, there has been a massive increase in the number of people taking antidepressants. Preda and Bowers (2) reported that over 200,000 people a year in the U.S. enter a hospital with antidepressant-associated mania and/or psychosis. The subsequent harm from this prescribing can be seen in these 4,800+ stories at http://www.ssristories.com .”

So knowing what you know, do you consider pharmaceutical drugs to be a consumer product? Similar to a can of coca-cola or chicken soup? Have you personally talked to other victims of antidepressants?

Yes, I do consider antidepressants as consumer products and, yes, I have talked to other victims of antidepressants. I have come across many stories similar to Lori’s, like the Candace Downing Story. Then there was another story about a volunteer in a drug study who was left in the lab alone over the weekend. The researchers came back and found her hanging from the shower. She had been a perfectly healthy young woman with no history or sign of depression. Her name was Traci. Another story is Gwen Olsen’s niece, who lost her life because of antidepressants. There are many more similar stories at
www.ssristories.com

I just think the difference between these stories and mine was that in 1981 there were no warning labels or black box warnings. However, even the warnings on them now are insufficient and the loss of lives continue. It is just very, very sad.

I know for a fact my sister would be here today had she not been put on a drug that was supposed to “help” the anxiety she had experienced during her divorce. SHE NEVER ONCE SPOKE OF HURTING HERSELF OR DYING before she took the drug.

I vividly remember her expression when she didn’t understand why she was feeling worse and saying things so out of character. I never once connected her “mental” status to the drug. However, Lori did connect the “physical” symptoms from the drug and this is why she stopped taking it.

Her life could have been saved if only someone who knew about these side-effects stepped forward. But, again, in 1981 it was a different time—no Internet and readily available access to information. Today, at least people can research things and draw their own conclusions.

The shattered glass still lies on the side of our driveway from the window my dad had to break to get into Lori's car so long ago.... no one ever cleaned it up. There it lies as just another reminder of a morning and time that should never have happened.

Lives were destroyed and I feel someone should be held accountable, not only the loss of Lorraine’s life, but others as well.

The pharmaceutical companies still sell these drugs, so from your perspective what does that say about Big Pharma?

The pharmaceutical industry has known about the side-effects of these drugs, and similar ones since the early 1950s. They chose to conceal the safety information that could have saved lives. They chose to say nothing. Saying something might have meant less revenue or profit. They chose profit before lives. I feel that they cannot take these drugs off the market now because so many people are on them for one reason or another, and not just for depression or mental illness, but for a host of minor problems. The off-label use has become an issue (starting, stopping, and changing the dose up or down can have serious consequences).

So imagine if the pharmaceutical industry suddenly took all their drugs off the market-- the world would be turned upside-down, meaning the people on them and have been on them, or even just starting them, would suffer the severe or even fatal consequences of withdrawal symptoms.

Imipramine and Suicides:

Your healthcare provider should monitor you (or your child) carefully when you are first starting an antidepressant. You should also be watchful for any signs of suicidal behavior. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you (or your child) have any of the following:

*Thoughts about death or
*committing suicide, Suicide attempts,
*Depression or anxiety that is new or worse,
*Agitation, restlessness, or panic attacks

*Trouble sleeping (insomnia),
*Irritability that is new or worse,
*Aggressive, angry, or violent behavior,
*Acting on dangerous impulses,
*Unusually increased talking or activity
*Akathisia

An analysis of a large clinical trial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 estimated that up to 35 percent of people taking antipsychotic drugs experience akathisia.
.
Symptoms include:

Fidgety movements*,
Leg swinging while sitting*,
Rocking from foot to foot or pacing*,
Motor restlessness; inability to sit still*,
Feelings of anxiety*, Insomnia*.

The combination of these symptoms and depression and impulsiveness may also contribute to aggression and suicide in some patients.

Other strange changes in mood or behavior. (* I put a star next to every side effect she had!)

BLACK BOX WARNING (2004)

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/psn/transcript.cfm?show=34 Today we have commercials warning of these dangers. We also have computers where we can do our own research. Back then, we had nothing! Some say maybe no-one knew back then… Not true! Facts below:

Pharmacosis:

* The first descriptions of a drug causing suicide came in 1955. A few years later in 1958 and again in 1959 the problem was described with imipramine.
* Treatment induced suicide became a prominent media issue in 1990 with a paper by Teicher and Cole. (MY SISTER DID NOT HAVE TO DIE!)
*It was not until 2004 that regulators and companies conceded that these drugs can cause a problem.


Imipramine (Tofranil), also known as melipramine, is an a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) of the dibenzazepine group. Imipramine is mainly used in the treatment of major depression and enuresis (inability to control urination).
It has also been evaluated for use in panic disorde

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