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CCHR Issues Alert on Mortality Risk of Psychiatric Drugs After Researcher Estimates They Are Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

Hospital records and coroners’ reports often record deaths linked to prescription drugs as due to natural or unknown causes, rather than from the adverse effects of the drugs – especially psychiatric drug-related deaths, a leading researcher says.

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is alerting the public to the risks of adverse effects from psychiatric drugs that may result in death, after a leading medical researcher estimated that psychiatric drugs are the third most common cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

In an article published by the Brownstone Institute, Peter Gøtzsche, MD, director of the Institute for Scientific Freedom and a former professor of clinical research design and analysis at the University of Copenhagen, writes that “in hospital records and coroners’ reports, deaths linked to prescription drugs are often considered to be from natural or unknown causes,” rather than from the adverse effects of the drugs. He adds that “this misconception is particularly common for deaths caused by psychiatric drugs.”

By way of example, he says that when young patients taking antipsychotic drugs die suddenly, it is typically considered a natural death. However, he counters that it is not natural for young people to die and that antipsychotics are known to carry the risk of fatal heart arrhythmias.

Gotzsche says his analysis corrects for the limitations, biases, missing data, and lack of sufficient patient follow-up in published placebo-controlled, randomized studies that report deaths from psychiatric drug use. Because young people have a much lower risk of death than the elderly, the analysis focuses on estimating a death rate in people aged 65 and older. He says his approach was conservative, as his estimates do not include psychiatric drug-related deaths occurring in hospitals or in those under the age of 65. 

Gotzsche used data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and from published research studies for three classes of psychiatric drugs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and antianxiety/hypnotic drugs. He estimates that for each of these drug classes, the drugs cause the death of two in every 100 older patients each year in the U.S., for an annual mortality rate of 2%.  He notes that patients taking several psychiatric drugs are at an even greater risk of death.

“I therefore do not doubt that psychiatric drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” he wrote.

Currently, nearly 11 million Americans aged 65 and older are on antidepressants, over 2 million are on antipsychotics, and 8.5 million are on antianxiety drugs. Many are taking more than one psychiatric drug or drugs in more than one psychiatric drug class.  Gotzsche’s estimates suggest several hundred thousand deaths annually among older Americans could rightly be attributed to psychiatric drugs.

In criticizing the inaction of lawmakers on what he says are preventable deaths, Gotzsche writes, “If such a hugely lethal pandemic had been caused by a microorganism, we would have done everything we could to get it under control.”

Citizens Commission on Human Rights continues to advocate for a government investigation on the dangers of psychiatric drugs and to raise public awareness of the risks of the drugs.

Because consumers can only make fully informed decisions about taking or discontinuing psychiatric drugs when they are given accurate information about the known risks of the drugs, CCHR encourages patients to insist on getting full disclosure of those risks and to discuss those risks with their prescribers.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

About the company: The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health.

Contact Info:
Name: Anne Goedeke
Email: Send Email
Organization: Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office
Address: Washington, DC
Phone: 202-349-9267

Video URL:

Release ID: 89127988

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