for inquiry into Seroxat
16, 2003 - Source:
the world's biggest-selling antidepressant, should be withdrawn
while its safety is fully investigated, advises a coroner who recorded
an open verdict on a man who killed himself within a fortnight of
starting a course of the drug.
Brecon coroner, Geraint Williams, said he would be writing to the
Department of Health about his finding that Seroxat led to Colin
Whitfield, 56, a retired headteacher, taking his own life.
have grave concerns that this is a dangerous drug that should be
withdrawn until at least detailed national studies are undertaken,"
he told the court on Tuesday.
is my intention to write to the Department of Health and to the
secretary of state to ask him to hold an urgent inquiry into Seroxat
and consider whether it should be withdrawn from sale in the UK.
am profoundly disturbed by the effect this drug had on Colin Whitfield."
indicated that Mr Whitfield suffered a change of personality after
starting to take the drug.
whose generic name is paroxetine, is in the class of drugs, with
Prozac, termed SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
It has overtaken Prozac in sales. Both drugs are prescribed mainly
by GPs. There have been several strongly contested legal cases in
the US against makers of SSRIs after suicides among those taking
the drugs over a couple of weeks, or even days.
two years ago, the former SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline)
was ordered by a Wyoming jury to pay £4.7m to the family of
Donald Schell, who killed his wife, daughter, baby grand daughter
and then himself after two days on Seroxat - known as Paxil in the
that case, evidence was given by a British psychopharmacologist,
David Healy, the director of the North Wales department of psychological
medicine, who was granted access to GlaxoSmithKline's archives.
He found that a small number of volunteers in perfect health, who
took part in early trials of the drug, had become very agitated
Healy has given evidence to a number of coroners' inquests in the
UK, including that over Mr Whitfield's death.
lot of people going into the inquest just know the person would
not have committed suicide in the normal course of events. You get
a sense of their utter bewilderment," he said.
coroners did not know about the controversy. Dr Healy wrote to 148
coroners in England and Wales, and also to the review of coroner
services, which was set up after the Harold Shipman case.
Healy advises that statistics on deaths of people on SSRIs be centrally
has also pointed out that suicide verdicts - which could be wrong
in cases concerning the antidepressant - deprive relatives of insurance
insists the drug is safe, saying its experience with Seroxat involves
"thousands of physicians, millions of patients and over 10
years of experience world-wide". It states that there is "no
valid scientific research finding that Seroxat causes suicidal thoughts
year, the medicines control agency announced a review of Seroxat
after growing concern about withdrawal symptoms and side effects.
Whitfield, 56, was a retired headmaster. His wife Kathryn told Brecon
coroner's court that he had never shown any inclination towards
was prescribed Seroxat for anxiety, not depression. If his GP had
thought he might be a suicide risk, it is likely he would have referred
him to a hospital psychiatrist.
said he was a loving father who would never have wanted to distress
his family. Yet last autumn he locked himself in the garden shed
and cut both wrists, while one of his daughters was sleeping not
don't believe this was a conscious decision, I don't think it was
an intentional act. There was no way he was in his right mind when
he did that," she said.
was no note and no intent. Two days before he died, on his birthday
when he was opening presents, he asked, 'What more can I ask for
than my lovely family?' And on the night before he died he did and
said three things that indicated he was planning ahead."
suicide "didn't fit the picture of who he was, and we have
no doubt that it was the drug that caused him to do it. He was a
very caring, very protective father and husband. He would be hating
himself for what he has done to his family."
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