IS THIS THE RIGHT MAN TO HEAD SEROXAT INQUIRY?


10:30 - 11 July 2003

 

A City MP is demanding to know why the UK is being represented in a European review of the antidepressant drug Seroxat by a man who used to work for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Parmjit Dhanda, MP for Gloucester, is asking the Government why they allowed Dr Ian Hudson to take part in the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA)'s review of Seroxat. As well as working as worldwide safety director for GSK - the manufacturers of Seroxat - from 1999 until 2001, Dr Hudson acted as witness for the defence in a trial in which Seroxat was accused of triggering a man's violent and suicidal behaviour.

But the Government's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says it is satisfied Dr Hudson's previous links with GSK will not compromise the review.

They say he will not be allowed to participate in Seroxat discussions during the review.

Mr Dhanda said: "I am really determined to get to the bottom of this.

"We need to make people aware that there are representatives involved in this inquiry into the drug who have worked with GSK in the past.

"Secondly, we have got to change this completely and we need to get some fully independent people involved."

Mr Dhanda yesterday tabled four questions in the House of Commons demanding answers from the Secretary of State for Health, John Reid.

Earlier this year, a UK review into Seroxat was disbanded after it emerged many of the members held interests in GSK.

Alongside another representative from the MHRA, Dr Peter Arlett, Dr Hudson is part of a team of 30 experts from across Europe who are evaluating the safety of Seroxat following concerns raised in the UK and in the United States.

Noel Wadhion, head of the post-licensing of human medicines at the EMEA, told The Citizen: "We are looking at safety concerns relating to a potential risk of emotional changes and withdrawal reactions in the use of Paroxetine - the medical name for Seroxat."

The experts, who began their review in June, hope to announce their results by the end of this year.

According to the EMEA, there are four possible recommendations to come as a result of their review - no action, change advice about the drug given to doctors, suspend the drug or withdraw it altogether.

Their recommendation will then be passed to the European Commission who will then make a final decision to be implemented throughout Europe.

GSK maintains that Seroxat - now the company's best selling drug - is an effective treatment that has helped tens of millions of patients worldwide to lead fuller and more productive lives.

The appointment of Dr Hudson has angered Seroxat users in Gloucestershire who still hope for a full independent inquiry into the drug they claim has destroyed their lives.

Faye Elliott, spokeswoman for the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group, said: "Knowing that the European decision will be final, it is very worrying for the thousands of us who are still suffering with either side-effects or withdrawal symptoms from this drug.

"We would like to see this drug banned, as we believe there is enough evidence to suggest that this drug can cause suicidal ideation and self-harming."

But the EMEA remain confident of its ability to reach a fair conclusion.

Mr Wadhion said: "We ask all members of our committee if there is any potential conflict of interest that we should be aware of.

"They must declare their interests before a debate can take place and must leave the room if a conflict arises."

A spokesman for the MHRA said: "The Government actively encourages interchange between the Civil Service and industry, but takes care to ensure that there are no conflicts of interests.

"In line with this principle, Dr Hudson has had no involvement in matters relating to Seroxat since joining the agency and will have no involvement in the referral."
 

 

 

SEROXAT TEEN BAN IS A START


10:30 - 12 June 2003

 

A Ban on GPs prescribing the controversial anti-depressant Seroxat at the under-18s has been hailed a victory by local campaigners.

The Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group has more than 5,500 members nationwide say the drug produced by GlaxoSmithKline should be banned altogether because of its effects both physically and emotionally on the user. Faye Elliott, chairwoman for the Quedgeley-based group said: "It's a step forward in the right direction but I still feel that GSK should make a further step and admit that adults have experienced the same problems as well."

The Department of Health announced the new restrictions on the drug at a press conference yesterday.

The move came after GSK was accused of withholding nine studies showing the drug may provoke suicidal tendencies and other symptoms in under-18s.

Despite the revelation the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group, backed by Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda, feel more needs to be done.

Mrs Elliott said: "I dispute the recent findings by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency because we have more than 5,500 members in the UK and they're all adults who suffer the same symptoms.

"What are they trying to claim? That it is safe for a child of 19 to take but not if they are 18?"

She added: "Adults are seeking litigation against GSK for the problems they have suffered. When they have tried to come off it's not been dissimilar to coming off heroin or cocaine."

Seroxat was prescribed to 400,000 people last year.

GSK have 200 staff at its distribution centre in Brockworth and 400 at its Coleford factory.

If you want to know more about the support group, call Mrs Elliott on 07753 197374.

n Have you suffered a bad experience with Seroxat? Call the Echo on 01242 271820.
 

'THIS DRUG IS NOT JUST A PROBLEM FOR THE YOUNG'


10:30 - 11 June 2003

 

Anita Jones has never considered herself to have serious mental health problems. Before she started taking Seroxat in 1998, she had never thought about committing suicide or harming herself. But when her husband died, she fell into depression and her doctor suggested a short dose of anti-depressants might be just what she needed to pick herself up.

"I didn't want to take them at first," said Anita, 43, of Tredworth. "But the doctor was adamant that Seroxat was a wonder drug, and that you could come off it easily with no after-effects."

What actually happened was very different.

Like thousands of Seroxat users across the UK, Anita claims the drug left her struggling to cope with thoughts of killing herself.

Five years later, Anita is still taking Seroxat - she has been trying to stop now for four years.

She says her attempts to wean herself off Seroxat using a liquid form of the drug and a syringe, have left her feeling like a drug addict.

She said: "I am now on just 10mg of Seroxat, but whenever I take less I just feel how it must feel to go through cold turkey from a hard illegal drug.

"I have had awful side effects and have no doubt there is a problem with this drug."

But according to the Government's regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), there is no evidence to suggest Seroxat causes suicidal or self-harming behaviour in adults.

Their warning to children and teenagers under the age of 18 was based on nine clinical trials among more than 1,000 children carried out by manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline, which showed that some suffered damaging side effects.

The risk of suicidal thoughts and self harm was two to three times greater among those on Seroxat compared to those on a placebo drug.

So far, say the MHRA, there is no evidence that adults are affected in the same way.

But many disagree with this view.

Solicitor, Mark Harvey, is pursuing legal action against GSK on behalf of more than 5,000 Seroxat users who claim to have become addicted to the drug.

He said: "I am not a scientist, but a common sense approach suggests that if Seroxat can lead to suicidal behaviour in people under the age of 18, why on earth should it be safe for adults to take?

"This simply reinforces what we have been saying all along - that Seroxat should not be prescribed to anyone until the proper studies have been carried out."

Faye Elliott, founder of the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group, and participant in the group legal action, said: "The MHRA need to take notice of the 5,000 litigants seriously, the very people who have been adversely affected by this drug.

"This number is just the tip of the iceberg. We are receiving e-mails to the online SeroxatUserGroup daily, from sufferers who are having problems either with side effects or the awful withdrawal symptoms.

"This drug should now be banned to prevent anymore unnecessary deaths."

Alastair Benbow, head of European psychiatry for GSK, said: "While we believe that the MHRA's decision will inevitably limit the choices available to doctors treating children and teenagers under 18 years with Major Depressive Disorder, and the conclusions we draw from the data differ, we recognise the MHRA's decision for UK paediatric patients and we will work with them to implement the changes as soon as possible."

Seroxat was first licensed in the UK in 1990 for the treatment of depression.

In the last year, around four million prescriptions were issued and an estimated 8,000 patients under 18 years were treated with Seroxat.

Although Seroxat is not licensed by the MHRA for children, GPs are allowed to use their own judgement to prescribe it when necessary.

Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda was the first MP to table an Early Day Motion calling for Seroxat to be withdrawn while further Government research is carried out.

He told The Citizen: "We shouldn't underestimate the importance of this decision. The high-level warning to doctors not to prescribe this drug is unprecedented.

"The work the users group, The Citizen and myself have done to campaign against this drug has undoubtedly made a difference.

"This is a severe dressing down for GSK. This decision could save lives."

But Mr Dhanda admitted there was still a long way to go before the MHRA addressed the issue of prescribing to adults.

In their announcement, the MHRA confirmed an expert group of the Committee on Safety of Medicines would be considering the possible side effects of Seroxat on adult patients.

But chairman of the expert group, Professor Ian Weller, said: "The CSM has advised that at present the evidence is not sufficient to confirm a causal association between SSRIs and suicidal behaviour in adults.

"The benefits of taking Seroxat are well established and patients over 18 years and those who are benefiting from Seroxat should not be frightened into stopping their medication."

Since August 2002, The Citizen has heard from more than 150 Seroxat users in Gloucestershire who claim to have suffered a range of side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
 

IF IT'S BAD FOR CHILDREN, WHAT ABOUT ADULTS?


10:30 - 11 June 2003

 

The Government has finally decided to warn children and teenagers that Seroxat may not be safe for them to take. A regulatory authority responsible for monitoring drug safety in the UK made its announcement after receiving the results of clinical trials carried out by Seroxat's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

It is not known how long ago GSK carried out these trials, but the high-level response from a regulatory authority which usually 'works closely' with GSK, speaks volumes. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says it only received these results - taken from nine trials on more than 1,000 children - two weeks ago.

What they claim to show is terrifying - that children and teenagers taking Seroxat are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than those taking a placebo.

The drug is not licensed for use in patients under the age of 18, but until now doctors have been allowed to prescribe it at their discretion.

While this is undoubtedly a significant step, we have to ask why is the Government stopping here?

If there is such a concern about the use of Seroxat amongst children, then surely questions must be raised about the safety of this drug in general?

How do we know adults are safe?

In the United States a jury awarded the son-in-law of a man who killed four members of his family 8million, after finding Paxil (the US name for Seroxat) responsible.

A Brecon coroner has also found Seroxat responsible for the suicide of a Welsh family man.

Surely there are questions here that need answering?

The Department of Health says there is no evidence to suggest Seroxat causes suicidal thoughts or behaviour in adults, but there is growing concern amongst users that this may not be true.

No-one doubts that Seroxat has helped millions of people but this latest study surely begs more questions than it answers.

GSK is standing by the drug but there is a growing body of users who are rapidly losing faith.
 

 

SECOND PROBE ON SAFETY OF DRUG


10:30 - 27 May 2003

 

A Second probe into the safety of the antidepressant drug Seroxat has been announced following The Citizen campaign highlighting reports of suicides and severe withdrawal reactions from users.

Growing pressure has forced Government health officials to launch a second independent inquiry into the safety of the drug. An initial investigation by an expert group of the Committee on Safety of Medicines collapsed amid allegations that the members had interests in the drug's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

For months, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has faced increasing pressure from MPs, campaigners and The Citizen to review the safety of Seroxat.

Since August 2002, The Citizen has been running a campaign to back the calls of more than 150 people in the county for the drug to be withdrawn while research is carried out into its effects.

Unlike the first review, the MHRA which oversees drug safety, has promised its new investigation will take into account the experiences and views of Seroxat users.

It also says it will be completely independent, and members will include the chairman of mental health charity, Mind, Richard Brook.

Following claims by the BBC's Panorama documentary, E-mails from the Edge, that at least 16 suicides by Seroxat users have not been reported to the authorities, the expert group is to look at the alleged association between Seroxat and the deaths.

Seroxat is one of a number of drugs known as SSRIs - selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.

Professor Alasdair Breckenbridge, chairman of the MHRA, said: "SSRIs have been kept under close review for the past 5-6 years.

"However, we are aware that there is ongoing interest amongst patients about withdrawal reactions, feelings of suicide and whether these are linked to SSRIs.

"As a result, there will be an in-depth investigation into these very areas."

Prof Breckenbridge said patients' views would form "an important part" of their review.

Faye Elliott, founder of the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group, welcomed the news.

She said: "Hopefully, now there will be a totally unbiased review into the serious adverse effects of Seroxat.

"Only a full and comprehensive review will be considered satisfactory by those of us who have suffered unduly whilst taking this drug.

"The fact that this new review will take place, is proof that our campaign has not been in vain. We hope that a positive outcome will be made public."
 

 

 

SEROXAT MUST BE BETTER REGULATED


14:03 - 16 May 2003

 

Sir - Murderous thoughts, violent dreams, hallucinations, the sensation of electric shocks in your head? Could it be your medication? These are just some of the experiences people taking Seroxat claimed, as revealed on Panorama.

The programme revealed horrific accounts of people who believed that Seroxat had caused family members to behave violently, or loved ones to take their own life.

Seroxat trials in America on depressed children, funded by GlaxoSmithkline, revealed that five per cent of the children became suicidal within weeks of going on this drug, compared with those on placebos.

Dr David Healy, director of North Wales Psychological Medicine, obtained confidential papers through lawyers in America of trial results, which showed that the risk of suicide in depressed patients increases when they take this drug.

The Medical Control Agency should be making sure that patients have all the information on the drugs they are prescribed, and that they are not being prescribed drugs that could possibly harm, or make their condition worse.

The last government-appointed committee to look into these types of drugs, had to be disbanded when it was revealed that half of the members had share holdings in GlaxoSmithKilne.

Mrs J Rowe Address supplied

 

 

SEROXAT SUICIDES 'NOT ALL REPORTED'


10:30 - 10 May 2003

 

Concerns about the association between Seroxat and suicides are growing after a documentary which reveals at least 16 suicides have not been reported to the authorities.

Experts taking part in the BBC's Panorama programme, Emails from the Edge say they are seriously concerned about the effectiveness of the regulatory authorities responsible for making sure prescription drugs are safe. The Government's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) collects information on any side-effects or adverse reactions experienced by patients taking prescription drugs, reported by doctors and health professionals.

But they do not recieve data direct from the patients themselves.

During the documentary, campaigner Charles Medawar, who has been exploring the negative effects of anti-depressants for years, said: "I sometimes wonder if the world would be a better place if the regulators packed up and went away."

And Dr David Healy, of the University of Wales, said: "The regulators have known about the problems with Seroxat for 15 years or more and have done nothing."

Alleged links between suicide and Seroxat have been made by experts in psychiatry for many years.

Just two years ago, a US jury awarded a family 4.6 million after concluding the drug caused Donald Schell to kill his wife, daughter, baby grand-daughter and himself.

Panorama reporter, Shelley Jofre, spoke to Graham Aldred, from Cheshire, whose wife Rhona, 53, killed herself after taking Seroxat for 11 days.

Following its October documentary, Panorama received 67,000 phone calls and 1,400 emails from patients claiming to have suffered severe reactions to Seroxat.

These messages, analysed by Mr Medawar, revealed 16 suicides, 11 of them in the past two years, that have never been reported to the MHRA.

Dr Alistair Benbow, of GlaxoSmithKline - manufacturers of Seroxat - denied there were any links between their best-selling anti-depressant and suicide.

He said: "Tragic though these cases are, I do not believe, and we do not believe that Seroxat causes people to take their own lives or self-harm."

For nearly ten months The Citizen has been following a campaign by Gloucestershire patients to remove the drug from shelves while more research is carried out.

A statement from the MHRA said: "The MHRA is keen to ensure the experiences of patients on Seroxat are taken seriously and to study any data from the Panorama programme made available to us."

 

  • E-mails from the Edge will be broadcast on BBC tomorrow at 10.15pm.
     
  • U-TURN CAME AFTER DRUGS GIANT WAS 'FORCED TO LISTEN'


    10:30 - 06 May 2003

     

    Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline has decided to remove the claim that its best-selling anti-depressant Seroxat is "not addictive" from its patient information leaflet.

    The major u-turn comes after months of campaigning by The Citizen, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda and county residents for the drug to be withdrawn while further research into its effects are carried out. Announcing the development during an interview on a BBC Panorama documentary to be broadcast this week, Dr Alistair Benbow acknowledged the wording on the patient information leaflet had been "widely misunderstood" by users of Seroxat.

    He said the move was not an admission that Seroxat is addictive and that the information given to doctors would remain the same.

    Campaigners in Gloucestershire are celebrating the news, but say there is still more work to be done.

    Faye Elliott, founder of the Seroxat Support Group in the county, said: "It's a bit of a climbdown for GSK.

    "It is definitely a step in the right direction, and it shows how The Citizen has worked with us to force GSK to make this change.

    "But they haven't gone far enough.

    "I feel I have lost the last nine years of my life to Seroxat, and I would like to see it withdrawn from circulation altogether, unless prescribed under supervision."

    Only in November last year, Dr Benbow told The Citizen its patient information leaflet "clearly" stated the drug was not addictive but that withdrawal symptoms could be expected.

    The Citizen spoke to Panorama reporter, Shelley Jofre, who said: "It is quite a turnaround from what they said six months ago.

    "I think the people who have campaigned on this should be pleased that they have pushed this forward and that the company has been forced to listen to what they had to say.

    "This has clearly been driven by the patients, media, and the users of the drug.

    "GSK has had no option but to listen and to do something."

    Mr Dhanda said: "It is a good example of The Citizen, local residents and the local MP working together to put pressure on the authorities, and it is nice to see the results of all our hard work.

    "But the work has got to continue.

    "Although this is good news, it is a partial victory."

    A spokeswoman for GSK confirmed the decision.

    She said: "We have proposed changing the specific wording on the patient information leaflet, and we acknowledge that patients may have not have understood previous wording which said Seroxat was 'not addictive.'

    "That phrase did not add to their understanding of the drug.

    "Healthcare professionals do understand that terminology, so there is no need for us to alter the information they receive."

    But GSK denied the decision was prompted by the unrelenting media and political pressure.

    She said: "This is something that we decided to do on listening to patients and is part of the ongoing dialogue between us and the regulatory authorities."

    Panorama's investigation will be screened on Sunday May 11.

     




    August 19, 2002 : The Citizen is contacted by Faye Elliott, a Tuffley woman who claims she has been addicted to Seroxat for eight years.

    September 13: Faye sets up a Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group after 150 people contact The Citizen with similar complaints.

    October 1: Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda writes letter to the Department of Health calling for Seroxat to be withdrawn while research into its effects is undertaken.

    October 11: BBC highlights alleged problems associated with Seroxat in a Panorama documentary. Mr Dhanda launches an Early Day Motion calling for action in the House of Commons.

    October 15: The Citizen reveals Seroxat trials are being carried out on young children in the US and UK. October 21: The Citizen takes letters to the House of Commons addressed to 650 MPs, encouraging them to back Mr Dhanda's campaign.

    November 22: The Medicines Control Agency says it will look more closely at the safety of Seroxat. December 17: The MCA's plans are announced by Public Health Minister Hazel Blears. She says the Government will launch an "intensive review" into Seroxat.

    January 20, 2003: MCA contacts The Citizen to confirm its review is underway.

    February 17, 2003: Legal Aid is turned down for more than 4,000 people across the UK who are hoping to sue GlaxoSmithKline over claims they are addicted to Seroxat.

    March 18: The MCA's intensive review is branded 'ineffective' following claims several members have interests in GSK.

    April 3: The MCA disbands its review group and agrees to start again.

    May 1: GSK tell Panorama they want to remove the words 'not addictive' from their information leaflet.
     

     

     

    PATIENTS' CAMPAIGN SO FAR:


    10:30 - 03 April 2003

     

    August 19, 2002 : The Citizen is contacted by Faye Elliott, a Tuffley woman who claims she has been addicted to Seroxat for eight years. September 13: Faye sets up a Gloucestershire Seroxat Support Group after 150 people contact The Citizen with similar complaints.

    October 1: Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda writes letter to the Department of Health calling for Seroxat to be withdrawn while research into its effects is undertaken.

    October 11: BBC highlights alleged problems associated with Seroxat in a Panorama documentary. Mr Dhanda launches an Early Day Motion calling for action in the House of Commons.

    October 15: The Citizen reveals Seroxat trials are being carried out on young children in the US and UK.

    October 21: The Citizen takes letters to the House of Commons addressed to 650 MPs, encouraging them to back Mr Dhanda's campaign.

    November 22: The Medicines Control Agency says it will look more closely at the safety of Seroxat.

    December 17: The MCA's plans are announced by Public Health Minister Hazel Blears. She says the Government will launch an "intensive review" into Seroxat.

    January 20: MCA contacts The Citizen to confirm its review is underway.

    February 17, 2003: Legal Aid is turned down for more than 4,000 people across the UK who are hoping to sue GlaxoSmithKline over claims they are addicted to Seroxat.

    March 18: The MCA's intensive review is branded 'ineffective' following claims several members have interests in GSK.

    April 3: The MCA disbands its review group and agrees to start again

     

     

    'NO LINK TO SUICIDE'


    10:30 - 03 April 2003

     

    Seroxat use is not linked to an increased risk of suicide, according to a recent US study.

    The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, go against previous reports which suggest antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may increase suicidal tendencies. Dr Arif Khan, from the Northwest Clinic Research Center in Bellevue, Washington, and colleagues, reached their conclusions after reviewing suicide data from US Food and Drug Administration summary reports.

    The researchers compared suicide rates among depressed patients who were randomly assigned to treatment with either an antidepressant or a placebo.

    The antidepressants included the SSRIs fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine - the official name for Seroxat - and citalopram, as well as other antidepressants including nefazodone, mirtazapine, bupropion, and venlafaxine.

    Of the 48,277 depressed patients who took part in the clinical trials, a total of 77 committed suicide.

    No statistical differences in suicide rates were detected between patients assigned to SSRIs, other antidepressants or the placebo.
     

     

     

    'NOT IMPARTIAL' CLAIM HALTS SEROXAT PROBE


    10:30 - 03 April 2003

     

    An inquiry into the safety of the widely-prescribed anti-depressant drug Seroxat has been stopped amid claims two inquiry members had interests in the company which makes the drug.

    The Medicines Control Agency announced the halting of an 'intensive review' launched in December following revelations that two of the four members held shares in GlaxoSmithKline - manufacturer of the drug they were reviewing. A solicitor for more than 4,000 people, including many from Gloucestershire, who claim to be addicted to Seroxat, has welcomed the move.

    Mark Harvey, of Hugh James Solicitors, said: "The review was set up because public confidence in this whole class of drugs was severely knocked by concerns about dependence and withdrawal reactions attributed to Seroxat.

    "It had to be impartial, otherwise, what was the point?

    "I trust that now a new panel has been appointed, the review can move forward in an open and transparent manner, finally putting Seroxat firmly under the microscope."

    The intensive review of Seroxat and other drugs known as SSRIs - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - was announced in the Commons by the health minister Hazel Blears after public concern about withdrawal effects experienced by people who wanted to stop taking the drug.

    Claims that a few patients became suicidal after starting to take it were also on the agenda.

    Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, founder of the Seroxat Support Group, said: "We hope the new review will be conducted by totally independent experts.

    "And we hope this review will study the adverse effects of Seroxat, taking into account the problems suffered by many patients.

    "We would like to hear from the MCA and CSM that this new review will be conducted in a fair and unbiased way."

    A statement from the MCA said: "We can confirm we have now decided to dissolve the original group and appoint a new expert group to conduct the review.

    "The membership of this new expert group has yet to be decided, and individuals' interests in the pharmaceutical industry will be taken into account when considering the appropriate membership. The timescale for completion of the review is uncertain."

    The original group was drawn from the committee on the safety of medicines, which advises the MCA.

    It is routine practice at CSM meetings for scientists to declare their shareholdings, consultancies and other payments from drug companies whose medicines are being discussed.

    In the case of shareholders, they must leave the room.

    When the group first met in November, the two GSK shareholders had to leave the room when Seroxat was discussed, but they were allowed to be present during general discussions of the SSRIs.

    The MCA said: "We would emphasise that members of the Medicines Act advisory committees are required to follow a code of practice relating to declarations of interests in the pharmaceutical industry.

    "We seek to ensure that the code is applied where members attend meetings of expert working groups such as those in the present case."

    A spokesman for the MCA said they don't yet have names of the new expert group members, and had not yet set a date for a second review to begin

     

     

    CORONER BLAMES SEROXAT FOR DEATH


    10:30 - 15 March 2003

     

    A Coroner has called for the antidepressant drug Seroxat to be banned, after he found it responsible for the death of a 56-year-old family man.

    Welsh coroner Geraint Williams added his voice to a growing number of health experts concerned about a link between Seroxat and suicide. In Gloucestershire, many users of Seroxat have complained about what they describe as the drug's addictive nature.

    Mr Williams heard how Colin Whitfield, of Brecon, killed himself just two weeks after starting a course of the drug.

    Recording an open verdict, the coroner said: "I am profoundly disturbed by the effect this drug had on Colin Whitfield.

    "It is quite clear that Seroxat has a profound effect on the thinking process of anyone who takes it."

    Mr Whitfield, who was described as a protective and loving father, died after cutting both his wrists on August 29 last year.

    He had locked himself in the garden shed at his home while one of his daughters was asleep nearby.

    Just 14 days earlier, his GP had prescribed him Seroxat to treat anxiety.

    Government health bosses are to meet this month to discuss their findings following a probe into the safety of Seroxat.

    The Committee on Safety of Medicines announced its intention to launch an "intensive review" into the safety of Seroxat in December, and an "expert group" has spent the last three months conducting research.

    After The Citizen was contacted by 130 people, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda tabled a Commons motion calling for the drug to be recalled from shelves while more research into its effects is carried out. So far, 95 MPs have signed the motion.

    Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, founder of the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support group, said: "Just how many more deaths need to occur before the Medicines Control Agency and the CSM accept that this is a dangerous drug?"

    Manufacturer GSK is facing the prospect of legal action from users and their families on both sides of the Atlantic amid claims the drug is addictive, and can prompt suicide and violent and aggressive behaviour.

    Solicitors Hugh James, leading the action in the UK, are representing 4,000 people who claim they have been adversely affected.

    A spokesman for GSK said: "The safety of all medicines is continually monitored by both GlaxoSmithKline and the Medicines Control Agency.

    "Fortunately, with Seroxat we have a wealth of positive experience involving thousands of physicians, millions of patients and over 10 years of experience worldwide.

    "There is no valid scientific research or literature finding that Seroxat causes suicidal thoughts or acts. Suicide can be a recognised component of depression."
     

     

     

    'I WAS HOOKED ON TABLETS'


    10:30 - 15 March 2003

    Tricia Dancy is now living her life Seroxat-free. But, the 56-year-old Hardwicke mother-of-two claims it took her nine years to finally stop taking it.

    Tricia's problems began when she began suffering from depression and anxiety in 1994. Her doctor told her about Seroxat - a new 'wonderdrug' anti-depressant which had just come onto the market.

    As a member of the a new group of drugs known as Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), it was clearly marketed as "non-addictive."

    "You trust what your doctor tells you, don't you?" said Tricia.

    As she left the surgery with her new prescription, Tricia says she had no idea of the trouble that lay ahead.

    She said: "When I first started taking it, I liked it because it seemed to help me. I felt a lot better.

    "The first time I realised anything was wrong was when I went away for the weekend and forgot to take the tablets with me. I didn't really think it would be a problem and just thought I'd take it again when I got back on Sunday.

    "But by Saturday lunchtime I was starting to feel really funny. My vision was very strange, and I was starting to get shocks in my head. I really thought there was something seriously wrong with me and I was terrified."

    What Tricia believes she was experiencing is withdrawal symptoms from a drug she claims she was addicted to.

    She said: "Within an hour of taking a Seroxat tablet when I came home on Sunday I felt fine again. From then on I was terrified at the thought of coming off it."

    Several attempts to stop her prescription later, Tricia said she was shocked to read in The Citizen of the 130 other Gloucestershire patients who claimed to have suffered similar symptoms while withdrawing from Seroxat.

    She said: "When I picked up the paper I couldn't believe it.

    "I really did think I was the only person feeling like this - it was such a relief."

    Tricia called The Citizen and was put in touch with Faye Elliott, founder of the Seroxat Support group in Tuffley.

    At her first meeting Tricia found the answer to her alleged addiction.

    Anti-depressant expert, Pam Armstrong, from Liverpool, told the group that many people found another SSRI, Prozac, easier to withdraw from than Seroxat, and recommended switching drugs in consultation with their GPs.

    Tricia took her last Seroxat tablet on January 16 and started taking Prozac.

    Four weeks later she stopped the Prozac, and hasn't looked back since.

    She said: "I now feel so angry that GSK didn't warn me it would take me so long to stop taking Seroxat.

    "They clearly say you cannot become addicted to the drug, yet I know my own body, and I know that what I was feeling was addiction."

     

     

     

    MP'S PLEDGE TO AID FIGHT OVER SEROXAT


    10:30 - 07 March 2003

     

    The fight to get legal aid for Seroxat users who claim they became addicted to the anti-depressant drug could be heard in the House of Commons.

    City MP Parmjit Dhanda is prepared to ask questions in parliament if it will help Seroxat users get their case heard. Last month, the legal battle launched by more than 4,000 people, including many from Gloucestershire, ran into difficulties when they were refused legal aid.

    The Legal Services Commission turned down the application for funding, saying the claim did not meet their criteria.

    But Mr Dhanda has vowed to do whatever he can to help bring manufacturers of Seroxat, GlaxoSmithKline, to court.

    He said: "This is a very important issue as it affects more than 4,000 people.

    "If there is anything that I can do through parliament to help support this action then I will.

    "If this means it is a case of raising questions in the House of Commons, then I'm happy to do that because this is an issue I feel very strongly about."

    The potential litigants claim they are addicted to Seroxat, and were not warned the drug could lead to an addiction.

    But the appeal was turned down after the Legal Services Commission received a letter from GSK, objecting to the funding application.

    A spokesman for GSK said: "We can confirm that we wrote to the commission setting out all relevant details about the product in particular the information provided to doctors and patients and the rigorous reviews carried out by the authorities regulating the sale of medicines."

    A review of the safety of Seroxat is still underway by the Committee on Safety of Medicines - a Government body set up to monitor drugs prescribed in the country.

    Solicitor Mark Harvey, who is co-ordinating the legal action, thinks the Legal Services Commission decision can be overturned and has already lodged an appeal.

    He said: "I'm not surprised it was turned down initially because it is a very big case and could cost them a lot of money. But we have a very strong case and have good prospects of winning. I am hopeful we can win funding on appeal."

    Mr Harvey said he welcomed Mr Dhanda's support.

    While the legal action progresses, Faye Elliott, who runs the Gloucestershire Seroxat Support group, has set up a website to give advice and information about their campaign.

    She said: "The aim of the group is firstly, to offer encouragement and support to those who are either struggling with side effects or a withdrawal programme.

    "Secondly, we can assure people that there is no need to feel isolated in their suffering, we are all here to support one another."

    The next support group meeting will be held on Sunday, March 9, at the Tuffley Community Centre, Windsor Drive, at 7pm.

    The website can be accessed at www.hometown.aol.co.uk/ gloserup/myhomepage/health/html

     

     

     

    SEROXAT USERS HIT BY LEGAL FIGHT COSTS BLOW


    10:30 - 17 February 2003

     

    A Legal battle launched by more than 4,000 people who claim to be addicted to the anti-depressant drug Seroxat has run into difficulty.

    Solicitor Mark Harvey, of Cardiff-based Hugh James Solicitors, has been collecting information and testimonies from Seroxat users across the UK ??? including Gloucestershire ??? in the hope of taking legal action against the drug's manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). But an application for public funding for the case has been refused by the Legal Services Commission.

    Mr Harvey has now launched an appeal against the decision and hopes to continue the fight.

    The 4,000 potential litigants all hope to force GSK to back down on its stance that Seroxat is not addictive and cannot lead to dependency.

    Since The Citizen first launched its campaign backing this action in August 2002, we have been contacted by more than 135 people in Gloucestershire also claiming to be addicted to the drug, as well as dozens from the US, Australia and Canada.

    Mr Harvey broke the news of the Legal Services Commission's decision in an e-mail to all the potential litigants.

    He wrote: "Unfortunately our initial application for public funding has been refused by the Legal Services Commission.

    "They clearly have a concern in relation to the potential costs of the litigation and I am frankly not surprised that they should be taking a cautious attitude and as a taxpayer of course I would support that.

    "An appeal has been lodged and I am waiting for notification of when that appeal will be heard but in view of the numbers involved in the litigation I have asked them to arrange it as a matter of urgency.

    "You should be aware that GlaxoSmithKline, the Seroxat manufacturers did write to the Legal Services Commission objecting to the granting of public funding and it would appear that to a degree at least, the Legal Services Commission preferred to accept the comments of GSK rather than points that we made in reply.

    "I would just hope that this can be addressed in more detail at the appeal."

    Christina Young, a mum-of-two, from Beaufort Road, Gloucester, battled to come off Seroxat for almost a year. She had been on the drug since she was 16, after suffering from mild depression.

    Miss Young said: "I believe these people have a case because I experienced terrible withdrawal symptoms and mood swings when I tried to come off Seroxat.

    "But I think it is pathetic that there will be no legal funding for this argument. People can get legal aid for everything else so why not this? The situation is not being approached as it should be."

    A spokesman for GSK said: "We can confirm that we wrote to the Legal Services Commission setting out all relevant details about the product in particular the information provided to doctors and patients and the rigorous reviews carried out by the authorities regulating the sale of medicines."

    A spokesman for the Legal Services Commission said: "We can confirm that funding has been refused in this case.

    "This was due to the case not meeting our funding criteria.

    "It would not be appropriate to go into the details of our refusal, as this may be detrimental should the action be pursued privately, and an appeal against our refusal has been lodged."
     

     

    DO YOU NEED DRUG SUPPORT?


    10:30 - 14 February 2003

     

    A Support group for users of the anti-depressant Seroxat is looking for more members from Cheltenham. The Gloucestershire group, the first of its kind in the UK, meets every month at Tuffley Community Centre, in Windsor Drive, Gloucester.

    Organiser Faye Elliott said four of the 20 members were from Cheltenham but she believes there are many more people in need of support in the town who don't know about group.

    She said: "It's a big relief for people to talk to others who understand."

    Seroxat is prescribed by GPs for minor depression. It has come under fire from hundreds of patients who say they are hooked. The next group meeting is at 7pm on March 9.
     

     

    SEROXAT SAFETY PROBE IS STILL UNDER WAY


    10:30 - 28 January 2003

     

    Government health bosses say their intensive review of the safety of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat is still under way.

    In a letter to The Citizen, the Department of Health's Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has confirmed it is continuing its probe into the effects of Britain's most widely prescribed anti-depressant.

    For months, the MCA had answered calls from patients, doctors, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda and The Citizen for an inquiry by saying the drug was safe.

    The Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) met in November last year to hear evidence from psychologist and Seroxat expert Dr David Healy of the University of Wales.

    He claims Seroxat can lead to dependence, after discovering that during Seroxat trials on healthy volunteers 15 years ago, some 85% of people had suffered problems withdrawing from the drug.

    The CSM also heard patients' experiences collated by consumer expert and former member of the World Health Organisation Charles Medawar.

    After the meeting, a spokesman for the CSM told The Citizen it needed more time to look into the issue of alleged addiction to Seroxat.

    The letter, from Chantel Banks of the MCA's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Unit, reads: "The MCA/CSM is currently undertaking an intensive review of the safety of SSRIs (the family of drugs including Seroxat), and in particular withdrawal reactions with Seroxat.

    "When this is complete, any new advice will be communicated to the prescribers of the drug and their patients."

    The fight for more research to be done into the effects of Seroxat was taken to national television when Tuffley woman Faye Elliott appeared on BBC1's Breakfast show.

    Faye, who founded the Seroxat Support group, first featured in The Citizen in August 2001, when she told of her misery at trying to withdraw from Seroxat.

    The BBC explored how the internet, including The Citizen's own website, helped raise the profile of the campaign.

    Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has always denied Seroxat is addictive.

    A spokesman said: "GlaxoSmithKline works with the regulatory authorities on an ongoing basis to evaluate the safety and efficacy of all our medicines based on the most recent data and this review is part of that continuous dialogue.

    "Depression is a debilitating condition and Seroxat is an effective treatment that since its launch has helped tens of millions of patients worldwide lead a fuller and more productive life."

    Meanwhile, a group set up to help users of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat who claim to be suffering problems with withdrawal, are holding another meeting next month.

    Seroxat Support was set up by Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, and has been running since September.

    The next meeting will be held on February 9, Tuffley Community Centre, Windsor Drive, at 7pm.

     

     

    HELP TO BREAK FREE OF SEROXAT


    10:30 - 17 January 2003

     

    In 1987 I co-founded CITA (Council for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction), which was founded to help those addicted to benzodiazepine tranquillisers. Although CITA has for many years been the foremost national organisation to help those with problems with prescribed drugs, it is an organisation which receives no ongoing funding and so has struggled to exist.

    My background is in general nursing, having previously worked as a nursing sister, a midwife and a nursing tutor. I have a degree in psychology and diplomas in counselling, anxiety management and also in acupuncture.

    For many years CITA has campaigned about addiction to benzodiazepines and formulated protocols for withdrawal from these drugs that have been so successful that health authorities in many parts of the North West of England have contracted CITA to help reduce prescribing of these drugs by running clinics in GP surgeries.

    These clinics are quite unique and highly effective in helping patients withdraw from their prescribed drugs.

    In 1993 I was awarded a Churchill Scholarship that allowed me to spend several months in America comparing our methods of withdrawal with what went on in the U.S. I was quite convinced then that what CITA had pioneered was extremely successful and there was nothing quite like it in the U.S.

    It was in the U.S. that I first became aware that there might be some withdrawal problems related to S.S.R.I.s (Selective Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These antidepressants had been available for several years longer in the U.S. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac, Seroxat, Cipranil, Lustral, and a drug called Efexor. These drugs are thought to work on the seretonin in the brain, which is normally absorbed into the cells. As this chemical is thought of as an antidepressant these drugs work to prevent it being taken up thus maintaining an enhanced effect from the seretonin.

    In more recent years CITA has become very aware that many people were having problems stopping these antidepressants, in particular Seroxat, also know as paroxetine. These drugs may in many cases be helpful antidepressants but they do have unwanted side effects particularly when clients attempt to stop them. The problem seems to lie in the fact that doctors are provided with very few guidelines about stopping these drugs and the difficulties that may ensue, particularly if the drugs are halted abruptly or even fairly quickly. The secret is to carry out withdrawal extremely slowly.

    Side effects commonly experienced include nausea, severe headaches, involuntary

    twitching, crawling sensations, and electric shock type feelings in the head, severe anxiety and sudden low mood.

    When patients return to the doctor they are very often told that their previous illness has returned even though these symptoms may be very different to those previously suffered. In many cases people are prescribed Seroxat once more, sometimes at a higher dose than before.

    In my efforts to help people in their efforts to withdraw from Seroxat I have consulted closely with Dr David Healy of the University of Wales who has researched this subject to a unique extent. Dr Healy's view is quite firmly that if symptoms return within a very short time then it is part of the withdrawal syndrome from the drug and not any sort of relapse.

    The most difficult SSRI to stop, it seems, is Seroxat, otherwise known as Paroxetine.

    I am able to offer help to those finding difficulties with Seroxat withdrawal, as with Dr Healy's assistance I have put together his protocols for withdrawal along with some of our own information and an audiotape.

    There are five methods of doing this, some of which involve switching to another drug that is easier to reduce from.

    The reason that there is a need to switch to another drug is because of the short action of Seroxat. Longer acting drugs are much easier to withdraw from.

    For more information, support and back up, call the CITA helpline on 0151 286 9898.

    There is a charge for personal consultations.
     

     

     

    TV SLOT FOR DRUG SAFETY CAMPAIGN


    10:30 - 17 January 2003

     

    The campaign for more research into anti-depressant drug Seroxat is to feature on the BBC. Faye Elliott, the Gloucestershire founder of Seroxat Support, and Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda, who tabled an early day motion for more research into the drug, both figure in the report.

    The item focuses on how "people power", through the use of the internet and the media, has helped boost the campaign which led to the Government launching an "intense review" into the safety of the drug in December.

    After months of intense political and media pressure, a group of Government health experts have begun a serious probe into the effects of Britain's most widely prescribed anti-depressant.

    For months, the Government had answered calls from patients, doctors, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda and The Citizen for an inquiry by saying the drug was safe.

    The two-and-a-half minute report - expected to be shown on BBC1's 7am Breakfast show - will explore how the internet, including The Citizen's own website, has helped raise the profile of the campaign.

    Mr Dhanda said: "I think it is a credit to the communications between all the parties involved in this campaign, including The Citizen's own website, which has certainly helped to raise the profile of this campaign.

    "It is obviously working because organisations like the BBC are talking about it, with a Panorama programme a few months ago and the Breakfast show this week."

    Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, founder of Seroxat Support, is one of 130 patients who have contacted The Citizen claiming to be addicted to the drug.

    She said: "I was amazed at how many people had contacted The Citizen about Seroxat so soon after my article went into the newspaper. "Since then the campaign has snowballed, thanks to Mr Dhanda, and it must continue to make sure GSK admit that there is still a problem."

    Jo Coburn, political correspondent for the BBC said: "It is unusual that a campaign has progressed so far so quickly and we'll be looking at how people power works. We follow the trail from Seroxat sufferers getting together, MPs putting pressure on the Department of Health and the announcement of the intense review which was slipped out at Christmas."
     

     

    HELP TO BREAK FREE OF SEROXAT


    10:30 - 17 January 2003

     

    In 1987 I co-founded CITA (Council for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction), which was founded to help those addicted to benzodiazepine tranquillisers. Although CITA has for many years been the foremost national organisation to help those with problems with prescribed drugs, it is an organisation which receives no ongoing funding and so has struggled to exist.

    My background is in general nursing, having previously worked as a nursing sister, a midwife and a nursing tutor. I have a degree in psychology and diplomas in counselling, anxiety management and also in acupuncture.

    For many years CITA has campaigned about addiction to benzodiazepines and formulated protocols for withdrawal from these drugs that have been so successful that health authorities in many parts of the North West of England have contracted CITA to help reduce prescribing of these drugs by running clinics in GP surgeries.

    These clinics are quite unique and highly effective in helping patients withdraw from their prescribed drugs.

    In 1993 I was awarded a Churchill Scholarship that allowed me to spend several months in America comparing our methods of withdrawal with what went on in the U.S. I was quite convinced then that what CITA had pioneered was extremely successful and there was nothing quite like it in the U.S.

    It was in the U.S. that I first became aware that there might be some withdrawal problems related to S.S.R.I.s (Selective Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These antidepressants had been available for several years longer in the U.S. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac, Seroxat, Cipranil, Lustral, and a drug called Efexor. These drugs are thought to work on the seretonin in the brain, which is normally absorbed into the cells. As this chemical is thought of as an antidepressant these drugs work to prevent it being taken up thus maintaining an enhanced effect from the seretonin.

    In more recent years CITA has become very aware that many people were having problems stopping these antidepressants, in particular Seroxat, also know as paroxetine. These drugs may in many cases be helpful antidepressants but they do have unwanted side effects particularly when clients attempt to stop them. The problem seems to lie in the fact that doctors are provided with very few guidelines about stopping these drugs and the difficulties that may ensue, particularly if the drugs are halted abruptly or even fairly quickly. The secret is to carry out withdrawal extremely slowly.

    Side effects commonly experienced include nausea, severe headaches, involuntary

    twitching, crawling sensations, and electric shock type feelings in the head, severe anxiety and sudden low mood.

    When patients return to the doctor they are very often told that their previous illness has returned even though these symptoms may be very different to those previously suffered. In many cases people are prescribed Seroxat once more, sometimes at a higher dose than before.

    In my efforts to help people in their efforts to withdraw from Seroxat I have consulted closely with Dr David Healy of the University of Wales who has researched this subject to a unique extent. Dr Healy's view is quite firmly that if symptoms return within a very short time then it is part of the withdrawal syndrome from the drug and not any sort of relapse.

    The most difficult SSRI to stop, it seems, is Seroxat, otherwise known as Paroxetine.

    I am able to offer help to those finding difficulties with Seroxat withdrawal, as with Dr Healy's assistance I have put together his protocols for withdrawal along with some of our own information and an audiotape.

    There are five methods of doing this, some of which involve switching to another drug that is easier to reduce from.

    The reason that there is a need to switch to another drug is because of the short action of Seroxat. Longer acting drugs are much easier to withdraw from.

    For more information, support and back up, call the CITA helpline on 0151 286 9898.

    There is a charge for personal consultations.
     

     

    ACTION AT LAST

     

    The Government has launched an "intense review" into the safety of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

    After months of intense political and media pressure, a group of Government health experts have begun a serious probe into the effects of Britains most widely prescribed anti-depressant.

    The announcement of an "intense review" was made in a parliamentary written answer from Public Health Minister Hazel Blears. The Committee on Safety of Medicines - who are responsible for monitoring the safety of licensed drugs - first met last month to discuss growing concerns of thousands of patients and health professionals over the alleged link between Seroxat and addiction.

    Now they want more time to find out whether there are legitimate concerns with the safety of the drug.

    For months, the Government had answered calls from patients, doctors, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda and The Citizen for an inquiry by saying the drug was safe.

    Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, founder of Seroxat Support, is one of 130 patients who have contacted The Citizen claiming to be addicted to the drug.

    She said: "Up until now they (the CSM) have always been very clear in their denial of problems with Seroxat.

    "Maybe that little light is shining through at last."

    Mr Dhanda, who has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for more research to be done into the drug, described the move as a "positive sign."

    He said: ?This shows the campaign in 2002 has actually made people far more aware of the problems allegedly associated with Seroxat.

    "The important thing is that we now take it on into 2003 and make sure the CSM's research is conclusive, so we can ensure the protection of consumers."

    Officials say the committee agreed more research needed to be done before final recommendations about the safety of the drug can be made, refusing to rule out the possibility that Seroxat can lead to dependence.

    So far, a total of 82 MPs have signed the Mr Dhanda's Early Day Motion.

    A spokesman for the Medicines Control Agency said: "The review of the safety of SSRIs - of which Seroxat is a member - by the CSM is ongoing. "An initial report from the expert working group on SSRIs was considered by the CSM on 11 December."

    Minutes of the full CSM meeting are expected to be published within the next two weeks. A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline - manufacturers of Seroxat - said: "GlaxoSmithKline works with the regulatory authorities on an ongoing basis to evaluate the safety and effi- cacy of all our medicines based on the most recent data and this review is part of that con- tinuous dialogue.

    "Depression is a debilitating condition and Seroxat is an effective treatment that since its launch has helped tens of millions patients worldwide lead fuller and more productive lives."

    If you are concerned about taking Seroxat, you should consult your GP. Under no circumstances should you stop taking the drug without first consulting with your GP.

    Seroxat Factfile The Committee on Safety of Medicines is one of a number of independent advisory committees established under the Medicines Act which advises the UK Licensing Authority - Government health Ministers - on the quality and safety of medicines to make sure public health standards are met and maintained.

    The CSM is there to provide advice to the Licensing Authority on whether new products should be allowed to market themselves in this country.

    They must also monitor the safety of medicines already being marketed.

    Members of the committee include pharmacists, pharmacologists, toxicologists and physicians from a wide range of disciplines working in general practice, hospitals and universities across the UK.

     

    MEETING ON SEROXAT IS 'WORTHLESS'


    10:30 - 15 November 2002

     

    The safety of the antidepressant drug Seroxat is to come under scrutiny at a meeting of Government health bosses.

    But many campaigners fear the meeting is just a 'token gesture,' and that the real evidence - patients' own experiences - will not be given a hearing.

    The Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM) is a Government body monitoring the safety of drugs which have been licensed, or are applying for licensed use in the UK.

    It is expected to meet to discuss the alleged suicidal and withdrawal side-effects of Seroxat, scheduled following mounting media and political pressure.

    Mark Harvey, who is a solicitor representing 4,000 patients, including many in Gloucestershire who claim to have had severe problems withdrawing from Seroxat, was disappointed not to be invited to the meeting.

    He said: "I was extremely disappointed, but not entirely surprised at not being asked to go along.

    "They continue to decline to accept my clients' experiences as adverse drug reaction reports.

    "Instead, they are only prepared to accept them from doctors - doctors who are too busy to fill in the necessary forms or who, because of the information given to them by the drug company, are sceptical or unbelieving of the clients concerned."

    Dr David Healy, a professor at the University of Wales, was given access to the results of Seroxat trials carried out on healthy volunteers 15 years ago, after he was called as a witness during a US trial.

    He discovered that 85% of volunteers suffered problems when withdrawing from the drug, and has been invited to talk about his findings to the CSM at the meeting on November 21.

    The CSM will also hear patient experiences collated by consumer expert and former member of the World Health Organisation, Charles Medawar, who runs consumer watchdog, Social Audit.

    Mr Medawar has spent the last five years researching the effects of Seroxat, but claims he too was refused an invitation to the CSM meeting.

    He said: "Despite numerous conversations with the Medicines Control Agency and the CSM during the last five years, they have also declined to meet me or hear my evidence.

    "We fear that this meeting is purely for show."

    Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, who runs the Seroxat Support Group in Gloucester, also has grave concerns about the meeting.

    She told The Citizen: "They just don't seem to want to know what is really happening to patients.

    "A token meeting about this drug is totally worthless to us. "They should be launching a full inquiry to research the full effects of this drug.

    "But they need to hear from patients who have been on Seroxat to help them form a complete opinion.

    "How else can they know what Seroxat is really like?"

    A spokesman for the Department of Health said the meeting had been planned for several months, but that they would be discussing issues of concern raised in the media.

    "The meeting will discuss the safety of SSRIs or selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors with particular focus on issues surrounding suicidal behaviour and withdrawal reactions.

    "There will be also be discussion of patient reports of withdrawal reactions."

    For the last three months, The Citizen has followed the battle of more than 3,000 patients across the UK, many of them from Gloucestershire, who claim to be addicted to Seroxat.

    The number of county patients who have contacted The Citizen claiming to have experienced difficulties using Seroxat has now reached 126.

    Parmjit Dhanda, MP for Gloucester, has also tabled an Early Day Motion at the House of Commons calling for more research to be carried out into the withdrawal effects of the antidepressant.

    The EDM has now been signed by 63 MPs, after The Citizen visited the House of Commons to deliver a letter encouraging MPs to sign the motion

     

     

    SEROXAT FIRM STRIKES BACK


    10:30 - 07 November 2002

     

    For the last three months, The Citizen has heard from more than 120 Gloucestershire people who claim to be addicted to Seroxat. But manufacturers of the drug, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), continue to deny this is possible. Here Alistair Benbow, of GSK, strongly refutes suggestions it has misled patients...

    By the time you finish reading this article another person will have been diagnosed with suffering from depression.

    Depression is a devastating and potentially life-threatening disease affecting half of all women and a quarter of all men at some point in their lives.

    In the UK alone, five million people suffer from depression at any one time and by the year 2020, the World Health Organisation estimates it will be the second-most burdensome illness in the world.

    The greatest threat facing those who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders is lack of treatment or inadequate treatment.

    Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, has highlighted in a recent press release that "untreated depression can be a more serious threat".

    She said: "One in seven people with serious depression take their own lives."

    So what is Seroxat's role in treating this vulnerable group in society?

    The overwhelming view of independent medical experts and regulatory bodies around the world who have seen the data, is that Seroxat is an effective treatment and has a well established safety profile with experience in tens of millions of patients worldwide since launch in the UK over ten years ago.

    The debate in The Citizen over recent months has focused on three areas - addiction, adverse reactions and discontinuation symptoms.

    Let us look at the facts. Seroxat is not addictive. This view is shared by regulatory authorities around the world and was reinforced only this month by the Food and Drug Administration in America which reconfirmed its view that Seroxat is non-habit-forming.

    All prescription medicines, including Seroxat, have side-effects. These are clearly detailed in the information provided to doctors and patients.

    GSK takes all reports of potential adverse events with all of its products very seriously and conducts a continuous process of safety monitoring and evaluation.

    This information is shared with the regulatory authorities.

    Symptoms can occur in some people on stopping all anti-depressants including Seroxat.

    With Seroxat these are generally short lived and mild to moderate in intensity, the majority resolving themselves without treatment within two weeks.

    These symptoms do not indicate addiction. As recommended by British National Formulary (BNF) and the regulatory authorities, the likelihood of discontinuation symptoms can be minimised by gradually tapering the daily dose.

    The Citizen has raised questions around treatments for children suffering from depression.

    Depression occurs in two per cent of children and four to eight per cent of adolescents and is equally a distressing and debilitating disease that stops them realising their full potential and functioning at school and in the home. Regrettably, suicide, which is a direct consequence of depressive illness, is the third most common cause of death in adolescents.

    Many medicines currently used in children do not have a product licence and this is true in depression. Currently licensed medicines all have significant side effects which may stop patients taking medicine before they have a chance to work.

    Therefore we firmly believe we have an obligation to study our medicines in children under carefully controlled conditions.

    It is of paramount importance that we fully explore the safety and efficacy of our product.

    Only when we have done this and the regulatory authorities have examined the data would a decision be made on the granting of a licence.

    It is important to remember depression is a serious disease it can be treated effectively.

    If you think you may be suffering from depression or any other mental health disorder, please consult your doctor.

     

     

    'SIX YEARS OF MISERY'


    10:30 - 07 November 2002

     

    "I WAS told Seroxat was easy to withdraw from, but nothing could have been further from the truth," says Sarah Jones.

    It was 1996, the bright 21-year-old had finished her degree, and was looking for work when she began to feel low.

    She visited her GP and was prescribed Seroxat.

    Sarah, now 28, of Cirencester, says these tablets were to change her life for the next six years, and is one of thousands across the country hoping to sue GSK, which manufactures Seroxat.

    The complainants claim GSK have misled their patients by not warning them Seroxat can be addictive.

    Sarah said: "As soon as I started taking them, I had an unusual amount of energy. I was happy all the time, and couldn't express any other emotion.

    "They had an adverse effect on my sex drive, but apart from that, they did seem to work."

    After two years, Sarah decided to start reducing her Seroxat dosage of 20mg. This, she claims, is when her real problems began.

    Following her GP's advice, she began to cut the tablets in half, reducing her dose to 10mg, and then began to take them every other day.

    After a month, she felt ready to stop altogether. But two weeks later, she claims her life became unbearable.

    She said: "The side effects I suffered were 100 times worse than my original symptoms, yet I was told the problems I was having was just a sign of my depression coming back.

    "I was suffering hallucinations, total insomnia, vomiting and dizziness. I was not depressed at all, but was agitated and short tempered, and had a real feeling of displacement."

    To alleviate the insomnia, her GP prescribed Valium and Temazapam, but Sarah felt things were spiralling out of her control.

    After just ten days, Sarah says she decided she couldn't deal with the effects of withdrawal any longer, and began taking Seroxat again.

    Another six months went by before she tried to reduce her dose again - but again, once she stopped, the terrible side effects would return, she alleges.

    It wasn't until she contacted a psychotherapist 18 months ago, that she was finally able to put Seroxat behind her.

    She changed GP, switched to the liquid form of the drug, and began an 18-month programme of withdrawal.

    Now she's Seroxat-free and working as a teacher in Essex, but is frustrated and angry at her experiences of the drug.
     

     

    STORY SO FAR


    10:30 - 07 November 2002

     

    A total of 60 MPs have added their backing to a call for Seroxat to be withdrawn for more research into the drug.

    Gloucester MP, Parmjit Dhanda, tabled an Early Day Motion last month at the House of Commons to express concerns over side-effects reported by many people in Gloucester who had used the drug.

    The Citizen personally gave copies of the EDM, along with a catalogue of stories published in the paper to every MP in the UK, in an effort to make sure the voices of county patients are heard.

    Since August this year, The Citizen has received 126 phone calls, e-mails and letters from people in Gloucestershire who claim to have had problems using Seroxat.

    Some claim they have experienced unpleasant withdrawal symptoms while trying to stop taking the drug, some of which they claim have been bad enough to force them to start taking Seroxat again. Others say they have become aggressive and violent on the drug, with several claiming Seroxat use and withdrawal have even led to suicide attempts.

    But manufacturers of the drug deny Seroxat is addictive and maintain it is a safe and effective, treating millions successfully every year.
     

     

    MANUFACTURER INSISTS PILLS ARE STILL SAFE


    10:30 - 22 October 2002

     

    It was reported yesterday in The Citizen that Seroxat was recalled from shelves in Ireland after officials ruled patient information given with the drug must warn users of the potential for suicidal thoughts and actions while taking the anti-depressant.

    A spokesman for the manufacturer of the drug, GlaxoSmithKline, said: "Patients should not be concerned that their medicine has changed. The only change includes guidance for patients regarding the symptoms of depression.

    "The difference between the old and new Irish patient information leaflet relates to a class statement, agreed by the Irish Medicines Board for inclusion in packs of all medications in a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which advises depressed patients of the inherent risk of suicide associated with their condition.

    "The risk of self-harm or suicide when first starting antidepressant treatment is due to the nature of the disease, and is not an effect of the drug. The change in wording does not, in any way, indicate that Seroxat is now linked with suicide.

    "Rather, it highlights the link between depression and the risk of suicide, and this is very well understood by healthcare professionals.

    "Seroxat is effective and generally well-tolerated, with experience in more than 130 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch more than 10 years ago."
     

     

    'HARD NUT' BILLY'S DRUG NIGHTMARE


    10:30 - 22 October 2002

     

    Seroxat did what notorious London gangsters couldn't do. Enforcer Billy Hams said it brought him to his knees. Billy, 64, started taking the anti-depressant drug after he began having nightmares about his violent past in London during the 1970s.

    He fled from his London home to Stonehouse in 1976, following a harrowing series of death threats.He fled from his London home to Stonehouse in 1976, following a harrowing series of death threats.

    A contract had been taken out on his life by underworld gangsters running protection rackets all over London, and Billy says he was living in fear.

    Having worked in the "business" as an enforcer for a major London landlord for many years, Billy says the attempts to kill him came as no surprise.

    It was 1975, and the house where he lived with his wife and three young children was subjected to a series of petrol bomb attacks, and gunshots were fired through a ground-floor window.

    Finally, in August that year, he was captured, gagged and bound by his hands and feet and was thrown into the River Thames.

    In a macabre twist of fate, he managed free his hands and cling on to the dead body of a suicide victim who had just jumped from Putney Bridge and which happened to be floating past. The man's body carried him safely to the river bank.

    But even a hardened enforcer living in a deadly gangland for more than 15 years can only take so much, and for Billy, who has served time in prison, it was time to call it a day.

    He told the police he didn't know his attackers, and moved with his terrified young family to the peace and quiet of the Cotswolds.

    Having left school at the age of 13 after just three years in education, life on the straight and narrow was tough for Billy and, unable to read or write, he struggled to find work.

    But it wasn't until he bumped into an old acquaintance at Gloucester railway station six years ago, that the true horrors of the world he once occupied finally hit home.

    He said: "I saw an old face - someone I didn't really want to see. We stared at each other for a minute or two and then walked away.

    "I have been through every form of violence and evil that you can imagine, and barely batted an eyelid, but suddenly I was stood on a train platform quaking in my boots - terrified for the safety of my family.

    "Someone now knew where we were living, and I felt we were no longer safe."

    It was shortly afterwards that Billy visited his GP for treatment for depression. After an unsuccessful spell on Prozac, he was prescribed Seroxat.

    "At first it worked well, and it made me feel better," said Billy. "But after the first year of taking it, I started to get really horrific nightmares - flashbacks to the old days."

    Billy also claims he began to sweat uncontrollably, and had excruciating pains in his joints.

    But it was when he decided to stop taking Seroxat that he alleges his real problems began and he started to initiate completely unprovoked fights in the street with strangers.

    He said: "You have to understand that, although I had spent much of my life surrounded by violence, it was always directed at people involved in violence too, in a very controlled, planned and organised manner. But this was so different - I was out of control."

    Finally, the wife that had stood by Billy for 42 years decided she could take no more and left.

    "I was a 24-carat hard nut," claimed Billy, "And this bloody drug destroyed me."

    It is now six months since Billy last took Seroxat, and he says his life is at last beginning to get back on track.

    He said: "I look back now, and I cannot believe what I put my family through.

    "They have been so supportive through times when no-one else would have stuck by me, but I just wasn't myself when I was taking Seroxat.

    "I want people to know that this is not something which affects the weak. I thought I could handle anything, but I just couldn't deal with the devastation Seroxat caused.

    "If this can happen to me, Billy Hams, this can happen to anyone."

    A spokesman for Seroxat manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline said: "There is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependency. Seroxat is a safe and effective treatment with experience in more than 100 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch more than 10 years ago."

    n Would you like to add your name to the list of patients claiming to be adversely affected by Seroxat? Contact health reporter Alison Short on 01452 420 630.
     

     

    MPS' RESPONSE TO DRUG CAMPAIGN IS 'ENCOURAGING'


    10:30 - 21 October 2002

     

    Armed with more than 650 letters addressed to every MP in the UK, I headed down to the House of Commons on a mission to back a campaign launched by our readers.

    Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for more research to be done on the controversial anti-depressant Seroxat, following claims the drug is addictive.Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for more research to be done on the controversial anti-depressant Seroxat, following claims the drug is addictive.

    As an issue which more than 100 Citizen readers claim has affected them, I found myself heading down the M4 with a car full of envelopes containing a letter from The Citizen urging Britain's MPs to sign Mr Dhanda's EDM.

    Faye Elliott, 57, of Tuffley, first contacted The Citizen with claims she was addicted to Seroxat in August this year. Since her story was published, Faye has gone on to form a local group - Seroxat Support - to offer advice and friendship to other Seroxat users. She said: "Words cannot express my admiration for The Citizen and the work they have done to help us.

    "Initially it was just my story, but our local paper has not given up. We could never accuse The Citizen of abandoning our cause.

    "I know the members of our group have all said they felt completely alone until The Citizen publicised this issue, and we are all extremely grateful for the support they have given us.

    "Going to the House of Commons with these letters is just the latest step."

    So far, 18 MPs have signed Parmjit Dhanda's Early Day Motion calling for more research to be carried out into the effects of Seroxat on users, including 15 Labour MPs, Cheltenham Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones, and two Ulster Unionist MPs. We hope the letters and cuttings of our stories presented to the MPs will encourage them to sign up to Mr Dhanda's EDM.

    Mr Dhanda said: "I was very pleased to see that 10 MPs had already signed the EDM before it had even been tabled. It is very encouraging to see so many names listed at such an early stage. I know that this is an issue that will affect virtually every constituency in the land, from the northern-most tip of Scotland, to the southern reaches of Cornwall. So I am hopeful that many more will join this campaign."

     

     

    SEROXAT RECALLED FROM SHELVES IN IRISH REPUBLIC


    10:30 - 21 October 2002

     

    Stocks of the anti-depressant Seroxat have been recalled from shelves in the Republic of Ireland following the discovery that information leaflets failed to warn patients about the possiblity of them becoming suicidal while taking it.

    The Irish Medicines Board, which controls the sale of medicines in Ireland, instructed GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers of Seroxat, to recall the drug on Wednesday and replace it immediately with a revised information statement.

    Supplies of Seroxat in the UK are required by law to be accompanied by information which warns patients they may feel suicidal or depressed while taking the drug, but until now Irish patients have been unaware of this.

    A spokesman for the IMB said: "Following a review with national experts and EU colleagues we instructed the manufacturers of the drug Seroxat, GlaxoSmithKline, to revise the wording on the licence and patient information leaflets to include a reference to suicidal behaviour and depression."

    Supplies of the drug would now be instantly replaced by the re-worded version. The new wording will warn patients their conditions may lead to suicidal thoughts, but does not say this is a side-effect of the drug.

    More than 1,000 people across the UK are putting together a legal case claiming it is Seroxat, not their illnesses, which makes them feel suicidal and that the drug is addictive.

    The new wording will read: "Occasionally the symptoms of depression may include thoughts of harming yourself or committing suicide. Until the full antidepressant effect of your medicine becomes apparent it is possible that these symptoms may increase in the first few weeks of treatment."

    GSK in the UK and US were forced to amend the patient information wording following a trial in Wyoming in 2000, which concluded Paxil - the US brand name for Seroxat - was 80% responsible for making family-man Donald Schell shoot three members of his family and himself.

    GSK was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman has said: "There is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependency. Seroxat is a safe and effective treatment with experience in more than 100 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch over 10 years ago."

    Almost 100 patients have contacted The Citizen since July to add their names to the list of those who claim to have suffered side-effects.

    Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda has launched a campaign in the House of Commons for more research to be done into Seroxat. He is asking all MPs to back his call for the antidepressant to be investigated by the Government.

    The EDM reads: "That this House is deeply concerned about the effects of the antidepressant drug Seroxat; notes that the World Health Organisation puts the drug at the top of its league table of drugs that have difficulties of withdrawal and that over 1,000 Seroxat users in the UK are taking legal action against the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, after finding that the drug can lead to dependency and result in severe withdrawal symptoms including muscle spasms, insomnia, anxiety and depression and, in some cases, aggression and violence; is further concerned that the drug's information sheet does not mention the difficulties of withdrawal and that such symptoms are often misdiagnosed by doctors as a relapse into depression; further notes that the manufacturer has already been forced to drop adverts for the drug in the United States after a court ruled they could be misleading; and calls upon the Department of Health to look into the labelling and availability of the drug."

    A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline has said: "We believe there are a number of errors with this motion."

     

     

    MP IN COMMONS CALL FOR ACTION


    10:30 - 15 October 2002

     

    City MP Parmjit Dhanda is today launching a campaign in the House of Commons for more research to be done into Seroxat.

    He is asking all MPs to back his call for the anti-depressant to be investigated by the Government.

    Almost 100 patients have contacted The Citizen since July to add their names to the list of those who claim to have suffered side-effects with Seroxat and many of these have also contacted Mr Dhanda calling for action.

    He told The Citizen: "Seroxat is already on the World Health Organisation's list of drugs where there are particular difficulties with withdrawal. This Early Day Motion will give other MPs around the country the opportunity to add their names to this campaign."

    The EDM reads: "That this House is deeply concerned about the effects of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat; notes that the World Health Organisation puts the drug at the top of its league table of drugs that have difficulties of withdrawal and that over 1,000 Seroxat users in the UK are taking legal action against the manufacturer, Glaxo SmithKline, after finding that the drug can lead to dependency and result in severe withdrawal symptoms including muscle spasms, insomnia, anxiety and depression and, in some cases, aggression and violence; is further concerned that the labeling of the drug does not mention the difficulties of withdrawal and that such symptoms are often misdiagnosed by doctors as a relapse into depression; further notes that the manufacturer has already been forced to drop adverts for the drug in the United States after a court ruled they could be misleading; and calls upon the Department of Health to look into the labelling and availability of the drug."

    A spokesman for Glaxo SmithKline said: "We believe there are a number of errors with this motion."

     

     

    'REPORT MAY PUT PEOPLE AT RISK'


    10:30 - 15 October 2002

     

    A top boss at Glaxo SmithKline has hit back at claims the company's drug Seroxat can lead to addiction.

    Dr Alastair Benbow, head of European clinical psychiatry at the pharmaceutical company, criticised a Panorama investigation, screened on Sunday, into claims made against the drug.

    He said there is a very real risk the programme might lead some patients to inappropriately discontinue treatment with potentially serious consequences.

    "I am worried the programme may have misled this vulnerable group by making false claims about Seroxat and the risk of withdrawal," he said. "

    "Withdrawal symptoms can occur in some patients, but Seroxat is not addictive. Significantly last week the Food and Drug Administration in America reconfirmed its view that Seroxat is non-habit-forming.

    "All prescription medicines, including Seroxat have side-effects. These are clearly detailed in the information provided to doctors and patients."

    He said the overwhelming view of independent medical experts and regulatory bodies around the world is that Seroxat has a well-established safety profile.

    Panorama claimed GSK's clinical and safety records were near-impossible to see - a claim he disputed.

    "GSK makes clinical and safety data for all its medicines available to doctors and regulatory authorities around the world," he said.

    "I am very disappointed Panorama failed to highlight the real problems of depression, which prevents five million people in the UK from leading normal lives.

    "It is also worrying that as a result of the programme patients may not now receive the treatment they need for this debilitating condition. Seroxat is an effective treatment, which since its launch has helped tens of millions of patients worldwide."

    n An appeal board of the pharmaceutical industry's self-regulatory body, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, ruled last week that GSK had committed three breaches of their code of practice. It followed complaints brought against GSK about the wording of information given to patients using Seroxat.

    GSK was found guilty of breaching codes which state claims about a drug must be based on evidence, "must not mislead directly or by implication," must be substantiated by clinical experience and presented in a balanced way.
     

     

    DRUG COULD BE USED TO TREAT CHILDREN


    10:30 - 15 October 2002

     

    Users of the anti-depressant Seroxat say they are outraged at the possibility of the drug being prescribed to children.

    International drugs giant, Glaxo SmithKline (GSK), which manufactures Seroxat, is currently conducting trials of the drug on youngsters in the UK and United States, in the hope the licence for its use can be extended.

    But Faye Elliott, 57, of Tuffley, founder of a county Seroxat support group, finds the prospect of children using the drug very worrying.

    Teenagers can already be prescribed the drug "off-licence," which means if GPs decide to give Seroxat to a child, any consquences are their responsibility.

    But if trials are a success, and a licence is granted, many more youngsters could be given Seroxat.

    So far, ten children taking part in the US trials are claimed to have been left with "problems", and some of these, it is said, have had to be hospitalised.

    But Dr Alastair Benbow, head of European clinical psychiatry at GSK, said the trials were regarded by the company as successful.

    He said: "I think parents would be more worried about the risk of their children committing suicide than giving them Seroxat."

    But Mrs Elliott, of Seroxat Support - a group which offers mutual health advice and support for users of the drug - is outraged by the trials.

    She said: "This absolutely sickens me. It really worries me to think parents may just take the word of their GP and end up believing this is the right thing to give their children.

    "I think that if a parent is worried about their child they should consider counselling.

    "Many people I have spoken to in the group are now thinking they are going to be on Seroxat for life.

    "There is absolutely no need for this obsession with an anti-depressant culture."

    Gloucester MP, Parmjit Dhanda has today tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for research to be carried out into the drug.

    He hopes to encourage MPs nationwide to support the 100 patients in Gloucestershire who claim to have suffered withdrawal symptoms and side effects from Seroxat.

    He told The Citizen: "I would be very concerned that a drug that seems to be causing real difficulty in adults may be on the verge of being prescribed to children, particularly in the light of evidence from America."

    A spokesman for GSK said the number of children taking part in clinical trials in the UK is in single figures.

    "Unfortunately, depression is a disease which affects many people, adults and children, and although we do not have a licence for GPs to prescribe Seroxat to children, they can give it to them off-licence.

    "We therefore have a duty to ensure trials are carried out to study the effects of this.

    "We believe we have an obligation to study all our medicines in children. Many medicines currently used in children do not have a product licence. We believe it is important to fully explore the safety and efficacy of our product in this difficult-to-treat population.

    "Depression occurs in two per cent of children and four to eight per cent of adolescents and is a distressing and debilitating disease which stops them functioning at school and home or realising their full potential. Suicide, which is a direct consequence of depressive illness, is the third most common cause of death in adolescents."

    "As far as I know, we have not yet applied for a licence to supply Seroxat to children."

    Seroxat Support is holding its second meeting on Sunday, at 7pm at Tuffley Community Centre, Windsor Drive.

    n To add your name to the list of those claiming to have suffered side-effects while taking or withdrawing from Seroxat, or to learn about Seroxat Support, contact Alison Short on 01452 420 630.
     

     

    DRUG AND DRINK COCKTAIL 'MADE MAN LASH OUT'


    10:30 - 12 October 2002

     

    A cocktail of the controversial anti-depressant drug Seroxat and alcohol made a "good tempered" Gloucester man lash out and punch a police officer, according to his solicitor.

    Thomas Rickards, of Brookfield Road, Churchdown has no history of violence, according to his defence solicitor Jon Holmes.

    But the 20-year-old escaped a prison sentence yesterday when he appeared at Gloucester Magistrates' Court, for punching and nearly breaking the nose of a police officer after he had taken Seroxat before going on a night out and drinking with friends.

    Andrew Walters, prosecuting, said: "On August 22 at around 2.20am police officers were called to reports of disorder in Westgate Street, Gloucester.

    "Three men, one of which was the defendant, became abusive and shouted things.

    "He was warned about his conduct but he persisted in being verbally abusive and was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

    "He became violent in the hold areas of the cells at the station and struck an officer on his nose, which became swollen and bloody."

    Mr Holmes said Rickards was not usually a violent man, adding: "He had taken Seroxat, which I am sure you are aware from the local media can have some terrible side effects, and combined with alcohol it did not help his behaviour.

    "This is an intelligent young man who is in full time employment and is very remorseful about what he has done."

    Rickards pleaded guilty to charges of being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police officer at a previous court hearing in September.

    Rickards, who has three previous convictions for being drunk and disorderly, was told by the chairman of the magistrates that he was "lucky" to escape a prison sentence.

    He was given a 200-hour Community Punishment Order and ordered to pay 250 compensation to the police officer he punched and 40 towards prosecution costs.
     

     

    'TRAPPED BY TINY TABLETS'


    10:30 - 11 October 2002

     

    Sally Gwynne says she had no choice but to sit back and watch in horror as her husband Chris struggled to rid his body of the controversial anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

    Now she herself is frightened to come off the pills in case she suffers the same reaction.

    For three months, the young family from Berry Hill claim they were plagued by Chris's bursts of uncontrollable anger and irrational rage as he began to withdraw from the prescription anti-depressant.

    Shattered by the death of his uncle, and struggling to look after his three young children while working seven days a week, Chris finally snapped under the mounting pressure. He suffered a nervous breakdown, stopped working and began to take Seroxat.

    Chris, 40, said: "As soon as I started taking Seroxat I just became really tired and sleepy all the time.

    "I took three or four months off work, because I just couldn't cope with the constant tiredness."

    In July this year - a year after he started taking Seroxat tablets - Chris visited his GP who recommended a change of medication.

    Chris says he was told to stop Seroxat for three days before starting the new course of anti-depressants.

    His mother had just been diagnosed with cancer, and he was still feeling depressed.

    He said: "As soon as I took my last half-tablet, my temper became razor thin.

    "The slightest thing seemed to provoke me.

    "I remember one time, I was cleaning round the house and a shoe was in my way.

    "I just began shouting at it and kicking it across the room. I was going mad, and it was only a shoe."

    Chris alleges he also suffered from severe arthritic pains in his joints, leaving him feeling "like a 90-year-old man".

    Three months later, Chris claims Seroxat has left its mark on his personality.

    He said: "I still find it difficult to string a sentence together, and I am constantly stammering. I was never like that before."

    Now Sally, 43, who has suffered from clinical depression for years, says she began to take Seroxat 18 months ago.

    Sally said: "I would probably have thought about coming off Seroxat by now if I hadn't seen the stress Chris went through.

    "Chris became irrationally angry at times when he wouldn't have been before. He seemed to fly into a rage for no reason."

    The couple are backing Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda's Early Day Motion being presented to the House of Commons next week.

    Chris said: "I would urge all MPs to get behind this action."

    * GSK maintains the drug is not addictive. The company says there is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependency and that it is a safe and effective treatment used by 100 million patients across the world.

    * Seroxat Support, a group set up by users of Seroxat to help share advice and information, will be holding their next meeting on Sunday, October 20.

    The group will meet at Tuffley Community Centre, Windsor Drive, Tuffley at 7pm.

    For more information about the group, or to add your name to the list of Gloucestershire residents claiming to suffer from problems with Seroxat, call reporter Alison Short on 01452 420 630.

    ends
     

     

    TV TO PROBE PLIGHT OF SEROXAT DRUG VICTIMS


    10:30 - 11 October 2002

     

    The BBC is to highlight the drug Seroxat in its flagship documentary programme Panorama this weekend.

    Secrets of Seroxat is mirroring The Citizen's campaign by exploring the plight of hundreds of people across the UK who claim their lives have been devastated by the widely-prescribed anti-depressant.Secrets of Seroxat is mirroring The Citizen's campaign by exploring the plight of hundreds of people across the UK who claim their lives have been devastated by the widely-prescribed anti-depressant.

    The documentary features Dr David Healy, a professor at Bangor University, who speaks out against the drug.

    In June 2001, an American jury ordered GlaxoSmithKline to pay 4.6 million to the family of Donald Schell who killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter, and then himself, after taking Seroxat for just two days.

    Dr Healy was given access to the results of Seroxat trials on healthy people carried out 15 years ago, after he was called as a witness to the trial in the US.

    Since July, The Citizen has been contacted by about 100 people in Gloucestershire who claim to have suffered problems either using, or withdrawing from Seroxat.

    Now more than 1,000 are taking part in legal action against GSK claiming the drug can cause serious side-effects.

    Next week, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda is launching an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons to encourage more MPs to call for a the drug to be taken off the shelves while more research into possible side-effects is carried out.

    He told The Citizen: "Seroxat is already on a World Health Organisation list of drugs where there are particular difficulties with withdrawal.

    "The Early Day Motion will give other MPs around the country the opportunity to add their names to this campaign."

    GlaxoSmithKline maintains the drug is not addictive. In a statement the company said: "There is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependancy.

    "Seroxat is a safe and effective treatment with experience in more than 100 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch over ten years ago."

    n Panorama is being shown on BBC1 at 10.15pm, Sunday.

     

     

    MAKE THIS DRUG RESEARCH PUBLIC


    10:30 - 04 October 2002

     

    I can only applaud Parmjit Dhanda MP for putting public safety before the interests of major companies - a rare quality in politicians these days!

    There appears to be a distinction between "addictive" and "habit-forming".

    Addictive drugs such as heroin produce marked and sometimes serious physiological symptoms upon withdrawal whereas habit-forming drugs like tobacco produce only psychological symptoms.

    So, technically speaking, it could be argued that tobacco is non-addictive, if you want to be pedantic about it.

    Evidence suggests that Seroxat, while perhaps not addictive in the same sense heroin is, is certainly habit-forming and this should be clearly stated on the label.

    The issue of dependence, however, is something of a red herring and one that may even actually be welcomed by GSK as it detracts attention from another, possibly more serious concern that has been raised since its introduction.

    I understand that GSK funded research in the US in response to concerns that, among the various side-effects, were suicidal tendencies and bouts of aggressive and irrational behaviour.

    Although it could be argued that these behavioural effects were more likely to be symptomatic of the depression for which the drugs were prescribed, incidents of suicide and, in particular, violence towards others did appear to be markedly higher than in patients using the more traditional sedative-type antidepressants.

    The fact that GSK has chosen not to make public the findings of this research should speak volumes.

    Drugs like Seroxat and Prozac trigger the release of serotonin, a natural chemical harboured in the brain which produces a sense of well-being. Sedatives simply dull sensations, negative or positive.

    On the face of it, Seroxat-type drugs sound like a good idea. But how much research has gone into the implications of manipulating the way in which the brain naturally controls mood?

    Antidepressants are more appropriate for clinical depression for which there is no apparent reason and, therefore, would not be helped by improving one's situation or environment.

    I agree with Mr Dhanda that these drugs should be withdrawn until further research has looked honestly and openly into the implications.

    In the meantime, GSK should make public its US research findings and label all packaging with a clear warning about all possible negative side-effects.

    RON TOCKNELL

    Whitecross Road,

    Lydney
     

     

    "I JUST WANTED TO STAB MYSELF IN THE HEAD."


    10:30 - 01 October 2002

     

    The fight to force Glaxo SmithKline to investigate claims the anti-depressant Seroxat may lead to dependence is gathering momentum.

    Nearly 80 patients in

    Gloucestershire have contacted The Citizen, claiming they are addicted to Seroxat,

    and now Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda is calling for withdrawal of the drug while

    more research into its effects is carried out. Health Reporter ALISON SHORT looks

    at the growing controversy surrounding the popular anti-depressant...

    WITHIN weeks of withdrawing from Seroxat, Melanie Worman claims her head was filled with terrifying, impulsive desires to stab herself in the head.

    "Looking back now, I cannot believe how much it changed my personality - almost like Jekyll and Hyde," she said.

    Having suffered a "great deal of childhood trauma," Melanie, 39, of Ruardean, had tried to take her life on several occasions.

    But each attempt was, she says, conducted in a peaceful way, through an overdose of tablets, and she now finds the thought of a violent death deeply shocking.

    After years of doubting the benefits of taking anti-depressants, Melanie finally relented and accepted a prescription for Seroxat in January 2001.

    "When I was on Seroxat I was emotionally constipated," she said. "I couldn't feel any highs or lows, and became a complete recluse. I was sleeping for 12 to 18 hours a day."

    Having read all the leaflets that came with her medication, Melanie knew she should take Seroxat for at least 18 months before withdrawing very slowly.

    She said: "I actually withdrew over three or four months - incredibly slowly. Everything was fine until I finally stopped the last tablet, then it was hell."

    But as soon as Melanie stopped taking them she was plunged back into a deep depression.

    Having suffered from clinical depression for most of her life, she recognised the signs. But this time she claims it was different.

    She said: "This time I couldn't sleep at all because my head was constantly on over-drive.

    "I couldn't stop my brain from thinking and working all the time.

    "I got to the point where I was so bad that I knew the only way to stop my brain was to grab a knife and start stabbing it.

    "Thankfully I never did this, but I did punch myself in the head. It was horrific."

    Now taking another anti-depressant, called Esexor, Melanie says her emotions are under control, but is still shaken from her Seroxat encounter.

    "I know how to handle my depression and have become an experienced meditator, but nothing could have prepared me for what Seroxat did to me," she said.

    Glaxo SmithKline - manufacturers of Seroxat - claim side effects experienced after withdrawal are either a sign of withdrawing too quickly, or are a simply a return to old symptoms.

    But Melanie claims her incredibly violent and impulsive suicidal thoughts were polar opposites from her previous depressive thoughts.

    She said: "This was entirely different. I abhor violence of any sort whatsoever, and would never have considered such a terrifying form of suicide before. I was also extremely nasty to my friends - it is all completely alien to the person I really am.

    "I am absolutely horrified by what happened to my personality."

    Melanie is interested in meeting up with anyone else who claims to have suffered from Seroxat withdrawal symptoms.
     

     

    WITHDRAW THIS DRUG CALL BY MP


    10:30 - 01 October 2002

     

    The Department of Health is being asked by a county MP to investigate the controversial anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

    Hundreds of Seroxat users across the UK claim they became addicted to the drug - and they say manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline never warned them.

    "I am surprised that the drug is still available at all," says Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda in his letter to Lord Hunt.

    More than 80 county users of the drug have inundated The Citizen with their Seroxat experiences.

    Some claim to have suffered horrific withdrawal symptoms but the company insists Seroxat is not addictive.

    In his letter to the Department of Health Gloucester MP Mr Dhanda asks if the drug can be withdrawn while it is investigated.

    More than 80 users of the drug have contacted The Citizen in the last two months, claiming to be dependent on the anti-depressant, many of whom are part of a national lobby group which is urging GSK to change the way the drug is labelled.

    GSK deny the drug is addictive, but more than 800 patients across the UK vehemently dispute this.

    The Citizen is backing the calls for GSK to change the information it puts out to patients and doctors about Seroxat.

    They want the company to warn users they may become addicted to the drug.

    At present the information which accompanies Seroxat clearly states the drug is "not addictive."

    A similar row is underway in the US, where a federal court judge has ordered GSK to pull television adverts which state the drug is "non-habit forming."

    Mr Dhanda is personally responding to cries for help from members of "Seroxat Support," - a group set up by county Seroxat users who were put in touch by The Citizen.

    He said: "I have been contacted by members of my constituency who are concerned about this drug.

    "We have to ensure that the Government is aware of this issue, and by getting this into the public domain, and into the lap of Government administration, hopefully we can ensure even more people look up and take notice."

    In a letter to the Department of Health, Mr Dhanda said: "In light of all the complaints about side-effects, I am concerned that the drug is still available at all.

    "Is it possible that the drug can be withdrawn - at least until proper and conclusive research can be conducted into the side-effects?"

    A spokesman for GSK said: "We have had no correspondence with the MP.

    "However, there is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependency.

    "Seroxat is a safe and effective treatment with experience in more than 100 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch more than 10 years ago."

    ends
     

     

    SEROXAT MEETING HAILED SUCCESS


    10:30 - 24 September 2002

     

    The inaugural meeting of a support group for users of the anti-depressant Seroxat was a "great success", say organisers.

    Around 12 people attended the meeting of Seroxat Support at the Tuffley Community Centre to share their thoughts and experiences about the prescription drug, to which hundreds of patients claim to be addicted.

    The meeting was organised by Faye Elliott, who contacted The Citizen last month to speak out against the drug.

    She said: "The meeting was really productive.

    "Everyone sat around a table and talked about why they started taking it and what problems they have had since.

    "We have all decided to write to our MP and to try to publicise the problems and addictions we have suffered."

    Nationally, more than 800 patients are suing Glaxo SmithKline - manufacturers of Seroxat - claiming it failed to warn them about the chances of becoming addicted to the drug.

    Since Mrs Elliott's story was published, The Citizen has been contacted by more than 70 people in Gloucestershire, all claiming to be addicted to Seroxat.

    The next meeting is due to be held next month, and the date and venue are yet to be confirmed. For more information about Seroxat or Seroxat Support, contact health reporter Alison Short on 01452 420 630.
     

     

    'THIS DRUG HAS BEEN A GODSEND'


    10:30 - 10 September 2002

     

    For Andria Nash, Seroxat has been a "godsend." Suffering from what she describes as severe PMT, Andria, 43, of Newent, had tried every alternative therapy to cure her, but without success.

    The final straw came when she waved a knife at her children during an argument, leaving them terrified.

    She said: "Obviously there is no way I would have done anything to hurt them, but they told me afterwards they were scared of what I would do.

    "I decided enough was enough and I went to the doctor."

    Her GP said her pre-menstrual symptoms constituted depression, and prescribed her Seroxat.

    Andria said: "I have always been the kind of person who believes there is no such thing as depression.

    "But when I thought about it I realised that when I am pre-menstrual I do behave like a person who is clinically depressed."

    Andria, a healthcare assistant in the maternity ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, has been taking Seroxat for just over a year now, and says it has transformed her life for the better.

    "Everyone who knew me then and who knows me now can see how much I have changed, and can't believe the difference. It really has been a godsend," she said.

    Although Andria feels Seroxat has improved her life, she feels she is hooked on the drug and believes she may be taking it for life.

    "Of course it's addictive," she said. "Anyone who says it isn't is lying.

    "I came off it for a week and was argumentative and weepy.

    "You have to wean yourself off it slowly, as with any drug.

    "I don't care if I have to take it for the rest of my life, as long as me and my kids are happy and safe."

    Peter Latimer, 52, of Hucclecote, took Seroxat for a year and agrees with Andria's conclusions.

    He said: "I believe Seroxat is one of the safest anti-depressants you can take.

    "But the body does get used to having these drugs in the system, so it is always going to be a shock to the body when you stop taking them.

    "The key is to come off it really slowly."

    A 49-year-old Gloucester man, who did not want to be identified, also called The Citizen to defend Seroxat, and said it helped him cope with anxiety following a heart problem.

    The married man said there was a danger people would be frightened off the anti-depressant by reports of the difficulties people have had coming off the drug.

    He said: "People shouldn't be coming off the drug so quickly - if you just stop you are bound to have problems.

    "You have to come off it properly.

    "I was lucky and had a proper consultation with a psychiatrist through private medical insurance.

    "I took me six months to come off it, that's how long it can take."

    He said it worked wonders with his anxiety and described the drug as "marvellous."

    n Would you like to tell The Citizen your experiences with Seroxat? Are you planning to join the growing number of patients pursuing legal action against Seroxat's manufacturers Glaxo SmithKline?

    If so, contact Alison Short on 01452 420 630.
     

     

    DO I FACE A LIFE OF DRUG-TAKING?


    10:30 - 09 September 2002

     

    I can't think of any other explanation," said Jeanette Bagwell. "I must be addicted to Seroxat."

    Whenever Jeanette, 42, of Mitcheldean, has tried to stop taking her tablets or has forgotten to take one, in the last four and half years, she claims to have suffered a range of terrifying withdrawal symptoms.

    She said: "Just two days after I stop taking them I start to shake and shiver all over, and have muscle spasms.

    "I can't stop crying and only get a couple of hours sleep every night."

    She has come to the conclusion that she cannot stop taking them, and says she faces a life of drug-taking.

    Jeanette's experiences with Seroxat started in 1997 when both her grandmother and grandfather became seriously ill.

    She began to suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, and was prescribed Seroxat by her GP to help her cope.

    "After a couple of weeks I felt great, and was back to my old self," she said. "All my confidence had come back. I felt lovely."

    But two years later, Jeanette decided the Seroxat tablets had done their job, and she was ready to stop taking them for good.

    She said: "I weaned myself off them slowly, but my body just went into spasms, and I just had to go back on them."

    According to Jeanette, her GP suggested her original symptoms may have returned, and that she hadn't taken the tablets for long enough.

    After another two-and-a-half years, she decided to try again, positive her original symptoms had subsided.

    She said: "I came off them really slowly over three-and-a-half months, but two or three days later I was going mad.

    "I was crying all the time, and was literally down in the dumps.

    "Every muscle in my body was aching and weak, and when I put my foot on the floor every muscle in my body shook.

    "In the end I returned to my GP and literally begged her to put me back on Seroxat because I couldn't cope."

    The sleepless nights, aggressive mood swings and constant tears meant she had to give up her cleaning job, and move in with her mother for a few weeks, as she was unable to look after herself.

    "I don't want these drugs, but my body is crying out for them."

    Simon Richards, 37, of Gloucester, started taking Seroxat to help him overcome a depression which set in when his wife left in 2001.

    After just four months, Simon said he had "had enough" of the drug, as he claims it left him feeling "detached from life".

    He said: "It is almost like you are not looking at things through your own eyes - you are standing a foot behind.

    "Two weeks after I took the last tablet, things became a real struggle.

    "I have read other people's experiences of Seroxat in The Citizen, and that doesn't even begin to describe how bad it feels to stop taking it."

    Simon suffered from an inability to make decisions, started having panic attacks, and was dizzy and disorientated.

    He said: "I did worry that I couldn't function without them, and it caused quite a lot of anxiety."

    But he battled through the side effects, and six weeks later, he began to feel "normal" again.
     

     

    SO MUCH PAIN, I COULD HARDLY WALK


    10:30 - 07 September 2002

     

    Doreen De Cloedt, 52, of Cinderford, has been off Seroxat for eight weeks. She was prescribed the tablets in March 2001, to help her deal with what was diagnosed as a social phobia.

    Her illness meant she felt unable to leave her house, and was intensely afraid of talking to people she didn't know.

    She said: "I just kept crying all the time, and any time I had to go out anywhere I would completely panic."

    Almost as soon as she started taking Seroxat, she claims her joints began to ache.

    The aches became so intense, that she decided to start reducing the amount she was taking to try and come off them altogether.

    She took her last tablet at the end of June.

    She said: "I just got fed up with the pain. I was having a job to walk across the bedroom some mornings.

    "In the end I just thought to myself, 'I just can't take this anymore.'

    "It was awful."

    Having cut down her dose to one every three days, Doreen began to notice the effects of withdrawal that so many have complained about.

    She said: "I was visibly shaking all the time, all over my body, and I had electric-like shocks in my head.

    "I still have pains in my head, and if I turn my head quickly everything I see looks animated. I also have a constant ringing in my ears."

    Eight weeks later, Doreen still suffers from aching joints, and has even undergone tests for arthritis.

    She said: "If I wasn't a strong person I wouldn't be still going to work.

    "I can safely say I was addicted to Seroxat, but you don't notice the addiction until you start to come off."

    When Joy Sobkiw's sister died at the age of 47 of a brain haemorrhage, she knew she had to be strong to help support her parents.

    But the events of the next few years were to prove too much for her.

    In 1991, her husband died after suffering a massive heart attack.

    It was an unexpected tragedy, but Joy had no idea of what was still to come.

    The day of the funeral, Joy, now 75, returned home and decided to go and pick up her dog - a collie - from a neighbours house.

    But, having knocked on the door and entered the house, she couldn't find him anywhere.

    Eventually, a friend came to help her look, and whilst her friend scoured the house a second time, Joy went into the garage - only to find her husband's best friend lying dead on the floor. He too had suffered a heart attack.

    The final blow came just three years later, when Joy's only son Nicholas died suddenly at the age of 33 - also of a heart attack.

    Joy and her husband had tried for years to have a child, and had been overjoyed when Nicholas came into their lives.

    She said: "I was so depressed after my husband's death that the doctor recommended I take Seroxat.

    "Up until then, I had always dealt with things by myself and had no intention of taking anti-depressants, even after my sister's death.

    "But by the time my son died, it was all too much."

    It's now 11 years since Joy started taking Seroxat and she has been trying to stop for the last two without success.

    She said: "I have really tried to stop, and I only need half a tablet to feel OK, but any less than that and I feel awful again.

    "My head goes all funny, as if someone has put a ping-pong ball in it. I take about ten other kinds of tablets for various ailments, and I would really like to stop, but I'm finding it too hard at the moment."
     

     

    I CAN'T EVEN REMEMBER ATTACKING A LITTLE BOY IN MCDONALD'S


    10:30 - 06 September 2002

     

    When Paul Stevens grabbed a young boy by the neck in a queue at McDonald's and pushed him out of the way, his wife began to worry about his growing aggression.

    The father-of-two, from Longlevens, had started to reduce his dose of Seroxat and had changed from an easy going, caring husband, to an unpredictable stranger.

    His wife Judy said: "He just can't cope with coming off them, and we have resigned ourselves to the fact that he will be on them for life."

    Paul, 41, has no recollection of the McDonald's incident, or any of the other aggressive outbursts his wife relays to him.

    He started taking Seroxat in 1997 after being diagnosed with clinical depression.

    He said: "I just had no interest in anything anymore. I have always been a lifelong rugby fan, but I was so disinterested in life that I didn't even want to watch the Six Nations Championship when it came on TV."

    After one-and-a-half years on Seroxat, Paul decided he was ready to come off the drug, and started to reduce his dose slowly, as recommended by his GP.

    He said: "It was my son's 14th birthday and we went to Birmingham for the day. I had been off Seroxat for two weeks, and we went to McDonald's for some food.

    "We were in the queue waiting to be served, a child was standing in front of me with his dad, and apparently, I just grabbed him by the neck and pushed him out of the way.

    "I am not an aggressive person, but when I came off Seroxat, nothing was right for me. I was upsetting my wife over nothing."

    The days passed in a daze for Paul, and ironically, he thought he was coping well with the withdrawal, but his wife believes this was because he was unable to recall the aggressive incidents.

    Paul said: "It was a case of, 'why did you just do that?' And I would say, 'do what?'"

    Having discussed the withdrawal with his GP, Paul went back on Seroxat, now fearing he'll be on it for life.

    He said: "I'm too worried about coming off it again. The GP told me that some people can come off it with no problems, but some may have to go on it for life. I must be one of those people."

    These days, if Paul forgets to take a tablet, he is reminded by a tingling sensation in his face, and Judy says there is a distant look in his eyes.

    But if it means he doesn't inflict his moods on anyone else, he says it's a small price to pay.

    "I believe I am dependent upon those tablets to stay myself," he said. "If they stop me going back to the way I was, I have no problem with taking them for the rest of my life."

    Paul Daniel, 42, of Gloucester, suffered a panic attack after the strain of looking after his two young children became too much.

    His wife had left, and despite managing to deal with his situation for eight months, worries that his wife may end her own life, finally pushed him over the edge.

    In April, 2001, he visited his GP who recommended he take Seroxat.

    Paul said: "It just made me completely, emotionally numb. I could look after my children but I was just numb - I couldn't experience highs or lows."

    Having completed a ten-week course of Seroxat, Paul assumed it would be OK to stop taking the tablets.

    "Within 24 hours I was just going crazy," he said.

    "My mood was swinging from minute to minute. One minute I would be in tears, and the next I would be really raging, shouting at the children for the smallest thing."

    He also claims he began to suffer what he describes as "brain shivers," nausea, distorted vision, dizziness and vertigo.

    He said: "I just did not know what was going on."

    Speaking to his GP, he realised he shouldn't have stopped his tablets so abruptly, and started to take them again.

    A year later, he decided to come off Seroxat slowly, and started to reduce his dose.

    He said: "In consultation with a psychiatrist, I began to taper the dose very, very slowly, but I had the same symptoms as before, except not so severe.

    "It was very difficult to deal with as a single parent and work wasn't going very well either. My legs started to give way as well, and my muscles became very weak."

    Paul's mood swings have affected his two young children, he says, as his "irritability" and "unpredictability" leaves them confused.

    It is now four months since Paul stopped taking Seroxat and he says the brain shivers have only just stopped.

    He has joined the growing number of people taking legal action against Seroxat manufacturers, Glaxo SmithKline for stating the drug is "not addictive" on it's information leaflets.

     

     

    HOOKED

    BY NEP

    16:03 - 23 October 2002

     

    Users of an anti-depressant drug have inundated The Citizen claiming they are addicted.

    It follows our story on Monday highlighting the case of Faye Elliott, of Tuffley, who claimed she had become addicted to the prescription drug Seroxat.

    Now more people have come forward claiming to suffer the same kinds of "vicious" withdrawal symptoms.

    Anita Jones, 43, of Tredworth, said: "I was so relieved to read that someone else is going through the same thing as me. I have suffered from depression on and off for years, and haven't been able to come off it."

    Suzanne Donnelly, 32, of Longlevens, developed obsessive compulsive disorder after the birth of her first child, and was prescribed Seroxat - also known as Peroxatine - by her GP.

    For her, withdrawing from the drug was a "terrifying experience".

    She said: "I was curled up in a ball lying on the floor, shouting to my husband I thought I was going to die."

    All 18 users of Seroxat who contacted us claim to have suffered withdrawal symptoms including dizziness, disorientation, aggression, stabbing pains, pins and needles and chronic headaches.

    Mrs Elliott is one of more than 700 people nationwide who are pursuing legal action against Glaxo SmithKline, for damages. The company denies the drug is addictive.

     

    WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS...


    10:30 - 21 August 2002

     

    Seroxat is an anti-depressant drug prescribed by doctors to people suffering from a whole range of depressive conditions, ranging from phobias and anxieties, to bi-polar disorder.

    Gp Mike Roberts, of Rosebank Surgery, Stroud Road, tells The Citizen why he thinks Seroxat is a drug worth prescribing...

    "Seroxat is a very good anti-depressant. It is part of a new generation of anti-depressants called, "selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors" - or SSRIs - of which Prozac and Seroxat are members. It works very, very well.

    There is some argument as to whether it is addictive or not, but I would argue that it is not addictive because by the very definition, addiction is something you need more and more of.

    That is most certainly not the case with Seroxat.

    "Some patients do experience quite nasty side-effects coming off, and sometimes it has to be withdrawn from very, very slowly.

    "Patients suffering problems with withdrawal, need to take a tablet every other day, and then every third day and so on, until they can finally stop taking it altogether. A lot of patients can come off Seroxat without any problems at all, but there are a significant number which suffer symptoms.

    "But provided the drug is prescribed in the right circumstances, it can work extremely well. The vast majority of people who have taken Seroxat for depression have benefited enormously."
     

     

    WOMAN'S DEPRESSION DRUG ADDICTION CLAIM


    10:30 - 19 August 2002

     

    "if I had known how much anti-depressants would change me, I would never have taken them," said Faye Elliott.

    "trying to come off them has been an absolutely terrifying experience."

    Mrs Elliott, 57, of Tuffley, has been taking the anti-depressant, Seroxat, for eight years and claims she is addicted.

    Along with more than 700 others, she is suing manufacturer Glaxo SmithKline for claiming that the drug is "not addictive."

    In 1972, Mrs Elliott's mother committed suicide, leaving her family's life in tatters.

    Then Mrs Elliott was dealt a further blow when both her grandmothers, and her 31-year-old cousin were killed.

    To add to her misery, in 1978, her nine-year-old died of pneumonia.

    Mrs Elliott slipped into a deep depression, and unable to cope, her life began to fall apart around her. Finally, her relationship with her husband broke down, and he left.

    Mrs Elliott's memory of this period in her life is hazy - dulled by the daily diet of anti-depressants from her GP.

    By 1982 she had developed agoraphobia, and became paranoid that anyone who came into her life would disappear again.

    She said: "I couldn't answer the door, let alone go out of it. I would see the doctor, and they would prescribe me different drugs, each promising to make me better.

    "I was really on a merry-go-round."

    Then, in 1994, she was introduced to Seroxat. Her GP said it was the latest treatment, and could be the answer to all her problems.

    She said: "I was suffering from severe panic attacks and was ready to try anything that might work.

    "All it did was lift the mood. It didn't cure the panic attacks or the agoraphobia."

    Since then, Mrs Elliott has been trying to stop taking the pills, but has found the withdrawal symptoms crippling.

    She said coming off Seroxat leaves her with "electric shock-like sensations," in her head, dizzy spells, disorientation, agitation, nausea, aggression and confusion.

    Mrs Elliott said: "It is the most difficult thing I have ever had to cope with. It is like being a heroin or a crack addict."

    Solicitor, Mark Harvey, is leading the action against Glaxo SmithKline (GSK).

    He said: "I am receiving a dozen or so more enquiries a day from users of Seroxat who say they are addicted.

    "All over the patient information sheet, GSK says you cannot become addicted to Seroxat.

    "There are so many people all over the country who have the same story to tell, so I believe the suggestion that it is not addictive is nonsense."

    Dr Mike Roberts, GP at the Rosebank surgery, Stroud Road, said: "Seroxat is a very good anti-depressant and it works very well. A very small minority of people have suffered side effects, but I would always recommend users try to come off the drug very slowly."

    A spokesman for GSK said: "There is no reliable scientific evidence that Seroxat leads to addiction or dependency.

    "Seroxat is a safe and effective treatment with experience in more than 100 million patient treatments worldwide since its launch over 10 years ago."

    n Have you experienced problems with withdrawing from Seroxat? Contact The Citizen's health reporter, Alison Short, on 01452 420 630.
     

     

    PMT WOMEN'S ALARM AT DRUG PRESCRIPTIONS


    10:30 - 26 June 2002

     

    WOMEN in Gloucester are being prescribed anti-depressant drugs like Prozac and Seroxat to deal with symptoms of mild premenstrual tension (PMT).

    The drug, commonly associated with treatment for manic depression and mental illness, is being given to women to help them cope with their monthly cycle.The drug, commonly associated with treatment for manic depression and mental illness, is being given to women to help them cope with their monthly cycle.

    One woman from the city, who did not want to be named, said her doctor had offered to prescribe her Prozac after she complained of mild PMT symptoms.

    "I was a bit shocked. I had not been describing symptoms of depression," she said. She declined the prescription.

    Another Gloucester woman, who also did not want to be named, said she had been prescribed Seroxat in March.

    The woman, a mother of two, said she had gone to her GP complaining of mild premenstrual symptoms and had been taking the drug ever since.

    Although she said the medication had helped with her symptoms, which included breast tenderness, fatigue and backache, she said she was anxious about the drug's association with mental illness.

    "You begin to feel there is something wrong with yourself," she said.

    Christine Baker, national officer for the National Association of Pre Menstrual Syndrome, said many women had contacted the charity concerned they had been misdiagnosed or were being prescribed an inappropriate course of drugs.

    Ms Baker said: "There has been a lot of concern that Prozac is being prescribed as a first line treatment. We do not encourage that.

    "The majority, women and men, think Prozac is a treatment for serious manic depression, and don't generally associate Prozac with premenstrual tension."

    However, she said in America the drug had been prescribed for some time under the name Sarafem as a treatment for PMT with good results.

    Until two and a half years ago in this country the drug was only licensed as a treatment for the most extreme form of PMT, premenstrual dysphoric (corr) disorder, experienced by up to eight per cent of women.

    But since then it had been licensed as a recognised treatment for coping with some of the 150 recognised symptoms of PMT and had proved effective.

    "We do know it is a very good treatment. Prozac has many functions. It is also used for the treatment of ME," said Ms Baker.

    The Royal College of Pyschiatrists latest fact file on antidepressants says: "Don't assume that because you have been prescribed an anti-depressant that this means you are suffering from depression."

    Doctor Mike Roberts, who has a practice on the Stroud Road, said: "Prozac can be used for the treatment of certain symptoms of premenstrual tension."

    Whether it was suitable for every individuals was a matter for them and their GPs, he said.

    "The difficulty is you cannot generalise about it," he said. "My advice is if anyone has a doubt about a prescription that their GP has given them, they should talk to their GP about it."

    Ms Baker said the NAPS would certainly not recommend Prozac as a first line treatment.

    She suggested women talk through alternatives first with their doctor - such as St John's wort or evening primrose oils.
     

     

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