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Seroxat: more harm than good

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Agency blamed for promoting Seroxat

he body which regulates medicines is playing Russian Roulette with people's lives over the common antidepressant drug Seroxat, a charity claimed today.

Mental health charity Mind said the Medicines Control Agency - now the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - had failed in its duty as the body responsible for the safety of prescribed drugs.

Seroxat, which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

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But some who have taken it have claimed they became hooked on the drug, while others have reported feelings of self harm, or even suicide.

Mind chief executive Richard Brook said the MHRA had not listened to the experiences of people who had taken Seroxat.

"Many of these people have suffered terrible side effects when taking or trying to come off the drug and some people, it is believed, have died," he said.

On Monday, Mind and people who have taken Seroxat, will protest outside the offices of the MHRA in London.

Mind is calling for Seroxat not to be issued for new prescriptions until a full and independent inquiry has been conducted involving people who have taken the drug.

The charity is demanding urgent meetings with health minister Hazel Blears, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Royal Colleges of GPs and Psychiatrists. It also wants discussions about stronger warnings of potential side effects on information leaflets and better training for doctors.

In October the documentary series Panorama raised concerns about Seroxat and the BBC was contacted by thousands of people who had taken the drug. Of these, 239 agreed to take part in a survey about their experiences.

Some 97% reported unwanted side effects and 50% of these said they had had feelings of self harm or suicide.

Withdrawal problems were experienced by 83%, while 66% of those who tried to stop taking the drug said they felt unable to do so. Of the 55% who asked their doctor about side effects, 31% had been told there were no side effects and 39% were informed that the drug was not addictive.

Currently members of the medical profession can report adverse drug reactions to the MHRA's yellow card scheme.

But Mr Brook said the BBC had received more reports of problems than the official yellow card scheme. He called on the MHRA to promote its yellow card scheme more widely. mfl

A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline said since its launch Seroxat had helped tens of millions of people worldwide with depression to lead fuller and more productive lives.

She also said suicide was a potentially avoidable consequence of depression, and Seroxat could therefore help prevent it.

"This is probably one of the most extensively investigated medicines that is available in the UK today and like all medicines is subject to continuous ongoing safety monitoring," she said. "Information from patients about how they have responded to treatment and the impact the treatment has on them is extremely important and is something that GSK takes very seriously."

She added that for patients the most important source of information was their doctor as he or she knew the individual's background and what was the best treatment for them.

©2003 Associated New Media Limited
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