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Prozac 'may or may not have aided death'

By Arifa Akbar

06 June 2003

The antidepressant drug Prozac "may or may not have contributed" to the death of a librarian who hanged herself, a coroner said yesterday.

Wendy Hay, 52, was found in the garage of her home in Arthington, near Otley, West Yorkshire, last September.

The inquest's coroner, David Hinchliff, at Leeds coroner's court, said no one could say with certainty whether Prozac was a contributing factor in Mrs Hay's death. "There was evidence during the inquest that in a minority of patients who take this drug, that it may have adverse side-effects. This drug may or may not have contributed to Wendy Hay's action,'' he said.

Mrs Hay, whose husband, Alastair Hay, is the Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Leeds University, had suffered from clinical depression since the end of 1998. She was then put on Prozac. She came off the drug two years later but started taking it again last August after her depression returned. She died on 17 September.

Dr David Healey, director of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine in Bangor, said it was probable that the drug had a bearing on her death. "On the balance of probabilities ... she possibly wouldn't have committed suicide if she wasn't on this drug," he said.

After the hearing, Professor Hay said: "This was not a trial about Prozac and I would not want to see anybody stop taking it. That is something everybody needs to discuss with their doctor. If this inquiry has done anything, it might have indicated that some people may be at risk of suicide through taking their medication."

Giving a narrative verdict, the coroner recorded the circumstances surrounding Mrs Hay's death.


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