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Issues - chemical abuse - more drug scandal

Seroxat controversy deepens with Europe-wide warning on suicide

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, 26 July 2004

A new warning that the controversial antidepressant Seroxat may increase the
risk of suicide in young adults up to the age of 30 is to be issued throughout Europe.

Seroxat is among the biggest selling drugs in the world and is taken by between 600,000 and 800,000 people in the UK, of whom "a significant proportion" are aged under 30, according to the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline.

Fears that Seroxat was unsafe were aired in two BBCPanorama programmes in 2002 and 2003. They provoked 67,000 calls and 1,400 e-mails, the biggest response in the programme's history, and led to the review by the MHRA. Two weeks after GlaxoSmithKline supplied it with evidence from trials of Seroxat in children carried out years earlier, the drug was banned. The ban in
under-18s was extended to all other SSRIs, except Prozac.

GlaxoSmithKline is now facing fraud charges in the United States for allegedly concealing information that the drug caused suicidal behaviour in children and adolescents. The MHRA is now also examining the implications of studies with all SSRIs for adults. But the outcome of a key part of that review, expected in October, has been upstaged by the EMEA's decision. Mr Brook, who resigned from the MHRA's SSRIs working group earlier this year, said: "It is extremely difficult to see how the MHRA can come to a different decision that contradicts EU law. Government announcements on this issue have perhaps been misleading."


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